Sonnenstein Castle

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The Sonnenstein Castle is a partially preserved castle fortress in the Sonnenstein district of Pirna with extensive outdoor facilities. First mentioned in 1269, the fortress above the old town secured the routes from Stolpen to Prague and from Königstein to Meißen . Since December 2011 it has been the administrative seat of the Saxon Switzerland-Eastern Ore Mountains district .

Sonnenstein Castle after renovation (2011)

Castle, fortress and former administrative seat

View of Pirna with Sonnenstein Fortress around 1757 by Canaletto
View of the ramparts of the Sonnenstein Fortress, bordering the city of Pirna. Before 1835.

The Sonnenstein Castle, located on a rock plateau about 70 meters above the Elbe , dates back to a Slavic settlement and fortification that was established in the second half of the 10th century. In the course of the state expansion carried out by the Meissen margraves , a castle was built around 1200 that dominated the Elbe ford at their feet. In the protection of this important border castle between the Mark Meissen and the Kingdom of Bohemia , the Pirna trading center was established around 1200.

The Castrum Pirne was first mentioned in a document on December 5, 1269 in a document from Margrave Heinrich the Illustrious . Since 1293 the castle was under the Bohemian Crown, which it pledged several times.

On November 15, 1372, Emperor Charles IV signed here with the Margraves Friedrich III. , Balthasar and Wilhelm I signed the Pirna Treaty to regulate the border between the Kingdom of Bohemia and the Mark of Meissen. The Pirna Treaty was an important forerunner of the comprehensive border regulation between Saxony and Bohemia created with the Treaty of Eger (1459).
In 1405 the castle and the associated administrative area ( care ) came into the possession of the Meissen margraves .

In the middle of the 15th century, the Pirna administration began to be combined with other neighboring administrative units (including Dohna, Königstein, Rathen) to form the Pirna Office. Sonnenstein Castle became the administrative seat of the office. The governor residing here exercised judicial and military control, the economic administration was the responsibility of the Schösser .

The early castle complex had a keep , a stone residential building and several outbuildings made of wood and clay. In the 1470s, renovations resulted in two castle towers and a stately bower building . This complex was destroyed by fire (1486) and storms (1489). Duke Albrecht the Courageous initiated the reconstruction from 1491. A palace was built between 1545 and 1548 under Elector Moritz . This created a structural separation between the systems for defense (castle) and living (castle). Elector August pushed the expansion of the defenses into the Saxon state fortress. Between 1570 and 1573 a fortress with three towers and several bastions was built under the direction of the fortress builder Rochus zu Lynar and the land builder Hans Irmisch .

View of Sonnenstein Castle and Pirna, around 1750 by Canaletto
View from the south of Pirna. In the picture the Obertor, Schloss Sonnenstein and in the background the Marienkirche , around 1760 by Canaletto

During the Thirty Years' War , the fortress had been under the command of Johann Siegmund von Liebenau since 1638 . In 1639 he successfully defended the sunstone against the Swedes under Johan Banér . During the several months of siege, the buildings of the fortress were partly badly damaged by artillery fire. After the Swedes withdrew, the castle occupation began to restore the houses in the castle courtyard, the outer works and bridges. The fountain and brewery were newly built. Von Liebenau also managed to separate the military function of the fortress from the administrative function as the official seat. In 1674, at his endeavors, the administration was relocated to a building on the market in Pirna.

From 1688 the baroque builder Wolf Caspar von Klengel was the fortress commander. Under Klengel there was a major redesign of the fortifications. a. included the construction of the commandant's house. Further renovations and new buildings were carried out by the architect Jean de Bodt , who between 1735 and 1737 had the Elbe wing of the fortress, which is still preserved today, and the new barracks built. In the first half of the 18th century, the Sonnenstein also served as a state prison . The prominent prisoners included u. a. Johann Reinhold von Patkul .

During the Seven Years' War the fortress garrison only surrendered after the majority of the Saxon army had given up their arms in front of the Prussian troops due to the siege near Pirna on October 14, 1756 . Parts of the fortress were razed by the Prussians and also by the Austrians under Leopold Joseph von Daun . On April 14, 1764, the Sonnenstein Fortress officially lost its military status when it was removed from the list of state fortresses.


In the Seven Years' War and partly dilapidated and civilian use since 1764, the investment of Sonnenstein Castle served from 1811 as an institution for the mentally ill regarded as incurable. Up to now, these were housed in Saxony together with prisoners, orphans and beggars in kennels , orphanages and poor houses in Torgau and Waldheim .

The conception of the institution was drawn up by Christian August Fürchtegott Hayner on behalf of the Saxon Minister Gottlob Adolf Ernst von Nostitz and Jänkendorf . Nostitz had also taken care of the training of the first family doctor and director of the sanatorium Ernst Gottlob Pienitz in Paris with Philippe Pinel . After some renovations, the institute was opened on July 18, 1811.

