Saxon Regions and Local Churches
What is typically Saxon? Each region in Saxony has its attractions and special traditions, some of which are world famous. The regions are also affected by their churches, which portray an image of local spiritual life.
Lutheran Sorbs have their home in the local churches in Upper Lusatia. This Slavic ethnic group speaks its own language and still observes customs going back a long time. The original tribe of the Sorbs was conquered in the 10th century and first mentioned in official documents as “Civitas Budusin” in 1002.
1,000 years later, Bautzen is still the capital of the Sorbs and their political and cultural centre.
The Moravian daily texts and the Advent stars have made the small town of Herrnhut near Zittau famous far beyond Saxony.
A “daily text” for the next day was sent to the 32 houses in Herrnhut for the first time on 3 May 1728.
The Herrnhut star (with 25 sharp points) was created at an educational centre run by the Moravian Church during the first half of the 19th century. More than 240,000 original Herrnhut stars are hand-crafted with various paper and plastic designs every year.
Saxon Switzerland is a popular holiday destination for nature lovers, hikers, climbing fans, cyclist and tourists interested in culture. The picturesque countryside with its impressive sandstone rocks, gorges and climbing routes is well-known beyond the borders of Saxony.
Some churches here are famous too. They include St Mary’s Church in Pirna, the town church in Hohnstein or the church in Lohmen. Cyclists can relax at the cyclists’ path church in Wehlen. The churches in Saxon Switzerland provide concerts and guided tours for local people and tourists every year in summer. About 23,000 Lutheran Christians live in Saxon Switzerland.
The Elbe valley and the region around Radebeul and Meissen are famous for their vineyard slopes in beautiful river surroundings. This is Germany’s most northerly wine-growing region. You can find one of the oldest churches in Saxony in Meissen. The cathedral ther and the St Afra monastery courtyard preserve church history going back centuries. Visitors today can still enjoy it. The cathedral in Meissen is the regional bishop’s preaching base and the St Afra monastery courtyard is home to the Evangelical Academy and other organisations in the regional church.
The first local churches were founded as early as the 12th century, shortly after this hilly area was first settled. This region became very important through its deposits of ore and silver.
Saxony has been dominated by the church renewed by Martin Luther since the 16th century. After Wittenberg, Zwickau was the second city where the Reformation was introduced. Dr Martin Luther spoke in the cathedral there on 30 April 1522 and preached a sermon from the balcony of the town hall one day later to 14,000 people who came to Zwickau from the surrounding hills.
Many churches in the Ore Mountains region were affected by the revival movement in the 19th century. They enrich the regional church with their particular spirituality and regional customs to this day.
Their craftsmanship is famous far beyond the borders of this region – particularly the Erzgebirge wooden figures from Seiffen – pyramids, nut crackers, illuminated arches, smoking men and angel figures – and they decorate homes during Advent and Christmas and provide a special attraction to living rooms.
The large mining parade during Advent in the old town of Annaberg-Buchholz is a special event. More than 1,300 people wearing traditional dress and miners’ musicians from all the German mining regions and abroad present mining customs in their most attractive form.
Castles and heathland region
The rural area in the castles and heathland region is dominated by small villages with a long-standing tradition. The Emmaus Church in Heuersdorf had to make way for open-cast mining in 2007 and was “transported” to Borna 12 kilometres away as a church on wheels. This event demonstrated the processes of change in the churches and the search for new directions.
The Luther pathway has recently been opened to take hikers and tourists to the Reformation sites in this region.
The Vogtland region enjoys enormous cultural diversity: the spa towns of Bad Brambach and Bad Elster dominate the upper Elster valley, while Musicon Valley around Markneukirchen can look back on a rich tradition of musical instrument making. The two towers of the Jakobi Church in Oelsnitz welcome visitors and it was the base for the Oelsnitz superintendent for a long time.
The churches in Plauen reflect the town’s history: St John’s Church is viewed as the oldest; it was founded in 1122 when the town was first established. The Luther Church was moved as a cemetery church on the 400th anniversary of the Reformation and is now located in the Luther Park opposite the town hall, while the buildings for the Mark-Paul Church recall the period of emerging industrialisation and growth in the town.
St Michael’s Church, which was built in the early 1990s, welcomes people in the concrete block jungle dating back to East German times and symbolises God’s hands of blessing.
The Lutheran Reformation had an impact on the Vogtland region very early; the superintendent’s office in Plauen, which was established in 1529, is regarded as the oldest in Saxony. This was both due to being part of the Ernestin/Saxon Electorate and the open attitude of the important base of the Teutonic Order in Plauen.
