Dresden's rebuilt Frauenkirche, or Church of Our Lady
, a symbol of German civilian suffering after its destruction in bombing in the second world war, has been rebuilt and will be consecrated on Sunday.
The painstakingly restored baroque church, originally built in 1743 and capped by a spectacular dome, is seen as a positive symbol in Germany's often dark past.
The German Der Spiegel magazine described it as "a sign of a civilized German patriotism".
Brought down by British and US bombs in the devastating air raids on the eastern city in February 1945, just months before the end of the war, the Frauenkirche rose from the rubble only after the Berlin Wall fell.
The ceremony of consecration is the culmination of an 11-year, $218 million project. Two-thirds of the funding was from private or business donors.
Ludwig Guettler, the chairman of the Society to Promote the Reconstruction of the Frauenkirche, said he was moved that so many nations had played a part in helping to restore the Protestant church to its former glory.
"I am enormously grateful. Not just for the donations, which have just kept coming, but for the level of interest shown by other countries," he said.
"And the donations have been from Christians, Muslims, Buddhists - so many people have contributed. We can truly say that we have rebuilt a piece of world culture."
The Duke of Kent, who has helped raise funds for the reconstruction, will represent the British royal family at the service.
Although just 1700 people will be able to attend the ceremony inside the church, which starts at 0800 GMT, tens of thousands are expected to follow it on giant TV screens.
The bombing of Dresden, one of the most controversial Allied operations of the second world war, killed at least 35,000 people, although many German estimates put the death toll far higher because refugees had flooded into the city from the east shortly before.
And the city, dubbed Florence on the Elbe for its baroque splendour, was practically wiped out.
Reunited German effort
Germany was divided and for nearly half a century the communist East German rulers left the blackened ruins of the Frauenkirche where they fell after collapsing two days into the first wave of bombing.
It was only in 1994, four years after Germany was reunited, that reconstruction began.
East Germany did not attempt to
resurrect the famous church
Many critics believed it would be impossible to coax the building from the ashes, but they have been proved wrong.
German historian Arnulf Baring, who as a boy witnessed the bombing in Dresden, believes the project was worth the cost and said it showed that Germans could find elements of their past of which they can be proud.
"The Frauenkirche was more than a church, it was a symbol of the downfall of a city," Baring told Der Spiegel magazine.
"I think it is a good thing that Germans, wherever possible, regain part of their old cities, so they know that we come from somewhere."
Britain has contributed $1.8 million in donations towards the reconstruction and donated a golden cross and orb which sits atop the dome.
Alan Smith, the silversmith son of one of the British pilots who bombed Dresden, was among the craftsmen who worked on the cross.
The trustees of the church say that the Frauenkirche will attempt to fight far-right extremism, which is gaining a foothold among unemployed, disaffected youths in eastern Germany.