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Burgberg with Albrechtsburg (right) from the east

Burgberg with Albrechtsburg (right) from the east

Alternative name (s): Misni Castle
Creation time : 929 to 931
Castle type : Hilltop castle
Conservation status: Receive
Standing position : King, Prince
Place: Meissen
Geographical location 51 ° 9 '57.8 "  N , 13 ° 28' 14.6"  E Coordinates: 51 ° 9 '57.8 "  N , 13 ° 28' 14.6"  E
Albrechtsburg (Saxony)

The Albrechtsburg in Meißen is one of the most famous late Gothic architectural monuments and is considered the first castle in Germany. The hilltop castle is a protected cultural asset under the Hague Convention .


The castle hill was settled from the Young Bronze Age to the time of the Germanic peoples. So far, no traces of fortifications have been found. When King Heinrich I destroyed the Sorbian people's castle Gana in 929 , he was looking for a place for a new castle. He found this between the Elbe , the Triebisch and the Meisa . The towering rock on which the later castle called Misni (Meißen) was built, was ideal for ruling the country. Because of its location above the Elbe, the Albrechtsburg is also called the “Saxon Acropolis”. The report of the chronicler Thietmar von Merseburg shows that he found a wooded hill. Heinrich's castle consisted of a number of wooden structures surrounded by a wood-earth wall. The name of the castle Misni refers to the small stream Misni (Meisa, see Meisatal ), which flows into the Elbe a little below the castle hill.

From 936–968 the castle is no longer mentioned in Saxon historical sources. It may have been lost in the fighting with the Bohemians in September 936. A Margrave of Meissen is attested from 968 . While Slavs were settling on the Misni river , the first German settlement in today's urban area was built south of the castle at a small natural harbor . There is also evidence of a burgrave since 1068 . Over time, a Burgraviate of Meissen developed, which the Meinheringer family was able to expand further.

Bischofsburg (left), Albrechtsburg (right), behind the Meissen Cathedral

The conquest of Henry I marked the beginning of a dispute over the rule of the region that lasted for many years. After many campaigns, which were mainly carried out by the margrave Gero , the lordly penetration of the margrave of Meissen was completed around 963. In 968 the diocese of Meissen was founded. It had its seat and its cathedral church, the Meißner Dom , also on the castle hill and acquired in the late Middle Ages with the bishopric Meißen an independent territory compared to the margraves and electors.

Meißen Castle had become the central location of the Burgwardes , i.e. a larger area of ​​dominion that corresponded to the former Gau Daleminzien. It was the center of a royal administrative area . Along with the royal palaces of Magdeburg and Merseburg, together with Bautzen, it played a key role among the many castle warden in the conquered area , so that it can be described as an early state castle. The Burgward district of Meißen was at the intersection of the interests of several ruling families. After the conquests of Henry I, it belonged to the Ostmark under the Margrave Gero, who represented the interests of the empire. East of the territory bordering Piast on that later Polish Kingdom. In the south the Přemyslids , the dukes of Bohemia, tried to expand their power. In this area of ​​tension, the history of the castle in the 10th and 11th centuries was very eventful and was by no means secure German imperial possession.

After Rikdag's death in 985, Ekkehard I was installed as Margrave of Meissen. He came from the near-royal Saxon family of the Ekkehardines . Its headquarters were in Kleinjena near Naumburg. Ekkehard's most pressing task was to conquer Meissen Castle. Boleslaw II of Bohemia had captured Meissen Castle in 984 on the way back from a campaign together with the Bavarian Duke Heinrich the Quarrel, while Ekkehard probably recaptured the castle from Otto II's opponent in 987 when he formed a Saxon-Thuringian army in 986/87 led with Mieszko I of Poland against the Slavs. Ekkehard was related by marriage to Miezko through Reglindis, his brother Hermann's wife.

