Queen Elizabeth to host galafor bombed Dresden church

28th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

28 October 2004 , BERLIN - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II will host a gala benefit concert during a state visit to Germany next week to fund the rebuilding of Dresden's Frauenkirche which was destroyed by British and US bombers in the 1945 firebombing of the city. The queen, accompanied by her husband Prince Philip, will visit 2-4 November with stops in Potsdam, Duesseldorf and Berlin where she will meet Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Horst Koehler. But the gala being hosted by the British monarc

28 October 2004

BERLIN - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II will host a gala benefit concert during a state visit to Germany next week to fund the rebuilding of Dresden's Frauenkirche which was destroyed by British and US bombers in the 1945 firebombing of the city.

The queen, accompanied by her husband Prince Philip, will visit 2-4 November with stops in Potsdam, Duesseldorf and Berlin where she will meet Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President Horst Koehler.

But the gala being hosted by the British monarch to raise funds for the interior of the "Church of Our Lady" is rousing far more excitment than her meetings and scheduled speeches.

Britain's ambassador to Germany said the queen has invited almost 2,000 guests including business, political and cultural leaders to a concert at the Berlin Philharmonic concert hall.

The Northern Sinfonia Chamber Orchestra from Newcastle, led by Austrian conductor Thomas Zehetmair, will play a programme of Bach, Beethoven and Britten.

Reconstruction of the church has nearly been completed at a cost of EUR 93 million mainly from private donations. The British embassy hopes a big chunk of the remaining EUR five million needed to complete the project will be raised at the gala.

Built between 1726 and 1743 under the direction of George Baehr, the baroque church and its legendary dome, dubbed "The Bell of Stone", dominated Dresden's skyline near the Elbe River until the end of World War II.

The church was gutted during the 13 February 1945 Anglo-American firebombing which killed between 25,000 and 40,000 people, many of them civilian refugees. Two days later the church's massive cupola crashed to the ground leaving the church in ruins.

The attack, which remains highly controversial to this day, destroyed 80 percent of downtown Dresden.

During almost 45 years of communist rule in eastern Germany, the 6,000 tons of rubble from the church remained untouched and were regarded as an anti-war symbol.

The ruins also came to be linked with the East German democracy movement which began meeting there to light candles each February 13 beginning in 1982.

Calls to rebuild the church came after the opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the 1990 German reunification, but lack of finances and political opposition initially prevented the project from going ahead.

Private donors, however, swiftly mobilised and began raising funds through a series of creative moves such as selling a hugely popular watch with a tiny piece of stone from the church on the dial.

Among the now worldwide community of donors is the "Dresden Trust" led by the Duke of Kent, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, which financed the replica cross and orb which now crowns the rebuilt dome as a symbol of British-German reconciliation.

Ceremonial hoisting of the golden cross and orb on top of the dome earlier this year marked the completion of the 10 year reconstruction of the church's exterior.

In a poignant detail, Alan Smith, who helped make the replicas of the 18th century cross and dome, is the son of a British pilot who took part in the 1945 air raid.

The church's interior is due to be completed late next year in time for Dresden's 600th birthday celebration.

DPA

Subject: German news 

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