#natureMW: A minister close to nature – Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel

In march 2018 the Museum Posterstein Castle opened a special part in its permanent exhibition. The Topic was the minister Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel (1744-1824). This remarkable man was a friend oft he Duchess Anna Dorothea of Courland (1761-1821)  and regular guest at her castles in Löbichau and Tannenfeld. With today’s subject #natureMW during the international #MuseumWeek 2018 we want to present Hans Wilhelm von Thümmels gardens.

As head of goverment Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel was one oft he most famous persons in the Altenburg part of the duchy Saxony-Gotha-Altenburg. And a minister close to nature. As a confidant of the Gotha Dukes, he represented the duchy as a diplomat in Paris, Berlin, Vienna and Denmark. He initiated the geodetic surveying of the duchy and left behind a comprehensive landscape heritage. But often it did not last.

Der Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburgische Minister Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel (Museum Burg Posterstein)
Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel, minister in the duchy Saxony, Gotha and Altenburg (Museum Burg Posterstein)

His harmony with nature can be guessed not only at his extraordinary and beautiful tomb: the 1000-year-old oak in Nöbdenitz. It can be guessed at his horticultural heritage: for example Thümmel’s private English garden with a palace in Altenburg, his manors in Nöbdenitz and Untschen, the “Polish cottage” in Münsa, or the palace garden in Altenburg.

These gardens were not only seen as places of recreation and entertainment in the countryside, but also as educational establishment: as gardens of the Enlightenment.

Das Sommer Schloss des Fürsten im Garten zu Wörlitz. Le Palais du Prince au Jardin de Wörlitz | Nagel, Johann Friedrich (Public Domain, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek).
Le Palais du Prince au Jardin de Wörlitz | Nagel, Johann Friedrich (Public Domain, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek).

Thümmel’s private English garden in Altenburg

At the beginning of the 19th century, the garden of Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel was considered as one of the most important sights of Altenburg. In its final extension, the long park ground was enclosed by a wall with seven gates. At the highest point of the site, with the best view of Altenburg, Thümmel had a villa built in 1788 in the style of Italian classicism.

The park had artificial grottoes, streams and ponds. Small pleasure houses in different styles as well as the so-called “Kachelhaus” – or “Turkish Pavilion” – were integrated into the concept. The well-known artist Adrian Zingg captured the beauty of the Thümmel garden for eternity in his pictures.

Thümmels Garten in Altenburg auf der Thümmelschen Karten von 1813, Section VIII.
Thümmel’s garden in Altenburg on the Thümmel map from 1813, section VIII.

As Thümmels legacy the garden did not last long. Several decades after his death in 1824 the garden had been greatly reduced by Thümmels heirs by selling several areas. Today, only the preserved central building of the palace reminds of its former glory.

The palace garden in Altenburg

In addition to the design of his private garden in Altenburg Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel was also involved in the transformation of the palace park Altenburg from baroque to landscaped grounds.According to reports of the Altenburger Chronicler Christian Friedrich Schadewitz (1779-1847), the chamber president Thümmel had already 1784/86 removed yew tree figures as well as the hedged. The open spaces were laid out with grass and a new orangery was placed on it. Around 1800, the first tulip trees were planted and formed the foundation for today’s English Park of Altenburg Castle.

Nöbdenitz manor – Thümmels old-age residence

Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel came into the possession of the manors Nöbdenitz and Untschen by marriage.Especially the park around the estate Nöbdenitz with its romantic hermitage met with universal approval. In 1782, Thümmel’s father-in-law and predecessor in office, Johann von Rothkirch und Trach (1710-1782), had the old Nöbdenitz castle renovated and a new mansion built, as well as a mausoleum as family grave. Thümmel chose this peaceful place as his old-age residence.

For sailing on the pond of Nöbdenitz manor

Nöbdenitz is very close to the castles Löbichau and Tannenfeld, in which the duchess Anna Dorothea of Courland invited guests to her well-known salon. But also visits by the Duchess and her guests in Nöbdenitz at Thümmels house were usual events. Here they met to sail on the large pond of the manor and took walks to the 1000-year-old oak, which Thümmel had chosen as his future grave.