View over the Elbe to the Albrechtsburg

The Polish Piast Duke Boleslaw Chrobry (the brave, son of Miezkos) took the death of Emperor Otto III. and the murder of Margrave Ekkehard I of Meißen in 1002 as an opportunity to conquer the Mark Meißen east of the Elbe. While he was able to occupy the land relatively easily because he was in tune with the Slavic population, the German occupation defended the castle. However, it was ultimately taken with the help of Gunzelin , Ekkehard's brother. The castle team was granted free withdrawal. The newly elected German king, Heinrich II , appointed Gunzelin as the new margrave in Meissen in 1002, who also came into possession of the castle. In 1003, Boleslaw II of Bohemia demanded, as had obviously been agreed, Gunzelin surrender the Meissen Castle, which the latter refused. The background to the events was that the Ekkehardines were closely related to the Polish Piasts. So far they had turned against the Bohemian Přemyslid Duchy, which was allied with Bavaria. After the assassination of Ekkehard, who had applied for the German royal crown, it was feared that a different noble family than the Ekkehardines could be appointed as margraves. With the conquest of Lausitz and Meissen, Boleslaw had created a fait accompli. Heinrich II had no choice but to appoint the Ekkehardiner Gunzelin. With his actions Gunzelin ignored the claims of his nephew Hermann, who had been at Meißen Castle with his mother Swanehilde. Hermann certainly wanted to manifest his claims to his father's inheritance.

Gunzelin could not enjoy his possession for long. As early as 1009 he was accused by Heinrich II and lost the margraviate. Meißen Castle was given to the great rulers of the area for custody alternately for four weeks until Hermann, the son of Ekkehard I, was appointed Margrave of Meißen in the autumn of 1009. After King Heinrich II's unsuccessful campaign to the east in 1015, the German army was repulsed. Hermann was only able to hold Meißen Castle against the Piast Mieszko II with difficulty . The fighting was probably so hard that Hermann asked the women in the castle to take part in the fighting.

In 1046 the Ekkehardines died out. The rule of Meissen fell back to the empire and Emperor Heinrich III. re-awarded it to Count Otto I of Weimar-Orlamünde . After his death, the Brunones Ekbert I († 1068 ) and Ekbert II († 1090) became margraves. Both were opponents of Heinrich IV. Even Emperor Heinrich III. had tried to protect the realm's claims to the castle militarily and legally. In 1073 Heinrich IV appointed his trusted follower, Duke Vratislav II of Bohemia, as margrave of Meissen. He thus ousted Ekbert II. Finally, in 1089, Heinrich von Eilenburg , since 1081 Margrave of Lusatia , became the first Wettin margrave of Meissen. The legitimacy of his only, posthumously born son, Heinrich II. , Was questioned by his cousin Conrad I , who captured him in 1121 and had him poisoned in 1123. In 1125 Konrad I von Wettin was appointed Margrave of Meissen by the Emperor. He had succeeded through skill and energy in bringing a large territory under his rule, the center of which was Meissen. With his striving for power and that of his successors, he was in competition with the imperial family, which from the end of the 12th century sought to create a large domain in today's Saxony with the German expansion to the east.


The Staufer emperors tried not to let the power of the Wettins grow any further. The Mark Meissen was therefore from Emperor Heinrich VI. Drawn in as a settled fiefdom in 1195. But he did not succeed in disempowering the Wettins. Margrave Dietrich the Distressed was finally able to secure the mark as Wettin property.

In addition to the margrave and the bishop, a royal burgrave had his seat on the castle hill. When Meissen was founded it was undoubtedly a royal castle, an imperial castle. The margrave held it as sovereign. Because of his sovereignty, it was not possible for him to always be present at the castle. Therefore, there was a bailiff or burgrave who had the residence obligation and, in addition to the economic tasks, was the military commander of the castle. There was certainly such a royal commander before Burchhard was mentioned. For 1009 it is documented that the castle team consisted of contingents of imperial princes changed constantly. It is possible that the castle, which is located far in the conquered area, had a changing occupation as early as the 10th century. There was also a garrison of its own, as the Burgmanns seats at the castle and in the upper suburbium suggest.

