Station: [302] From the Meissen Myth

„On the Elbe on a mountain, that was thick with trees at the time, he began building: here he created the castle that he named Meißen after the stream that ran in a northerly direction away from it.”

With these words written beneath his picture of Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg, Dietrich quotes the most important chronicler of Saxonian history during the 10th and 11th centuries. 

As you can see from the model in the showcase, Meißen castle wasn’t even built of stone at the time. Archaeological discoveries have shown that the mountain was covered with a dense development of wooden huts and wooden walkways, which were probably surrounded by a wood and earth mound.

The future Germany was still in its developmental phases at the time. And it wasn’t until the Peace of Bautzen in 1018 that the German kings and emperors could finally secure their power in the „Mark,’ or district of Meißen. 

The fragments of what is known as the Kiewer Egg in the front showcase demonstrate the transregional significance of the castle. The fragments were found during archaeological excavations in Heinrichsplatz, or Henry Square in Meißen just below the castle. Many such coloured glazed eggs were produced during the 10th and 12th centuries in what is now the Ukraine. The displayed find is proof of the extent of Meißens’ trade connections at the time. 

Little is known about the Slavs’ living conditions who settled the land, or about their coexistence with the East Franconian immigrants at the time the castle was founded.

Archaeological finds like the pieces of jewellery and ceramic receptacles on display would suggest a similar cultural niveau.

With the foundation of the Meißen diocese in 968 the resident Slavs began missionary work. This was a long drawn-out process, that more than likely influenced their daily lives, but bore no significant effect on their material culture.  

But what do we actually know about the Slavic religion and how can we understand what this missionary work was?

Thietmar of Merseburg wrote about the Slavs’ holy lakes and groves in his chronicles. The receptacles displayed in the rear showcase were sacrificial offerings used during a lake ritual and were found in a lake near Leipzig.

The reproduction of a gravestone with engraved cross, bears witness to a gradual adoption of the Christian religion. The stone covered a grave, which was furnished with a Slavic ceramic receptacle. Christian symbols have been used even though the vessel is made in traditional Slavic style.