In Germany, the Dresden State Art Collection has opened the Hall of Giants in Dresden’s royal palace, a major enlargement of the Dresden State Art Collection’s armory. This is reportedly one of the most valuable collections of ceremonial weapons, with masterpieces from Europe and the Orient from the 15th to the 17th centuries. How big is it? We hear it includes 10,000 suits of armor, helmets, shields, swords, rapiers and daggers, sabers and maces, pistols and rifles.
What to see first? Visitors to the museum are greeted with eight life-sized and hand-carved wooden Arabian stallions weighing 300 pounds each. And a golden suit of armor (known as the “Hercules Armor”) for horse and rider that was made between 1563 and 1564 by the Antwerp goldsmith Eliseus Libaerts now stands in the Hall of Giants.
The curators of the Hall of Giants arranged the collection around the ceremonies of the medieval jousting tournament to tell the story of the events at the time using life-size horses and jousters draped and robed for royal bouts, sets of armor, ceremonial weapons and costumes.
When the exhibition in the castle is complete, visitors to Dresden’s Palace will be able to explore the Renaissance to the Baroque periods in one building. The Hall of Giants was originally built in the 16th century as a ceremonial place where Saxon rulers held festivities and important guests were received. After “Augustus the Strong” died in 1733, his son (Elector Friedrich Augustus II), altered the hall by inserting a false roof and chopping the hall into individual rooms and adding a chapel. Now the hall has been recreated to its original size but in a more contemporary architectural setting. It once was decorated with huge paintings of soldiers between each of the Renaissance windows (hence the name “the Hall of Giants”), but these have been replaced by suits of armor. (Even more impressive, we hear the Palace had been badly damaged in World War II, and has been rebuilt as part of Dresden’s postwar restoration. It is a process that will take several more years.)
Getting to the baroque city of Dresden is a short flight or a beautiful train ride from Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich. The city is located in the eastern part of Germany in the state of Saxony and borders the countries of Poland and the Czech Republic. General information on Saxony is available from www.saxonytourism.com.