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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 October 2005, 13:10 GMT
Dresden consecrates famed church
Dresden's Frauenkirche

The landmark Church of our Lady has been re-consecrated in the east German city of Dresden 60 years after being destroyed by Allied bombing.

The charred remains of the Frauenkirche were left untouched by East Germany's communist authorities to serve as a reminder of the World War II damage.

"A deep wound that has bled for so long can be healed," Dresden Bishop Jochen Bohl said at the ceremony.

The reconstruction began only after German reunification.

The 180 million euro project ($217m) was partly financed by private donors in Britain and the US.

Reconciliation

At 1000 (0900 GMT) the bells of the Church of Our Lady rang out.

Outside crowds gathered to watch the service which was broadcast live on a giant screen.

The ruins of Dresden's Frauenkirche
The Frauenkirche remained in ruins throughout the Cold War

Inside, the church was packed with hundreds of dignitaries, including German President Horst Koehler, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and the Duke of Kent leading the British delegation - as well as many of the architects and donors who were involved in the reconstruction project.

There were songs of praise and readings. Many people had tears in their eyes as they watched the service.

"Our hearts and senses are moved by gratitude and great joy," the Lutheran bishop told the gathering.

Bishop Bohl said the restoration of the baroque church was a "great work in the spirit of reconciliation".

President Koehler said: "Did eastern Germany not need roads, roofs and factories more than an expensive church? But a group of residents said Dresden needed more. And now we can see that those people were right."

Moral dilemma

The baroque sandstone dome of the reconstructed Frauenkirche dominates the Dresden skyline.

It is the end of a story that began on a cold night in February 1945, when Allied bombers carried out one of the most notorious air raids of World War II, says the BBC's Ray Furlong in Berlin.

Dresden burned for a week, and the Frauenkirche was reduced to a pile of rubble.

The reconstruction has not put an end to debate over whether the bombing of Dresden was morally justified, says our correspondent.

At least 35,000 people were killed in the city, which some historians argue was of no military significance.

But while the ruins were once described as "a gaping wound in the heart of Dresden", a German newspaper recently titled the rebuilt church a "masterpiece of reconciliation".


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See the newly renovated Church of our Lady



SEE ALSO:
In pictures: Dresden 60 years on
12 Feb 05 |  In Pictures
Dresden ruins finally restored
22 Jun 04 |  Europe
Dresden under siege once more
17 Aug 02 |  Europe
UK arts urged to offer flood aid
20 Aug 02 |  Entertainment
Duke leads Dresden tribute
13 Feb 00 |  UK News


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