You might say that we are privileged to receive keys of the city during our special sightseeing tour in Dresden today.
My old friend, Fr Frank introduces us to another of his ‘colleagues’ from his years in the seminary. Fr Christian is a local man, not only well-versed and ready to explain all about this beautiful ‘royal’ town, but also one who carries the keys to the Royal tombs located under the Katholische Hofkirche. This was once the Catholic Church of the Royal Court of Saxony and is located on the square next to the Castle.
But first, we meet the affable Fr Christian in the Old Market Square and start with a visit to the imposing Protestant Frauenkirche. After lying as rubble for decades since World War II, this imposing edifice has finally been rebuilt using 45% of the blackened original stones. The church was not bombed, but in the bombing of surrounding houses by the British towards the end of the War, the building simply collapsed in the heat (like the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001).
The enormity of its circular tiered-interior with decorations in soft colours of a ‘Bauern Baroque’ (farmer’s simple baroque) style, catches my eye. Inside of the dome contains paintings of the Evangelists and the Virtues (better appreciated when seen enlarged in the viewfinder of my camera).
We then walk along the impressive outer wall of Dresden Castle (known as the Fürstenzug, Procession of Princes). It is the largest porcelain artwork in the world, 100 metres in length, made of twenty-three thousand Meissen porcelain tiles. It features a mounted procession of the rulers of Saxony from the twelfth to twentieth century, Including one of August the Strong, The Catholic King of Saxony (which incorporated much of present-day Poland at the time), with his horse stepping on a red rose, the symbol of Protestantism at the time.
Now, for the keys not of the city but to the crypt, to view these Royal ‘catacombs’ of large bronze tombs, and hear the stories that embrace the history. The Saxons were also the Kings of Poland during those centuries and all are buried here in the Catholic Hofkirche, previously the Catholic Church of the Royal Court of Saxony.
In the crypt, there’s a shrine for the eminent ruler, August the Strong, with the message, “I have to be buried where the Kings of Poland are buried, in Krakow, but my heart belongs to Dresden”, and we see this heart, in bronze, next to the tomb of his wife, who bore him sixteen children. Harkening back to the Fürstenzug, the mural of Meissen porcelain tiles, we now better understand a detail in his portrait showing his horse stepping on a rose, the symbol of Protestantism.
Back to the world of the living, and we find ourselves in an empty Catholic Hofkirche. As if by a divine signal, as we enter, the organ begins to play a rousing welcome. The organist is rehearsing for a special Ordination Mass tomorrow, not for us. But we sit and enjoy anyway.
In a local restaurant, just off the wonderful Promenade overlooking the River Elbe, a dish of beef, marinated in sweet black beer with spiced apple and dumplings, and red sauerkraut is my lunch treat.
Now time to drive back to Leipzig in time for a special performance of the St Thomas Boy’s Choir. We sat in pews ‘choir style’ (like Fr Steve Sinn introduced at St Canice St Canice’s KingsCross Sydney ) not so much as to ‘create community’ but so as to avoid a stiff neck turning around to get a good view of the organ and the choir. I simply closed my eyes and ‘imagined’ during the organ solo pieces.
Thomaskirche in Leipzig is where Bach composed so much of his music for Church and Court occasions. He was also cantor and the instructor of the boys in the choir there back in the 18 century…