Motherland of the Reformation

Motherland of the Reformation


Beyond the Golden Gate

“The Word of the Lord endures forever”, the motto of the Protestant House of Wettin, can be seen in its abbreviated Latin form on the door of the Golden or “Beautiful” Gate, a masterpiece of the German Renaissance. The entire ensemble of the portal is a manifesto of the Protestant faith without equal. After acquiring the Electorate, Maurice of Saxony built a new castle chapel in Dresden whose entrance was to be designed in a worthy and prestigious way. Augustus the Strong converted the chapel into a Catholic church. After the construction of the Court Church, today’s cathedral, it was converted into living quarters. The portal was installed in the church of St Sophia, whose ruins were demolished in the 1960s at the request of the GDR leader Walter Ulbricht. After standing rather lost at the Neumarkt Square for a while, it has now returned to its original spot. A particular challenge was the reconstruction of the famous rib vaulting of the chapel which was completed in 2013. Once again, the location can be used as an event venue: in the past it was already famous for musical performances.

Father of German music

For thirty years in the first half of the 17th century the war raged, with tensions erupting between Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists. In these times of “almost agonizing existence”, Heinrich Schütz raised the level of German music to hitherto unknown heights and became the first German composer of world fame. Through consistent and masterful use of the German language, he created a new quality in Protestant church music. His music was of melancholy, moody beauty and was staged by him with great innovation. He worked for almost forty years in Dresden and lived in what is now the Heinrich Schütz House on the Neumarkt square, with its famous children’s frieze on the corner oriel window. Heinrich Schütz directed the Saxon Electoral Court Orchestra, today’s Staatskapelle Dresden, and performed many of his compositions in the castle chapel. The highly honored Schütz died at the age of 87 and was buried in the Church of Our Lady, where a memorial in the floor commemorates him, as does a stele near the pond at the Zwinger. The Heinrich Schütz Music Festival takes place every year in these towns and in Dresden.

Boys of the chapel

The Court Chapel Boys Choir was founded, along with the Saxon Electoral Court Orchestra, under Elector Maurice by Johann Walter. Together, they had become the leading musical ensemble of Germany in the times of Heinrich Schütz. When Augustus the Strong converted to Catholicism, the boys’ choir was split. The Protestant choir left the castle chapel for the church of St Sophia which became the Protestant court church. It was dissolved in 1923. The Catholic choir still makes music today in Dresden Cathedral, the former Catholic court church, as the Kapellknaben Dresden and performs on concert tours in all parts of the world.