But on September 14th, 1813, French troops occupied the Sonnenstein and forced the evacuation of the 250 patients and confiscated supplies. Pienitz organized the accommodation and care of the patients in the city. The French dismantled the buildings to form the fortress. Great damage was done here and during the shelling by Austrian and Russian besiegers. The French defended the fortress until Dresden surrendered on November 11th.

As early as February 1814, the sanatorium could be resumed on a makeshift basis, but for a few years only with a reduced capacity for about 135 patients. The restoration work was completed in 1817 with the consecration of the institution church.

Due to its reform psychiatric concept, the sanatorium quickly acquired a good reputation as a model institute. Various doctors from other institutions and countries repeatedly stayed with Ernst Gottlob Pienitz for further training, including Peter Willers Jessen (1820), Carl Friedrich Flemming (1823/24), Moritz Martini (1823), Albert Zeller (1825).

Until 1830, however, Pienitz was the only psychiatrist for patient care, only from then on was a second family doctor employed on a permanent basis. After the hospital's occupancy rate increased to over 190 patients, a third doctor was permanently employed in 1838. In the beginning, up to 50 convicts with minor offenses were also used for nursing and cleaning services. Due to insufficient qualifications and other problems, Pienitz was able to enforce the gradual replacement of convicts by qualified nurses from 1826 onwards. Recovering sick people themselves were also used as caregivers.

The therapy models of the Sonnenstein institution aimed at a regular daily routine, discipline, sport, dietary measures, various baths, the use of calming medication, entertainment and constant moral instruction. Early forms of psychotherapeutic measures (discussions, teachings, etc.) were also used. In keeping with the spirit of the times, caring for mentally ill people was compared with bringing up children who could be morally and educationally influenced by an authoritarian role model. Basically, Pienitz was guided by humanistic forms of patient care.

Palace courtyard 2–4

The healing successes of the Sonnenstein asylum were considered to be extremely remarkable at the time, so that the capacity of the asylum increased to approx. 240 places in the 1840s. As early as 1826, a convalescent house was built at the foot of the Sonnenstein near the former Pirna Obertor for up to 15 patients who were to be discharged. The house was the first outpatient aftercare facility for mentally ill patients in Germany.

The growing number of patients made the structural expansion of the sanatorium necessary from 1855. In the following years, the new building of the women's shelter (until 1870), the commercial wing, a civil servants' residence (1865–1866) and a men's hospital building (1871–1875) were gradually built up to 1875. A further increase in the number of patients, along with an increasing number of staff, new treatment methods and the increasing incompatibility of the fortress buildings originally built under military aspects with the contemporary demands of psychiatry required a further extensive new construction and modernization program in the Sonnenstein facility from 1890 onwards. According to plans by the renowned Dresden architects Schilling & Graebner , the facility was redesigned by 1914. The institution grew through the construction of 13 different pavilion-style hospital buildings, residential buildings for doctors and nurses, functional buildings (including a funeral hall, laundry) and a new institution church towards the east and south-east. An extensive park was created, interspersed with buildings, the old Sonnenstein fortress had largely lost its fortress-like character by the demolition of what was still medieval building stock and the overbuilding of the ramparts by 1914.

From 1922 to 1939 the state nursing school was moved to the Sonnenstein.

Daniel Paul Schreber , the President of the Court Senate, known primarily through Freud's 1910/11 essay Psychoanalytic Remarks on an autobiographical case of paranoia (Dementia Paranoides), was interned at Sonnenstein for several years (from June 1894 to December 1902). The then director of the institution Guido Weber, who was director of the institution from 1893 to 1910, wrote several reports on Schreber during the incapacitation process .

In 1928 Hermann Paul Nitsche was appointed director of the Sonnenstein sanatorium, which had grown to over 700 patients. When he took office, the systematic exclusion of the chronically mentally ill began. As a proponent of “racial hygiene” and “euthanasia”, he enforced compulsory sterilization , questionable “compulsory medical treatment” and “catering arrangements” against “genetically ill” patients. In autumn 1939 the institution was closed by a decree by the Saxon Minister of the Interior and set up as a reserve hospital and resettlement camp.

Nazi killing facility

Between 1940 and 1941 the castle was used as part of the Nazi euthanasia campaign T4 . 13,720 mostly disabled people were killed there. Today the Pirna-Sonnenstein Memorial and the Sonnenstein Memorial Board of Trustees commemorate this.

Various functions between 1941 and 1954

After the end of the murders of the sick in 1941, the Adolf Hitler School for the Gau Sachsen , a Reich Administration School and a Wehrmacht hospital were set up on the site of the Sonnenstein and existed until 1945. After the end of the Second World War , refugee camps and a quarantine camp for discharged Wehrmacht members, the district office and a police school (until 1954) were housed until 1949 .