The first officially mentioned burgrave named Burchard was appointed by Henry IV in 1069. During the investiture controversy, the castle was included in the politics of the empire because it was occupied by three parties with different interests. Heinrich IV appointed the Bohemian Duke Wratislaw as Margrave of Meissen in 1073. He thereby disempowered Ekbert II of Weimar-Orlamünde, who belonged to the aristocratic opposition. A few years later, however, Ekbert regained the mark. Finally, Heinrich von Eilenburg became the first Wettin Margrave of Meissen. The tripartite division of the political powers on the castle hill also resulted in three separate castle areas. In the north-east stood the margravial, in the south-east the episcopal and in the west the castle-counts. The castle of the burgrave took up the largest area on the castle plateau. In front of the castle gate there was an early suburbium , today's St. Afra-Freiheit . In the valley there was a moated castle connected to the margrave castle by stab walls. Each castle had its own entrance. In the 12th century the castle was expanded with representative stone buildings. A square tower that has been found in the foundations today dates back to around 1100. An archaeologically proven layer of fire suggests that there was considerable destruction at the end of the 12th century.

Wall painting with the Margraves Friedrich the Meek, Friedrich the Arguable, Friedrich the Strict and their wives - from left to right.

In the middle of the 13th century, the castle hill was expanded. On the east side, the fortifications that serve today as a substructure for the two castles were built. A round tower was built at each of the three corners of the castle plateau.The stone castle bridge was also built during this time. To the west of the castle plateau, the burgrave's court consisted at least of a hall and a chapel. A keep, the white tower, rose above the burgrave area. This tower is clearly attributable to the Burggrafenburg and served to protect the castle bridge. The castle bridge was an extraordinary structure for the time and served as a representative entrance to the Burggrafenburg. They are attributed to Florentine builders. The front gate to freedom and the middle gate at the other end of the bridge were part of this ensemble. But soon after the representative expansion of the castle, the margraves pushed the burgraves further and further away from the castle courtyard. 1308 joined Meinher III. involuntarily surrendered the White Tower to Margrave Friedrich for two years. He never got it back. When the reigning burgrave finally fell in a battle in 1426, the margrave moved in as a settled fiefdom. In the 15th century, the Margraves of Meissen introduced significant changes to the castle area. The burgraves had been eliminated as rulers around 1426. Their castle complex was left to decay. Separating walls between the castle areas fell victim to the pickaxe. The last building to be removed was the White Tower in 1607. The red tower on the top of the castle hill was probably demolished around 1500. Strangely, the margraves only owned this building as a fief of the Hersfeld monastery.

Large court room

In 1423 Frederick IV, the feudal man, was appointed Elector of Saxony . His grandchildren, Ernst and Albrecht , ruled Saxony and Thuringia together from 1464 to 1485 and in 1471 commissioned the builder Arnold von Westfalen to build the first German castle on the site of the old margrave castle . Even if the castle was actually designed as a residence for the two princes, it was never used as such. In 1485 the government of the two brothers was repealed and the country was divided into two parts . Albrecht (the Albertiner ) essentially received the Meissnian areas with the newly built castle and the later Thuringian district , his brother Ernst received the remaining Thuringian areas and the Duchy of Saxony with Wittenberg, to which the electoral dignity was bound. The castle was named "Albrechtsburg" in 1676 after its first master and builder. But it was only his son, George the Bearded , who took up the Albrechtsburg as his residence. The castle was badly damaged during the Thirty Years War . Since then it has been empty.

It was not until the beginning of the 18th century that the Albrechtsburg received more attention from August the Strong when he had the first European porcelain factory set up in the castle in 1710 . Two years earlier, Johann Friedrich Böttger and Ehrenfried Walther von Tschirnhaus had invented European porcelain. Initially, Dresden was planned as the manufacturing site, but August the Strong opted for the vacant and isolated castle because nowhere else would the secret of porcelain production have been so secure. On June 6, 1710, the porcelain manufactory began operations in the former royal residence that was to make the “white gold” world famous.

In the middle of the 19th century the manufacture was relocated to the newly built factory building, the castle was empty again. In the years 1864 to 1870, the old manufactory fixtures were removed and the palace was architecturally refurbished. The missing furniture was replaced by elaborate paintings on the late Gothic walls. The later well-known artist Alexander Linnemann from Frankfurt was also active here . B. when designing the new doors, documents on this are in the Linnemann archive. At the end of the 19th century, the Albrechtsburg was made accessible to the population and continues to delight many visitors from home and abroad. The case of the "blighting of the Albrechtsburg" forced the legislature to give up its decades-long opinion that Saxon antiquity protection does not require any statutory regulation. In 1909, for example, he passed the law against disfigurement of town and country (Verunstaltungsgesetz), in the draft of which the Albrechtsburg case was explicitly listed as an example.