The treasures in the churches and testimonies of spiritual life and the varied church life, which combines spirituality and traditions, are deeply rooted and still provide a colourful picture.
The large Vogtland bridges, the Göltzsch Valley and Elster Valley Bridges, represent the links between the Vogtland region and areas beyond its borders.
Chemnitz is an industrial city located on the edge of the Erzgebirge hills. Most of the churches in Chemnitz were built in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the city’s population grew rapidly through industrialisation. However, sacred buildings were also built much earlier near the stream with the Sorbian name “Chemnitz” (meaning “stone stream”).
For example, a Benedictine monastery was founded in 1136 and the Castle Church now stands on its site on the hill overlooking the city. It contains a particularly impressive item: the figure depicting the flagellation of Christ, which is more than four metres high, dates back to the year 1515 and was probably carved by Hans Witten.
It is worth visiting the St. Jakobi town church in the city centre. The building, which stems from a previous Romanesque structure, was badly destroyed in the Second World War and was not completely rebuilt until 2009. Gothic architecture reaching upwards dominates the structure inside. A tracery frieze in the choir area looks like a colourful wall covering made of stone.
The Saxon state capital of Dresden is situated on the river Elbe and is famous for its Baroque inner-city skyline. Churches play a role here too: the tower of the Cross Church in Dresden and, since it was reconstructed in 2005, the unmistakeable dome of the Church of our Lady (Frauenkirche) too.
History seems to have been set in stone in all the Dresden churches. After ancient village churches in Wilschdorf, Leubnitz-Neuostra, Kaditz or St Anne’s Church as the first Lutheran new building in Dresden, the last century in particular created highlights that are worth seeing. The Christ Church in Dresden-Strehlen with its two towers that are 66 metres high is regarded as the first modern church in Germany after overcoming historicism. The church centre in Dresden-Prohlis looks like a tent. It was built in the early 1980s as the first church for a new concrete block complex in former East Germany.
Enthusiasts had already rebuilt testimonies to local church and cultural history at the church in Loschwitz and the Vineyard Church in Pillnitz, even before the Frauenkirche. Dresden’s inland waterway boatmen’s chapel called “Mary by the Water” is located between churches. Following the floods on the river Elbe in 2002 and 2013, it is once again a magnificent setting for many romantic couples who pledge to spend their lives together before God and people here.
Four buildings in Dresden, the Frauenkirche, the Cross Church, the Deaconesses’ Centre and the church in Hosterwitz, belong to the global network of the Community of the Cross of Nails. However different they are, they are united by seeking to heal the wounds of history in their daily work and create a culture of peace.
Leipzig is a rapidly developing city, which stands for a cosmopolitan and liberal lifestyle as a university and trade fair town. The churches in Leipzig connect the past and the present. They bear witness to the city’s eventful architectural, historical and cultural past and its Christian settlement and cultural history going back about 1,000 years. And they are still buildings for people who are looking for spirituality, prayer and tranquility, music, discussions or education.
Johann Sebastian Bach and the St Thomas Choir are inseparably linked to the musical city of Leipzig. They make the St Thomas Church in the city centre a major attraction for music lovers and Bach enthusiasts from all over the world. St Thomas Choir regularly sings motets on Fridays at 6 p.m. and on Saturdays at 3 p.m.
St Nicholas Church was a key starting point for the peaceful revolution in former East Germany in the autumn of 1989. St Nicholas Church with seats for 1,700 people is the largest church in Leipzig. Its Ladegast organ is the largest in Saxony. The peace prayer meetings on Mondays have been a tradition at St Nicholas Church since September 1982.
St Peter’s Church, which was built in the French cathedral Gothic style, is one of the most important sacred buildings dating back to the 19th century and is located in the south of Leipzig. The church dominates the skyline with its church tower that rises 88 metres into the sky. People are invited to attend the “organ at precisely midday” concerts every Thursday at 12 o’clock.
Churches with very different styles and designs have been built in the Leipzig area down through the centuries. A small Romanesque natural stone church can be found very close to the Neo-Romanesque and Neo-Gothic buildings from the 19th century or a church with many Baroque features, for example.
With about 70,000 members in 44 parishes and 79 churches and 22 cemetery chapels, the church district in Leipzig is one of the largest in the Regional Church of Saxony. The people, who make up the church in Leipzig, are found in the local churches. They are making a major contribution to the community through a wide variety of local projects and cooperation schemes in their city district.
Leipzig local churches are a living and indispensable part of the life of the city and cater for all generations and situations in life – children, young people, older people, education, counselling and care.