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Town history

Hartenfels
Palace

Grand Staircase

Chancellery House

Town Hall

St. Mary's
Church

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The Grand Staircase, a part of the Johann Friedrich Wing, is one of the highlights of German architecture. This spiral staircase was so cleverly designed that its survival to the present day appears a miracle.

The staircase carries itself without a central support, stabilised solely by six slender pillars and the slabs of the balustrade that wind their way up, following the course of the spiral. Each individual crescent-shaped step was cut from a single piece of sandstone. Only very lightly does the weight of each step rest against the interior sides of the pillars and balustrade.

The staircase is crowned by a delicate vault borne by the slender pillars. Atop this vault is the so-called Mirror Room, a light-filled tower room containing fragments of wall paintings by the Cranach circle. The great weight of this room along with its roof and gable diadem prevents the pillars from being pushed outward by the vault resting upon them.

Having deteriorated in the course of the centuries, the cupped sandstone steps were sadly in need of restoration. Numerous cracks and substantial deformations of the pillar construction were clear indications of the stairway’s impending collapse. The tower remained closed for more than twenty years.

The choice of Hartenfels Palace as the site of the Second Saxon State Exhibition gave rise to new hopes with regard to this wonderful testimony to German Renaissance architecture. The renovation concept for Hartenfels Palace provided for the restoration of the Grand Staircase from the very beginning. Already in 1992, the Grand Staircase was selected as a pilot project for an investigation on stone decay prevention carried out by the then Federal Ministry of Research and Technology.

The project aimed not only to stop the deterioration of the sandstone decoration but also to prevent the collapse of the delicate construction itself, for all of its supporting members are likewise made of sandstone.

Stone conservators carefully dismantled the entire newel. Those of the steps that could still be used were immersed in an acrylic resin bath in order to harden the sandstone; replicas were made of the remaining steps. As a means of stabilising the pillars, a stainless steel band was integrated where the steps join the pillars, to serve as a kind of corset that will keep the supports from collapsing.

In the meantime the steps have been reinstalled, new elements joining the old in an elegant newel.

Schloss Hartenfels, Großer Wendelstein

Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
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