Factory and since 1977 district rehabilitation center

The "Pirna 014" engine produced on the Sonnenstein

In connection with the establishment of the GDR's own aviation industry under the direction of Brunolf Baade , the development of VEB Entwicklungsbau Pirna (plant 802) began on the Sonnenstein in 1954. The plant served the development and production of propeller turbine air jet engines and jet engines . For this purpose, the buildings of the palace were converted, and further extensive new buildings were built in the immediate vicinity. As early as 1956, the first Pirna 014 jet engine planned for the commercial aircraft “152” was put to the test. In 1961, the development of the GDR aviation industry was discontinued because technical and organizational difficulties continued to delay the series production of the "152" and the Soviet Union withdrew its original purchase interest in 1959.

The production of the plant was then switched. As a VEB flow machine factory, u. a. Manufactured hydrodynamic power transmitters for locomotives, fluid couplings and converters for hoisting machines, gas turbine units and oil firing systems. With up to 2,000 employees at times, the factory was until 1990 the second largest industrial company in Pirna, next to the VEB artificial silk factory “Siegfried Rädel”. In connection with the operation of the turbo machine factory, the Sonnenstein residential area was built in the hinterland of Schloss Sonnenstein from the end of the 1950s. During the fall of the Berlin Wall , the plant was privatized in 1990, but had to file for bankruptcy in 1994. Parts of the once extensive building were demolished and u. a. used for the location of the new building of the Pirna Clinic. Other buildings such as B. the dining house of the VEB development building were renovated and mainly used for residential purposes. However, some buildings, including the former church of the sanatorium and the design office of VEB Entwicklungsbau, have been empty for years and are becoming increasingly dilapidated.

In 1977 the Pirna district rehabilitation center was established in the castle area. In 1991 the workshop for handicapped people emerged from this, sponsored by the workers' welfare organization.

Commemoration, permanent exhibition

A historical permanent exhibition was opened in the attic of house C 16 in 2000. After a period of voluntary work by the citizens' initiative, it was inaugurated on behalf of the State Foundation of Saxon Memorials . In another memorial room in the basement of the house where the gas chamber was located, the fates of 22 of the murder victims are documented.

Use as a district office

Signing of the PPP contract

In the 1990s, several attempts by private investors to re-use the castle failed. At the end of 2007, the district of Saxon Switzerland-Eastern Ore Mountains acquired Sonnenstein Castle from the Free State of Saxony with the aim of renovating and converting it into the seat of the district administration. The construction work began in January 2010 with clearance and structural security measures. In December 2011, Sonnenstein Castle was given its new purpose. The total construction costs for the project amounted to almost 45 million euros.

The conversion was implemented as a PPP project with the construction and service group Bilfinger Berger . A corresponding contract was signed on December 10, 2009. On May 3, 2011, the renovation and renovation of Sonnenstein Castle was awarded the "PPP 2011 Innovation Prize" in the "Administration / Construction" category. In the justification, the successful combination of monument protection, restoration after increasing deterioration and the creation of a modern administrative center is emphasized.

Tourist use

The tourist use is concentrated on the hillside of the castle and the bastions of the former Sonnenstein fortress.

After the Seven Years' War and the abolition of the fortress status, several terraced gardens were built on the western slope of the castle hill, which later served as a place of relaxation for the patients of the sanatorium. Remnants of the medieval city fortifications are integrated into these gardens. In the course of the renovation of the palace, the largely overgrown terrace gardens were also restored and made accessible to the public by 2012.

The bastions of the former Sonnenstein fortress have also been accessible as part of touristic tours since 2012. The “ Pirna Sculpture Summer ” has been taking place here since 2013 . Depending on the theme year, works by one or more artists are exhibited. So far, u. a. Works by Sabina Grzimek , Thomas Jastram and Hans Scheib .

In the castle itself there are guided tours on the architecture and history of the building ensemble.

