The castle stands on a rise in the centre of Altenburg and its silhouette and striking towers dominate the town. The former fortress which was converted into a castle in the 18th century by Friedrich II and Friedrich III was the residence of the Dukes of Saxe-Altenburg. In the 12th century, the complex became an imperial palace under Emperor Barbarossa and in 1455 it was the scene of the historic kidnapping of Princes Ernst and Albrecht, known as the “Altenburg stealing of the princes”. The castle complex includes the “Corp de Logis” Baroque building and the impressive castle church with its late Gothic choir. Other major elements in the amazingly large complex are the Renaissance gallery in the small castle courtyard and at a greater distance the noblemen’s wing, the Princes’ palace, the Hausmann Tower and the Mantel Tower (“Bottle”). Some impressive rooms in the former royal residence are today used by the Castle and Playing Cards Museum.
Altenburg Palace is a multifaceted ensemble of buildings that looks back on a nearly thousand-year history. Awaiting today’s visitor is an amalgam of intriguing contrasts with a unique aesthetic appeal.
As a castle and administrative centre, the complex once served as temporary residence for kings, emperors and electors. In 1455 the castle was the scene of the legendary “Abduction of the Saxon Princes”. Later, two lines of the dukes of Sachsen-Altenburg resided here.
The palace’s present-day appearance is mainly the result of a Baroque reconstruction and expansion from 1706 to 1744. Princely apartments with historic stucco ornament, ceiling paintings and wall treatments, some of them remodelled in the 19th century, constitute a versatile ensemble. An imposing element is the Late Gothic Palace Chapel with 1739 Trost organ.
The beginnings of today’s Palace Museum and Museum of Playing Cards go back to the year 1920, with the playing card section added in 1923. Originally based on the former ducal armoury and chamber of antiquities, the collection today features various decorative arts genres, such as East Asian porcelain, along with paintings. Bernhard August von Lindenau’s (1779–1854) porcelain collection is a highlight of the exhibition. An impressive testament to the avid collecting activities of the princes is the Room of the Sibyls, built in 1734/1735, in which porcelain and other art objects are displayed.