Dresden’s Zwinger

Dresden’s Zwinger is a palace, located in the historic heart of Dresden in eastern Germany. The Zwinger was built in the early 18th century during the reign of Augustus the Strong. The elector of Saxony had been elected King of Poland in 1697. Having seen Louis XIV’s new court in Versailles on a tour through France and Italy, Augustus ached to have a palace of equal splendor for himself. He commissioned the court architect, Matthaeus Daniel Poeppelmann. Since the fortifications were no longer needed they provided readily available space for the elector’s plans.

History of the construction of the Zwinger, Photo © J. Elke Ertle 2013

History of the construction of the Zwinger – Photo © J. Elke Ertle 2013

The Name

The name goes back to a medieval German term that stands for the part of a fortification between the outer and inner defense walls where the cannons were usually placed. Although the Zwinger no longer had a protective function during the time of August the Strong, the name Zwinger hung on.

Original Use

Poeppelmann designed the Zwinger as an open area surrounded by wooden buildings. The open courtyard was used by the nobility as a venue for tournaments and festivities. The pavilions and galleries were used as an orangery (hothouse). The Zwinger was not enclosed until the Semperbau (Semper Gallery) was built on the northern side during the middle of the 19th century.

Today’s Use

Today, Dresden’s Zwinger serves as a museum complex that contains the Dresden Porzellansammlung (Porcelain Collection), the Gemaeldegalerie Alte Meister (Paintings of the Old Masters Gallery), and the Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon (Royal Cabinet of Mathematical and Physical Instruments – the armory). The porcelain collection is one of the largest collections in the world. The Semper Gallery contains one of the world’s most important collections of paintings, dating from the Baroque to the Renaissance period. It includes the famous Sistine Madonna by Raphael. And the armory contains a collection of weapons, suits of armor, and ceremonial garments.

Dresden's Zwinger Today, Photo © J. Elke Ertle 2013

Dresden’s Zwinger Today – Photo © J. Elke Ertle 2013

Destruction and Reconstruction

Both, the Zwinger and the Semperbau burned out during the bombing of Dresden on 13 February 1945. They were rebuilt during the 1950s and 1960s. Fortunately, the art collection had been previously evacuated. Reconstruction, began in 1945, and restoration continues today.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.



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