Wittenberg Castle

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Castle Church and Wittenberg Castle from the west after the last renovation (2018)
Castle Church and Castle (1952)

The Wittenberg castle is the former residence of the Saxon electors . It was completely rebuilt from 1489 and when it was completed in 1525 it was one of the most magnificent fortified castles of the early Renaissance in Germany. After the fires in 1760 and 1814 and the loss of importance of the city of Wittenberg due to the Schmalkaldic War and the Congress of Vienna, little has remained of the building's former glory.

New construction of the residential palace

The southern stairwell of the main castle with cell vaults, which was built from 1489 by master Klaus Kirchner
First floor. Reconstruction of the functional spatial structure of the Wittenberg Castle from 1489 (Hoppe 1996)
The southern stairwell of the main castle with cell vaults, which was built from 1489 by master Klaus Kirchner
South staircase, second floor

The existence of a castle is first mentioned in a document in 1187. Wittenberg Castle appeared in the documents for the last time in 1338, since under Rudolf I , the Ascanian Duke and later first Elector of Saxony, around 1340 a new Ascanian castle was built at the current location. From this time on, the castle served as the official house of the servants. It was demolished in 1489 as part of the renovation work on the palace to make way for new offices.

When Frederick the Wise became elector in 1486 after the death of his father, he had a residential palace built with rich art furnishings in place of the old castle.

From the financial year 1489/90, a completely new core castle was built in place of the old castle on the southwest corner of the city in two closely related stages of the first main construction phase. According to the invoices received, the south and west wings of the central castle were first started, and only then, from 1496, the castle church was added as the north wing. The glazed shell of the residential wing was already completed in 1495, and by 1508 the vaulting work on the castle church was also completed. As the designer and construction manager of the first construction phase of the south and west wing, the younger research suggested the Meissen cathedral master builder Klaus Kirchner , who died in 1494. From 1493 to 1496, the foreman Hans von Torgau was in charge of construction. Konrad Pflüger , who was later entrusted with the overhead management of the construction, can only be verified from 1496 in Wittenberg and designed and built the castle church.

After a long break, the three wings of the so-called pre-castle on the east side began around 1515. A six-storey gate tower was built near the choir of the castle church, to which a wing with living and office rooms was connected to the east. Among other things, the bailiff's apartment was here. The transverse wing of the pre-castle at the end of the courtyard mainly housed the stables, and on the south side of the courtyard the armory was connected to this as part of the pre-castle. A low kitchen house with a bathing room was built between the armory and the south wing of the main castle. In 1525 the work was largely completed. The Wittenberg Castle was supplemented by this second main construction phase to form a rectangular complex that was rebuilt on all sides, but the individual wings were designed differently.

Loss of meaning and destruction

Wittenberg has not been spared from wars in the course of its history either. As early as 1547, during the Schmalkaldic War , the helmets of the two round towers of the castle were removed so that cannons could be stationed on the towers. After the defeat of the Schmalkaldic League , electoral dignity fell in 1547 to the Albertine line of the Wettins , whose main residence was in Dresden . Therefore the castle lost more and more of its importance.

Castle, uncovering the foundation walls of the south wing (2011)

In the Seven Years War in 1760 the castle and the castle church burned down to the foundation walls as a result of the bombardments. After the fire, the castle was poorly restored and served as a granary. The external shape remained largely unchanged.

In 1814, the castle fell victim to the flames again when, during the wars of liberation, the remains of French units enclosed in Wittenberg were shot at by the troops allied against Napoleon and the city was conquered from the castle.

After Wittenberg was annexed to Prussia in 1815, the castle was handed over to the Prussian military authorities, which had it expanded into a citadel. Cellar vaults and floor divisions were removed, the windows bricked up. The remaining artistic insignia were completely removed. So the once imposing castle became a barracks.

The castle has been used for civil purposes since the First World War ; it was used for the city archive, apartments and a youth hostel. From 1949 to 2011 the “Museum of Natural History and Ethnology Julius Riemer ” was housed in the castle .

Renovation and modern reconstruction

From 2013 to 2018 the castle was extensively renovated and restored. In the main building of the castle, the four-storey extension to the Prussian fortress from the 19th century with its massive beams was largely retained and a restoration or suggestion of the manorial rooms from 1489 in the former three storeys was dispensed with. The two refurbished stairwells still refer to the former floor plan.

After the renovation, an information and meeting center for the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Castle Church is located on the ground floor of the core building. A newly created passage connects the castle with the castle church. An art competition was organized to design the connecting door.