Schloss und Herrenhaus Nöbdenitz - Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel legte hier einen weitläufigen englischen Garten an mit Bächlein und "Einsiedeley" (Lithografie: Museum Burg Posterstein).
Castle and manor house in Nöbdenitz – Hans Wilhelm von Thümmel had an english garden (lithografie: Museum Burg Posterstein).

The surrounding park extended east of the 1782 built “New Manor House” whose perron led down to the garden. A little brook – the “millrace” – flowed through the park. Figures or rondels had been placed at partings of the way.  From the main way three bridges led over the millrace into the landscape on the south side, which was enclosed by a wood. A hermitage had been built next to the weir at the millrace. It was a popular motif in the gardens of the Enlightenment. The hermitage was a quiet place of contemplation amidst nature, a place where one be able to communicate with oneself, nature and God. This hermitage in Nöbdenitz was also pictured by the engraver Zingg. The building itself doesn’t exist anymore.

A “Chinese bathhouse” and a “Polish cottage”

Also the redesign of Untschen manor including the establishment of a bathhouse in the Chinese style or the creation of the destination “Polish cottage” in Münsa were realized under Thümmels direction. But he was not the only one who appreciated and promoted the local garden art. The much-admired duchess Anna Dorothea of Courland, also belonged to this circle.

Der Schlossprk in Tannenfeld im Frühjahr 2018.
The english garden in Tannenfeld in spring 2018.

Tannenfeld – pleasure garden in the English style

Contemporaneous with the building of Tannenfeld Castle also the development of Tannenfeld park started under the direction of the Duchess of Courland. The new building, with a beautiful view to Posterstein Castle, was embedded in the new landscape park. At the time of Anna Dorothea of Courland Tannenfeld was about half an hour away from Löbichau.

Schloss Tannenfeld im Frühjahr 2018 (Foto: Marlene Hofmann):
Tannenfeld Castle in spring 2018 (Foto: Marlene Hofmann):

If the visitors turned from the main road between Ronneburg and Schmölln to Tannenfeld, they passed a small gatehouse and through an alley lined with Italian poplars they came to park and castle. Sandy paths led the walkers past groups of trees or shrubs and sentimental-romantic memorial stones. One stone was bearing the inscription “Peterswiese” and reminded of the 1800 deceased husband of Dorothea of ​​Courland. A narrow stream flowed through the meadow and ended in a pond. On an island in the pond there was the so-called “Hermitage”, a grotto formed of rocks.

An exhibition about Tannenfeld Castle in the summer – #SalonEuropa

From 17th June to 9th September 2018, the Museum Burg Posterstein dedicates a special exhibition to Tannenfeld Castle and its park: “#SalonEuropa – Europe in the Here and Now: Tannenfeld Castle – Inspiration and Reality”.

Four artists from Germany, France and Poland – Petra Herrmann (installation art) and Jana Borath (photography) from Thuringia/Germany, Marta Pabian (installation art) from Poland and Verok Gnos (painting) from France – continue the tradition of the salon with this artistic dialogue. In the summer of 2018 the castle and park at Tannenfeld will be entering a new era. With their Project the four Artists want to resuscitate and reference this European Idea that was so current under the care of Anna Dorothea, and through their works articulate their respective viewpoints on the European House.

By Franziska Engemann, Christiane Nienhold und Marlene Hofmann, translation: Franziska Engemann, Matthias Huberti / Museum Burg Posterstein

By high-wheel bicycle to Italy

Das über 100 Jahre alte Hochrad gehört zur Sammlung des Museums Burg Posterstein.
The more than 100 year old high-wheel bicycle is part of the collection of the museum Posterstein Castle.

We have unpacked our high-wheel bicycle for the Historical Society in  Ronneburg, which is doing research.  Maybe it is the bicycle which Hugo Barthol, head of a print shop in Ronneburg, used to travel to Italy for more than 100 years ago.

