(active 1470-1536 in Saxony)

Exterior view

Schloss Hartenfels, Torgau

Built close to the site of the 10th-century border castle and its successors, the present Schloss was begun c. 1470. The layout is in four wings (A–D) set around a courtyard resembling a right-angled triangle with an irregular third side: the apex faces the river crossing. This disposition is significant in that it marks the transition from the Burg to the Burgschloss in Germany, equivalent to the change from the château fort to the château in France, and from the keep to the great manorial house in England.

Construction started with the Albrechtsbau (southern part of wing D), a great hall with four corner towers, on which Arnold von Westfalen probably assisted. It was extended in 1482–85 by Conrad Pflüger (active 1477-1505), whose scheme included the theatre hall and the Kleine Wendelstein (a tower housing a spiral staircase), completed in 1538 and capped with a fan vault. Although the Albrechtsbau was reworked internally on several occasions, the remains of a Late Gothic ceiling with wooden beams survive at first-floor level. The Johann-Friedrich-Bau (wing C), designed by Conrad Krebs, was built in 1533–36 and closes the courtyard on the south-east side opposite the main entrance. This major work of the early German Renaissance consists of a long three-storey block in 13 bays, articulated by a succession of coupled curtain arch windows, a characteristic of the transitional period from Late Gothic to early Renaissance in Germany; a fourth storey was added c. 1820. Horizontality is further stressed by a projecting walkway that runs across the elevation at third-floor level, supported on stone brackets. This horizontality is countered at mid-point by the vertical contrast of the Grosse Wendelstein, a stair-tower that projects from the main block and rises from a simple rectangular substructure with a flight of steps on either side. The walling of the tower is reduced to its framing piers, through which the spiral may be seen, while the crowning gable follows the curvature of the plan.

The Schlosskirche wing (wing B) houses a museum (formerly living-quarters) and the chapel. Between the two, on the courtyard side, is the oriel known as the Schöne Erker (1544), attributed to Stephan Hermsdorf (active 1516–1543) and richly decorated with plant motifs and scenic reliefs. The chapel (1543–44), which owes much to the Upper Saxon hall church tradition, is by Nicholas Gromann (active 1537–1574). Thought to be the first church built specifically for Protestant worship, it was dedicated by Martin Luther in person. It is in three storeys, two of which have narrow stone galleries. Gothic detailing is everywhere evident, especially in the vaulting. The western wing (wing A) with the entrance gate was completed by Hans Steger (d. 1637) in 1623.

At the end of the Seven Years War (1756–63), Schloss Hartenfels was variously used as a prison and an orphanage. It became a barracks in 1815 and, after extensive rebuilding and restoration, government offices in 1927. It was further restored in 1952.

View the ground plan of Schloss Hartenfels.

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.