Motherland of the Reformation

Motherland of the Reformation


Individual policies

Prince Henry of Saxony renounced his succession to the throne in the “Brotherly Agreement” of 1505 in favor of his brother’s son. He lived at Freudenstein Castle in Freiberg, which today houses the most beautiful collection of minerals in the world. In his dominions, Henry, later called “the Pious”, followed his own individual policies. While there is evidence that his wife Catherine had started following Luther since 1525, Henry approached the teachings of the Reformer more gradually. In 1536, a Protestant preacher took office in Freiberg and in 1537 the Eucharist was celebrated for the first time in both forms in Freiberg Cathedral. After the death of George the Bearded, who had tried by all means to prevent his brother succeeding him, Henry introduced the Reformation into the Duchy of Saxony. After two and a half years’ regency, he died and was the first member of the Wettin family to be buried in Freiberg Cathedral. The enormous, three-story Moritz Monument with the life-size kneeling figure of his son, Elector Maurice, occupies the center of the Electoral funeral chapel, the most important work of Mannerism north of the Alps.

A female champion

It seems difficult to break with the common picture of the Reformation as a mainly male event. Rochlitz Castle, which ranks among the most exceptional monuments in Saxony, was the residence of the widowed Duchess Elisabeth of Hesse, the daughter-in-law of Duke George the Bearded, a bitter opponent of Luther. Against the will of her father-in-law Elisabeth, the only female member of the Protestant Schmalkaldic League, introduced the Reformation on her territories without forcing the old believers to convert. She is only one of the important and often overlooked protagonists of Luther's doctrine whose lives will be documented in a special exhibition at Rochlitz Castle in 2014. Rochlitz Castle was extensively reconstructed and presents its history of more than 1,000 years in a new permanent exhibition.

The closing chapter

Elector Ernst and his brother Albert had together been ruling the most powerful country in the center of the Holy German Empire before they decided to split up the land. In 1471 they had started the construction of what we now call Albrechtsburg Castle, their new residence in Meissen and the first “Schloss” in Germany – not a military fortress but a residential palace and a visible sign of their power and wealth. The castle hill still dominates the beautiful, never destroyed old town of Meissen. After the death of Duke George the Bearded, his successor Henry left the Catholic funeral service in Meissen Cathedral to hear a Protestant sermon of mourning and consolation from his court chaplain in Albrechtsburg Castle. Reformation was introduced and the Catholic diocese of Meissen ceased to exist. Today, Meissen is primarily known for the porcelain of the same name, the oldest in Europe.