Meissen is famous for the manufacture of porcelain. Meissen porcelain was the first high quality porcelain to be produced outside of the Orient, established by King Augustus the Strong in 1710. The mathematician and physicist Ehrenfried Walther Graf von Tschirnhaus and the alchemist Johann Friedrich Boettger had succeeded in manufacturing the first white European porcelain in 1708. This porcelain was called “White Gold” was of great significance, because of the Chinese monopoly in this market.
Visiting the porcelain manufacturing building and taking the tour was one of the highest of highlights of my trip – so much so that I went through twice! This will easily be the longest post about my trip because there’s so much I learned! Once going through the tour made it apparent WHY Meissen porcelain is SO famous and WHY is COSTS SO MUCH!!The onion pattern is the most famous pattern created, and has been used by many other companies trying to imitate Meissen Porcelain. Its signature logo, the crossed swords, was introduced in 1720 to protect its production and was added to the onion design. The crossed swords is one of the oldest trademarks in existence and is on each piece created here.Not only dish ware is created – large pieces such as this sad lion have been created and a selection can be seen in the upstairs museum. The yellow tea service set was made in 1722. There are also many figurines with intricate details of both molding and painting.The teapot with all the flowers? Each flower was individually hand made and applied to the tea pot and then hand painted.A sculpture of discarded pieces is on display and was amazing to look at each side and see all the little hidden elements!On the first stop of the tour, we watched a short video showing how the elements are mined, broken down, and then mixed together in a water slurry. After the 3 ingredients are well mixed, the water is spun out leave the clay which can be stored up to nine months before being created into a delicate porcelain something. I was mesmerized in the second room by watching the clay being formed by hand into a plain cup and then formed in the centuries old mold, removing excess clay to form the delicately thin clay. The clay dries in it’s mold for 30 minutes and is then removed. The base and handle are added using slip (some of the clay without the excess water taken out). After firing, each piece is only 65% of it’s original size! In another room of the tour, we witnessed another artist hand carving part of a statue. We also saw how each little ivy leaf is created in a mold and then added to the statue with slip, piece by piece. Some details, like roses and more detailed flowers, are created lovingly by hand – without any kind of mold! The third room of the tour taught how each piece is hand painted, how the colors used change dramatically during firing, and there were many examples of how paints change in firing. The steps to just make one plate are extensive, and require many years of training for each artist. When a piece is painted before firing, any paint that is applied cannot be removed, so perfection is a must!The gold paint used is 90% pure gold and looks very dark before firing. After a piece with gold is fired, the gold is hand polished to give it the bright lustre seen at the bottom of the sample plate. It is only after these steps that a piece can be sold! The last stop of the tour before the shops was watching another artist paint an already glazed and fired plate. At this time, paint is not permanent until it is fired. Multiple colors require multiple firings as only one color at a time is applied. The only exception to this is in scenery, which is all painted at once.
For more information on the history of porcelain manufacturing in Meissen, check out their website!
The bell tower of Meissen’s Frauenkirche can be seen from Janet’s living room. The porcelain bells are made in 1929 to commemorate Meissen’s 1,000 year jubilee. The bells toll all day long and can be heard all over. I was a bit worried at first that the bells would keep me awake all night, but I slept through them each night. I got used to telling time by them (they rang every 15 minutes!) and hearing for the tolls that rang for 10 minutes which announced it was either 7am, noon, 5pm, or 6pm. Then at certain half-hours during the day, tunes would ring instead of the usual half hour tone.
