August II the Strong

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The Golden Horseman shows August II on his horse (Photo: Pixabay)

You’ve probably already “met” him: Everyone knows the Golden Horseman near the Augustus Bridge depicting August II on horseback. He is certainly one of the most famous Saxons and the shiny representation of his person reflects his ambitions for Dresden. He wanted it to be the cultural center and most beautiful city of all of Saxony – and beyond.

August II was called “the Strong” because of his great physical strength and numerous offspring. It has been reported that he was able to break horseshoes with his bare hands. We can’t be sure that this was true – monarchs are known for exaggerating a bit once in a while – but it’s a fact that, with 1.76 meters (5’ 9½”) in body height, August II was unusually tall for his time.

Born in May 1674 in Dresden, August II is probably best known as a patron of the arts and architecture: With lots of building regulations and major plans for the urban development, he transformed Dresden’s looks in a very lasting manner. Most of the city’s famous sights and landmarks were planned and built during his reign and completed during the reign of his son August III. He also loved collecting art and introduced the first public museums – e.g. the Green Vault in 1723. All in all, he made sure everyone who came to Dresden realized how powerful he was and would never forget the city.

The splendor of Dresden, which can still be seen in the Altstadt and in several museums – certainly aided him in his political plans. He also converted to Roman Catholicism to achieve his goal and become King of Poland. You can learn more about his life and reign in the Dresden Castle, his residence, which today houses several museums such as the Green Vault, the Dresden Armory or the Turkish Chamber.