1884 Hugo Barthol from Ronneburg travelled by high-wheel bicycle to Italy – an uncomfortable and energy-sapping way of travelling. On his way he visited Straßburg,  Kehl, Freiburg, Kandern, Basel, Schaffhausen, Konstanz, Friedrichshafen, Winterthur, Zürich, Luzern, Milano, Turin and Napoli.

(Based on research of the former director of the museum in Ronneburg, Prof. Dr. H. Schmidt)

The Slawic settlement in the County of Altenburg

Since the sixth century the Slavic settlement area expanded to the rivers Elbe and Saale. In this time Slavic tribes settled in today’s County of Altenburg, too. In the following time Germanic farmers, who already had settled in the region, were absorbed by the Slavic tribes.

The Slavic tribe, which settled most in the West, was called Sorbs. Their settlement area reached from the upper river Mulde and the river Elster to the river Saale. They structured their land with the help of natural forest borders in so-called “Gaue” (districts). In the centre of a Gau there was a Gauburg, a fortress. The county of Altenburg belonged to the districts Geraha and Plisni. Close to the villages Löbichau, Nöbdenitz, Vollmershain and Thonhausen there was the border between Plisni and Geraha.

Rittergut Meuselwitz / Meuselwitz Manor (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

The place name Meuselwitz reveals the town’s Slavic origin (Picture (c) Museum Burg Posterstein)

Place names and the form of a village reveal Slavic settlement

Almost 70 percent of all place names in the County of Altenburg have Slavic roots. Typical for Slavic place names are their endings: Former Slavic endings as –ici und -ovici are preserved as –itz (e.g. Raudenitz, Sommeritz) and –witz (e.g. Meuselwitz) in today’s place names, while villages that once ended on –ovo, -ova and –ove, today end with –a and –au, as for example Lohma, Kosma and Löbichau. Slavic place names that originally had the endings –ine, -ina and –ino, end today normally on –eu. With this knowledge today’s villages’ origins can be traced back by their names. While the villages Nischwitz, Nitschka and Zschernitzsch obviously have Slavic roots, their neighbour villages Grünberg, Heyersdorf and Weißbach originally were Germanic settlements.

Also the form of a village can give a hint on its origin. While the German settlements in the region often are a kilometre long row of houses and farms, the Slavic founded villages have a rather round centre, called „Rundling“.

Excavation in boxes

A part of Posterstein castle’s permanent exhibition deals with the region’s archaeology. To the collection belong for example potsherds from the Neolithic, hand-axes and querns from the stone-age as well as different other tools. As a part of the museum’s children’s program, children can learn about archaeology and try to be archaeologists themselves in the museum. With trowel and pencil they can search for archaeological artefacts in boxes with sand. Have they found something, they identify their find with the help of the museum’s collection. Afterwards they’ll write an archaeological report on their find. The program lasts about half an hour and is dedicated to children between eight and twelve years, for example for school classes and as a part of a birthday party in the museum.

Slawische Funde (Bild: Museum Burg Posterstein)

Slavic finds (picture: Museum Burg Posterstein)

Current archaeological research in the County of Altenburg 

In spring 2012, from March 4th to April 30th, Museum Burg Posterstein will show a special exhibition on recent archaeological research in the County of Altenburg. The focus will lie on the last years’ finds and the exhibition will be made in co-operation with the Thuringian department for archaeology and preservation of monuments (Thüringischen Landesamt für Archäologie und Denkmalpflege).

(by Marlene Hofmann)

Moving from Altenburg to Altenburg

How German settlers in 19th century founded a new hometown in Missouri

A motley group of emigrants from Saxony-Altenburg, Dresden region and Hannover stranded on a rock in Mississippi river in 1839. Right beside the river the strict Lutheran settlers founded the town Wittenberg. Frequently the legendary river carried Wittenbergs houses away – that is why only the Wittenberg Boat Club and a crumbling old post office remind of the town today.

rock in Mississippi
After a long journey by ship a group of German emigrants from Altenburg County stranded at this rock in Mississippi in 1839.