See also


  • Anonymous: Message from the Sonnenstein sanatorium near Pirna. On the day of the second consecration of the church there, November 2nd, 1817. Meinhold, Dresden 1817 ( digitized version )
  • Working group to research the National Socialist euthanasia and forced sterilization (ed.): Tödliches Mitleid. Nazi “euthanasia” and the present. Klemm & Oelschläger, Münster 2007, ISBN 978-3-932577-53-6 .
  • Boris Böhm: The Sonnenstein fortress in Pirna. Series Pirnaer Miniatures Volume 1, Pirna 2012, ISBN 978-3-9813772-3-1 .
  • Boris Böhm: The buildings of the sanatorium and nursing home Pirna-Sonnenstein . Series Pirnaer Miniatures Volume 2, Pirna 2013, ISBN 978-3-9813772-4-8 .
  • Boris Böhm: The bastions of the Sonnenstein fortress. Series Pirnaer Miniatures Volume 6, Pirna 2016, ISBN 978-3-9817413-0-8 .
  • Ralf Kluttig-Altmann, Karsten Lehmann: Pirna - town and castle in the Middle Ages. Archaeonaut Heft 11, Dresden 2013, ISBN 978-3-943770-07-0 .
  • Board of Trustees Gedenkstätte Sonnenstein e. V. (Hrsg.): History of the sanatorium and nursing home Pirna-Sonnenstein (1811–1939). Sonnenstein series - Contributions to the history of the Sonnenstein and Saxon Switzerland, Issue 1. Pirna 1998
  • Board of Trustees Gedenkstätte Sonnenstein e. V. (Hrsg.): Pirna Castle - Sonnenstein fortress. Development and importance. Sonnenstein series - Contributions to the history of the Sonnenstein and Saxon Switzerland issue 2. Pirna 1999
  • Board of Trustees Gedenkstätte Sonnenstein e. V. (Ed.): Sonnenstein transit station. The former state institute as a military facility, reception camp and training center from 1934 to 1954. Sonnenstein series - contributions to the history of the Sonnenstein and Saxon Switzerland, issue 6. Pirna 2007, ISBN 3-9809880-6-6
  • Alfred Meiche: Historical-topographical description of the Pirna administration. Dresden 1927
  • Thomas Schilter: Inhuman discretion. The National Socialist “euthanasia” killing center in Pirna-Sonnenstein 1940/41. In: Series of publications by the Saxon Memorials Foundation in memory of the victims of political tyranny , Volume 5, Leipzig 1998.
  • Oskar Speck: Sonnenstein . in: Alfred Meiche (Hrsg.): The castles and prehistoric dwellings of Saxon Switzerland. Dresden 1907, pp. 103-122
  • EP: A studio in the madhouse . In: The Gazebo . Issue 1, 1867, pp. 11-16 ( full text [ Wikisource ]).

Web links

Commons : Schloss Sonnenstein  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. From: Images of Dresden's old and new magnificent buildings, folk and court festivals. Copper notebook for the Chronicle of the Kgl. Saxon. Residenz-Stadt Dresden and the collector for history and antiquity, art and nature in the Elbthale. In the Ch. Fr. Grimmerschen Buchhandlung, Dresden 1835. SLUB Dresden Hist.Sax.G.0601.o .
  2. “Pirna Castle Bastions are exposed” , Sächsische Zeitung (Pirna edition) of July 23, 2009, see also notification of the Saxon State Office for Archeology of November 26, 2009
  3. Alfred Meiche : Historical-topographical description of the Pirna administration. Dresden 1927, p. 215 ff.
  4. Otto Bach: The "Sanatorium and Nursing Home Sonnenstein" . In: Ärzteblatt Sachsen . No. 6 , 2010, p. 288–290 ( [PDF]).
  5. Boris Böhm: Ernst Gottlob Pienitz (1777-1853) - the first director of the Sonnenstein sanatorium . In: Pirnaer Hefte . No. 5 , 2003, p. 135-149 .
  6. Norbert Jachertz: Psychiatry: The sun rose in Pirna. . . In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt . No. 38 , 2011, p. A1950-A1952 ( [PDF]).
  7. Boris Böhm: The history of the sanatorium and nursing home Sonnenstein 1811-1839. Pirna 2011, p. 34 ff.
  8. some biographical information about Weber ( memento of August 13, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 493 kB) p. 25.
  9. Holger Lorenz: The Passenger Jet 152. Marienberg 2003, p. 16 ff.
  10. The end of the 152nd access August 15, 2009.
  11. VEB Turbo Machine Works (ed.): Arguments in the picture. Pirna 1980, p. 9.
  12. Press release District Office Saxon Switzerland-Eastern Ore Mountains dated November 30, 2007
  13. Pirna has his crown back. In: Sächsische Zeitung (Pirna edition) of December 9, 2011.
  14. Press release Landratsamt Sächsische Schweiz-Osterzgebirge from December 10th, 2009 ( Memento of the original of April 18th, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  15. Press release Landratsamt Sächsische Schweiz-Osterzgebirge from November 16, 2009 ( Memento of the original from April 18, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  16. Award ceremony of the Innovation Prize PPP 2011 , press release from the authorities Spiegel online from May 4, 2011 ( Memento of the original from June 5, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  17. Innovation award for the renovation of Sonnenstein Castle. In: Sächsische Zeitung (Pirna edition) of May 5, 2011.

Coordinates: 50 ° 57 ′ 39.4 ″  N , 13 ° 56 ′ 51.6 ″  E