George the Bearded

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George of Saxony in 1524, painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder , oil on panel
George the Bearded, Lucas Cranach the Elder, between 1534 and 1539, oil on panel
Equestrian statue at the Georgentor
Triptych by Lucas Cranach the Elder Ä. in Georg's burial chapel at Meißner Dom ; on the left the Duke, on the right his wife Barbara kneeling with apostles, in the middle Christ after the Descent from the Cross. The burial chapel, built in the 1520s, was given baroque stucco in the late 17th century.

George the Bearded (born August 27, 1471 in Meißen , † April 17, 1539 in Dresden ) was Duke of Albertine Saxony and Duke of Sagan .


George the Bearded was born as the eldest son of Albrecht the Courageous and Sidonia of Bohemia . He received a good education, was proficient in Latin and took a personal interest in the theological debates of his epoch.

Georg originally prepared for a spiritual career and was appointed canon in Mainz in 1484. Perhaps he studied at the University of Leipzig ; However, there is no evidence in the register there.

During the absence of his father on military expeditions in Flanders and Friesland , Georg took on various official business as a representative from 1488, including mining matters . In the inscription of the reign of Albrecht in the mints Zwickau and Schneeberg embossed Bartgroschens of 1492 and 1493, Duke George appears as his father's representative on the joint marked penny of Wettin . He is considered the founder of the city of Annaberg . From 1500 he took over the government in Albertine Saxony completely.

His younger brother Heinrich inherited from their father Albrecht Friesland. But because the Frisians opposed his rule and he was incapable of government, he renounced Friesland on May 30, 1505 in a contract with his brother Georg and contented himself with the offices of Freiberg and Wolkenstein . In Friesland there was a so-called Saxon feud between 1514 and 1517 , a dispute against Edzard I of East Friesland over the city of Groningen .

Georg was a staunch opponent of the teachings of Jan Hus and Martin Luther . In 1523 he had all the Luther Bibles confiscated in his country . In July 1525, Georg joined forces with various North German Catholic princes in the Dessau Bund in order to counter the spread of Lutheran teachings. Despite all these efforts, he could not prevent the Reformation from invading his country.

United with Landgrave Philipp of Hesse and Duke Heinrich von Braunschweig, Georg destroyed the army of the rebellious peasants near Frankenhausen in the Peasants' War in May 1525 .

As a result of differences of opinion, from 1530 to the end of 1533 there was a so-called Saxon coin separation between the Ernestine Elector John the Constant and Georg. In it, the Duke took the view that it was legality to maintain the value of the guilder groschen assumed by the population . He therefore had specially marked coins minted in his own name in the Freiberg , Leipzig and Annaberg mints .

Georg was married to Barbara (1478–1534), daughter of King Casimir IV of Poland , for 38 years . After her death he let his beard grow as a sign of his grief, which earned him the nickname the bearded man . George the Bearded died in Dresden in 1539 and was buried next to his wife in a grave chapel in Meissen Cathedral .

His son Johann was ailing and died childless on January 11, 1537. His second son Friedrich was mentally handicapped and died before his father on February 26, 1539. The Albertine Duchy of Saxony fell to his Lutheran brother Heinrich , which Georg in vain during his lifetime tried to thwart. His daughter Christine married Landgrave Philipp von Hessen in 1523, who introduced the Reformation in his domain in 1526 .

Georg's daughter-in-law Elisabeth von Rochlitz , the wife and widow of Johann, born Landgrave of Hesse and sister of Philip the Magnanimous, introduced the Reformation in her Wittumssitz Rochlitz .

Georg was the bearer of the chain of the Golden Fleece .

Art politics

The beautiful door, today in the Annenkirche in Annaberg-Buchholz, 1512 Master HW
Portal of St. George's Chapel in Meissen Cathedral, 1524

Georg was very interested in the contemporary arts and used them for his self-expression and that of his family. An early commission from him and his wife Barbara von Poland to the master HW in 1512 was the so-called beautiful door for the newly founded Franciscan monastery in the mountain town of Annaberg, which he founded.

In 1518 Georg had been to the Diet of Augsburg and got to know the art of the Fuggers, which was based on northern Italian models. Following this, he commissioned a new high altar in the new style for the Annenkirche in the newly founded mountain town of Annaberg in the Daucher workshop . This high altar was delivered to Saxony in 1521.

From 1521 Georg had the Albrechtsburg in Meißen completed by Jacob Haylmann , a student of the royal Bohemian court architect Benedikt Ried . As a sculptor, he hired Christoph Walther I , who provided the castle with a series of depictions of various allegories of virtues.

