Osterstein Castle (Schloss Osterstein)

Osterstein Castle


Location: Zwickau Map

Constructed: first castle build in the 13th century


Description of Osterstein Castle or Schloss Osterstein

Osterstein Castle or Schloss Osterstein is a medieval mansion that stands in Zwickau in German state of Saxony. The name of Osterstein Castle or Schloss Osterstein is translated as a Castle of an Easter Stone. The first castle on this place was constructed in the 13th century. However it was demolished in 1407 by troops of William I, Margrave of Meissen. The ruins of the stronghold were later incorporated into a new Renaissance Mansion that was constructed in 1587- 90 by Christian I, Elector of Saxony. The castle was turned into a Nazi Concentration Camp during World War II. In the end of the 20th century abandoned and dilapidated building was reconstructed and open as a retirement house.


In its function as a town castle, the former Niederungsburg was only a few dozen meters away from the Zwickauer Mulde in the north-eastern area of ​​the old town of Zwickau. A pronounced moat and high walls, which still existed into the 19th century, suggest that the castle was originally designed as a moated castle.

The construction of the first fortified smaller complex is scheduled for the end of the 12th or beginning of the 13th century. First mentioned in documents as Castrum Czwickaw in 1292, the castle was expanded into a margravial castle in the 13th and 14th centuries.

In the devastating city fire in 1403, the castle was also badly damaged, demolished between 1404 and 1407 and rebuilt as a better fortified complex under Margrave Wilhelm I of Meissen. During the reign of Johann the Steadfast (1525–1532), the Zwickau mint, which had been closed since 1493, was temporarily set up in the city palace and continued to operate between 1530 and 1533. Johann used the castle complex from 1517 to 1518 as a ducal alternative residence, as the plague raged in Weimar at that time.

In Zwickau, known as an early center of the Reformation, Martin Luther is said to have preached here in the castle in 1522. The name Schloss Weißenstein was in use until the end of the 16th century.

Under Elector Christian I, the palace complex was converted into a splendid Renaissance palace from December 1586 between 1587 and 1590 according to plans by the master builder Hans Irmisch. When it was converted into a Renaissance castle, the name Osterstein became common. Only 40 years later, as a result of the Thirty Years' War in 1632, the castle was so badly devastated that it remained uninhabited for 30 years.

Towards the end of the 18th century, the castle was converted into a penal institution (1770–1775), later the Zwickau prison, which was used with interruptions until after the Second World War. From 1860 to 1864 another cell house was built in the shape of a cross. Numerous prominent prisoners were held here, including Karl May, August Bebel, Rosa Luxemburg and Martin Hoop. During the Nazi era in 1933 a so-called protective custody camp (concentration camp), it was used as a prison until 1945. During the GDR period, u. a. Again, dissidents arrested. On December 31, 1962, after 187 years, the “tradition” of the castle as a penal institution ended.

From then on it housed u. a. in a later added intermediate wing on Dr.-Friedrichs-Ring a washing facility. The former stuff house and cell house served as an archive for a hard coal company and as a magazine for a wide range of companies in the city. Parts of the facility were demolished.

From the 1980s the castle fell into disrepair. In the period from 1990 to after 2000, new usage concepts and restoration projects repeatedly failed. The buildings deteriorated more and more and became the eyesore of the northeastern city center. After that, emergency safety measures had to be carried out. The cell house complex was demolished in the mid-1990s.

Present and current use
Towards the end of 2000, the Friends of Osterstein Castle was formed with the support of the city to support the rescue of the complex with a fundraising campaign from 2004 onwards. Further emergency measures from winter 2000 to summer 2001 z. B. an emergency covering of the roofs and installation of an auxiliary steel structure for the renaissance roof truss of the south wing saved the building from complete disintegration. This saved the rest of the historical structure from demolition.

The financial security of the project was finally achieved through the provision of half public federal and state funds for monument protection and half the participation of a major investor. Five years after the building permit, the foundation stone was laid on November 3, 2006 for the restoration and reconstruction of the castle. The work was carried out by construction and handicraft companies from the region, who carried out the often difficult tasks with commitment in order to convert the building complex into a social facility. Since then, the castle has offered apartments for assisted living. Later, parts of the castle, such as the originally preserved cloister vault, were to be used for gastronomy and museums (the Mauritius Schloss Schenke was opened in the cloister vault on October 8, 2016). The topping-out ceremony took place on September 9, 2007. Almost a year later on November 7th, 2008, the keys could be handed over to the operating company Senioren- und Seniorenpflegeheim non-profit GmbH Zwickau. The first residents moved in on November 11, 2008.


The Great Court Room
Thanks to the renovation of the castle, the “Great Court Room” of Osterstein Castle is one of the best preserved court rooms (also called Dürnitz) from the Renaissance in Saxony. For a long time it was only used as a utility room and was disturbed by a variety of fixtures. After the renovation, it was restored in an excellent way from the point of view of monument protection. With a floor space of around 175 m2, it is the largest room in the 16th century in Osterstein Castle that has been preserved in its original form. Written sources report that dining was served at 20 tables at the same time. The building description of the “Große Hofstube” is a stately vaulted hall with two aisles and three bays, the appearance of which is particularly characterized by the two strong Tuscan columns made of Cainsdorf sandstone.