Incarceration and Torture

From dungeon to penitentiary up to present-day correctional facility – the history of imprisonment has changed tremendously.

Crime has existed for as long as mankind has, not so imprisonment. This only begins with prisons in monasteries: contrition instead of vengeance to return to the right path in life. In the 19th century, additionally to the idea of protecting the general public, the idea of resocializing prisoners emerged. 

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Stolpen Castle (A)

Apart from penitentiary, imprisonment and sentences to hard labor, confinement in a fortress also existed officially until 1953. The detainee did not live in a cell, but was held in strict custody in comfortable rooms and provided with good food. In those times, a distinction was made between culprits of low descent and members of the society of higher standing who happened to be accused of having committed a tort. In order to preserve the reputation of these people, confinement in a fortress was not regarded to be discrediting to them. One of the most famous captives held at a fortress was Countess Cosel. Once celebrated mistress to Augustus the Strong, she fell to disgrace in 1712 after having interfered with politics too much. For almost half a century, until her death in 1765, Anna Constantia Imperial Countess of Cosel had to stay banished behind the walls of Stolpen castle. The premises inhabited by the Countess can still be seen today and an idea is conveyed how the Countess adjusted to the situation in her time.

Details on Stolpen Castle

Further to Station B - Lauenstein Castle, ca. 45 km

Lauenstein Castle (B)

Resting high on a steep rock, Lauenstein Castle towers picturesquely over the Mueglitz River valley. It is a true gem of Saxon Renaissance architecture. Its main palace has been reconstructed comprehensively and restored over the past three decades. It is now home to the Eastern Ore Mountains Museum (Osterzgebirgsmuseum). Lauenstein Castle had accommodated a prison for many years. At the beginning, the prisoners had been locked away into a dark dungeon, later into drab cells. Several detention cells and a guardroom of the Lauenstein Royal Local Court, established in the castle in 1853, remind us of penal correction of bygone times when detainees were still kept in strict solitary confinement.

Details on Lauenstein Castle

Further to Station C - Dresden Fortress, ca. 42km

Dresden Fortress (C)

Even Johann Friedrich Boettger, who had boasted of being able to make gold, had to face confinement in a fortress. Elector Augustus the Strong had Boettger provided with a laboratory inside Dresden Fortress for the quack to keep his promise. It did not work out for the gold. Instead, in 1708 Boettger found out how to make porcelain: the widely known Meissen china. The buildings of the present-day museum of the Dresden Fortress are part of the earliest fortification of a German town as a bastion, which were erected between 1545 and 1555. Young Duke Moritz had chosen this way of fortification, which had only just been developed in northern Italy, in order to protect his residence in the most up-to-date way from artillery attacks. For that reason, wide walls were built to resist the cannonballs of besiegers and on which defense guns could be positioned.

Details on Dresden Fortress

Further to Station D - Nossen Castle, ca. 34 km

Nossen Castle (D)

The small town of Nossen is situated in the heart of Saxony, between Meissen, Freiberg and Dresden. The skyline of the town is dominated by the walls and towers of Nossen Castle. Since as early as 1630, Nossen had already been the seat of the ‘Amthauptmann’, head of local administration and jurisdiction. In the 19th century, the castle was extended further as the seat of the local court and mainly served administrative purposes. The castle accommodated the bursary, the judiciary with the court office and dungeons. There is still a dungeon in the Lips-Tullian Tower, in the southern part of the castle estate, where a member of the robber band of the »Black Guards« had been incarcerated. This was one of the largest bands of robbers in Saxony. Old instruments of torture are witness to the harsh practices of bygone times.

Details on Nossen Castle

Further to Station E - Colditz Castle, ca. 47 km

Colditz Castle (E)

During World War II, the castle became a POW camp for officers of the Allied Forces. It was deemed escape-proof for its location on a steeply dropping rock and its premises all being fenced in by barbed wire, heavily guarded and illuminated by searchlights. About 300 documented attempts of escape of sometimes incredible creativity, including about 30 that proved successful, are present-day legends of military history. It seems a bit offbeat, but sports and acting, making music and learning languages were part of the POWs’ everyday routines. The castle later became known throughout the world through the book »The Colditz Story« and the movie of the same title. But also the old battlement with its mighty walls, the Princes’ House, the Renaissance portal of the Trinity Church, the building structure of the tower with its dome-shaped hood and the Old Bridge impress visitors anew time and again.

Details on Schloss Colditz