In the south of Saxony-Anhalt in the Burgenlandkreis district only about 25 kilometres north of Gera lies the city of Zeitz. We spent a day in the city and discovered a lot. Follow us on a little tour through Zeitz.
City history in brief
In 967, the town of Zeitz – still known as Cici – was mentioned in documents for the first time. For many years Zeitz was a bishop’s see. After the death of Bishop Julius von Pflug in 1564, the bishopric was dissolved. Part of the city wall with its fortifications from this period can still be found in the cityscape today.
Electoral Saxony is divided into secondary duchies after the death of Johann Georg I. Johann Georg I had stipulated in his will that each of his sons should inherit landed property. The youngest son Moritz received the area around Zeitz and thus the government of the Duchy of Saxe-Zeitz. He had Moritzburg Castle built on the destroyed foundation walls of the bishop’s castle. Some beautiful baroque buildings were erected in the town during this period.
After the family had no more descendants, the property reverted to the Dresden Kurhaus. Later, the Prussians took over the abbey territory.
With the beginning of industrialisation, a number of companies were established in the Zeitz area, for example the ZEMAG (Zeitzer Eisengießerei und Maschinenfabrik AG), the Zeitz sugar factory and the Hermannschacht briquette factory. Industrial settlements still dominate the townscape today. The Zeitz wooden goods and pram industry was known far beyond the town. The prams are still sold far beyond the borders of Germany. But also in the food industry, for example, the confectionery production of Zetti achieved great fame in Europe.
After the Second World War, Zeitz had to take in many refugees and displaced persons from the eastern territories. There was a great housing shortage, which was alleviated by the construction of numerous new housing estates. Unfortunately, the old town began to deteriorate at the same time. From a monumental point of view, it became increasingly impossible to preserve the buildings. In the city, areas were demolished, almost completely destroying the medieval character of the city.
Short city tour
We begin our tour of the city with Ms Fischer, a member of staff from Zeitz Tourist Information, at the city’s Altmarkt. This square has existed since the 12th century and used to be a market place. Today it is used as a car park. But around the square you can discover some interesting buildings.
The Tourist Information Centre, for example, is located in one of the oldest buildings on the square, the Gewandhaus (1483). This was once a department store and later a school. Here you can listen to a carillon at certain times.
Only a few steps away, in front of a bench, is the “Mice – Bench”. It is permitted to take a seat here.
This is also the entrance to “Underground Zeitz”. The city has a widely ramified cellar system that can also be visited.
On the opposite side of the square is the town hall. This is divided into two parts, as the part built in 1505-1509 was no longer sufficient, a “new building” was added in 1906-1909 to match the architecture.
The old building is built in late Gothic style and has beautiful gables. The new building encloses a beautiful courtyard and borders the town hall garden. A town hall tower was also built and this was our first destination during the city tour.
We pass administrative rooms and climb 192 steps in the tower to a balcony gallery. From here you have a great view of the city.
We discover not only the large industrial plants, but also St. Michael’s Church, the Old Malthouse, Moritzburg Castle and the Franciscan Monastery. I particularly liked the fact that we were also pointed to buildings that are rather uninteresting for tourists but have an important meaning for the city’s inhabitants. It was an overview of the city from the “locals’ point of view”, peppered with many interesting stories. It is also very clear how close together everything is in Zeitz.
On our view over the city, Moritzburg Castle lies in the immediate vicinity of factories.
Back on the ground, we walk through the beautiful courtyard of the town hall into the town hall garden. Here is the city’s coat of arms. The Archangel Michael stands here in his silver armour. He holds his silver shield and brandishes his sword. In front of him lies a lindworm from which he protects the city.
Criss-cross through the streets of Zeitz
Our path takes us past the remains of the old city wall and the customs houses at the Kalktor.
Until we arrive at the beautifully designed Vogtsplatz. Here is a sculpture that reminds us of the city’s coat of arms. A lindworm lies on the ground and threatens the city. Opposite him is a chair with a hat that reminded me a bit of Harry Potter’s talking hat, and a sword lying on the ground. If you sit on the chair and look through an opening in the hat, the scary lindworm turns into a tiny earthworm. Maybe there is some magic involved after all???!
We arrive in the pedestrian zone of the old town. Beautifully restored houses and small shops invite you to take a stroll. Some shops are still empty, but one notices that the small retail shops are returning and enlivening the townscape.
Do you know the German tongue twister „Zehn zahme Ziegen zogen zehn Zentner Zeitzer Zucker zum Zug“? (“Ten tame goats pulled ten centners of Zeitz sugar to the train”?) I now know what one of these goats looked like. You can find the matching statue in the pedestrian zone of Zeitz!
The Capitol Theatre is also located here. A beautiful old building that is now used as a cinema.
A few steps further on, we reach the Rossmarkt. Horses used to be sold here. A sculpture reminds us of this today. The square is really beautiful and invites you to linger.
At St Michael’s Church, we spontaneously decide to make a detour into the church. Here, during renovation work in 1882, an original poster print of Luther’s theses from 1517 was discovered.
The interior of the church is very modern and forms a stark contrast to the old building.
The tour continues through small alleys. Everywhere you see half-timbered houses and in some places the streets are so narrow that cars just fit through. We approach our last destination of the tour, the Franciscan monastery of the city.
The Franciscan monastery was built in early Gothic style. Its origins go back to the 13th century. The people of Zeitz are particularly proud of the fact that Martin Luther held a sermon here on 22 January 1542. The Luther rose at the entrance commemorates this event.
During our visit, construction work was taking place in the monastery. Part of the building was being converted into a school. This means that a visit is only possible to a limited extent.
However, we were able to go into the former monastery church, which is now used as a function room. Church services are no longer held here.
I was impressed by the church building. The walls were deliberately not plastered and so the room seems very original and natural to me. I feel “grounded” here and suddenly become calm and balanced.
Our morning tour of Zeitz ended with a visit to the small courtyard where a concert was to take place that evening.
In the afternoon we went to Moritzburg Castle and explored the garden dream in the castle garden.
Disclosure: We were invited to the city tour of Zeitz as part of a press trip. Thank you very much! This report corresponds to our impressions gained in the city.