Schloss Moritzburg and Beyond: How to Spend a Day in Zeitz
* This post is part of a paid partnership with the cities of Weissenfels, Merseburg and Zeitz. *
Do you know those "It's on my list"-places? Towns or places where you have been wanting to visit for a while but haven’t gotten around to?! Recently I scratched one of those places off my imaginary list: Zeitz. Once upon a couple of centuries ago - between 1656 and 1718 to be precise - this little town was the capital of a small German state and secundogeniture of the Albertine line of the House of Wettin, the Duchy of Saxe-Zeitz. As any self-respecting residential town Zeitz, of course, boasts a palace: Schloss Moritzburg (not to be confused with the probably more famous Schloss Moritzburg near Dresden). But let's not get ahead of ourselves and start my visit in chronological order.
After arriving in Zeitz, I started my tour of discovery of the town in the old market square, known as Altmarkt in German. Zeitz's history actually goes back to the Middle Ages. Firstly mentioned in 967, it soon became seat of the Bishops of Naumburg-Zeitz. Consequently, you can find all sorts of architectural styles around here. From half-timbered houses, via Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance structures to buildings in Baroque and Historicist style. The town hall of the city, which you can see in the picture above, was built between 1505 and 1509 in Late-Gothic style taking inspiration from the town hall in Wrocław with additions made during the early 20th century. Fun fact: Martin Luther's great-grandson once governed here as a mayor and descendants in the female line still reside in the city to this day. If you fancy a good vista, you can also visit the tower of the Rathaus. On days with good weather, you can see all the way to Leipzig and the Monument to the Battle of Nations.
From the Altmarkt I made my way through the old parts of the city to discover the varied architectural styles to be found around Zeitz. It is very fascinating to discover them all interspersed with each other. While many places have streets of houses mainly in the same style, I felt like turning the corner in Zeitz would often bring about totally different eras of origin right next to each other. One thing I didn't get to see myself - only so much things you can do in a day - but is definitely on my list for a future visit is the Zeitz below Zeitz. That's right, there is an extensive network of cellars below the city. Built during the Middle Ages, they were used to keep the beer cool. (Germans, I know...) These days you can tour the network known as Underground Zeitz which spans about 700 metres with a guide.
During a tour of Zeitz, you also pass by a church or two, like the St. Michael's Church in the picture above or the church of the Franciscan Monastery. Built in the 13th century, it was here that Martin Luther once delivered a sermon in 1542. The church as been repurposed since and is now used as a cultural events site. Other things to discover during a walk through Zeitz include remnants of the old city walls including the Steintorturm, an old gate to the city, as well as a couple of curious artworks scattered around town all featuring a couple of bottles of beer. But then, it was time for any Castleholic's highlight of the day: Aforementioned Schloss Moritzburg.
The former home of the Dukes of Saxe-Zeitz lies slightly outside of the old city further down the hill Zeitz is situated on. Surrounded by an English-landscape park, Schloss Moritzburg was built between 1657 and 1678 on the grounds of a former castle owned by the Bishops of Naumburg-Zeitz. Moritz Richter was the architect behind the plans for one of the earliest examples of Baroque architecture in Germany. His works were carried on by his son Johann Moritz after the elder's death. A good 40 years after its completion, Schloss Moritzburg ceased to be a royal seat of power. When the Dukes of Saxe-Zeitz died out in male line, the Duchy fell back to the main line of the House of Wettin a. k. a. the Electors of Saxony. Having their residence in Dresden, they naturally did not take a major interest in Zeitz.
During the following decades and centuries, Schloss Moritzburg first became an administrative seat before it was turned into correctional institution and later a prison, among others. With such a varied use, it is no surprise that not many of the original rooms have survived but there are a few gems to be found like the study of Duchess Maria Amalia you can see in the picture above. The reason it still exists? The room actually formed part of the private apartments of the director of the correctional institution and later the prison. Apparently they did like themselves a bit of Baroque splendour (and who can blame them)... The study is part of a series of rooms home to the exhibition "Time of the Dukes - Baroque Residence Culture in Zeitz", which provides information about the history of the castle as well as the Duchy. One curious thing to discover during the exhibition is a number of after-death paintings of the royals who used to live at Zeitz's ducal residence. I have yet to come across something similar in another palace - and I have visited many.
Speaking of curious things... Schloss Moritzburg is also home to a Pram Museum! Admittedly, before my visit I wasn't aware either that Zeitz actually is the place of origin for the German pram manufacturing industry. It was wheelwright Ernst-Albert Naether who in 1846 opened the first business to produce wheeled devices to carry infants. Legends says that he came up with the idea when he saw poor women workers carrying around their children, truth is that they probably couldn't afford his invention - but the idea took off anyway, especially during the days of the advancing middles classes who liked to promenade and show themselves in public. The Deutsches Kinderwagenmuseum - or German Pram Museum - gives an insight into all of that and how prams developed during the decades that followed to his day. Zeitz actually continued its pram tradition for many years until German reunification meant the end of the local pram - and many other - industries.
But back from prams to Baroque architecture (in an otherwise Gothic church): The Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul also forms part of the complex that is Schloss Moritzburg. It is a bit of a curious church not only in its mixture of styles but also because it does not have any towers (anymore, that is). After he inherited Zeitz in in 1656, Duke Moritz - who, by the way, gave his name to the Schloss - had the former cathedral converted in the castle chapel. Because he didn't like anyone to have a higher tower than him, he had them removed. Instead, he added a royal box, you can see in the picture above, as well as several other Baroque structures such as the altar and the pulpit. Having the very ambitious Heinrich Schütz, often considered the most important German composer pre-Bach, as his court conductor, he also added one choir (another one was planned but never realised) and a new organ as well as a fake organ to mirror it.
Sounds worth it visit?
Learn more about Zeitz and its tourist sites here and
Learn more about Zeitz and its tourist sites here and
about Schloss Moritzburg and its different exhibitions here.
P. S. Need a place to stay? I made the Best Western in Merseburg my base camp for the weekend that took me to Merseburg, Weissenfels and Zeitz. Conveniently located close to the main station, it is a great starting point to discover the history, culture, architecture and nature of the region - and it even offers a great view over the old town of Merseburg itself.