Hartenfels Castle

Torgau, Germany

The early Renaissance Hartenfels castle dominates the town of Torgau. It is the residence of the Saxon electors and the political and administrative centre. The castle chapel was designed especially for Protestant worship services and was consecrated by Martin Luther himself.

History

The fortification already stood on the banks of the Elbe during the Slavic period. It was developed into a castle in the mid-10th century. In the late 15th century Hartenfels evolved, step by step, into an early modern castle.

In 1485, Torgau fell to the Ernestine Electorate of Saxony, the focus of whose reign increasingly shifted to Torgau. From 1525, a time in which the Reformation began to prevail, Torgau became the most important residence, and hence the political centre, of the land that devoted itself most vehemently to the doctrine of Martin Luther, establishing its state and manorial self-conception on this basis. The reformers and scholars of the University of Wittenberg often spent time here, assisting the elector and his counsellors in matters of theology and religious policy, but also in practical issues of church organisation. Luther alone is documented to have stayed in Torgau on roughly 60 occasions.

The castle was damaged on several occasions, particularly in the Thirty Years War, and has been restored several times since the 1990s. Most recently, in 2014, the large stone spiral staircase, the ‘Wendelstein’ was returned to its original colour scheme, and the magnificent gallery of coats of arms was restored. The former electoral chambers with a direct spatial and historical relationship to the castle chapel, are currently undergoing restoration. In early 2017, these rooms will be made accessible to the public as part of a permanent exhibition.

Architecture

Hartenfels Castle consists of five unequal wings, four of them enclosing the large courtyard in the form of an irregular rectangle. The fifth wing, an addition dating to the 18th century, traverses the moat and extends towards the city. The high, for the most part three-storey buildings, in combination with eight towers, numerous gables and bay windows, lend the structure contours that are lively and yet monumental. Architectural highlights of the complex consist of the magnificent stone spiral staircase, the Große Wendelstein in the main wing, the ‘Beautiful Bay Window’ in the electors’ former living quarters, the castle chapel and the tower known at the Hausmannsturm. A representative gate from the late Renaissance provides access to the castle from the city. This is flanked by a slender bell tower.

The new castle chapel, a hall surrounded by two-storey lofts and located beneath a ribbed vault with net and star figures, was built as the first extravagant hall was constructed as the first sacral building destined exclusively for Protestant worship services. With it, the Saxon Elector John Frederick professed his commitment to the teachings of Luther and underscored his leadership role in the Protestant alliance. Luther consecrated the chapel himself in 1544, in an act of state of great political significance that was precisely planned by the elector. In keeping with the central role of preaching in Protestant worship services, the pulpit moved to the centre of the space, here at the northern long side, clearly visible from all sides.

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Address

Elbstraße 19, Torgau, Germany
See all sites in Torgau

Details

Founded: 10th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Germany
Historical period: Ottonian Dynasty (Germany)

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Hazafias Népfront (2 years ago)
Nice castle. After 1945 served as soviet troops command post.
Tobias Schroeder (2 years ago)
Beautiful castle from the XVI century. It has different museums with itinerant expositions. One of them, regarding Germany history since second war, is free of charge.
Kip Frey (2 years ago)
Small museum with interesting exhibits, but no English tags on exhibits. Excellent for admiring swords and armor. English handout available, but numbers didn't always correspond to exhibits. Gemology museum located in lower level. Restaurant located in courtyard
Neil Cadwallader (2 years ago)
Good for a short visit. Don't have unrealistic expectations.
Jørn Nielsen (2 years ago)
Very stylish castle, very historical place.The exhibition about the prisons and prisoner camps in the area is just text
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