Dresden, Germany, was once a filigree of spires and steeples, immortalized in numerous 18th- and 19th-century paintings. But on February 13, 1945, the city center was destroyed by an Allied firebombing so intense that the flames burned for five days. For the next half century, the 1743 Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady)—the city's most recognizable landmark—lay in ruins, a 20,000-ton pile of charred rubble. The stones were nearly cleared for a parking lot during the Communist era, until a quick-thinking resident convinced the government of the ruin's merit as anti-capitalist propaganda. In the 1980's, demonstrators adopted the site for nonviolent protests against the East German regime. After the Berlin Wall came down, locals campaigned to rebuild the structure, eventually winning the support of both church and state. The ambitious $156 million reconstruction project began in 1994. Thousands of stones were salvaged from the rubble and placed in their original positions (determined by computer simulation); the rest were excavated from the quarry used when the church was first built. The resulting checkered effect—blackened stones placed alongside newly cut Saxony sandstone—symbolizes the process of postwar reconciliation. "Year by year, the new stones will become darker," says a church representative. "In another sixty years, you won't be able to tell what is old and what is new. It will be like a wound healing." —JAIME GROSS
The Frauenkirche will be dedicated on October 30 (www.frauenkirche-dresden.org).