The emigration was organized by different clergymen, under the leadership of reverend Martin Stephan from Pirna near Dresden. As a result of social problems after the Napoleonic Wars and tightened taxes in the countryside, parallel to first revolutionary riots, a lot of people in Altenburg region considered to try out their luck in the „new world“. In the beginning they considered Australia as a new home as well, but south from St. Louis in Missouri they were offered 10.000 acre land to a cheap price.

Wittenberg Boat Club
Wittenberg Boat Club

In Winter 1838/39 five ships with settlers from the kingdom of Saxony and the duchy of Saxony-Altenburg headed for the so called „new world“. The devotional emigrates took 900 copies of Luther’s catechism with them on board of the ships. Even during the long crossing the children were taught. All ships reached the US, except for a small boat called „Amalia“, which apparently collided with a bigger ship near France.

Altenburg, Dresden, Wittenberg, Frohna, Paitzdorf and Seelitz in the „new world“

As mentioned before, the settlers arrived in Missouri in 1839. At that time this region still was a nearly uninhabited wilderness. The newcomers probably wouldn’t have survived the first winter, if they wouldn’t have been supported by the Lutheran community in St. Louis. In today’s Perry County the German settlers founded towns, which they named after the regions and towns they came from – like Dresden, Seelitz, Johannisberg, Altenburg, Frohna, Paitzdorf and Wittenberg. Dresden, Seelitz and Johannisberg were later on suburbanized by Altenburg, Missouri. Of course the emigrants only reported the best things to their friends and families in Germany and in the following years a lot of other people from Altenburg region moved to the new founded Altenburg.

You don’t need to fear Indians, wild animals and Mexican soldiers in Altenburg

Reverend Martin Stephan lived a very little moral life in the new world, while he let himself celebrate as a king. When the community finally had realized how badly their spiritual leader had betrayed them, they dismissed him. The first president of the Missouri synod, which has two million members today, was Ferdinand Wilhelm Walter from Langenchursdorf. Gotthold Heinrich Loeber from Kahla overtook the job as reverend in the new founded Altenburg. In a letter to Germany on September 10th, 1839 he described the life in the new world, where the most people at this time did still not live in houses, but in temporary sheds. To comfort his reader he added that one did not have to fear Indians, wild animals or Mexican soldiers in Altenburg.

school building from 1839 in Altenburg Missouri
The school building from 1839 is the oldest house in Altenburg, Missouri.

As one of their first projects, the settlers built a school in august 1839 to provide grammar school education for the children: Religion, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, German, French, English, history, geography, mathematics, physics, natural history, philosophy, music and drawing were on the schedule. The goal was to prepare the pupils for later university studies. In the first year seven boys and three girls were enrolled.

Welcome to Altenburg, Missouri!

In October 2010 historians from the German Altenburg travelled to the American Altenburg to take part in an international conference named „Home is where our story begins“. Already decades before the genealogist Wilfried Piehler from Gera (Thuringia) established first contacts to Missouri. Inhabitants from Altenburg, Missouri, have already a few times visited Altenburg County in Germany. Some of them surprised the Germans by speaking German with Altenburg dialect from 19th century.

Altenburg Missouri
The American Altenburg is a gemuetlich small town with a living Christian community.

On the two-day conference local historians and genealogists from Missouri presented their research on the history of the town. German historians, as Sabine Hofmann from Lindenau Museum Altenburg, described the history of the German Altenburg. On Friday, March 18th, 7pm, Wilfried Piehler and Klaus and Sabine Hofmann will present the results of this conference at Posterstein Castle. To learn more about the history of Altenburg, Missouri, you should take a look at the book „Altenburg Missouri and the surrounding Parishes” (editor: Mary Beth Mueller Dillon, Lynhorst, Indianapolis, 2010).

