The Moritzburg is a fortified castle in Halle (Saale), Germany. The cornerstone of what would later become the residence of the Archbishops of Magdeburg was laid in 1484; the castle was built in the style of the Early Renaissance.
Since the end of the 19th century it has housed an arts museum which is recognised as being of national importance.
The history of the Moritzburg is closely connected to that of Halle. In 968, when the Archbishopric of Magdeburg was established by Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, he granted the archbishop his Giebichenstein Castle near Halle. Already in the 13th century powerful aristocrats could, by buying privileges, reduce the influence of the sovereign, the Archbishop of Magdeburg, on the town. Thus, Halle had practically reached a state of political autonomy in 1263. The same happened with Magdeburg and when the archbishops finally left Magdeburg, after a series of conflicts with the ever more powerful city council, Giebichenstein Castle became their principal residence in 1382.
In the 15th century a group of the important guilds formed an opposition and demanded representation in the city council, which was until then dominated by the urban aristocrats. In 1479, the opposition conspired with the sovereign and opened the gates of the city for the Archbishop’s troops. After sparse resistance, Archbishop Ernest II. of Saxony, who was only 14 years of age at the time, moved into the town. As a consequence, the town lost its earlier gained freedoms and it was determined ein festes Schloss zu erbauen, um die Stadt besser in Gehorsam, Unterwürfigkeit und Ruhe zu erhalten: to build a castle in order to gain better control over the town and keep it obedient and quiet.
Construction began promptly with first surveying in April 1479. The search for an adequate location, however, proved difficult due to poor soil conditions. A location was finally found, incorporating the city wall, on the site of the former Jewish settlement northwest of the city.
The Moritzburg still exhibits signs of the late Gothic period; but the almost regular layout, the consistent floor levels and the representative impression of the horizontally emphasized facades show that the castle already belongs to the Renaissance period. The Moritzburg combines the concepts of a fortress with that of a castle, unifying the residence and the defence aspects of the complex.
In the beginning, the construction was supervised by Peter Hanschke of East Prussia. Starting from 1533, Andreas Günther, general master builder of the dioceses of Mainz and Magdeburg then created the fortress walls and probably also the round bastions on the east side. The design of the Magdalenenkapelle (Mary-Magdalene Chapel) is attributed to Ulrich von Smedeberg.
On May 25, 1503, Archbishop Ernest could move into the imposing castle. His arx insuperabilis (invincible fortress) was financed mainly from the salines of Halle’s aristocrats, which had been confiscated in 1479. Total construction cost was announced to be 150,000 Guilders.
In the Thirty Years’ War both the city of Halle and the Moritzburg time and again attracted troops. In October 1625 Wallenstein occupied town and fortress. After the defeat at Breitenfeld, the Count of Tilly moved, pursued by the Swedes, to the Moritzburg as a first retreat. In September 1631 the Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus appeared before Halle and could peacefully occupy it for a longer period. Following the Peace of Prague in 1635 the Emperor acknowledged the Duke of Saxony-Weißenfels as the new Administrator.
On January 6, 1637, under siege by the Swedes, a fire broke out in the castle. All the upper floors of the west and north side as well as the chapel were destroyed, forcing the inhabitants to surrender. On March 19, 1639 Saxon troops blasted the south-western bastion, in turn forcing the -now Swedish- inhabitants to give up, which happened three days later. August, son of the Saxon Prince-elector John George as subsequently appointed the new Administrator. He insisted on vacating the castle of troops to reduce its strategic attraction. A neutrality contract between August and the Swedes kept halle free from the Thirty Years’ War from then on. The Moritzburg was not rebuilt, only the chapel was partly reconstructed as to be used for worship again.
In World War II the deep vaults of the complex served as an air-raid shelter for the Halle citizens and the Gauleitung (Gau administration) of the NSDAP. The cellar was also used to store valuable portals and pieces of the castle architecture.
The upper rooms of the West wing were restored between 1951 and 1954. The lower floor of the same housed a restaurant and a small theater since 1964-67. The North-east bastion became a Student Club in 1972. From the 1990s the castle underwent major reconstructions, which were completed in 2008. The architects of the reconstruction, in which the ruined western part of the castle received a modern roof and interior, were Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano.