Colditz Castle is located on a hill spur over the river Zwickauer Mulde, a tributary of the River Elbe. In 1046, Henry III of the Holy Roman Empire gave the burghers of Colditz permission to build the first documented settlement at the site. During 1158, Emperor Frederick Barbarossa made Thimo I the Lord of Colditz, and major building works began. By 1200, the town around the market was established. During the Middle Ages, the castle was used as a lookout post for the German Emperors and was the hub of the Reich territories of the Pleissenland.

As a result of family dynastic politics, the town of Colditz was incorporated into the Margraviate of Meissen. During 1430, the Hussites attacked Colditz and set town and castle on fire. Around 1464, renovation and new building work on the castle were done by order of Prince Ernest, who died in Castle Colditz in 1486. During the reigns of Electors Frederick III the Wise and John the Gentle, Colditz was a royal residence of the electors of Saxony.

During 1504, the servant Clemens the baker accidentally set Colditz afire, and the town hall, church, castle and a large part of the town was burned. During 1506, reconstruction began and new buildings were erected around the rear castle courtyard. During 1523, the castle park was converted into one of the largest zoos in Europe. During 1524, rebuilding of the upper floors of the castle began. There is nothing more to be seen of the original castle, where the present rear of the castle is located.

The structure of the castle was changed during the long reign of the Elector Augustus of Saxony (1553–86), and the complex was reconstructed into a Renaissance style castle from 1577 to 1591, including the portions that were still in the Gothic architectural style.

In 1694, its then-current owner, King Augustus the Strong of Poland, began to expand it, resulting in a second courtyard and a total of 700 rooms.

During the 19th century, the church space was rebuilt in the neo-classic architectural style, but its condition was allowed to deteriorate. The castle was used by Frederick Augustus III, Elector of Saxony as a workhouse to feed the poor, the ill, and persons who had been arrested. It served this purpose from 1803 to 1829, when its workhouse function was assumed by an institution in Zwickau. During 1829, the castle became a mental hospital for the 'incurably insane' from Waldheim. During 1864, a new hospital building was erected in the Gothic Revival style, on the ground where the stables and working quarters had been previously located. It remained a mental institution until 1924.

When the Nazis gained power during 1933, they converted the castle into a political prison for communists, homosexuals, Jews and other people they considered undesirable. Starting 1939, allied prisoners were housed there. After the outbreak of World War II, the castle was converted into a high security prisoner-of-war camp for officers who had become security or escape risks or who were regarded as particularly dangerous. Since the castle is situated on a rocky outcrop above the River Mulde, the Germans believed it to be an ideal site for a high security prison.



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Founded: c. 1158
Category: Castles and fortifications in Germany
Historical period: Hohenstaufen Dynasty (Germany)

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User Reviews

Jennifer Beilman (13 months ago)
A must if you're near Leipzig and have interest in WW2 history. We spent 3 hours there and could have stayed longer! We did a private tour with Stephi (?). She was very informed, passionate about the history, and spoke very good English. We had 4 kids with us and all ages (16-9) were entertained. Do not just go and see the museum! The museum is interesting, but doesn't hold a candle to the guided tour. Just riveting! One of our favorite things during our 2 months of traveling in Europe. Free parking on site right near the castle. The main town square is easily accessible by a staircase where you can conveniently pick up some lunch or ice cream. We've seen many, many, many museums and this is one of our favorites!
Anthony MacLean (14 months ago)
Don’t use the walking route to the castle on Google maps. Takes you to the wrong place. Go to the market square and use the “schlosssteppe “ up to the main entrance. A great tour once you get there.
Mads Hansen (16 months ago)
Worth a visit if you are nearby. Also for children. There us a museum. But get on the tour. You get so much more out if the tour, and you are shown places that you won't come without joining the tour. Think it was 12€ for tour and museum in total.
Mark Smith (2 years ago)
My friend and I enjoyed the visit, they were renovating at the time. Worth a visit for people of any age but especially older people who remember the TV show! FYI you can drive right up to the entrance by car, so no need to be put off by the walk.
Val Brackley (2 years ago)
Really interesting because of its ww2 history
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