Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Dresden Orb and Cross



"Dresden, that was a very serious part of my working life and for various reasons it was the most emotional commission to do." - Grant Macdonald

Here at Grant Macdonald London, we’re approaching the anniversary for one of our favourite projects. This majestic Orb and Cross was forged by our goldsmiths in anticipation of its placement at the top of the Dresden Frauenkirche a few days after the 60th commemoration of D-Day on 22nd June 2004. It was a job that should have taken a year. Grant, Alan Smith and their team of craftsmen had six months to complete it.



“There was a competition of metalsmiths, which included a number of silversmiths, to make a replacement Cross to the same design more or less as the one that was lost in the war in the allied bombing of Dresden in 1945,” Grant explains. “An organisation called The Dresden Trust was formed and it looked for a workshop to make a new Orb and Cross to go on top of the Church some 308 feet up in the sky, and I managed to win that commission.”



Winning the commission was just the beginning, though - it was a uniquely tough challenge, the biggest thing the team had ever made, at least seven metres tall, weighing around one and a half tons. They would be remaking it by hand, using the same techniques used to make the original in the 18th century. 

“One of the restrictions really was it was to be made in the old methods of silversmithing, which would have meant hand raising, back raising and planishing. When you look at the Orb itself, it is two half-ball shapes with a band around the middle of it. It would have been easier to go to a company that spins the metal backs of fuel tankers that you see on the road. That would have cost not very much really but no, the Frauenkirche wanted it to be made as the original one would have been made so it would have to be hand hammered.”

A tall order, made taller by a tight deadline, as Her Majesty the Queen wanted to present the Orb and Cross to President Herzog of Germany at Windsor Castle in just six months. Working seven days a week to meet the delivery date, the workshop became even noisier than usual - with just about everyone in the company working on it for months.



Issues arose that our team of craftsmen had never come up against before. How does one bend stainless steel that’s two inches thick? Using a Range Rover, fitted with a rear winch, it turns out.



“It was an amazing project and one I will never forget. It took every single resource we had over a short time scale. It proudly stands over Dresden nobody can build above it as it is the city building line, and I’m incredibly proud of all the work put in by my craftsmen, particularly Alan, who put his finest craftsmanship and so many months of his life into the work.”


“I know they say it’s blood, sweat and tears but there really was: blood on the floor from being cut by sharp edges of metal; sweat, yes, six months to complete a year’s work: and there were many tears, as I’ve said. But it’s there standing proud in the Dresden sunshine and I hope it’s going to be there for many hundreds of years. I am immensely proud of it and proud for Alan that we achieved it together.”

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