In 2010 the Albrechtsburg celebrated its 300th anniversary as a manufactory and shone again as a porcelain castle.

Overall architectural picture

View of the courtyard facade
View from the Elbe to the Burgberg at the blue hour
Meißen, Albrechtsburg and Cathedral from the west

The former electoral palace rises above a hook-shaped floor plan on a rocky plateau that slopes steeply towards the Elbe north of the Meissen Cathedral . All floors below the eaves line are arched, a great feature in German castle construction, which meant an immense financial and design effort. Above the high substructures of the core building there is a low ground floor and two main floors with unusually large so-called arched curtain windows. Another lordly floor is already within the roof zone and is illuminated through the windows of the row of hatches.

The tower-like character of the Meißen Castle, which is still so eye-catching from all sides, should represent a well-calculated picture with political significance. The Albrechtsburg was not only intended to become a residential palace that was particularly comfortable to live in, but also to set an unmistakable sign of the Wettin territorial rule, which was increasingly consolidating and gaining in imperial political, administrative and economic importance . For this purpose, Arnold von Westfalen was expected to formulate a new architectural language. While the architectural decorations belong to the late Gothic period, as was the case with Sachsenburg Castle , which was built from an older complex at the same time, the structure of the building already leads to the Saxon Renaissance . Due to the design of the floor plan, the Albrechtsburg building, which was already proportioned like a tower, was broken down into individual tower figures; all facade strips tend to be in an upright rectangular format; In terms of the effects of light and shadow, the core structure presents itself like a crystal with a multi-fold surface. In addition to the stair towers of the courtyard, however, only one arranged in the central zone of Elbseite building developed into a real tower, all other buildings are tied together again by the mighty roof. In the roof zone, however, the dormer windows, rectangular roof bay windows that sit on the eaves, form a wreath of tower figures surrounding the building. The Lukarne in its typical formation as a window bay comes from France; around 1470, however, it was only used in such a systematic and consistent manner in individual cases (e.g. in the castles of Baugé and Le Rivau ).

The Albrechtsburg seen from the north

Another momentous adaptation of French building culture in Meißen was the use of the viewing stair tower, as it was formulated as a type in 1365 with the - later removed - large spiral staircase in the courtyard of the Louvre . The large main staircase in the south, via which the access to the manorial upper floors leads, is a masterpiece of stonemasonry with elaborately curved steps that wind up around an open eye in the middle. Their windows were originally open and enabled diverse visual relationships between those walking on the stairs and spectators in the courtyard. The overall shape of the Meißener stair tower and the adjacent wall portion upstream balconies but has no direct French model. A smaller stair tower is also located on the courtyard facade in the corner between the north and east wings.

Interior design

Model as it was in the 18th century
Reconstruction of the room functions of the first floor around 1500

The builder had to implement a highly complex spatial program inside the Albrechtsburg. Large areas of the first floor are occupied by two halls. Both are generously windowed on several sides, have two aisles and, like the other rooms on the floor, are vaulted. The centrally located hall, to which the main staircase of the large stair tower leads, was the large ballroom of the palace, which was used on a case-by-case basis. It could not be heated and in everyday life it fulfilled the function of a communication area between the surrounding stairs and rooms, which also include a chapel room.

In contrast to this, the north hall was the court room, heated by a large tiled stove formerly placed in the northeast corner, in which the entire male court, including the princes, was supposed to gather for main meals twice a day. Between the two rooms there is a musicians' gallery above the connecting door, which could serve both rooms as required.

Reconstruction of the room functions on the second floor around 1500

Three independent apartments are grouped around these two large rooms as living and office areas, each consisting of an oven-heated room as the main room and one or more subordinate chambers as bedrooms and storage rooms. The architecturally most elaborate is the apartment, which adjoins the courtyard room in the northeast. Its living room and the unheated bedroom above it, which can be reached directly by a walled staircase, occupy the structure that has been rotated 45 degrees from the main building and rises like a tower with three free-standing sides above the Elbe valley. Above the elaborate and costly substructures of the basement, the architect created spaces that allow a far-reaching view on three sides.

