The name Dresden etymologically comes from the Old Slavic Drežďany - "dwellers of the wetland forests." In the middle of the 6th century Slavs moved into the area and founded a few settlements. Dietrich, Margrave of Meissen, chose Dresden as his temporary residence in 1206, as recorded in ancient documents, and recently the city celebrated its 800th birthday in 2006.
Dresden Baroque Fantasy (2)
Dresden. Old Masters Picture Gallery (3)
Dresden became the capital of Saxony in 1485. In 1632 the plague killed half of the residents, and in 1685 the big fire destroyed almost the entire city – 23 homes remained intact out of 357.
The boost of the urban development reached its peak during the reign of Augustus II the Strong (1694-1733) and his son Frederick Augustus III (1733-1763), when the most marvelous palaces in the Baroque style were built and Dresden became one of the leading European cities for technology and art.
Canaletto, The New Market, View from the Jewish cemetery, with the Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche) and the Old Town Guard
Augustus II the Strong (1670-1733) was a notorious art connoisseur and a passionate collector. The fact that he came from a noble dynasty of Saxony Electors certainly influenced his attitude to art. He received an excellent education and grew up among the treasures collected by his ancestors.
As a young man he made a great tour across Europe to see famous palaces and gardens like Versailles.
Augustus II was called "the Strong" for his great physical strength. Baroness Liselotte von der Pfalz wrote that Augustus was so strong he could pick up from the ground a heavy and large riffle with his two fingers, like a needle. No one could compete with him. There were a lot of credible stories about his strength. In 1698 he cut off a head of a bull with one stroke of the sword. He would bend silver and copper objects as if they were made of paper.
Augustus II was also known for his numerous offspring (only one of them was the legitimate child and heir). Some contemporary sources stated that he had 365 children, which is difficult to verify; officially he recognized only a few of his illegitimate children (their mothers were all aristocratic ladies). The most famous of them were Maurice, Comte de Saxe was a French general and later also Marshal General of France, Johann Georg, Chevalier de Saxe was a Saxon Field Marshal and Governor of Dresden., and adventuress Anna Karolina Orzelska.
He was a womanizer and spent his time with his various mistresses, while the Electress Christiane Eberhardine retired to her castle at Pretzsch. Their marriage was purely political and highly unhappy. She died at the age of 55 and was buried in Pretzsch. Neither her husband nor her son attended the funeral.
Augustus II had a sort of harem of beautiful women of his state. The sister of Frederick II of Prussia wrote that the atmosphere of debauchery prevailed at the Dresden court, and the Bacchus and Venus were the main gods of worship.
Countess of Cosel was the most famous of the Augustus’s mistresses. They had three children together. In 1707 Taschenberg Palace was built for the countess. (Now it's Kempinski Hotel). But in a while she started interfering in politics. He arrested her and sent into exile Stolpen castle, where she lived for 49 years in prison until her death.