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Merseburg at the river Saale

Above the river, the towers of the cathedral and castle tower picturesquely over the city.

Merseburg an der Saale

Merseburg has been one of the most important German palatinates since the beginning of the 10th century.
From 933 to 1213, the German emperors met more than 20 times in Merseburg. The city was the centre of the empire.

A castle already stood on the west bank of the Saale in the early Middle Ages. A palace, which cannot be located exactly, was built on the cathedral hill under Henry I. A second palace was promoted by Otto I. Up until the Staufer dynasty, 69 royal residences are documented. A second palace was built by Otto I. There is evidence of 69 royal residences up to the time of the Staufers.

Roman-German Kings / Emperors Government
Heinrich I.  919 -  936
Otto I.  the Great  936 -  973
Otto II.  973 -  938
Otto III.  938 - 1002
Heinrich II. 1002 -1024
Konrad II. 1024 -1039
cathedral in Merseburg

Before the great battle on the Lechfeld on 10 August 955 against the Hungarians, Otto the Great swore in the face of his holy lance: "In the event of victory, I will erect a bishopric in Merseburg for the saint of the day.

The Holy Lance

The saint of the day was St Laurence. The archbishopric was founded in 968. The holy lance can be seen today in the treasury in Vienna and we are standing in front of the cathedral "St. John the Baptist and Laurentius" in Merseburg.

However, the cathedral was not built until years later by Henry II, who clearly preferred Merseburg among his palatinates. The crypt, begun in 1036, is still preserved from this construction. Around 1280, the cathedral was decorated with highly regarded stained glass windows, which were later lost and replaced in 1947-1960 by Charles Crodel in a modern continuation of the medieval formal language. The nave was rebuilt between 1510 and 1517.

castle and cathedral Merseburg

Merseburg Castle was built on the palace grounds under Bishop Heinrich von Warin (1245-65). Under Bishop Thilo von Trotha (1466-1514) it was rebuilt, and under Duke Johann Georg I of Saxony from 1605 onwards it was rebuilt and extended by Melchior Brenner. The east wing was destroyed in 1944/45 and rebuilt in 1971.

From 1656 to 1738 the castle was the residence of the Dukes of Saxe-Merseburg. The cathedral was used as the court church. Since 1815, the castle has been the seat of the administration.


I have rarely seen such a beautiful organ as in this cathedral. Unfortunately, I have not heard it.

Click on the organ for an impressive, larger picture (1024 x 768) and enlarge the browser window!

In the Baroque period, Merseburg Cathedral served as a court church for the collateral line of the Dresden Wettin Saxe-Merseburg dynasty residing in the adjacent castle. It owes its main altar (1668), the monumental portal to the princely crypt (1670) and above all the organ to this "ducal period", which after a first rebuilding in 1665/66 was completely renewed again in 1693 and also received a new prospectus in 1697.

At that time, it was inserted into the late Gothic nave with great naturalness, as if it had been built for it - this magnificent baroque prospect still dominates the cathedral today: piled up to the vault, it fills the space between the towers.

The work, probably begun by Zacharias Theisner as early as 1693, did not function properly. In 1714, the organ builder Johann Friedrich Wender from Mühlhausen had to make a thorough technical overhaul of the work.

The solemn consecration of the organ did not take place until 17 October 1717. Work on the facade has been suspected for the long period between the acceptance. In 1734, the Silbermann pupil and collaborator Zacharias Hildebrandt was commissioned to insert several new stops.

Several more or less extensive repairs followed, none of them satisfactory.

It was Friedrich Ladegast (1818-1905) from Weißenfels, the great Central German organ builder of the 19th century, who was to make this organ building famous.

Between 1853 and 1855, he built a completely new organ in the old baroque case, which now contained a total of almost 5700 pipes in 81 stops and the old steel chimes - one of the largest organs in Germany at the time.

Franz Liszt took a lively interest in the construction of this instrument, which is significant in terms of organ and music history and was the first large Romantic organ in Central Germany, and was inspired by it to write his most important organ works. The organ's dedication on 26 September 1855 met with an enthusiastic response.

In a comprehensive renovation from 2001 to 2004, the organ was restored to Ladegast's disposition and, as far as possible, given back its 1866 sound.

Merseburg Chapter House

Merseburg Chapter House

The chapter house, whose origins can be traced back to the 12th century, was the administrative and representative building of the Merseburg cathedral chapter until the 19th century. The chapter house was one of the most beautiful late Gothic buildings in Germany, especially because of its prestigious frescoed rooms.


In search of Gertrud:

Her father Lothar III, Duke of Saxony, was determined to be elected king after the death of Emperor Henry V. To this end, he formed an alliance with Henry the Black, Duke of Bavaria. To this end, he formed an alliance with the Duke of Bavaria, Henry the Black from the House of Guelph. He would give his son, Henry the Proud, his only daughter Gertrud, who was entitled to inherit, as his wife. Gertrud was just 10 (ten) years old at the time of the agreement. Lothar was elected German king in Mainz on 24 August 1125, but the wedding had to wait another two years. Gertrud was not yet "marriageable".

At Whitsun 1127, at a court day in the presence of numerous great men on 22 May in Merseburg, King Henry the Proud gave his "only and beloved" daughter Gertrud in marriage with "great splendour". Seven days later, the glittering wedding feast took place at Gunzele near Augsburg, in the centre of Guelph rule. The duke had brought his new wife from Saxony. In the Lechrain, in the borderland of Swabia and Bavaria, he presented the king's daughter to his Bavarian and Swabian grandees and then led her home to the Guelph homeland in Ravensburg.

Gertrud's fate was decided in Merseburg, but she is not buried here.