Medieval fortifications

small history of Wildeck Castle in Zschopau by Hermann v. Strauch 2007

The beginnings    

A side note in the copy book of the Hessian monastery of Hersfeld aroused the interest of the Zschopau local historians: A copy book contains copies of important documents, and one of the Hersfeld documents dealt with the Saxon property of the monastery. The document dates back to 981, a time when fox and hare said good night here in the "Miriquidiwald". Much later - between 1136 and 1162 - an explanatory text was added, which is so important for our local researchers; for the first time in history, the river "scapha" and the "antiqua semita bohemorum" are mentioned here. The "scapha" is our good old Zschopau, and the "antiqua semita bohemorum" the "Old Bohemian Trail". The Latin word "semita" says that at that time it was a mere path - for example for hem animals. Nevertheless, it was an important trade route, crossing the Zschopau here in a ford. This ford will have been the cause of the formation of a castle complex. The origins, however, lie in the dark. Probably it was created in the course of the general castle construction phase, i.e. sometime between 1125 and 1180. Archaeological excavations confirmed this presumption.

The owners

the castle and town belonged to the Pleißenland, created by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa and directly subordinated to it, with the administrative centre Altenburg, from where the settlement took place up to the Erzgebirgskamm. Reichsministeriale were appointed as representatives of the emperor, but it is uncertain whether such a representative was also based in Zschopau. It is more likely that he was represented by the so-called "Burgmanns". These were members of the noble families of Einsiedel, Erdmannsdorf, Forchheim or Rechenberg and often changed. Although Zschopau was mentioned at the end of the 13th century as the seat of a vogtschaft, no own rule was created here; it was always in the hands of others. But how did it come into the hands of the Wettiners as part of the land-direct Pleißenland? This first happened in 1254/1255, when the later Landgrave of Thuringia, Albrecht von Wettin, married the daughter of Emperor Frederick II. Instead of a dowry, she was given the Pleißenland as a pledge. Albrecht also ruled in Pleißenland as his wife's marriage estate. In 1290 it was taken back into the possession of the empire, but the son of Albrecht, Frederick the Freidige, did not let up until he had brought the Pleißenland back into wetting possession in 1323 - initially on a pledge, but in fact definitively. At first nothing changed for Zschopau Castle. It was also owned by foreign lords, especially those of Waldenburg on Selva and the Burggrafen of Leisnig. However, the question remained whether the castle and city of Zschopau should be regarded as imperial fiefdoms or as margravial-chichinic fiefdoms. Especially the Waldenburgs did not want to be fief-beunters of the Wettiner. This question was not completely clarified until 1456, when the last owner Anarg von Waldenburg finally ceded the fief to Elector Frederick. The Wettins had become Saxon electors in 1423. It remained for centuries in the landlord's possession - or that of the Free State of Saxony. In 1990, the city of Zschopau submitted an application to the state government for the transfer of the castle. With effect from 9 January 1995, it actually became the property of the city. This created the precondition for using the castle as the cultural centre of the city of Zschopau.


The Oberforst- und Wildmeisterei

In the past it served other purposes: in 1506 the ducal, later Electoral "Oberforst- und Wildmeisterei" was established here. She was responsible for the entire area between the Elbe and the western Vogtland and was important in view of the special hunting passion of the Wettinpeople. The importance of forestry was even greater: mining devoured enormous quantities of wood during the expansion of mines and in the smelting of ore. Mining, in turn, was the basis of the wealth of the Saxon Electors, who made them the most powerful and respected princes of the entire Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. The oberforstmeister in Zschopau had to take care of the afforestation of the many bare-cut forests with the fast-growing spruce.



Frans Hougenberg, Schloß Wildeck, Kupferstich 1617 (Ausschnitt)

Die mittelalterliche Burg

Über das Aussehen der mittelalterlichen Burg wissen wir nichts Genaues. Die älteste bildliche Darstellung stammt von dem damals sehr bekannten Kupferstecher Hougenberg aus dem Jahr 1617. Doch dieser Kupferstich zeigt das Schloss nicht so, wie es damals nachweislich ausgesehen hat. Auch die in der Ferne erkennbare Augustusburg zeigt nicht die bekannte Silhouette. Es gibt nun die Theorie, dass Hougenberg als Vorlage eine Zeichnung benutzt hat, die noch die mittelalterliche Burg darstellte. Wenn das stimmt und das Schloss nicht einfach der Phantasie des Künstlers entsprungen ist, hätte die Burg recht eigenwillig ausgesehen.