In 1760 the Kreuzkirche, the oldest church in Dresden, was shelled by Prussian artillery; a blaze ensued during which the building collapsed. The church tower, though damaged, remained standing. When the work of reconstructing the church commenced it was decided to preserve the original tower. In June 1765, however, when the construction of the new church was already under way, the greater part of the tower collapsed nevertheless.
This painting is one of Bellotto's later works, painted during his second stay in Saxony. It demonstrates his quite extraordinary, perhaps unique, capacity to capture the spirit of an event. In this case it was the demolition of the Gothic church of the Holy Cross in Dresden's New Market Square. This image of ruin, bordering on an anatomical dissection of the mortally wounded church, was to reappear two centuries after Bellotto's day with the devastating bombing of Dresden during the Second World War.