The Renaissance city Torgau with castle Hartenfels was the political centre of the Reformation during the 16th century in Germany. Here the first political alliance of reformed electors between Hesse and Saxony was formed. Martin Luther travelled more than 60 times to Torgau and ordained the first Protestant castle church. The Torgau article, written in 1530 by Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas and Bugenhagen were the groundwork for the famous statement of faith “Confessio Augustana”.
Already fortified as Saxonian Elbe and land fortress in the 17th century, Torgau was, from 1810 on Napoleon’s order, further fortified to the large fortification system as a member or the Rhenish Confederation. After Napoleons’ catastrophic Russia military campaign in 1812 and his defeat in the Battle of Leipzig in 1813 Torgau was besieged and finally captured by Prussia. They rebuilt it to a Prussian river and border fortress the Prussian way against Saxony. But with the development of explosive tracers by the end of the 19th century, the fortifications became ineffective and the fortress status was given up in 1889.
As a result, parts of the Torgau fortress like Fort Zinna and the bridge head barracks became famous prison locations during the Nazi and post war times until 1950. Exhibitions and memorials inform in different places about this dark chapter of the city’s history. Fort Zinna has been a prison location until today.
But in the today again idyllic Torgau old city visitors can find more than 500 memorials of the late Gothic, the Renaissance and the Baroque. Together with the still preserved fortification and the fortified castle Hartenfels it forms a European-wide unique urban ensemble. The city Torgau is also a stop on the international Elbe bike path, at the Luther path in Saxony and the Princes street of Wettins.
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Fortified Castle Hartenfels
Castle Hartenfels, in the style of the Renaissance, had been the location of different historically important events over centuries. Names like Martin Luther, elector Frederic the Wise and Johann Frederick the Generous, tsar Peter I and artist like Lucas Cranach and Heinrich Schütz are strongly connected to its history. In the bear pit, operating since 1452 in Torgau, 3 brown bears are still living today.
When building the fortress Torgau from 1811 also the castle was was rebuilt to a protective fortress.
You can have a unique panoramic view on the old city, the Elbe and the Elbe meadows from the viewpoint of the Hausmann tower. The Lapidarium in the worth-seeing vaults under the lower Hofstube gives insights into the construction history of the castle.
As part of the fortification by the French from 1810 the city was fortified with 8 bastions. These bastions had side casemates, bombproof rooms in the bastion sides. The rights side casemate of the former bastion II had been used in several ways since, mostly as a depot.
In 2005, today’s culture bastion with a youth centre. was created. It receives thousands of visitors per year and offers a wide range of cultural programs with cinema, concerts, cabaret. Readings and many others.
Fort Zinna was built in 1811 as part of the fortification by the French and was an independent outwork of fortress Torgau. After Torgau gave up its fortress status, it was used as a prison from 1890.
First a military prison from the Prussian army, during World War I war prisoned officers were detained here. From 1919 it was a civil prison, from 1933 a prison for political opponents of National Socialism and from 1936 a prison of the Armed Forces. From 1945-48 the Soviet occupation force used it as a special depot. From 1950 the former fort belonged to the penitentiary of the GDR and from 1989 the FRG.
The fort offers a memorial for the victims of the Nazi military justice, the Soviet occupation times and the GDR penal system. The documentation and information centre (DIZ) Torgau manages a permanent exhibition in castle Hartenfels.
Fort Bridgehead and defence barracks
Already in the early 17th century a bridge entrenchment was built on the Eastern side of the Elbe as part of the Saxon land fortress Torgau. Fortified and rebuilt again and again it had gotten its final form by the French from 1811-13 and after that by the Prussians as bridgehead with defence barracks. During World War II this area was used a military prison.
Today Fort Bridgehead and the remaining buildings are managed by the IG Rock e.V. 10 rehearsal rooms are available for local musicians and the premises are used for concerts.
Fortified Railway Bridge
The Halle-Sorau-Guben railway company built the one-track railway bridge over the Elbe in 1872 as part of the Halle-Cottbus line. Gates were built on both ends of the 350m long bridge. On the Eastern side directly at the railway the lunette Zwethau is located which was built already in 1811-1813.
In 1996/97 a single-track bowstring-girder bridge replaced the old bridge. The pinnacle towers of natural stone were removed and rebuilt at a distance of 12,25m.
Tour Offers and Information
Grenadierbataillon von Spiegel e.V. Torgau
- Guided tours to the still numerous fortress parts
- Adventure tours with a grenadier of the Saxon army in proper style
- Convivial gatherings with the grenadiers with food, drinks, music and dance
- Adventurous and educational children entertainment and bivouacs
Tours, events, information
Cinema, concerts, cabaret, readings, light show and many more
Remembrance of victims of Nazi times, NKVD and GRD regime in Torgau
Monument and History
In Torgove, first mentioned in 973, the first fortifications were built in the 12 and 13th century with a medieval city wall which was later extended.
In the 16th century fortified Torgau became the Centre of Reformation in Germany, the city had blooming times in science, art and culture and it was the preferred residence of the Saxon electors. Lucas Cranach the older from Kronach created altar works and portraits in the castle and the work of Martin Luther is ever-present in Torgau until today. His wife Katharina died in Torgau. A unique exhibition of rare modern first prints and coins, items of daily life and art is dedicated to her. Katharina-Luther-Stube
With the Thirty Years’ War destruction and pain came to Torgau. The Saxon land fortress is partly destroyed several times and rebuilt and reinforced again.
