In 1846 Richard Wagner, at that time chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden, went to nearby Graupa on vacation. He spent 10 weeks in a farmhouse ("Schäfersches Gut"). Back then Graupa was a tiny, idyllic village at the foot of the hills and at the starting point to hiking trails to the region called "Saxon Switzerland". Not much has changed since then - except that Graupa has become a popular residential place, quite some family homes were built. But the village, now part of the town Pirna, has preserved its rural charm.
Anyway, Wagner was inspired by the romantic landscape and he outlined the composition of his opera LOHENGRIN there. This opera had its world premiere 28 August 1850 in Weimar under Franz Liszt (Wagner had to flee from Dresden because he had fought on the barricades of the revolution 1848/49).
In 1907 the first Wagner museum worldwide was opened in the two rooms of that farmhouse, called "Lohengrinhaus" where Wagner and his wife Minna had lived in 1846. Due to the bad shape of the house the museum had to be closed in 2005, but after a torough restoration it was reopened in 2009. To do justice to Wagner the authorities in Pirna decided to expand the museum and restored the nearby hunting lodge. In January 2013 this new museum part will open with a festival week. Christian Thielemann, Isang Enders, Robert Dean Smith, chamber orchestras and choirs will be there for talks and concerts.
The hunting lodge itself is a sight, too. It goes back to a small castle, erected in 1579. Nowadays it appears in Baroque style, dating from a reconstruction in 1755. Of course there is a pond with swans (Lohengrin!) by the lodge ... Well worth seeing is the old English style park with a 450 years old oak tree (pic 3).
My new favourite place in Pirna are the gardens that stretch over the hillside between the town and Sonnenstein. They were first created after 1764, when the Sonnenstein lost "fortress" status. Recently the gardens were reconstructed, using the (nicely restored) remains of the former city fortifications, including thick walls and remains of towers. Due to the special topography terraces with sun-loving plants/bushes/flowers were created in the central part right below the buildings, linked by stairs, while the northern and southern parts have more woods and rhododendron, and long, winding trails. Benches are everywhere, the views of the old town and the landscape are amazing.
Get a free map at the tourist information and explore on your own or join a guided tour if you want to learn more.
As mentioned in the (Former) Fortress Sonnenstein tip above, the Baroque bastions/fortifications are still there, and with a guided tour you can see the interior. When the complex was restored for the county administration's headquarters a couple of years ago, they also cleared the interior of the bastions from all the trash, made it accessible for the visitor by adding iron ladders etc. Please contact the tourist information for reservations/info.
However, there is also a nice walking trail at the foot of the bastions, half up the hill, from where you can see the walls from close distance. From the trail you can clearly see that the 19th century buildings were erected atop of the Baroque bastions. It starts 2/3 up the staircase that leads up to the plateau (behind St. Mary's church), turning left towards the river. First you walk through the woods, then you must decide if you walk the longer or shorter route (the latter recommended for the visitor with limited time). Either way, you'll see the cross that commemorates the Nazi victims and the Memorial site. A map is available at the tourist information.
The landmark of Pirna, St. Mary church aside, is the former fortress Sonnenstein, located on a hill above the town and the river. It was first mentioned in 1269, the Bishop of Meissen sold it to the Bohemian King in 1293, since 1405 it is back to Saxony.
Not much is preserved of the medieval castle, but you still can see (and visit the interior of) the Baroque fortifications/bastions/walls, built by architect Wolf Caspar von Klengel 1668 - 1704. In the middle of the 19th century the fortress was turned into a sanatorium for mentally ill people and it quickly gained an excellent reputation. New buildings were erected; the western wing, which is visible from almost anywhere in the old town, was erected from 1855 on in late classicistic style e.g. 1904-09 the wing on the riverside (pic 2+3) was reconstructed by architects Schilling & Gräbner.
Nowadays the complex is home of the county administration (Landratsamt). It is basically a public building, but the most interesting rooms (festive hall e.g.) are only accessible on guided tours, usually twice a week. You may contact the tourist information for info and reservations. Even if you don't want to join a guided tour I highly recommend to walk up there and do a stroll on the grounds. You can spot architecture details from past eras (see pic 5, Gothic detail!) and the room between and around the buildings is nicely designed as a beautiful garden with fountains, benches, flower beds.
This tip is about a very dark chapter of Pirna's history. Nonetheless it belongs to the town and the locals faced up to it.
The sanatorium Pirna-Sonnenstein, widely renowned for its humanist tradition, was opened in 1811. It was the first psychiatric institution in Germany that aimed to heal mentally ill people, not just to lock them away. The success was amazing, the sanatorium became sought after in- and outside Germany. Psychiatrists studied here. From 1855 on buildings were erected, many of them preserved (like the church e.g.)
During the Nazi era, from 1933 on, the goals of the sanatorium were changed. They gave up on healing patients, instead they just isolated them. Forced sterilization was executed. End of 1939 the sanatorium was closed.
In 1940 a - I hesitate to write the word - killing institution was established on the area, co-ordinated by the central institution in Berlin, Tiergartenstraße 4 and named after this address T4. The first transport with mentally ill people arrived June 28 1940 at Pirna-Sonnenstein, house C 16 - the begin of Euthanasia and industrial mass murder during the Nazi era in Germany.
In the fourteen months until August 1941 when the operation T4 was stopped they killed 13,720 people - ill, handicapped, elderly - in a gas chamber that was masked as shower room (right, that system was first used here in Pirna!), then burned their dead bodies in the neighbouring room and put the ash down the hill behind the building. In addition 1,031 prisoners from concentration camps Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen were transported to Pirna-Sonnenstein and killed.