(by Marlene Hofmann, also published in Ostthüringer Zeitung, March 16th 2011, http://www.otz.de/)

The muses’ place in Romschütz

(c) Museum Burg Posterstein: Romschütz
(c) Museum Burg Posterstein: Romschütz

Johann Friedrich I. Bachoff von Echt, since 1700 owner of the Romschütz manor, let construct a baroque pleasure garden in 1712. Admirers describe him as a „man of seldom supremeness of mind and heart“. He let construct an alley that lead from the castle to the so-called “Parnass”-mountain. From the richly decorated rococo hall guests could enjoy a great view over the garden with water basin all the way to the top of the hill. This hill got its name after the second highest mountain in Greece. The over 2000 meter high Parnass mountain is in the Greece mythology considered as the seat of the god Apollo and the muses – a place, where nature, culture and legend meet. In the middle of the 18th century a pavilion in Chinese style stood on the top of the hill in Romschütz.

The Romschütz manor, an earlier medieval mouted castle, was mentioned for the first time in the 13th century. The manor house dates back to the year 1712. The rests of the mouted castle were declared a listed monument in 1960. In 1972 the castle was pulled down and the stronghold lake was filled with the boulder. The economic buildings are still preserved.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

Vollmershain manor – „with writer and horseman“

Vollmershain 1965, (c) Museum Burg Posterstein
Vollmershain 1965, (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

Vollmershain manor, a former moated castle, could for the first time be documented in the 12th century. In 1580, for example, the manor was owned by Otto von Weissbach. Besides the owner “with writer and horseman” (as cited in the documents), his brother Wolf von Weissbach with “praeceptor” (tutor), his wife, five children, three maidservants and two farm labourers lived there. The manor’s owners shifted quickly during the following decades. For a long period it was owned by the landlords of the neighbouring castle Posterstein.

After fires and reconstruction works the manor today is conserved as a four sided farmyard, which is typical for the region. During DDR-time the farm was used by the LPG (East Germany’s collectivised farms). After 1990 the former owners bought the farm back.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

Text: Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

Not only Nobitz airport is struggling for its bare existence

Rittergut Nobitz, (c) Museum Burg Posterstein
Rittergut Nobitz, (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

Not only Nobitz airport (http://www.leipzig-altenburg-airport.de/) is struggling for its bare existence: Also the by far older manor Nobitz has nearly disappeared during the last 65 years.

The former moat was mentioned for the first time in the 12th century. In succession of the land reform in 1945, the owners had their manor expropriated and the land was divided.  In 1946 there still were damages through the Red Army. In 1948 the outbuildings and the new manor house were pulled down. That’s why there are so few buildings remaining today. Besides the stronghold lake with a little island, the old manor house from 1842 is still left. Today it serves as administration building for Nobitz municipality.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

(c) Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein

Poelzig manor – About a noble castle’s continuous decline

Rittergut Poelzig (c) Museum Burg Posterstein

Two thirds of the mediaeval moated castle and church, dating back to the 12th century, still were surrounded by water in 1800. At this time there still existed a four winged access yard and a castle from 1686/87. During the centuries the castle was owned by a great many of dukes, earls and even princes. In the first half of the 19th century, Poelzig was owned by the brothers Prince Ernst and Prince Albert of Sachsen-Coburg-Gotha. The latter was married to Queen Victoria of England.

Slowly disappearing

After a few fires, the access yard and a mausoleum with a half-round altar niche were re-build. In 1936 the castle’s tower was blown up and the castle’s walls except for the still existing first floor were broken off. Only three years later the manor’s owners were expropriated because of the land reform in 1945. As a consequence of that the manor house, the access yard, the barn and the brewhouse were broken off. Today only the castle’s ruin, the gate lodge, the washhouse, the bakery and the carriage house are remaining, as well as parts of the cots for horses, cattle and sheep.

View the about 60 manors of the county of Altenburg on our google map: http://tiny.cc/o27p6.

Read more about castles and manor houses in Altenburg region in the following books, which can be bought in the museum or ordered per e-mail to info@burg-posterstein.de:

Das alte Schloss sehn wir noch heut…
Aus der Geschichte der Rittergüter im Altenburger Land (Teil II)
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2010

…Und nachmittags fuhren wir nach Nöbdenitz segeln!
Rittergüter im Altenburger Land und ihre Gärten
© Museum Burg Posterstein 2007

(c) Marlene Hofmann / Museum Burg Posterstein