Moritzburg Castle (German: Schloss Moritzburg) or Moritzburg Palace is a Baroque palace in Moritzburg, in the German state of Saxony, about 13 kilometres (8.1 mi) northwest of the Saxon capital, Dresden. The castle has four round towers and lies on a symmetrical artificial island. It is named after Duke Moritz of Saxony, who had a hunting lodge built there between 1542 and 1546. The surrounding woodlands and lakes have been a favourite hunting area of the electors and kings of Saxony.
The original castle, built from 1542–1546, was a hunting lodge for Moritz of Saxony, then Duke of Saxony. Elector John George II of Saxony had the lodge extended; the chapel was added between 1661 and 1671. Designed by his architect, Wolf Caspar von Klengel, the chapel is an example of early Baroque architecture.
The surroundings of the castle were further developed by Elector Frederick Augustus III of Saxony, a greatgrandson of Augustus II the Strong, at the end of the 18th century. The Little Pheasant Castle (Fasanenschlösschen) was built between 1770 and 1776. The grounds were extended to include a building for the storage of bird nets, the large Well of Venus, living quarters for Count Camillo Marcolini and a maritime setting on the Great Lake complete with a miniature harbour with jetty and lighthouse.
In 1728, a park was added to the castle on the adjacent land to the north. The u-shaped park has an area of approximately 230 by 150 meters. The gardens are in the French style and, because of the death of Augustus the Strong, were never completed. Johann Christian Daniel, Matthäus Daniel Pöppelmann and others were involved in their initial design and planning. The garden’s layout follows that of other European royal courts of the time.
During the 19th century, there were rare plants added and the garden was developed into a park in the romantic style.
An 8-arm, star-shaped system of alleys was cut through the Friedewald, the forest on the northern side of the property. In particular, it was designed for royal fox hunting with hounds. The ruins of the Hellhaus (“glade house”), built in 1787 and designed by Johann Daniel Schade, can be found on a raised point at the intersection of the paths. It served the court hunting parties because from here, the so-called “swan keeper” would indicate the direction of flight of the game they hunted. This was done using flags, which he would raise from the top of the building.
One alley running directly east, visually connects the castle with the Fasanenschlösschen (“Little Pheasant Castle”), 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles) away. Not far from the Fasanenschlösschen is the Well of Venus, one of the largest Baroque fountains in Saxony. It symbolizes the eastern end of a canal, which runs parallel to this corridor most of the time.
During the reconstruction phase of the palace from 1723 until 1733, the large pond surrounding the castle’s artificial island was built from what was originally four smaller ponds. The other ponds in the Friedewald date from the 16th century and have been used for carp production since then. The channels connecting the ponds allow one to “fish” the carp by draining the water.
Fasanenschlösschen – Little Pheasant Castle
Shortly after the remodelling of Moritzburg Castle as the country seat of August the Strong, a single-story pavilion was built just 2.5 kilometres (1.6 miles) away by the architect Johann Christoph Knöffel. The pavilion’s foundation was later used for the Chinese-style Little Pheasant Castle (Fasanenschlösschen) in 1770. Elector Frederick Augustus III of Saxony had the pavilion built in the middle of the gardens. Johann Daniel Schade who had been the architect in charge of the royal building projects, received the commission for the Rococo design. Construction was completed about 1776.
The shell-pink pavilion is located at the end of an alley leading to the main castle. The square building has five bays wide on each side. The high roof has an ogee profile, capped by an open cupola with a pair of Chinese figures under a parasol as a finial. Concealed behind plantings to give the pavilion an isolated ambience, were outbuildings used to breed pheasants for use in hunting.
The few rooms, including the elector’s study, are furnished with original trappings. The Rococo finishes include murals on canvas, inlaid wood paneling, painted and gilded stucco ceilings, and unique finishes crafted from materials like embroidered silk, straw, pearls and feathers. The interiors were restored between 2009 and 2013 through a collaboration between Ostdeutsche Sparkassenstiftung, Sparkasse Meißen, and World Monuments Fund.
On the front of the building, there is a double-flight stairway leading to the lake with a miniature harbour and jetty. There is also a painted brick lighthouse 21.8 metres (72 feet) high. The miniature harbour was used to stage naval battles for the monarch’s amusement. In order to re-enact the famous Battle of Chesma, the Dardanelles, a miniature wall representing the original castles at the narrow strait in northwestern Turkey, were also built. Today, the harbour is partly silted because the lake’s water level is approximately 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) lower than before.
On the garden side of the castle, a pair of staircases descend to a sunken parterre, now planted with turf.