The conservation movement in Central Europe

The architectural identity of Saxony was seen particularly in eighteenth-century baroque

Figure 7.9 The entrance tower of Zwinger in Dresden, restored and reconstructed after damage in the Second World War

complexes such as the highly decorative Zwinger, a royal festivity court in the heart of Dresden. Zwinger was restored already in the early nineteenth century, and it was partly rebuilt after fire damage in 1849. While the Gothic Revival thus arrived relatively late compared with Prussia, an interest was seen in mediaeval ruins as a feature in landscape parks at the end of the eighteenth century, and after the Vienna Congress of 1814-15 patriotic feelings emerged for the unification of the German people. The first society for the research of national antiquities in Thüringen and Saxony was founded in 1819, followed by others (Magirius, 1989:52ff). There were attempts to follow the Austrian example of 1852, and to establish a government body for the protection of historic buildings, but the first concrete step only took place in 1893 when Dr Cornelius Gurlitt was appointed responsible for an inventory. On 29 June 1894, the Government established the Kommission zur Erhaltung der Kunstdenkmäler (Commission for the Protection of Artistic Monuments) following the model of the French Commission des monuments historiques and the Austrian Central Commission. On 29 September 1917, it was reorganized as Landesamt für Denkmalpflege (Magirius, 1989:121ff).

Gottfried Semper (1803-79), the principal exponent of eclecticism and an early contributor to the theory of modern architecture, worked in Dresden in 1834-49. His activities ranged from conservation to purification, reconstruction in style, continuation in pre-established proportions, and even using historic buildings as a counterpoint in urban compositions, as the case of Zwinger. Nevertheless, he respected and preserved sixteenth- and seventeenth-century interior decorations in the Marienkirche in Zwickau, when at the same time the Thomaskirche in Leipzig (1814-15) or Freiberg Cathedral (1829) were whitewashed and 'modernized'. His work on the reconstruction of the town hall and the Agidi-enkirche in Oschatz was unique of its kind in Saxony in this period (Magirius, 1989:63ff).

In the second half of the nineteenth century, and especially after the Eisenacher Regulativ of 1861, the Gothic Revival gained ground as the most appropriate style for Protestant churches. During the following Historismus, restorations were taken from unity of style to purity of style (Stileinheit to Stilreinheit), and about 80 per cent of the 900 churches of Saxony were restored accordingly - mostly with private funds. One of the 1890s church restorers was Theodor Quentin, who

Figure 7.10 Albrechtsburg and Meissen Cathedral; the towers of the cathedral were built to the design of Karl Schäfer in the late nineteenth century

worked, e.g., in Pirna, Freiberg and Stolpen. The restoration of the cathedral and Albrechtsburg in Meissen continued for the whole half of the century, and consisted especially of the redecoration of the castle and the construction of new western towers to the cathedral. A large number of proposals in different forms were made for the towers that were finally built to the design of Karl Schäfer. The restoration as a whole, and the towers especially, were also accompanied by long debates that lasted until the completion in 1912. This project is considered to have ended the period of the major restorations of Historismus. Under the direction of Cornelius Gurlitt, whose ideas reflected the English conservation movement, activities were now guided along the lines of Riegl's Denkmalkultus, which called for conservation instead of restoration.

Also in Prussia, with the romantic movement and Historismus, restoration was pushed always further toward the completion and reconstruction especially of churches and castles following the model of Cologne and Marienburg. This fashion continued well into the twentieth century with many practitioners, who admired Viollet-le-Duc's methods. The beginnings of a concern for historic authenticity in restored buildings could be seen in the principles of the first Prussian Conservator, von Quast. In 1856, August Reichensperger emphasized that 'the first and main rule in all restorations is: to do as little as possible and as unnoticeable as possible' (Reichensperger, 1845). Although Reichensperger would allow the reintegration of missing parts 'in the spirit of the original', he emphasized the need for respect of history and the individuality of an old building, especially of a church. Decisions for the removal of any parts should be based on 'good taste', technical experience, and on secure tact; 'later elements' could only be removed if they were 'clearly in contradiction with its style and use, and had no artistic value'.

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