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Residenzschloss (Royal Palace)

In the heart of the city’s historic centre, the Residenzschloss Dresden (Dresden Royal Palace) is the historic point of origin and the current centre of the Staatlichen Kunstsammlungen Dresden (Dresden State Art Collections).

Destroyed in the Second World War, the royal palace is currently being rebuilt as a ‘Residenz der Kunst und Wissenschaft’ (Palace of the Arts and Sciences). The Münzkabinett (Coin Cabinet) and Kupferstich-Kabinett (Collection of Prints, Drawings and Photographs) were the first collections to return here. On the first floor, the Neues Grünes Gewölbe (New Green Vault) has been open to visitors since 2004, and the Historisches Grünes Gewölbe (Historic Green Vault) was reopened on the ground floor in 2006. From 1723 to 1730, August the Strong had a series of rooms constructed to represent his wealth and power as an absolute monarch; the full experience of this late baroque synthesis of the arts is once again available to visitors of the original rooms. When the Grünes Gewölbe was reopened, it suddenly and spectacularly made the royal palace into a prime destination for art-lovers from around the world.

The magnificent and unique Türckische Cammer (Turkish Chamber) was opened in 2010 and will remain the highpoint of the palace project for several years to come. Alongside the historically correct reconstruction of the throne room and other representative rooms of August the Strong, the installation of the Rüstkammer (Armoury) in the ‘Riesensaal’ (monumental great hall), will complete the palace project. In addition, the ‘Palace of the Arts and Sciences’ houses an art library, lecture halls, and the study rooms of the Kupferstich-Kabinett and the Münzkabinett – all of which are open to the general public. Various work areas, storage areas, and offices remain hidden from the public eye: the many scholars and conservators who work here are in contact with their colleagues across the globe. Architects, building contractors, museum directors, and scholars are still in the process of planning and realising the ‘Palace of the Arts and Sciences’ project – and they will not be finished for years. When the royal palace is finished, Germany will have gained a museum complex which commemorates past glory on a historical site, but also remains fascinating from a much broader perspective. A vibrant museum complex is developing within the same space where August I, Elector of Saxony, laid the foundations of the present collection with his ‘Kunstkammer’ in the year 1560. Saxon and European history come to life in this combination of art and historical museum.

  • Schlosshof

    It is difficult to imagine that there was no visitors’ foyer in the Dresden Royal Palace until January 2009. Visitors were forced to wait outside, sometimes in wind and rain, until the museum opened and they could finally purchase their tickets for the Historisches Grünes Gewölbe. Today, the ticket counters, information, and passages to the museums, cafe, and museum shop are all located in the Kleiner Schlosshof (the smaller of the palace’s two courtyards). Our visitors may be impressed by this architectural solution to a practical problem, but they make their way through the foyer as a matter of course, as though it had always been here. The architect, Professor Peter Kulka, is responsible for the concept of enclosing the courtyard under a ceiling extending from the ridges of the surrounding roofs. This concept allowed the space to be used as a visitors’ foyer without concealing the historic architecture. After centuries of being open, a transparent membrane-roof now encloses the courtyard; nonetheless, the interior facades of the Renaissance palace – with their differing cornice heights and various Dutch gables – maintain their complete architectural effect. The enclosed courtyard has an area of approximately 600 square meters. The dome itself has a surface area of approximately 1,400 square meters; the steel skeleton that supports it weighs eighty-four metric tonnes. The structure consists of a self-supporting dome with a rhomboid structural frame. Transparent plastic cushions have been stretched within the individual rhomboids of the dome, where they are inflated at a constant pressure. The dome itself is approximately nine meters high. The visual simplicity of the transparent roof prevents visitors from imagining the enormous difficulties which had to be surmounted by the architects, structural engineers, technicians, and building contractors during its creation.

  • Englische Treppe

    The Englische Treppe (English Stairway) was originally reserved for the Saxon royal family and their guests. Today, the stairway may be used by anyone and is the main entrance to the exhibitions of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. The visitors, who have come to the palace in order to take advantage of the excellent and unique cultural experience of the art collections, reach the individual exhibition areas by means of this stairway. The court architect, Johann Georg Starcke, and Christoph Beyer built the original „Große Treppe” in 1692 as a grand stairway around a central opening and supported on four piers. In 1693, it was renamed the „English Stairway“ after Johann Georg IV, Elector of Saxony, was appointed a companion of the Order of the Garter through the English envoy Sir William Swan. The stairway was destroyed in 1701 during a fire in the palace and was rebuilt in an altered form under the direction of Matthias Pöppelmann in 1718 and 1719. At the end of the nineteenth century – on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the House of Wettin – the entire palace, including the stairway, was remodelled in a neo-baroque manner. The stairway was almost completely destroyed in February 1945. Measures to prevent further damage were not carried out until the early 90s. Beginning in 2005, the heavily damaged stairway was gradually dismantled and then reconstructed. The most impressive element of the space is the stucco ceiling: this crowning feature offers an impressive completion to the stairway.

  • Fürstengalerie

    The line of Saxon rulers gaze impressively out into the long and narrow room from their places in front of the red velvet walls. The Fürstengalerie (Gallery of the Electors) in the first floor of the Residenzschloss Dresden shows the rulers who once live here: the Saxon Electors and Kings of the Albertine branch of the House of Wettin. The series begins with Moritz, Elector of Saxony (1521-553), who was granted the title of Elector by Karl V, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1547 and ends with King Friedrich August III (1865-1932), who abdicated in 1918. The princes and the handful of princesses are represented in painted portraits, while the Saxon kings are presented in portrait busts in this forty meter long and imposingly decorated gallery. The artworks come from the collections of the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister (Old Masters Picture Gallery), the Rüstkammer, and the Skulpturensammlung of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and include works by Heinrich Göding, Zacharias Wehme, Louis de Silvestre, Pietro Graf Rotari (workshop), and Ernst Rietschel. The gallery connects the entrance to the Neues Grünes Gewölbe and the exhibition rooms reserved for the Rüstkammer in the East wing of the palace, which will be opened in a few years. In this hall, visitors can make themselves acquainted with the Saxon heads of state, whose history is presented through the unique artefacts in the palace’s current and future displays of the permanent collection.

  • Schlosskapelle

    Following the chapel in the castle Hartenfels (Torgau), the chapel in the Dresden royal palace was the second sacral interior space Elector Moritz (1521-1553) had built for church service. He was a follower of Martin Luther’s Reformation. Even before the chapel was completed, Elector Moritz appointed the first music director for the Dresden palace in 1548. Being the workspace of extraordinary instrumentalists and music directors such as Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672) or Johann Adolph Hasse (1699–1783), the Dresden court chapel developed into a music centre of European importance and denotation. With August’s the Strong conversion to Catholicism in 1697, the chapel lost its significance. In 1737, the sacral space was abandoned; later demolished and administrative rooms were built in its place. Even the elaborate vault was destroyed. In 1988/1989 the original enclosed space was re-erected. The masterly reconstruction of the ribbed vault was executed between 2010 and 2013.