Coming home, I miss the bells.The Frauenkirche Meissen was first mentioned in history in 1205 by Bishop Dietrich II and is located in the old market place. After a fire broke out, the church was rebuilt, completed in 1450 in the late Gothic style. The Baroque cupola and a tower keeper’s apartment were built after a lightning strike in 1547. The inside is beautiful in its simple elegance. The ceilings mimic Albrechtsburg’s and in each area the flowers on the ceiling are slightly different. There are many magnificent stained glass windows and a beautiful altar. Janet related an interesting tidbit about this church. Several years ago, the building started splitting in half. The church was closed immediately for safety and the cause of the breaking about down the middle was investigated. It was discovered that the church had been built half on stone, half on sand! It reminds me of Matthew 7:24-27. The building was under construction for almost four years to correct this and re-opened the week before my arrival.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Albrechtsburg is Germany’s oldest castle and was a trendsetter in it’s time! Even now, it is amazing to set eyes on. Albrechtsburg overlooks the city of Meissen and towers above the mighty Elbe river.Albrechtsburg was incredible to tour! Although the audio tour gets a little long in the end, it was interesting learning so much about the castle and Germany’s history. In one room, we had to wear slippers to help preserve the original wood flooring, which was beautiful. Albrechtsburg was redecorated in the 19th century with murals depicting Saxon history, which were really neat to see as I heard about it. The first one pictured was the coronation of a king. The second one depicts the Duke kidnapping the two princes, while their nursemaid was trying to protect them. The Wettin brothers Ernst and Albrecht commissioned master builder Arnold von Westfalen to build the castle to be a sign of power and wealth. He succeeded and also set European standards, a trendsetter in terms of architecture, vaulting, window and staircase design, among other things.The castle was built between 1472 and 1525 and is built in the late-Gothic style and was the first castle built solely as a residence. The Prince’s Chapel was very beautiful and lavishly painted. It was designed with six pillars, each to represent an aspect of God’s faithfulness. The room has five pillars and a spot for the believer to stand, becoming the sixth pillar. The ceilings are most amazing. Each room was painted differently; there was one room which wasn’t painted at all. It was quite stunning in it’s unpainted glory. Meissen porcelain was made inside this castle for 150 years, established in 1710 by King Augustus II the Strong; however, the production as making the castle literally fall apart, so the factory was moved to it’s own location in downtown Meissen in 1863. Even the walls in each room are painted with it’s own unique decoration. The windows were all made in either a diamond or circle cutouts. This was done so if a window broke only the broken pieces had to be replaced, not the whole window! The spiral staircase was one of my favorite features of the castle. This is the top of the stairs; and almost to the bottom, where they curve out instead of in; and looking into the center of the spiral from the bottom of the stairs.“The Artist who does not conceive of a staircase as something fantastic is not an artist.” – Gio PontiHere is a link to watch a quick video about the castle.
Janet and I took a tour bus up to Castle Hill, where Albrechtsburg and the Cathedral still stand. King Heinrich I founded the fortress “Misnia” on the castle hill high above the Elbe river in 929. The Cathedral was built between 1260 -1425. The twin towers were added later in 1909.
The Meissen Cathedral or Church of St John and St Donatus (German: Meißner Dom) is a Gothic church in Meissen in Saxony. In 1581 the Meissen diocese was dissolved in the course of the Protestant Reformation, and the church was used by the Protestant Church since. It is the cathedral church of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony. We did not make it inside except for the Room of Silence because we decided to tour the castle first and that took long enough that we only had a few minutes to catch the last bus back down to Meissen. There is a lovely little courtyard outside that we spent a lovely minute in. This bridge is the second oldest bridge still standing in Germany, leading up to Albrechtsburg and the Cathedral. Next week I will take you on a tour inside Albrechtsburg, the Meissen Castle!
Meißen (mīs´ən) is a city in Saxony, East Central Germany. It is on the Elbe River. Janet has made her home here for the past 5 years.
Janet lives in a wonderful house that seems to go up and up and up! Up in the attic is where I stayed; it was the coolest place in the house! In the basement, Janet’s landlords cure meat for their catering business. Getting to Germany had a rough start. The airline didn’t have their paperwork in order and once it was finally approved, the pilots had disappeared! We landed so late that everyone on the flight missed their connecting flights. I ended up not getting to Janet until almost 7 pm, when I was supposed to be picked up at 1:40! We stopped at a Lidl for some take home dinner and then we arrived home and took the hike up all the flights of stairs with all the luggage. Oi! After we ate it was bed time for me and work time for Janet. The next day we walked around Meissen and Janet took me to her favorite restaurant for dinner. It is a little Vietnamese place close to Janet’s home. The owner has the most beautiful 350 year old bonsai tree! Germans take pride in the cleanliness and beauty of their cities. It seemed like every window had a window box with beautiful flowers and wildflowers grew all over! The many trees gave shade to walkers. Here are some fun facts about Meissen:
Founded in 929 by Henry of Saxony (later German king as Henry I).
The Albrechtsburg (15th cent.), a large castle, dominates the city.
Meissen is famous for its delicate figurines (often called “Dresden” china), since 1710.
The trials with flying Condor was made up by the beauty of Germany. While I won’t fly with them again, I am already planning another trip to see more of Germany! Be looking for more about my Germany trip in the upcoming weeks!