Steeply uphill, the Schlossgasse takes us to Neu-Augustusburg Castle in Weißenfels. Once we reach the top, we first stand on the castle forecourt. Here stands a Prussian latrine building. There are said to be only three buildings of this kind left in Germany, unfortunately it is locked. It would certainly be interesting to take a look inside.
We continue across the square and first enjoy the wonderful view over the city. It is already understandable why the castle was built on this spot.
History of the castle
August, the Archbishop of Magdeburg was a son of John George I of Saxony. His will stated that all four sons should inherit properties, which was very unusual in his time. Normally only the eldest son inherited properties. August inherited Saxony-Weissenfels and laid the foundation stone for his castle in Weißenfels in 1660.
The castle was built on the site of a castle that had been razed during the Thirty Years’ War. Duke August never moved into his castle, he died before it was completed. His son Johann Adolf I of Saxe-Weissenfels moved into the unfinished palace in 1680, and it was not until 14 years later that the building was finally completed. One of the largest early Baroque palace complexes in central Germany was built in Weißenfels.
Neu-Augustusburg Castle developed into a cultural centre of the region. Famous musicians and composers, such as Johann Philipp Krieger and Georg Philipp Telemann, stayed here. Georg Friedrich Händel also stayed at Neu-Augustusburg Castle. His father was the duke’s personal physician, who recognised the boy’s musical talent early on and allowed him to play the organ in the castle church.
After the Weißenfels duchy died out, the castle fell to the Electorate of Saxony. Prussia administered it from 1815 and set up barracks here. It served as a non-commissioned officers’ school until 1920. In 1933, the castle was used as a prison camp for political prisoners. Later, from 1945, refugees were housed here, then a technical school for local history museums and the GDR’s shoe museum.
What can you discover at Neu-Augustusburg Palace?
Since 1993, the city of Weißenfels has been managing the building and renovating it in sections. If you stand in front of the castle today, you can visually recognise the already renovated area from the outside. The north wing shines in a bright white, the unrenovated part is still dark with a partly peeling façade. A stark contrast that gives the castle an interesting appearance.
We go through the entrance up to the visitor’s ticket office on the first floor. From there we begin our independent exploration of the castle.
First we visited the shoe museum.
Part of the castle is now used as a shoe museum. The exhibition goes back to the shoe museum of the GDR.
Here we learn that the topic of shoes is closely linked to the city of Weißenfels. There were many shoe factories around Weißenfels. In GDR times, the main focus of shoe supply for the population was here. In the meantime, almost 30,000 employees made the VEB Kombinat Schuhe the largest shoe producer in Europe. Unfortunately, many factories could not hold their own in the market after reunification and so one factory after the next closed its doors.
During our tour, we discover so many different shoes. Not only shoes from different periods of history, but also shoes from different regions of the world. With some shoes, I seriously ask myself how a person could ever walk in them.
The museum has already collected a good 5000 exhibits. You can still only admire a fraction of the collection. But when the renovation work is completed, the museum rooms will be expanded and even more shoes will be on display.
But you can’t just look at shoes in the shoe museum in Weißenfels. There are also some machines that are/were needed for shoe production on display here. I was particularly impressed by the edge gluing press with 24 pressing points.
Museum of City History
In another area of the castle, you can visit the permanent exhibition on the Duchy of Saxony-Weißenfels, which was designed in 2007.
Here you can learn more about the original use of the castle rooms. For example, the economic rooms of the castle were all located on the ground floor and the rooms of the rulers were above.
One section of the exhibition deals with the regional history of Weißenfels. For example, you can learn about the Battle of Rossberg, the master organ builder Ladegast (who died in Weißenfels in 1905) and the lignite mining area. It is impossible to list all the areas of the exhibition here. The information was extensive and interestingly presented.
Castle Church of St.Trinitatis
Before we leave Neu-Augustusburg Castle, we take a look at the castle church. It is locked and can only be visited in the company of museum staff. Simply ask at the cash desk for the church to be unlocked.
When we arrived at the castle, I couldn’t see a church and was quite curious where the castle church would be. I was all the more surprised when the staff member took us to a plain wooden door in the side wing of the castle. From the outside, I didn’t think it was a church as I know churches – with a nave and a steeple. It was more like a castle.
The door was opened and I had to revise my opinion. This is a church! The castle church of St. Trinitatis is one of the most beautiful early baroque churches in Central Europe. The special thing about it is that it is almost in its original state.
The church is integrated into the castle and the duke had a box that he could enter directly from the castle. From this place he had the best view of the beautiful cross and the paintings (scenes from the New and Old Testaments) in the church. A window, which he could also shoot, and the height at which he sat shielded him from the bourgeois visitors in the church.
I was impressed by the beauty of the church, certainly also because I had not expected this sight behind the simple castle façade.
The organ in the church is located in the third gallery. It was built in 1667-1673 and is still considered a technical and musical masterpiece of its time. Georg Friedrich Händel played on this organ as a child and was discovered by the Duke.
There is a princely crypt under the church. Unfortunately, we could not visit it because it is only opened to visitors on certain dates. However, there are said to be 38 magnificent coffins from the time between 1669 and 1775, which are worth seeing.
When you visit Weißenfels, you can’t miss a visit to Neu-Augustusburg Castle. I particularly liked the castle church.
Zeitzer Str. 4,
Tuesday – Sunday: 10-16 h
Museum and Castle Church: 5,-€
Prince’s crypt: 5,-€
Disclosure: The visit to Weißenfels was part of a blogger trip. The stay in the castle was made possible for us free of charge. My report is exclusively my own opinion.