After WWII and during the communist era the history of the killing centre was covered with silence. Only in 1989 a first small exhibit was held in the Evangelic-Lutheran Parish house which drew a lot of interested people. In 1991 an organization of trustees for the Sonnenstein Memorial site was founded, the original rooms were restored and since 2000 the Memorial Site is open.
The permanent exhibit is very moving. It documents the crimes, the criminals and the fate of victims. Exhibit with explanations/photos/text upstairs, former gas chamber/burning site downstairs.
The rest of the building is now used as a workshop for handicapped persons run by the Workers' Welfare Association (AWO) - a step back to the roots, the tradition of the former sanatorium.
In 2012 a cross of granite was put up on the top of slope where the ashes of the killed people were dumped (riverside behind the memorial building). See pic 5. The layer of ashes amounts to a height of a couple of meters. Unbelievable.
Entrance is free.
Mon - Fri 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
First Sat of every month 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Guided tours upon previous reservation.
The catholic church St. Kunigunde together with the vicarage and the former school house form a very nice ensemble. They were built 1865 - 69 a the place of the former moat, just outside the city wall. The buildings form a tiny square that opens to the green promenade with flowers and monuments which stretches around the old town on the southern (and western) side.
The three buildings were designed in Neo-Gothic style by architect Canzler from Dresden. The altar painting from 1868 depicts Saint Kunigunde's acceptance to convent Kaufungen. The beautiful stained glass windows depicting more Saints are from the 1920s.
This townhouse is most likely the oldest one preserved in Pirna - it dates from 1381. It was named after the famous preacher Johann Tetzel who was born here in 1465. After school in Pirna and studies in Leipzig he became a Dominican monk. He is famous for preaching redemption through generous cash donations to the Catholic church ("Ablasshandel") which was one reason for Martin Luther to write his theses.
By the fall of the wall the house was in very poor condition. However, a private investor from Baden-Württemberg who got a sense for the value of old architecture came to Pirna, saw this house and bought it. And he did not only invest a ton of money, he also wanted the house to be open to the public. The ground floor was home to two shops of which unfortunately one is only open anymore (economic reasons). The upper floor has one apartment where a family lives and some rooms that were used by a private society (cultural field) which unfortunately moved somewhere else a while ago. Thus all you can see of the interior at the moment is the room with that one shop (jeweller). On European Heritage Day the upper floor is partially accessible, too.
The most important feature within the house is the so called "Bohlenstube" from 1381 which is a room completely panelled with ornate strong wooden boards. The ceiling is similar to that of the audience room at Karlstein castle near Prague. It is very well preserved, with that age a rare example in Germany.
Very remarkable is also the roof - its wooden construction frame is (almost) completely originally preserved, as well as the old clay tile roofing in the "monk and nun" technique.
If you have a closer look at the facade you'll notice the remains of another former entrance that was closed later. Looks quite funny (pic #3).
Just behind the townsquare you may walk to the church of St.Marien with plenty of great sculptures outside.
I liked especially the entrance-gates that looked very special .
It is a pity, the church was locked and not open to the public because of restoration-works going on...
The church was built between 1502 and 1546, and the tower even dates back to 1466 and got a baroque roof in the 18th century.
The townhall of Pirna is one of the architectural highlights of the town.
It was built in the very centre of the townsquare and you may walk all around of it and will see plenty of great details like a sun-scale and lovely sculptures at many places of the facade.
The building dates back to the year 1396 and was also used as a saleshouse for some time.
Also the tower with the clock is worth to take a closer look !
Watch out for the clock on the tower,as there are lions moving a bit their feet, while the clock strikes the quaters or the full hour.
Engelserkerhaus / the house with the angel's bay-window was the building of a rich merchant and dates back to the 16th century.
The name comes from an angel-sculpture, that seems to hold the bay-window construction.
There are also nice wooden ceilings and wooden staircases inside the building and an interesting sandstone-gate with a lion on top.
This building dates back to the 13th century and was rebuilt by a famous architect named Wolf Blechschmidt in 1544. He was living inside this house untill 1563 and was one of the important architects of the church, the townhall and several private houses of Pirna.
Today this building, close to the town-square of Pirna is used as a hotel - see my hoteltip !
When you walk around the house you will see this beautifully decorated sandstone-gate in Lange Gasse.
The whole street "Lange Strasse" is full of architectureal surprises and Nr. 10 is one of them .
This building was reconstructed in baroque style in 1719 for one of the many sons of August the strong.
Inside the building you may see great wooden ceilings, but I am not sure, if this house is open to the public or privately used today.
The building on my picture is used as a bi-national boardingschool for czech and german pupils and it is just a few steps off the townsquare of Pirna.
Just click on my picture in order to see the great bay-window made of sandstone and with lovely decorations, dating back to the year 1633.
The house was built by a rich merchant and when you look at the entrance-gate you will see a really nice iron-fence in front of the windows.
Tetzelhaus in Schmiedestraße 19 is the birthplace of a Dominican monk named Johannes Tetzel (1465-1519).
He was a well-known preacher and started a custom that finally gave Martin Luther the idea to found a seperate religion.
Tetzel offered the remission of sins against monetary donations .
Sobald das Geld in Kasten klingt,
die Seele in den Himmel springt !
was one of his proverbs, saying : as soon as you throw the money into the box, your soul will jump directely into heaven...
...and it was not at all necessary to regret anything...
The old Löwenapotheke ( lion's pharmacy ) is another architectural highlight in Pirna.
You may still see its interesting gate that includes a seat at both sides - a kind of gate that you may see at many places in Saxony.
When you click on my picture, you may see as well 2 great andstone-sculptures at the arch of the gate and the golden lion , mixing herbs in the saucepan.
The building dates back to 1578 and it was once a pharmacist called Theophilus Jacobäer (1591-1659) who saved the town from beeing destroyed completely during the 30 year war.