The structurally staged overview in itself was already valued across Europe in palace construction. However, the multi-view “fan view” in Meissen differs fundamentally from the gaze routines customary in France or Italy at the time, where the visual reference to the surroundings was almost always formulated in the form of a directed uniform image. In the period that followed, such spatial formations in Wittenberg, Torgau, Neuburg ad Donau or Heidelberg, among others, were to become a characteristic of the elaborate Central European palace construction. The large, three-sided windowed north-east apartment of the Albrechtsburg was probably originally intended for high-ranking guests; in the course of the 16th century, however, the princes withdrew to a separate table during the main meals. At the time of the building it was only customary for the female members of the court, the so-called women’s rooms, to separate from the entire meal. The builder also designed a room for them with three window fronts, but on the second floor, where this group of people was somewhat isolated from the hustle and bustle of the courtyard.

On the second floor, next to the Frauenzimmertafelstube and two other smaller apartments on the south side, the elector's three-room apartment was set up as the center between the Elbe and courtyard fronts. In addition to the room with windows on both sides as the main reception room and the subordinate, more intimate bedroom, the Elector should have a small side room on the valley side. The estudes or cabinets in French castles come into question as typological models for such a retreat, but there is nothing to prevent the Meissen innovation from deriving from the studioli propagated by Italian humanists since Petrarch (1304–1374) . A famous example was set up in the Duke's Palace in Urbino between 1472 and 1476 . The small room of the electoral apartment in Meißen is architecturally designed to be a real showpiece and offers views over the Elbe valley in different directions. In its location, away from the hustle and bustle of the castle courtyard, it corresponds exactly to the advice that the influential Renaissance theorist Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) formulated for the construction of such rooms.

The ground plan of the second floor is repeated in essential aspects on the floor above the porthole zone. Here one can assume the Electress's apartment with an internal staircase to the rooms of her suite one storey higher in the roof.

Artistic importance

Cell vault
Reconstruction of the room functions of the third floor (roof) around 1500
Admission ticket from 1988 Albrechtsburg Meissen with a historical picture

The extraordinarily complex construction task of the Albrechtsburg required the establishment and constant operation of a large construction hut , which under Master Arnold and his closest students became a center of architectural development and education with a supraregional charisma, as was previously only typical for the large church construction huts . The cell vault developed in the Albrechtsburg and the curtain-like upper ends of the main windows were copied from a wide area; In some cases, the forms initially created for the secular were then even introduced into sacred buildings.

This suggests a reversal of the traditional artistic gradient, as it was to become more and more evident in the course of the 16th century. In addition, Arnold von Westfalen was given the newly created office of lordly chief architect in 1471, so that, as an early representative of the modern professional profile of the court artist, he was also able to exert his influence under the umbrella of the early modern territorial state that was emerging.

In fact, the Albrechtsburg never became a center of the Wettin court. In 1485, while construction was still in progress, the builders agreed on a division of their territory, according to which Meißen fell to the now emerging Albertine line of the Wettins. Between 1495 and 1500, construction work was stopped during the interior work in the upper northern parts. It was not until 1521 that the son Duke Albrechts, Duke Georg the Bearded (1500–1539), who now resides in Dresden , had these areas completed by Jakob Heilmann. The loop rib vault on the second floor of the north-east building and a chimney in the room above come from this time, in the style of Benedikt Ried, who worked in Prague. At that time, the sculptor Christoph Walther I was also commissioned to create figurative reliefs for the parapets of the Great Stair Tower, the frames of which show typical early Renaissance forms.

The Albrechtsburg is considered a model for the multi-wing, five-storey building of the Wedding District Court in Berlin, which was built between 1901 and 1906 .

Porcelain manufacture and current use

After it was released from court accessories, the Albrechtsburg was used as a production facility for the famous Saxon porcelain manufacturer from 1710 to 1863 .

Only after they had moved out could the building be restored until 1870. Between 1873 and 1885, under the direction of Wilhelm Roßmann, all rooms on the two main floors were decorated with murals on the history of Saxony and Meissen, a genre that was definitely not intended when the palace was built. At that time, mobile tapestries were the most comfortable and representative decoration of such rooms. The pictures come from 11 artists from the Dresden Art Academy, including Alfred Diethe , Ernst Erwin Oehme (Altenburger Prinzenraub, 1455) and Julius Scholtz .

Today the palace is one of the state palaces and gardens in Saxony and houses a public museum.


Visitor numbers

  • 2017: 127,746


  • Stefan Bürger: MeisterWerk. From princely ideas, fascinating shapes and nimble hands. Catalog for the permanent exhibition at Meissen Albrechtsburg Castle . Dresden 2011.
  • Dietmar Fuhrmann: The porcelain factory in the Albrechtsburg. Kai Homilius Verlag 2002
  • Stephan Hoppe : The Albrechtsburg in Meißen as an example of a retrospective architectural style? Observations on possible interactions between architecture and visual arts in the last third of the 15th century. In: Late Gothic palace construction in Central Germany. Dresden 2007, pp. 64–74 ( digitized on ART-Doc ).
  • Dietmar Fuhrmann, Jörg Schöner (photos): Albrechtsburg Meißen. Origin and testimony of Saxon history. Halle / Saale 1996.
  • Walter May: The Albrechtsburg in Meissen. Origin and meaning. In: Sächsische Heimatblätter 17 (1971), pp. 103-110.
  • Hans-Joachim Mrusek (Ed.): The Albrechtsburg in Meißen. Leipzig 1972.
  • Ulrich Schütte: The castle as a fortification. Fortified castle buildings from the early modern period. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1994, ISBN 3-534-11692-5 , pp. 36-40.

Web links

Commons : Albrechtsburg  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Website of the Albrechtsburg
  2. ^ Protected cultural property in Germany ( Memento from May 8, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  3. ^ Gertraud Eva Schrage: On the settlement policy of the Ottonians. Studies on the integration of the areas east of the Saale in the 10th century. in: Blätter für deutsche Landesgeschichte. Bd. 135. Mittler, Berlin 1999, pp. 189-268, here p. 205 with additional references
  4. For the further course cf. Margraviate of Meissen # history
  5. Manfred Unger: The development of the Meißnisch-Saxon territorial complex and its socio-economic foundations, 10th-15th century . Sächsische Heimatblätter 1982. Page 208.
  6. ^ Cheap, Gerhard; Müller, Heinz: Castles. Witnesses of Saxon history. Verlag Degener, Neustadt ad Aisch 1998 :. Page 180
  7. ^ Gerhard Cheap, Heinz Müller: Castles. Witnesses of Saxon history . Verlag Degener, Neustadt ad Aisch 1998 :. Page 26.
  8. Gabriele Rupp: The Ekkehardiner, Margraves of Meißen, and their relations to the empire and the Piasts . European University Theses, Series III. History and auxiliary sciences, volume 691. Peter Lang European publishing house of the sciences. Frankfurt am Main, Berlin etc., 1996. Page 52.
  9. as on page 53.
  10. as on page 52.
  11. The close bonds of Ekkehardiner with the Piast Poland occurred during the war obviously against the bonds to the vasallische relation to King Henry II. Back. The wars ended in 1018 with the Peace of Bautzen .
  12. as on page 114.
  13. Saxon noble family of 10/11 Century from today's Lower Saxony.
  14. for the further course cf. Margraviate of Meissen # history
  15. ^ Arne Schmidt-Hecklau, Michael Strobel, Thomas Westphalen: Der Burgberg Meißen . Archaeonaut 3, State Office for Archeology, Dresden 2004. Yves Hoffmann: Stone buildings of the 11th and 12th centuries on castles in the area of ​​today's Saxony . In: Research on castles and palaces. Volume 9, Deutscher Kunstverlag Munich and Berlin 2006. P. 210.
  16. ^ Georg Dehio: Handbook of German Art Monuments. Sachsen I . Deutscher Kunstverlag, Munich and Berlin 1996. Page 558.
  17. 1881 opening as a memorial to Saxon history ( memento of March 26, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 141 kB)
  18. ^ Christian Schreiber: The development of the Saxon monument protection legislation. In: Landesverein Sächsischer Heimatschutz (Hrsg.): Messages. 1/2010, pp. 36–43, especially note 13.
  19. ^ Decline in visitors in Pillnitz , Dresdner Latest News from 17./18. February 2018, p. 17