This world famous masterpiece of Baroque architecture consists of a complex of pavilions and galleries around a huge open esplanade.
August the Strong originally asked the famous architect Matthäus Daniel Poppelmann to build a simple orangery. In time, this led to the construction of the corner pavilions and an arched gallery on the ramparts side. The architectural highlight of the complex is the Ramparts Pavilion with its impressive sculptures of gods and heroes. Its rich ornamental decorations, along with most of the other figures and ornaments of the entire Zwinger complex, are the work of the sculptor Balthasar Permoser, who collaborated closely with Pöppelmann on the project.
The Ramparts Pavilion, a work of consummate artistry, is topped by a sculpture of Hercules carrying the world on his shoulders. The Long Gallery (Langgalerie), the pavilions on the Castle side and the Crown Gate (Kronentor) were added in the next phase. The Crown Gate is also the Zwingers official main entrance; it is richly decorated with human figures and the onion shaped cupola is topped by a golden Polish crown borne aloft by four eagles. In the next phase the Carillon Pavilion (Glockenspiel pavillon) was built on the Castle side, as a mirror image of the area on the ramparts side. The Carillon made of Meissen porcelain was installed later in 1924 – 1936. Following completion of the restoration work in 1995 the carillon is now functional again and has been programmed with many different melodies.
The Zwinger was destroyed in the 1945 air raids but rebuilt again quickly. The work was completed in 1963. From the Augustan period to the present day the Zwinger has been used to house museums.The porcelain collection is one of the largest of its kind in the world, alongside the collection in the Chinese Imperial Palace. The Old Masters Gallery contains one of the most extensive collections of 15th – 18th centuries, Raffaels “Sistine Madonna” just one of the many major works of art. The Armoury houses one of the worlds greatest collections of parade weaponry, including weaponry armour and dress regalia of the Saxon Princes and Kings 16th – 18th centuries. There is also the Salon of Mathematics and Physics with its collection of scientific and technical instruments and the Zoology Museum with exhibits ranging from insects to mammals.