From around 1521 he had a burial chapel built for himself and his wife in Meißen Cathedral (today: George's Chapel), the antique-style portal of which was also influenced by the architecture of the Fugger Chapel and other works in Augsburg. It received a relief by the important Augsburg sculptor Hans Daucher . The new architecture was executed in local stone by local artists such as Christoph Walther I.

1530–1535 Georg had an extension built on Dresden Castle , the Georgentor . The gateway was decorated with extensive sculptures by Christoph Walther I, including the frieze of the dance of death.

Marriage and offspring

George the Bearded married Barbara (1478–1534), a daughter of the Polish King Casimir IV , on November 21, 1496 in Leipzig . From this marriage came:

  1. Christoph (born September 8, 1497 in Dresden, † December 5, 1497 in Leipzig), Hereditary Prince of Saxony
  2. Johann (1498–1537), Hereditary Prince of Saxony ⚭ Elisabeth of Hesse
  3. Wolfgang (* 1499; † January 12, 1500 in Dresden)
  4. Anna (January 21, 1500 - January 23, 1500)
  5. Christoph (* / † May 27, 1501)
  6. Agnes (7 January 1503 - 16 April 1503)
  7. Friedrich (1504–1539), Hereditary Prince of Saxony ⚭ Elisabeth von Mansfeld-Vorderort
  8. Christina (1505–1549) ⚭ Philip I of Hesse
  9. Magdalene (1507–1534) ⚭ Joachim II of Brandenburg
  10. Margaretha (born September 7, 1508 in Dresden, † between September 7 and December 19, 1510)


Pedigree of George the Bearded

Friedrich III. (1332–1381)
⚭ 1346
Katharina von Henneberg (1334–1397)

Heinrich I of Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1355–1416)

Sophie of Pomerania (1370–1406)

Leopold III. (1351–1386)
⚭ 1365
Viridis Visconti of Milan (1350–1414)

Ziemowit IV.

Alexandra of Lithuania

Boček II of Podebrady (–1417)

Anna Elisabeth of Leipa



Great grandparents

Elector Friedrich I of Saxony (1370–1428)
⚭ 1402
Katharina von Braunschweig-Lüneburg (1395–1442)

Duke Ernst the Iron (1377–1424)
⚭ 1412
Cimburgis of Masovia (1394 / 97–1429)

Viktorin von Podiebrad (1403–1427)

Anna von Wartenberg (1403–1427)

Smil von Sternberg (–1431)

Barbara von Pardubitz (–1433)


Elector Friedrich II. (1412–1464)
⚭ 1431
Margaretha of Austria (1416–1486)

King George of Podebrady (1420–1471)
⚭ 1441
Kunigunde von Sternberg (1425–1449)


Duke Albrecht the Courageous (1443–1500)
⚭ 1464
Sidonia of Bohemia (1449–1510)

George the Bearded


  • Files and letters on the church policy of Duke George of Saxony
    • Volume 1: 1517-1524. Teubner, Leipzig 1905 (new print Böhlau, Cologne 1985). Ed .: Felician Geß
    • Volume 2: 1525-1527. Teubner, Leipzig 1917 (new print Böhlau, Cologne 1985). Ed .: Felician Geß
    • Volume 3: 1528-1534. Böhlau, Vienna-Cologne-Weimar 2010. Ed .: Heiko Jadatz, Christian Winter
    • Volume 4: 1535-1539. Böhlau, Vienna-Cologne-Weimar 2012. Ed .: Heiko Jadatz, Christian Winter


Individual evidence

  1. von Welck 1900, p. 2.
  2. Simona Schellenberger: Bildwerke des Meister HW. Developments in late Gothic sculpture between spatial construction and graphics. Diss. HU Berlin 2005, here pp. 20–55.
  3. Arndt Kiesewetter: Main altar of St. Anne's Church Annaberg-Buchholz. In: Claudia Kunde and André Thieme (eds.): A treasure not of gold - Benno von Meißen, Saxony's first saint. Catalog for the special exhibition, Petersberg 2017, pp. 380–382.
  4. Catalog No. 4.30 in: Claudia Kunde and André Thieme (eds.): A treasure not of gold - Benno von Meißen, Saxony's first saint. Catalog for the special exhibition, Petersberg 2017.
  5. Catalog No. 4.28 in: Claudia Kunde and André Thieme (eds.): A treasure not of gold - Benno von Meißen, Saxony's first saint. Catalog for the special exhibition, Petersberg 2017.

Web links

Commons : George the Bearded  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Digital copies:

predecessor Office successor
Albrecht Duke of Saxony