Originally a Slavic settlement called Drezdane, Dresden was settled with Germans by the margrave of Meissen in the 13th cent. From 1485 until 1918 it was the residence of the dukes, then the electors, and later the kings, of Saxony. Prussia occupied Dresden in the Second Silesian War (see Austrian Succession, War of the), but withdrew after the Treaty of Dresden (1745). In the Seven Years War, Dresden was again occupied (1756) by the Prussians. In Aug., 1813, Napoleon I defeated the coalition forces near Dresden in his last great victory before his defeat (Oct., 1813) at Leipzig. In the late 17th and 18th cent., particularly under the electors Frederick Augustus I and Frederick Augustus II (Augustus II and Augustus III as kings of Poland), Dresden became a center of the arts and an outstanding showplace of baroque and rococo architecture. In the late 18th and early 19th cent. it was a leading center of the romantic movement, and in the late 19th and early 20th cent. it was a center of German opera. Ranked as one of the world's most beautiful cities before World War II, Dresden was severely damaged by British and U.S. bombing during the war (Feb., 1945). Although deaths from the bombing and firestorm have been estimated at between 35,000 and 135,000 (and sometimes higher), an official German historical investigation reported (2010) that up to 25,000 died.
Among the city's famous landmarks, all damaged in the war, are the city hall, the Zwinger palace and museum, the Semper Opera, the Hofkirche [court chapel], the Kreuzkirche [Holy Cross church], and the Frauenkirche [church of Our Lady], the ruins of which were left unreconstructed for many years as a war memorial. Most of the fabulous art collection, acquired by the court in the 18th and 19th cent., was safely kept through the war outside Dresden, but many art objects were afterward moved to the Soviet Union. The city is the seat of a technical university.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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