Ever since it was built in 1743, the Church of Our Lady was one of the most prominent buildings in Dresden. The church's most distinctive feature was its "Stone Bell" - a 315 ft-high dome, soaring skyward with no internal supports, inspired by Michelangelo's dome for St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.
Between February 13 and 15 1,300 Allied heavy bombers dropped more than 3,900 tons of bombs on Dresden, the baroque capital of the German state of Saxony. The resulting firestorm completely destroyed 13 square miles of the city center and killed about 25,000 people. The dome just survived long enough to have 300 people who had sought shelter in the church crypt, evacuated to safety. Shortly after that, it succumbed to the heat generated by thousands of incendiary bombs that had been dropped on the city. When the temperature in the church reached 1,800 F, the pillars started glowing bright red. Then, they literally exploded and the structure collapsed. For the next 60 years, the blackened stones would lie in a pile in the center of the city as a permanent reminder of the terrors of war.
For many years, rebuilding the church was too much of a technological challenge and the rubble remained untouched until the 1990s. What happened then can almost be considered a miracle. One of the largest pieces of rubble was a part of the dome, consisting of a little bit more than 20 bricks. It turned out that a construction worker during reconstruction in 1928 left his name in two of the bricks. These initials were later found in an old post card and with that, the location of that piece of the dome in the building was exactly pinpointed. That location and the place where it landed after the bombing were used in a computer simulation of the events that lead to the destruction of the church. That simulation eventually determined the original location of many bricks found in the rubble. During the reconstruction (1995-2003) a large number of original bricks was put back exactly in its original spot. In the attached pictures, you can tell which bricks are old (black) and which are new (sand-colored).
Unfortunately, many of the bricks became brittle in the fire and therefore, original bricks could not be used in the reconstruction of the dome. Instead, the large piece that made the whole reconstruction possible was left at its original place in front of the church as a monument to the absurdity of war.