Everyday life and history of the medieval castle Landsberg

Landsberg Castle

Double chapel of the medieval Landsberg Castle with excavated corner of the building (below) and walls of the earlier castle. © Donat Wehner/ Saxony-Anhalt State Office for the Preservation of Monuments and Archeology

On a hilltop above the town of Landsberg in the Saale district, a medieval double chapel towers over the remains of a hilltop castle. Recent excavations have unearthed more than 500 finds from these ruins, including coins, crockery and dice, which provide insight into the everyday life of the castle's former inhabitants. The archaeologists have also discovered the remains of an even older predecessor from the late Carolinian to Ottonian period.

The double chapel of St. Crucis near Landsberg in Saxony-Anhalt is a landmark that can be seen from afar - and a magnificent relic of medieval architecture. This chapel, built in the times of the Staufers, is today the only evidence of a significant hilltop castle from the High and Late Middle Ages that is visible above ground. This Landsberg Castle was built in the 12th century by Dietrich, one of the three sons of Margrave Konrad the Great of Meissen from the Wettin family.

Client close to Emperor Barbarossa

According to historical records, Margrave Dietrich belonged to the close circle of Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa and had also taken part in the Italian campaign with him. This also fits in with the fact that double chapels were mainly built by the Staufen emperors and their entourage at that time. The magnificent architecture and building ornaments of the church building, completed around 1182, also suggest that the hilltop castle built under the aegis of Dietrich was similarly complex. But there are no above-ground remains of the buildings of this castle today.

That is why archaeologists from the Saxony-Anhalt State Office for Monument Preservation and Archeology and the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg have been conducting excavations on the castle hill since 2021. The focus is on the underground remains of the medieval hilltop castle and possible predecessors. Despite the relatively small investigation area, the current findings confirm the former importance of the castle. The archaeologists discovered, among other things, remains of walls that were partly plastered and decorated with scratched joints. Fragments of stove tiles show that the castle once had heated living quarters - a luxury reserved for wealthy and high-ranking personalities in the Middle Ages.

Everyday castle life and first indications of a predecessor system

Above the remains of the wall, the archaeologists found what is known as a leveling layer – a layer of rubble, rubble and objects that must have been created when the castle was destroyed. In it they discovered rich finds from the 12th to 15th centuries. A total of around 500 finds - including various cooking utensils, drinking vessels and storage containers as well as coins and dice - give an insight into the everyday life of the inhabitants of this medieval castle. At the same time, the age of the leveling layer also reveals that Landsberg Castle was not destroyed in the early modern period, as previously assumed. Instead, the destruction apparently took place in the Middle Ages, as the archaeologists report.

Also interesting: Below the castle ruins from the Staufer period, the team discovered relics of an even older predecessor from the 9th to 11th centuries. According to the archaeologists, the cultural layers from this period make it probable that the core of one of the most extensive fortifications in Saxony-Anhalt from the late Carolingian to Ottonian period lay on the Kapellenberg. The researchers hope that further, more extensive excavations will provide an even better picture of this complex, but also of the hilltop castle with its double chapel.

Source: State Office for Monument Preservation and Archeology Saxony-Anhalt - State Museum for Prehistory

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