Ground plan from 1727 with handwritten notes by Augustus the Strong marking his intentions
in 1904 (destroyed 1945)
In 1547, Holy Roman elector Moritz of Saxony ordered the construction an additional wing to Dresden Castle. Four of the added rooms on the first floor of the palace were given elaborate, molded plaster ceilings. In these rooms, the column bases and capitals were painted a bluish-green color. Due to this coloring, the rooms were referred to as the "Green Vault." The official name of these rooms, which were protected against fire and robbery by thick walls and iron shutters and doors, was "Privy Repository" (Geheime Verwahrung).
Throughout the 17th century, the Privy Repository was used by the rulers of the Electorate of Saxony as a private treasure chamber for important documents and jewelry. Then, between 1723 and 1729, the elector Frederic Augustus I, today referred to as Augustus the Strong, turned the private chambers into a public museum. First, he commanded splendid rooms to be created in which to display his collection. The Pretiosensaal (Hall of Treasures) and the Eckkabinett (Corner Cabinet) were listed as completed in the inventory of 1725; they reached their present-day form in this construction phase. An extension followed in 1727. Augustus’ intentions have been preserved on a ground plan from 1727 on which he drew his ideas. As in the first construction phase, the architect Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann planned and built a museum-like, artistic structure of German Baroque grandeur. A suite of eight interconnecting rooms was constructed whose architectural beauty complemented the abundance and quality of the priceless treasures. Augustus the Strong could now exhibit his entire collection of valuables, including bronze statues and works of art in silver, gold, amber and ivory. The sequence of rooms was deliberately staged, presening the objects according to their materials. By the end of his almost four-decade-long reign in 1733, Augustus the Strong had made his crown treasures and his inherited riches accessible to the public – an unprecedented innovation in the Baroque period.
These rooms remained unchanged for almost two centuries. When war was imminent in 1938, the art treasures were taken to the Königstein Fortress.
The Green Vault was severely damaged in the February 13, 1945 bombing of Dresden in World War II. Three of the eight rooms were totally destroyed. At the end of the war in 1945, the treasures were confiscated by the Red Army and transported to the Soviet Union. After their return to Dresden in 1958, part of the collection was displayed at the Albertinum.
In 2004, the Neues Grünes Gewölbe (New Green Vault) was opened on the second floor of the rebuilt Dresden castle. Its modern style of presentation centers on the works of art. In 2006, the reconstructed Historisches Grünes Gewölbe (Historic Green Vault) was reopened in the magnificent suite of rooms on the first floor as it had existed in 1733 at the time of its founder's death.
On 25 November 2019, the Green Vault was broken into, and three sets of early 18th century royal jewellery were stolen. Each set consists of 37 items, made up of diamonds, rubies, emeralds, and sapphires. It was estimated that the stolen items were worth up to 1 billion euros (US$1.1 billion).