City of the Reformation and the Renaissance
Torgau, once the preferred residence of the Electoral Princes of Saxony, has been able to retain much of the splendour of the former Saxon state metropolis over the centuries. Guests are always amazed that the large district town in the north-east of Saxony, located on the Elbe, has only 20,000 inhabitants today. The site was first mentioned in documents more than 1,000 years ago. "Torgowe" originates from the Slavic language and means "market place". Important long-distance trade routes crossed here and the Elbe river could be crossed via a ford.
Hartenfels Castle is considered the only surviving German early Renaissance castle. The "Große Wendelstein" - a staircase that leads upwards without inner pillars - is a masterpiece by master architect Konrad Krebs and still very impressive today. The art of the 16th-century stonemasons can be admired in the Lapidarium. Exhibitions in the Albrechtsbau use selected objects from the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden to demonstrate the importance of Torgau as the main and secondary residence of the Electoral Princes of Saxony in the 16th and 17th centuries. In the castle moat there is another surprise - real brown bears. The Hausmannsturm tower offers a sweeping view over the castle grounds, the roofs of the old town centre and far into the Elbe landscape and the surrounding heathland. Hartenfels was the most modern residential palace in Saxony for many years. It was the venue of splendid festivals, country residences, weddings and has been an important place for musical culture ever since the time of electoral prince Johann Friedrich. In April 1627 numerous wedding guests witnessed the world premiere of Heinrich Schütz's first German-language opera "Daphne".
On 5 October 1544 Martin Luther personally consecrated the castle church in Torgau. It is the first Protestant church building. To this day, its architecture reflects the new principles of Protestant church doctrine. The pulpit has a central position in the interior of the church, the Word of God is at the centre. Since the beginning of the 1980s, Torgau residents and guests have enjoyed the festival week of Protestant church music. These concerts featuring renowned artists convey a vibrant picture of the traditional cultivation of sophisticated church music, which is closely associated with Johann Walter, the choirmaster of the Reformation.
Important works of art can be seen in the town church of St. Marien, a late Gothic hall church. The altarpiece "Die vierzehn Nothelfer" ("The Fourteen Helpers") is an early work by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The tomb slab of Duchess Sophie von Mecklenburg was created in the Nuremberger Vischer workshop. The tombstone of the Lutheran woman reveals an impressive, strong person. Katharina von Bora died in 1552 in Torgau. There is a memorial in the house where she died, which is now 11 Katharinenstraße. Very close to the city church, in the former rectory, Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas and Bugenhagen completed the Torgau articles as the basis of the Augsburg Faith Confession. The evangelical youth education project "Wintergrüne" and the exhibition "Wurzel und Flügel" (Root and Wing) are located in this historic building.
The City and Cultural History Museum in the former Electoral Chancellery and the objects of the Torgau Museum Trail not only present valuable exhibits in the showcases, but also provide a glimpse into unique historical buildings. With its Engelstube (Angel Parlour), painted coffered ceilings and original doors, the Bürgermeister-Ringenhain-Haus provides impressive evidence of the lifestyle of wealthy Torgau citizens. It is unparalleled in Germany because of its comprehensiveness, the excellent quality of the furnishings and its paintwork. On the other hand, the historical craftsman's house, which is only four metres wide, seems tiny. It has also been professionally restored and clearly depicts the living quarters of the poor urban population. In Wolff-Giersings-Brauerbe, the Torgauer Braumuseum, you can learn more about the brewing of beer and visit one of Torgau's old cellars.
Torgau also made history in later times. The oldest toy shop in Germany has been operating here since 1685. At the beginning of the 19th century Samuel Hahnemann, the founder of homeopathy, lived and worked in Torgau. From 1811 onwards, the town was converted into a fortress at Napoleon's behest. The name "Torgau" was used worldwide, when the Allies met here on the Elbe in April 1945, before the official ceasefire.
About 20 exhibitions and museums in the city provide information on the various topics of Torgau's history.
The people of Torgau know how to celebrate with their guests. Elbe Day at the end of April, the "Auszugfest der Torgauer Geharnischten" (evacuation day of the Torgau armed forces) to commemorate the oldest German militia and Catherine's Day are just a few examples of traditional festivals.
Apart from a trip to the Düben and Dahlen Heaths, a visit to Graditz, Saxony's main horse breeding farm, just a few kilometres east of Torgau, is well worth it. The horse breeding farm was founded in 1686 and is one of the oldest horse breeding facilities in Saxony. Its baroque stud complex - where German riding horses and English thoroughbred horses are bred - and a small museum of stud history are open to the public.
Experience and enjoy history! Attractive little shops, restaurants and cafés invite you to stroll around town. Different regional specialities, such as freshly roasted coffee, Torgauer Plinsen (small pancakes), sweet bear claws, hearty cheeses, healthy dairy products, traditional Stollen (a kind of Christmas cake), fruit brandy, the "Katharinentröpfchen" or fish from the big pond can be experienced and enjoyed. Almost 90 years ago, Villeroy & Boch built its Torgau plant. Today, brand-name products can be purchased from the factory at reasonable prices.
Numerous tourist attractions make for an interesting and entertaining history experience. During guided tours, readings, music and good food and drink, the good sides of the old days can be fully enjoyed here in Torgau.