Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ruine Der Frauenkirche Dresden

The Dresdner Frauenkirche is a Lutheran church built in Dresden, Germany in the early 18th century. An impressive organ was built for the church upon which J.S. Bach gave a recital in 1736. In 1885, sculptor Adolf von Donndorf built a bronze statue of the reformer Martin Luther which was placed just outside. On the night of February 13, 1945, Allied forces began the aerial firebombing of Dresden and although the church structure survived for two days, it finally collapsed on February 15, 1945. However, the Luther statue was not damaged. For the next 45 years, the Communist government of East Germany allowed both the ruined cathedral and the still-standing statue of Luther to remain as they were on the morning of February 15, 1945. In December 1992, as I was traveling through Dresden, walking alone at night in the mist alongside the banks of the river Elbe, I came across a sight that moved me profoundly: in the mist, without any particular sign to acknowledge the scene, both the ruins of a massive church and a statue of Martin Luther which stood tall. This is a daytime picture of what I saw that night. I came home later that month and wrote a poem about my encounter and the thoughts it inspired. The next month, in January 1993, reconstruction work began on the Frauenkirche and today it is rebuilt and serves as an active Lutheran church once again, having been reconsecrated around Reformation Day, 2005. Here is a picture of the rebuilt church and the Luther statue as they appear today. This is the poem that I wrote in 1992:

Ruine Der Frauenkirche Dresden

Meandering from a bridge over the haunting Elbe,
through the shrouded mist enveloping foreigners,
I was brought to stop and see a judgment of the God
for whom Martin Luther still stands.
No spotlight illuminates this bittersweet memorial --
causing many barren souls to stumble their own way home.
The war is no reminder to them whose guilt is past.
A lamp shined here centuries ago, but of the mass
people are in darkness, which is come upon them
with vengeance. This land of spires, this testimony
to common grace, which I too carry in my heart and more,
is visited, but in the Reichstaag is sanctuary sought;
notwithstanding, the mighty fortress is become
a requiem for protestants.

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