Time-honored royal seat
Bernburg was mentioned for the first time in 961. One of the unique architectural aspects of Bernburg are the three historical city centers. The completely preserved residential castle (primarily in the Renaissance architectural style) of the dukes of Anhalt-Bernburg is the most famous site - it is also called the crown of Anhalt.
On the east bank of the Saale, the former residence castle of the princes and later dukes of Anhalt-Bernburg sits atop a sandstone cliff. In a donation deed from Otto I from 29 July 961, a “civitas brandanburg” is mentioned in a document for the first time. In 1138, the castle was stormed and burned down in a conflict between the House of Welf and the Staufen. At this time, it was the widow’s seat of Eilika Billung von Sachsen (around 1081 - 1142), the mother of Albert the Bear (around 1100 - 1170), who rebuilt the castle on the same spot. From the 12th and 13th century, the remains of the castle chapel (7) and the imposing keep (Eulenspiegelturm) (14) can be seen. During the Gothic period, the “Blauer Turm” (4), the “Alte Haus” (5), and the “Krumme Haus” were built. In the 16th century, it was expanded to become one of the most impressive Renaissance castles in central Germany. Prince Wolfgang (1492 - 1566), a very early advocate of the Reformation, had the western section of the “long house” of the Bernburg Castle erected starting in 1538. Today, the circular oriels on the western face of the long house that appear as corner towers and are often referred to as “lights” and the façade relief affixed to them remind visitors of the work of the Renaissance master builder Andreas Günther.
Master builder Nickel Hoffmann completed the “long house” of Bernburg Castle in 1570 with the “Joachim-Ernst-Bau” (12). At the end of the 17th century, Prince Victor Amadeus added Baroque constructions to the Castle - the bridge portal (2), the Viktor Amadeus building (13), and the courtyard wall (15). Other additions from this period include the the riding arena with stables, the orangery, and the St. Aegidien’s castle church. Since 1858, brown bears have been kept in the castle’s moat below the castle entranceway in a species-appropriate enclosure that was modernized in 1996. One of the Bernburg Castle’s special architectural monuments is the imposing Eulenturm (Owl Tower) from the late 12th century. The keep’s walls were three meters thick, providing a final safe place for retreat. The 22nd episode of the Eulenspiegel episode reports that the jester supposedly served the Count of Anhalt as a tower watchman. From a height of 38 meters, visitors have a sweeping view of the city of Bernburg and the idyllic Saale valley.
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St. Aegidien’s church
The castle’s church was likely erected at the same time as the collegiate church in Gernrode, making it Romanesque in origin. This can be seen in the apse and the crossing tower. However, the first christening ceremony did not take place until 1375. Characteristic for the church is the existence of various styles directly next to one other, indicating very active construction work. The Baroque style that dominates today’s church can be traced back to a renovation in 1752. As the castle church of the seat of the Anhalt-Bernburg princes, it was of great importance.
In the culturally interesting burial vault in the choir and the apse, built in 1625, lie the remains of the family members of the princes and dukes of Anhalt-Bernburg (younger line, 1603-1863). The final duchess Friederike (deceased 1902), who was a benefactress, is also buried here. The church became especially important due to its position as a regional center of Protestantism. Dean Friedrich Adolf Krummacher (1767-1845) made outstanding achievements here, as well. He was the initiator of the union between the Reformed and the Lutheran churches. His son-in-law, Wilhelm von Kügelgen (1802-1867) was the court painter and chamberlain for the last reigning duke, Alexander Carl. In his memoirs, “Jugenderrinerungen eines alten Mannes” (An Old Man’s Memories of His Youth), he became famous as a literary figure of the Biedermeier era.
Riding arena (stables) of the castle (Rathaus II)
The classicist arena and stables were built in 1756, and construction was completed in 1824/25. It was renovated from 1919 to 1921. Since the early 1990s, the building has been used by the city administration as the second city hall (Rathaus II). The building’s art déco interior is worth seeing.
Former castle orangery
The impressive façade of the previously magnificent two-story High Baroque building (constructed 1732-1734) still exists. It includes traces of the Dresden Zwinger. The façade’s elements were re-used when building the Carolinum Gymnasium’s sports facility in the same place.
In 1895, the city hall was built in the Neo-Renaissance style. A special architectural feature is the tower’s gateway, which is much older. The flower clock on the front side was installed in 1938. The interior of the city hall also has several unique aspects. One technical gem is the geographical-astronomical art clock by the nationally and internationally renowned tower clockmaker Johann Ignaz Fuchs. It shows the Bernburg time, the sidereal time, the movement of the moon, the calendar, and the time of 20 of the world’s cities. The mechanics are made up of 196 gears, gear systems, and levers. The heart of the piece is a gear that takes four years to complete one turn. Even in leap years the clock does not need to be reset. Johann Ignaz Fuchs gifted this masterpiece of clockmaking to his home of choice, Bernburg, in 1878.
Kloster der Marienknechte
This monastery, which was probably founded before 1308, lies a distance away from the Breite Straße on the former city boundary. What is especially interesting about the monastery ruins are the remains of a narrow pulpit and the tracery on some windows as well as the bases of the cross vault at the cloister. The monastery was secularized by Prince Wolfgang von Anhalt before 1530 during the Reformation era and destroyed in the Thirty Years’ War. Today, the monument is home to Anhalt University’s departments. On important ecclesiastical holidays, ecumenical and community church services are held by the city’s congregations.
The reconstructed Kurpark
The reconstructed spa gardens: From 1902 until 1939, Bernburg was a saltwater spa city - the German Solvaywerke provided “the strongest brine in Germany” for the treatments. Directly next to the prestigious Kurhaus (spa house), impressive gardens were built that unfortunately were no longer cared for after the end of the spa business. Thanks to the state initiative URBAN 21, the Bernburg district was able to restore the former beauty of the spa gardens.