The German Language Trail

Weißenfels (Saale)

Weißenfels an der Saale, with a view to Neu-Augustusburg Castle and Marienkirche (St. Mary Church)
Tourist information Weißenfels: 03443 303070

Weißenfels lies in the south of Saxony-Anhalt, close to the large cities of Halle and Leipzig, and has excellent transport connections, lovely landscapes, and a rich cultural history.

Weißenfels is steeped in history. This is testified by numerous buildings like Neu-Augustusburg Castle with its impressive castle church and royal crypt. As a former baroque capital and center of German cultural history, Weißenfels was a meeting place for many international artists. Places that are especially worth seeing include the Heinrich-Schütz-Haus, the Novalis memorial, the Geleitshaus (escort house), the Marienkirche (St. Mary Church, built in 1303), and the Fürstenpalais (Prince's Palace). The town also offers a wide variety of recreational and sporting activities in facilities such as the culture house, the adult education centre, the city library, the wildlife park Heimatnaturgarten, the out- and indoor swimming pool, the all-weather toboggan run, and the boat and bike rental.

Novalis memorial

Friedrich von Hardenberg, called Novalis, lived at Klosterstraße 24 with his family from age 13 until his untimely death at age 28. He went down in literary history as the most important poet of early Romanticism. After passing the bar exam, he began another course of study at Freiberg mining academy to acquire expertise for his occupation as a graduation tower assessor. He was literarily active throughout his entire time of study, and the untimely and painful death of his 15-year-old fiancée strongly influenced him and his literary work. Among Novalis' most important works are the "Hymns to the Night" (Hymnen an die Nacht) and the fragment "Heinrich von Ofterdingen", which is widely known due to the symbol of the "blue flower".

The exhibition in Novalis' former and final residence presents the whole person of Friedrich von Hardenberg in its entirety, so not only his literary work is shown, but also his research and findings in the field of geology/mining. Not only the baroque residence, but also the so-called "Novalis-pavillion" in the adjacent garden has been preserved. This historical pavillion is used in readings and lectures, is open to visitors, and can even be booked for civil weddings.

Not far from this memorial is the city park where the poet has found his final resting place. The idyllic "poet's corner" (Dichterecke) with a memorial stone and Novalis bust is a reminder of him and his legacy.

Weißenfels museum in Neu-Augustusburg Castle

The residence of the dukes of Weißenfels, Neu-Augustusburg Castle, was built as a monumental three-winged complex on the foundations of former Weißenfels Castle from 1660 until 1694. It was the residence of the noble family of Saxe-Weißenfels until 1746 and quickly became a cultural stronghold.

Johann Beer was the ducal concert master at the court of Weißenfels while Johann Phillip Krieger occupied the position of court conductor. The personal physician of duke Johann Adolf I was a certain Georg Händel, who one day took his seven-year-old son to Weißenfels. Little Georg Friedrich Händel played the castle church organ so well that the duke convinced the father to arrange a musical education for his son. Therefore, Weißenfels stands as the place of discovery of Georg Friedrich Händel's talent.

Other world famous artists are associated with Weißenfels Castle as well: Johann Sebastian Bach was also the court conductor, and the comedy hall, integrated into the south wing, served as a stage for Caroline Neuber. Opposite the comedy hall, in the north wing, is the impressive St. Trinitatis castle church which is seen as one of the most beautiful early baroque churches in Central Germany. Adorned with frescos and magnificent stuccos by Italian master craftsmen as well as an organ built by Christian Förner, the church holds another treasure in its cellar rooms: the royal crypt with extravagantly ornate tin and wood sarcophagi of the dukes of Saxe-Weißenfels.

Nowadays, the Weißenfels museum in Neu-Augustusburg Castle hosts an exhibition about the duchy of Saxe-Weißenfels as well as the town's history. Furthermore, there is the largest shoe museum of the new states of Germany with shoes from all around the world and even prominent figures. The casle church with its Förner organ and constantly changing special exhibitions can be visited during museum opening hours.

Heinrich-Schütz-Haus

The Heinrich-Schütz-Haus is the only originally preserved residence of the eponymous composer. He acquired it in 1651 and lived here until shortly before his death in 1672. The exhibition allows you to experience the composer's life and works across three floors. The highlight is the restored composing room where Schütz created his late work. The most precious treasures in the house are two sheet music fragments written by the composer himself. Besides historical musical instruments, the museum also presents valuable early prints of his works. Numerous sound samples, media stations, and films convey a concise impression of Heinrich Schütz' way of composition. Here, both adults and children can meet the elderly composer: in fictional radio plays, Heinrich Schütz remembers important stages of his life. The Renaissance house was renovated in 2010-2011. An architectural and archaeological explorer's path calls attention to special structural details and findings.

The annual programme includes regular chamber concerts and lectures. Every year in October, the Heinrich Schütz music festival takes place.

Heinrich Schütz is undoubtedly the most important German composer of the 17th century. Born in Köstritz, Thuringia, he spent his childhood and adolescence in Weißenfels and as a choir boy in Kassel. After his music study in Venice, he became a court conductor in Dresden. His life's work led the composer all across Europe to Denmark and Italy. He was the most important propagator of Italian music in the German-speaking area. With his work, he shaped Lutheran church music.

Gustav-Adolf-Museum in the Geleitshaus (escort house)

This Renaissance style house with a seating recess and oriel, built in 1552, was initially a residential building before being converted into an electorate Geleitshaus. It became historically important in November 1632, when the body of Swedish king Gustav II Adolf, after he was mortally wounded in the Battle of Lützen (6/16 Nov. 1632), was examined and then prepared for the return to Stockholm on the first floor.

Since 1931, a large diorama of the Battle of Lützen (approx. 10,000 tin figures) has been located in this house in memory of the events of November 1632. Besides the diorama and the contemporarily arranged autopsy room, an exhibition of the Thirty Years' War (1618 - 1648) and its effects on Weißenfels can be viewed in the remaining rooms of the first floor. The house also contains an Irish pub.