Choose a language

Dresden Elbland - The cradle of Saxony

The Saxon kings

Long before the Wettin royals chose Dresden as their capital, the margraviate of Meissen is where the Saxony ascent to power got underway. Fast forward a millennium and you will find a wealth of impressive testimony to this era and those that followed.

Magnificent Meissen: it all started here

Our story starts back in 929, when King Heinrich I built a lofty wooden fortress overlooking the Elbe as an unmistakable embodiment of might. As more and more settlers came from the west, Meissen grew until in 1089, the princely dynasty of Wettin took control of what we now know as Saxony. Give or take some minor exceptions, this remained the case until 1918.

Shining silver: the source of wealth

A major silver rush erupted in the 12th century as deposits of the metal were found in the aptly-named Ore Mountain (Erzgebirge) range. Margrave Otto soon got everyone toiling to mine the bounty and claimed a tenth of the proceeds for himself, earning the nickname ‘Otto the Rich’ in the process. Meanwhile, Meissen, his royal seat of power, became synonymous with splendour, as exemplified by the late-Gothic Albrechtsburg Castle, constructed between 1471 and 1524 and a stone’s throw from the 13th-century cathedral. Remnants of glory that still overlook the town to this day, despite going from magnificence to the more mundane in the 16th century, when the prince-electors domiciled in Dresden.

Luxurious: The trademark crossed swords

In 1710, however, Meissen, came back to prominence for other reasons. Two years after Johann Friedrich Böttger invented European porcelain, Augustus the Strong employed up to 700 people in the town to manufacture this novel premium product in the new porcelain factory housed within the Albrechtsburg complex.

Supreme: Dresden – the new residence

From the 15th century onwards, dukes, prince-electors and later kings of Saxony all called Dresden home. In 1485, when the Meissen estates were divided among the sons of Duke Friedrich II, it was also the abode of choice for the Albertine line of the Wettin family. A century later, the politics, economy and culture of Saxony went from strength to strength, heralding a second heyday for Dresden under the reign of Prince-Elector Johann Georg I, after the wanton destruction of the Thirty Years War.

Mighty: The Augustan Age

Friedrich August I (better known as ‘Augustus the Strong’) led Dresden into its Golden or ‘Augustan’ Age; welcoming in wealth and splendour from 1694 to 1763. The Saxon court – a byword for nobility and elegance, the magnificent baroque buildings and gardens, artistic talent coming to the fore and near-priceless artwork wherever you looked were both admired and envied by Europeans in power elsewhere. Dresden made its name as a splendid European art metropolis and the political, cultural and economic hub of its era.


Responsible for this content
Dresden Elbland  Verified partner  Explorers Choice