Castles and palaces
The hilly landscape of Middle Saxony with its river valleys, fertile soils and forests has been settled by humans since the Neolithic. The cultures and people changed over the millennia. In the 10th century East Frankish rulers conquered the Slavic tribes east of the Saale and Elbe rivers. Castles and monasteries were the military, economic and administrative centres for their settlement and religious policies. Forests were cleared, villages and towns built. The citizens were farmers, craftsmen and traders. When they constructed buildings, they used local natural raw materials and so continuously changed the landscape. Our cultural landscape is the result of these developments over the centuries to the present day. Today it is also possible to discover many interesting facts about how the “volcanic treasures” were utilized in the numerous castles and palaces in the land of Mulde and Zschopau. The architecture and furnishings of royal residences, churches and monasteries in the Geopark Porphyry Land have a profound effect on regional style and landscape. As a result, the region has acquired a unique character best portrayed by the following examples.
Castle Mildenstein in Leisnig crowns a rocky spur made of Leisnig Porphyry that overlooks the river Freiberger Mulde. The formation is one of the most interesting geotopes of the Geopark Porphyry Land. The so-called “Rote Wand“ (“Red Wall”) exposes a 295 million year old lava flow. The castle was probably built in the 10th century and is an impressive witness of the time when it was belonged to the royal estate of the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I “Barbarossa“ (Emperor Red Beard) in the 12th century. Later it was the second residence of the Wettin dynasty. Regional building materials played a central role in the construction of the representative buildings. The arched portal to the Mildenstein Chapel was constructed in 1170 and is decorated with three alternating colours of dimension stones: red Rochlitz, yellowish Rüdigsdorf and greyish-violet Hilbersdorf porphyry tuff. This play of colours is the reason why this small Romanesque portal is an architectural treasure. The Leisnig Keep, the fortified castle tower, is one of the earliest brick buildings in Central Germany. The lower section of the tower is built of dark, greyish-blue Tertiary quartzite (sandstone with silica cement) dimension stones. The brick wall is set on top of this foundation – a novelty at that time. Originally the tower was taller than today, yet it still towers over all other castle buildings. This and the bright red colour of the wall is an impressive sign of imperial power.
Castle Mildenstein, Photo: Kati Lange
Tel. +49 (0) 34321 6256-0
Mail: mildenstein [at] schloesserland-sachsen [dot] de
Rochlitz Castle, Photo: Virginia Hartig
Sörnziger Weg 1
Tel.: +49 (0) 3737 4923-10
Mail: rochlitz [at] schloesserland-sachsen [dot] de
Rochlitz Castle was built in the Late Gothic architectural style on the site of an early Burgward from the 10th century. The complex with the two conspicuous towers is sited on a rock plateau beside the river Zwickauer Mulde. The castle was secondary residence, widow’s home and hunting palace for the Wettin dynasty. A closer look at one of the towers, the so-called Finstere Jupe, reveals that local rocks were used to build the castle. The tower’s massive walls were built with spotted slate, which was broken on the nearby quarries in the Mulde Valley. This rock encloses a 550 million year old sequence of rocks called the Granulite Mountains. The outstanding details on facades and inside the castle were created using volcanic Rochlitz porphyry tuff which has been extracted from the neighbouring hill for centuries. These design highlights are considered to be a special Saxon form of Late Gothic architecture. This was the first commission for architect Arnold von Westfalen to work for the Counts Ernst and Albrecht von Wettin in the 1470s. He designed the windows for the Castle Chapel choir and the transept, creating a new groundbreaking form: delicate tracery that ends at the top in the shape of gathered curtains. These Vorhangbogenfenster (“curtain arch windows”) and other innovations first successfully tested in Rochlitz were later extensively incorporated into the architecture of Albrechts Castle in Meissen.
The highly visible mighty complex of Colditz Castle stands on top of a porphyry spur next to the Zwickauer Mulde. The building is characterised by the 16th and 17th century conversions with decorated Renaissance gables that are made of Rochlitz porphyry tuff just like the older portals and windows. Colditz Castle was an electoral hunting and widow’s residence. One special attraction here is the remains of a cultural landscape “en miniature“. Around 1600, the electoral couple Christian I and Sophie von Brandenburg commissioned the building of pleasure gardens around the castle. To this end the neighbouring animal sanctuary was extended to create a hunting and pleasure ground including a pleasure house, numerous fish ponds and gate houses. The hill next to the castle was terraced for wine growing. The whole area was surrounded by a high wall to protect the animals but also to show that this was a special judicial district.
In addition to the utilization of the forest resource the Saxon court was also interested in extracting another raw material here: “white earth of Colditz”. Not far from the castle is the old pit in which clay was extracted for the production of European hard-paste porcelain, which was first successfully manufactured in 1708. Later, the clay resources of Colditz ensured that the town developed into an important location for the ceramics industry.
Colditz Castle, Photo: Kati Lange
Mail: info [at] gesellschaft-schloss-colditz [dot] com
Castles of Wermsdorf
Hubertusburg, Photo: Kati Lange
The development of the cultural landscape around Wermsdorf and the castles of Wermsdorf is closely linked to the royal hunt: The Forest of Wermsdorf was one of the traditional hunting grounds of the Saxon rulers, the Wettin dynasty. The main trees growing in the mixed deciduous forests back then were beech, oak, birch, spruce and alder in the riparian zones. This is the natural climax forest community since the ice age. Initially a hunting lodge was built in the village at the end of the 16th century. At the beginning of the 17th century a hunting mansion, the Alte Jagdschloss was built opposite the lodge. However this Renaissance house with gardens soon did not meet the needs of Elector Friedrich August II. When he married the imperial daughter Maria Josepha of the Hapsburg dynasty, his father, King August “the strong“ commissioned the construction of the Hunting Palace Hubertusburg on a hill from 1721 onwards – a gigantic baroque building in the French style. Taking into account the conversions overlooked by senior master builder Johann Christoph Knöffel from 1743 onwards this complex is considered to be one of the largest and architecturally important palaces in Europe.
The royal family were not only served exquisite meat but also farm-raised fish, especially trout and carp. The oldest ponds around Wermsdorf are already about 500 years old and have been farmed since then. Today, the forest and pond landscape of Wermsdorf is a popular hiking and tourist destination. Just one more example of the high recreational value of the cultural landscape Geopark Porphyry Land.