On the Trail of the Wettins

Wettin Castle rises nobly above the wide river only a few miles away from the city of Halle on the Saale river. The ancient German dynasty of the Wettins is rooted deeply in the history of the German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia for about 1000 years derived its name from that castle. It was as early as in 1125 that Conrad the Great was enfeoffed officially by Emperor Henry V with the Margraviate of Meissen. By acting cleverly and by uncovering large silver and ore deposits the territory was able to develop into a flourishing land. This development could not even be harmed by the 1485 Division of Leipzig when the Ernestine and Albertine lines of the Wettins separated. Due to the changes resulting from the First World War, the last of the Wettin dynasty in Saxony, Frederick Augustus III abdicated in 1918.
This route would like to introduce to you a selection of places where Wettins left their marks. Enjoy! 

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Rochlitz Castle (A)

»Fat. One-eyed. Revolutionary« – These are certainly not the only features to characterize Dedo von Groitzsch, Conrad I von Wettin and Elisabeth von Rochlitz. From April 27, 2013 on, this new permanent exhibition at Rochlitz Castle will provide further insight into the lives of the Wettin rulers. The Imperial Castle of Rochlitz must have come into existence around the middle of the 10th century, but it became property of the Wettins only in 1143 under the rule of Conrad I. For the centuries to follow, Rochlitz was to be closely entwined with the ascent of the Wettins in Saxony. As early as from 1156, the castle and office saw a quick rise thanks to the colonial expansion under Conrad’s fourth son, Dedo the Fat, who by hereditary division was to receive the Rochlitz property. Four hundred years later, Elisabeth von Rochlitz, the widow of Hereditary Prince John von Sachsen, gave permission,contrary to her father-in-law’s will, to introduce the Lutheran teachings in the Rochlitz areas and in Kriebstein.
From November to February, Rochlitz Castle is closed to the public.

Details on Rochlitz Castle

Further to Station B – Altzella Monastery, ca. 48 km

Altzella Monastery (B)

The Cistercian monastery of »Cella Sanctae Mariae« was founded by Margrave Otto von Meissen in 1162 and soon developed into one of the most important monasteries in Central Germany. It accommodated an impressive library, for example. On Otto’s initiative Altzella Monastery became the hereditary burial place of the Wettin nobles. In memory of his predecessors, Elector John George II had a burial chapel built towards the end of the 17th century. Even today, the burial slabs of Margrave Otto von Meissen, his wife, Margravine Hedwig and her sons Albert the Proud and Dietrich (Theodoric) the Oppressed can be seen in the mausoleum. The burial place lies embedded in a romantic landscape park which was cultivated around 1800.
The monastery park is open daily from 10 am, except on Mondays, from April through October.

Details on Altzella Monastery Park

Further to Station C – Freudenstein Castle, ca. 20 km

Freudenstein Castle (C)

Freudenstein Castle, too, is closely connected with the history of the Wettin dynasty: After silver had been found in Freiberg, then known by the name of Christiansdorf, Margrave Otto von Meissen had a castle built in 1168 for the protection of silver mining. From 1505, Duke Henry the Pious resided in Freiberg for most of his time. He was the second son of Albert the Courageous, who had founded the Albertine line of the Wettins. When he succeeded his brother as Duke of Saxony, he introduced Protestantism in his territory as the state religion. During his rule, his sons, the later electors of Saxony, Moritz and August, were born in that castle. Even today, the castle is still strongly linked to the treasures of the Ore Mountains. The castle is home to the Terra Mineralia, an extraordinary collection of mineralogical finds from all over the world.

Details on Freudenstein Castle

Further to Station D - Dresden Residential Castle, ca. 50 km

Dresden Residential Castle (D)

Not only Augustus the Strong, but also his son, Frederick Augustus II, became an addicted art collector. It is not without any reason that he was deemed one of the greatest art patrons of his time. He ordered the Catholic Church of the Saxon Royal Court to be built by Italian masterbuilder Gaetano Chiaveri. Under his auspices, the Paintings’ Gallery became one of the most renowned art collections in the world. It was him who had Raphael’s Sistine Madonna brought to Dresden. For his wedding in September 1719 with the imperial daughter Maria Josepha, his father had the castle newly decorated, furnishing the representative apartment in the west wing especially costly and pompously in order to demonstrate his claim for power and strength. As part of the reconstruction of the castle, this representative apartment is expected to be restored as it appeared in Augustus’ era.

What can be seen as yet is the Green Vault with its precious exhibits and the Turkish Chamber as one of the most important collections worldwide displaying Ottoman art outside Turkey.

Details on Residential Castle Dresden

Further to Station E - Albrechtsburg Castle Meissen, ca. 27 km

Albrechtsburg Castle (E)

Albrechtsburg Castle is regarded as the first German castle and as a masterpiece of late-Gothic architecture. The castle building as it stands today was erected between 1471 and 1524 by order of the brothers Ernest and Albert von Wettin who ruled Saxony jointly until 1485. Its builder, Arnold von Westfalen, was faced with the demanding job to design a representative place of central administration, which would accommodate to separate courts at the same time. In 1485, however, the brothers decided to divide their territory of rule. The newly build residence lost its importance since Albert moved his seat to Dresden while Ernest moved his to Wittenberg. The building was used as a residential place for eleven years only. And, until 1710, when the Meissen Porcelain Manufactory moved in, it was merely used for receptions, special events for holding court or hunting parties. In the new permanent exhibition, you can embark on a 500-year journey back in time to see the original venues of the Wettins’ fascinating court culture.

Details on Albrechtsburg Castle

Further to Station F -Hartenfels Castle, ca. 67 km

Hartenfels Castle (F)

Only one year after the 1485 Division of Leipzig, Elector Frederick III (the Wise) had building works started on Hartenfels Castle in Torgau to extend it to become the main residence of the Ernestine line. He was the one who opened the Alma Mater Leucorea in Wittenberg, the university. And it was also him who secured safe conduct for Martin Luther and had him transferred to Wartburg Castle, after he had been outlawed by the Diet of Worms. Present-day Hartenfels is Germany’s largest completely preserved early-Renaissance castle. The Large Spiral Staircase in the court yard must have aroused awe and true calls of admiration in those times already: the »impossible staircase« by the great masterbuilder Konrad Krebs is self-supporting without any central load-bearing pillar. Hartenfels used to be regarded as a »modern residential castle« in its time for which an innovative elevator for lowering drinks in the bottle tower is proof – it provided the wining and dining nobles with fresh supplies to the sound of quietly clinking bottles.

Details on Hartenfels Castle