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.
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.
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.References:
Křivoklát Castle was founded in the 12th century, belonging to the kings of Bohemia. During the reign of Přemysl Otakar II a large, monumental royal castle was built, later rebuilt by king Václav IV and later enlarged by king Vladislav of Jagellon.
The castle was damaged by fire several times. It was turned into a harsh prison and the building slowly deteriorated. During the 19th century, the family of Fürstenberg became the owners of the castle and had it reconstructed after a fire in 1826.
Today the castle serves as a museum, tourist destination and place for theatrical exhibitions. Collections of hunting weapons, Gothic paintings and books are stored there.