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Last Updated: Sunday, 30 October 2005, 23:38 GMT
Frauenkirche - 'Dresden's miracle'
By Tristana Moore
BBC News, Dresden

The Frauenkirche
The church now again dominates Dresden's skyline
The Baroque sandstone Frauenkirche dominates the Dresden skyline today as it did in the past. The cranes and scaffolding which covered the Church of Our Lady have been removed and the building dazzles in the sunshine.

I saw the first visitors who started to arrive in the early hours of the morning. They were the determined ones who wanted to secure a place inside the Frauenkirche.

At 1000 local time, the bells rang out and crowds gathered outside the church to watch the re-consecration ceremony which was broadcast live on a giant screen.

The German President, Horst Koehler, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Chancellor-designate Angela Merkel were among dozens of dignitaries who attended the service. Britain's Duke of Kent, representing the Dresden Trust, also attended the ceremony.

'Fantastic'

Bishop Jochen Bohl told the audience that the restoration of the Frauenkirche was a "great work in the spirit of reconciliation".

What a spectacular building!
Irene Runge
Dresden resident

"When you experience something like that, the destruction of a city, the memories never leave you. They have stayed with me all my life," said Johanna Heinke, who is 79, and from Dresden.

She was standing in the crowd and was with a friend. Johanna Heinke was 19 years old at the time of the bombing raids, which flattened her city.

Tears welled in her eyes as she described the night of 13 February 1945, when Allied planes launched their deadly assault on Dresden.

"Coming back here today is fantastic," she said.

"Words cannot express my feelings. To see our Frauenkirche today, rebuilt and restored, and in all its splendour," her voice was breaking. "I really hope that people have learnt something from the past," she said.

'Inferno'

As World War II was drawing to a close, RAF Lancasters and American planes dropped thousands of firebombs on Dresden, reducing the Church of Our Lady to rubble.

Dresden's Frauenkirche

They created a devastating firestorm which swept through the city. At least 35,000 people were killed, although that figure has been disputed by historians.

The former Communist rulers of East Germany left the Frauenkirche in ruins.

After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the rebuilding of the church became a cause and a metaphor for reconciliation.

The reconstruction project cost about 180 million euros ($217m). Funds were raised all over the world and most of the money came from private donations.

"The city was on fire. There was an inferno. I could not see anything, I could only hear the cries of women and children," said Hildegard Willna, who was 21 when the Allied bombers struck Dresden.

"The fires were so powerful that people were thrown into the River Elbe. But I have mixed feelings about the re-consecration of the Frauenkirche as I think the Church should have been left in a heap of rubble as a monument to the past."

'So much love'

But her views are not shared by the majority of people in Dresden, who are very proud of their remarkable achievement.

"I am so grateful to everyone who supported the reconstruction project," said Irene Runge, smiling as we both heard the choral music from the consecration ceremony inside the Frauenkirche.

"I was lucky and I managed to go into the church earlier today. What a spectacular building! The architects and engineers have paid careful attention to every detail and there is so much love here."

Stepping inside the Church of Our Lady is indeed an unforgettable experience. Frescoes of biblical scenes adorn the walls, meticulously repainted and faithful to the original designs.

The building includes thousands of stones from the old church.

Hundreds of people remained until late evening, walking around the Frauenkirche. Some were standing still, holding a cup of mulled wine and in the cold night air they gazed upwards.

High above the dome one could see the golden replica orb and cross which was made by Alan Smith, the son of one of the British pilots who took part in the bombing raids.

Strolling around the Church of Our Lady one last time, I remembered the front page of a newspaper that I had seen in a café, with the headline "The Miracle of Dresden".


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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