The Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Dresden has been reborn from the ashes of World War II.
This photo may not look like anything remarkable, but the story behind these stones is worth telling.
The picture is of the side of the Frauenkirche in Dresden, an eighteenth-century Protestant Baroque church. For two centuries this gilded and ornate jewel stood at the heart of the city, until in 1945 it became a pile of rubble during the fire-bombing of Dresden at the end of World War II.
For 45 years the church lay in ruins.
After the reunification of Germany in 1990, the citizens of Dresden launched the daunting task of rebuilding the church. More than $200 million was raised from 20 countries, and engineers, architects and art historians began sorting through the rubble, laboriously reconstructing a puzzle with hundreds of thousands of pieces.
On October 30, 2005, the Frauenkirche was re-consecrated before a joyous crowd of 250,000 people.
When I visited the church, I saw in its interior the old tower cross that had been discovered as the stones were cleared. Today it serves as a focal point of remembrance and prayer.
On the church’s altar is a Cross of Nails, which is a symbol of the reconciliation work begun after World War II in the English cathedral of Coventry (which was destroyed by German bombers in 1940).
Today the Frauenkirche is linked with more than 160 reconciliation centers around the world in the International Community of the Cross of Nails. Each day at noon the church’s bell rings, sounding an invitation to pause for a moment and pray for peace.
And here’s the part that I found most moving: on top of the church today is a golden cross given by the people of Great Britain. It was crafted by the son of one of the pilots who bombed Dresden and it bears this message: “Build bridges—Live Reconciliation—Bolster Belief.”
So the picture of light and dark stones shows much more than is at first obvious.
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Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.