In 1711 tsar Peter I. of Russia celebrated the wedding of his son Alexey and princess Charlotte Christine of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel in castle Hartenfels. In 1765 Torgau is in Prussian hands and is further fortified. On 3rd November the last big battle of the Seven Years‘ War took place on the Sützitz Heights. In the “battle or Torgau” Prussian and imperial Austrian troops encountered each other. After a few surprising turns the Prussians won happily but with high losses under Frederic the Great. Around 32 000 men lost their lives in one of the bloodiest battles of the 18th century.
In 1765 Torgay is Saxon again when the ordered is issued to give up the Saxon land fortress (apart from Königstein and Dresden). With Saxony’s joining of the Rhenish Confederation in 1806 the French appear on the scene. By Napoleon’s command the extension to the large fortification system start under Ludwig von Lecoq in 1810/11.
After Napoleon failed in the winter of 1812 in Russia, Prussia declared war against France on 17th March 1813. French troops are stationed in fortress Torgau under general count Jean L. E. von Reynier and the bridge entrenchment is further rebuilt and fortified. In October 1813 Napoleon was defeated in the Battle of Leipzig and the end of a French reign in Germany was sealed.
In November 1813, Torgau was surrounded and occupied by Prussian troops under general Frederic B. of Tauentzien, by the end of December the French surrendered and left in January 1814. The Prussians built Torgau as a Prussian river and border fortress against Saxony in new-Prussian fortrification style. In 1889 with the emerging of explosive grenades, the fortification became ineffective and the fortress status was lost, parts were demolished from 1893.
From 1890, Fort Zinna was reused as a prison and is used as a military prison from 1936, later Fort Bridgehead followed. On 25th April 1945, American and Russian soldiers meet on the destroyed Elbe bridge. The “Elbe Day” remembers this until today.
After the war the Soviet occupation, force sets up special depots in Fort Zinna and the Seydlitz barracks. From 1950, the GDR regime uses Fort Zinna as its prison location and from 1989 the FRG.
With the new millennium, Fort Bridgehead is used by the IG Rock e.V. and in 2005, the side casemates of the former bastion II become today’s culture bastion.
The strategic location of Torgau at the Elbe with Elbe crossing made the city meaningful but also attackable. The medieval city walls in the 11th and 12th century build the first step to protect the city. At the beginning of the 17th century when it was declared a Saxon land fortress, the bridge entrenchment and the city walls as a structure of a veste already existed.
Napoleon made Torgau in 1810 to a military basis at the Elbe for his Russia military campaign and ordered extensive reconstruction work after plans of general Ernst Ludwig von Aster (then captain).
As Prussian Elbe and border fortress Torgau had its biggest construction between 1814 and 1889 to the large fortification system. At the end there are the main work with eight bastions and three ravelins, floodable trenches and the glacis in front, additional outer works (bridgehead, three Watergate lunettes, five lunettes, two forts and the new work with a fuse factory. In 1878 the Fort Mahla was demolished. In 1889 the fortifications become ineffective with the upcoming of explosive grenades and the fortress status is given up.
The facilities of fortress Torgau are mainly preserved and partly visible. The side casemates of the bastion II, the pinnacle towers of the railway and the upper port gate are restored.
The former medieval castle was extensively rebuilt between 1485 and 1546. Caste Hartenfels, following the Meißen Albrecht castle, laid important creative and constructional foundation for modern residential castles in the mid-German area and was with its Renaissance character a model for many castles of the 16th century. Especially the large Wendelstein, a self-supporting newel without centre column, a masterpiece of the architect Konrad Krebs, set new standards in European architecture. Learn more about the architectural history of the castle at the Lapidarium in the worth-seeing vaults under the lower Hofstube.
The following architects influenced the development of fortress Torgau essentially:
- Wilhelm Schäffer, called Dilich (1625),
- Engineer officer Hans Kuffer and architect Wolf Caspar von Klengel (1658 to 1680),
- Engineer lieutenant Egidius G. Francke (1745),
- Ernst Ludwig von Aster (1809)
- Ludwig von Lecoq (1811)
Quelle: Festung Torgau Quelle: TIC Torgau Quelle: Merian
Elbe hiking and bike path
Varying nature panoramas in connection with culture, art, history and architecture, bikers and hikers know the Elbe Radweg far across the country borders. The Renaissance city Torgau is a famous stage goal with many historic and cultural highlights. From castle Hartenfels you have a wonderful view over the Elbe.
Big Pond Torgau
The biggest pond of Saxony with 1,75 km² is in the South West of Torgau and is as local recreational area and natural reserve a preferred destination for nature lovers. The Torgau campsite is idyllically located directly at the riverside and the natural reserve station “Biberhof Torgau”. The education centre offers permanent exhibitions about the local wildlife, nest boxes, nesting aids and many more.
Quelle: TIC Torgau Quelle: Zeppelubil / Th. Haft / Torgau Quelle: Biberhof Torgau