After the restoration, which was completed in spring 2018, the research library on the history of the Reformation is housed on the upper floors of the core castle . With around 220,000 books, it is one of the world's most important collections on this subject. Among other things, it brings together the books and archives of the Evangelical Preachers' Seminar and the Luther Memorials Foundation in Saxony-Anhalt . The library is owned by the Evangelical Preachers' Seminar in Wittenberg, the Luther Memorials Foundation in Saxony-Anhalt, the Halle University Library and the Leucorea Foundation . The Evangelical Preachers' Seminar has study and office rooms as well as a winter church on the upper floor . The Christian Art Foundation in Wittenberg is also based in the castle.

The south wing of the pre-castle was destroyed in 1760. It was rebuilt in the form of a new building as a residential and community building for vicars and lecturers of the seminary and completed in 2016.

The Berlin architects Bruno, Fioretti and Marquez received the German Architecture Prize 2019, the most important award for architects in Germany, for the renovation, expansion and renovation of Wittenberg Castle . The architects AADe Atelier for Architecture & Monument Preservation Köthen and DGI Bauwerk Architects Berlin were involved in the project.


  • Hans-Joachim Mrusek : The cityscape of Wittenberg at the time of the university and the Reformation / Sibylle Harksen: The castle of Wittenberg. Series of publications by the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Wittenberg, Volume 1, Wittenberg 1977, pp. 25–46.
  • Stephan Hoppe : The functional and spatial structure of the early palace construction in Central Germany. Examined using examples of sovereign buildings from the period between 1470 and 1570. Cologne 1996, pp. 95–130.
  • Leonhard Helten, et al. (Ed.): Just straw and clay? - Structure and use of the Wittenberg Castle (1423–1489). Part 1: State of research, methodology and reconstruction and Part 2: Stays and fortifications of the Electors of Saxony. In: The Ernestine Wittenberg. City and residents (= Wittenberg research volume 2, two sub-volumes). Petersberg 2013. Part I: pp. 265-313; Part II: pp. 147-154.
  • Anke Neugebauer: In the beginning there was the residence - research and perspectives , in: Heiner Lück et al. (Ed.), The Ernestine Wittenberg. University and City (= Wittenberg Research Vol. 1). Petersberg 2013, pp. 82-92.
  • Anke Neugebauer: Living in Wittenberg Castle. For the use and furnishing of the princely apartments, rooms and chambers. In: Leonhard Helten et al. (Ed.): The Ernestine Wittenberg. City and residents (= Wittenberg research volume 2, two sub-volumes). Petersberg 2013, Part I: pp. 315–334.
  • Thomas Lang: The Elector visits his residence. Use and expansion of the Wittenberg residence between 1485 and 1510 , in: Heiner Lück et al. (Ed.), The Ernestine Wittenberg. University and City (= Wittenberg Research Vol. 1). Petersberg 2013, pp. 93-116.
  • Anke Neugebauer; Thomas Lang: Cranach in the castle. The work and works of Lucas Cranach the Elder Ä. and his workshop in Castle and Castle Church Wittenberg , in: Leonhard Helten et al. (Ed.): The Ernestine Wittenberg. Traces of Cranach in the castle and town (= Wittenberg research vol. 3). Petersberg 2015, pp. 11–91.

Web links

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

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Matthias Donath: Kirchner, Klaus (Claus, Claws, Meister Klaus) , in: Sächsische Biographie, ed. from the Institute for Saxon History and Folklore eV, arr. by Martina Schattkowsky ( saebi.isgv.de December 1, 2017).
  2. ^ Artistic design of the connecting door between Wittenberg Castle and Castle Church. ( Memento of the original from October 18, 2017 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. at www.kunststiftung-sachsen-anhalt.de @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.kunststiftung-sachsen-anhalt.de
  3. New home for Wittenberg book treasures. on mdr.de
  4. Hanna Kasparick, Hartmut Kühne, Birgit Weyel (eds.): Frock coat, T-shirt and gown: 200 years of Evangelisches Predigerseminar Wittenberg , Lukas, Berlin 2016, p. 184.
  5. Protestant seminary. Festival service in the castle church. In: Mitteldeutsche Zeitung . September 30, 2016.
  6. New construction of the south wing of Wittenberg Castle on heinze.de.
  7. German Architecture Prize 2019. Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning, accessed on June 20, 2020 .

Coordinates: 51 ° 51 ′ 57.8 "  N , 12 ° 38 ′ 15.5"  E