The saint and the Protestant. Duke Christian of Saxony-Weißenfels in Querfurt
21 May to 10 September 2017
Querfurt was once the centre of the entire region – as an imperial palace, home of an aristocratic family and county town. The roots of local customs reach back around a thousand years.
Bruno was born in Castle Querfurt around the year 975. Following theological studies in Magdeburg, he became imperial chaplain under Otto III and was consecrated as a missionary bishop a year later. Bruno travelled on missions to territories within the modern countries Hungary, Rumania, Poland, the Ukraine and Lithuania. The first traces of Roman-Catholic Christianity in these regions are directly connected with his person. In 1009, Bruno was killed by the Prussians in the north of Poland.
Many sites in Querfurt had and still have connections with Bruno: for example the “hoof prints” of his donkey on the gravel path leading to the castle gateway were long a great attraction. Many streets and buildings were named after him (Brunskapellen, Br(a)unsmühle, Br(a)unsgasse and Br(a)unsberg: all these no longer exist, but others still remain in existence today:
If you are looking for a perfect memory of your visit, what could be more appropriate than a donkey bearing a rider? Only the potters in Querfurt were permitted to produce these articles. The traditional equestrian figures were purchased as pious souvenirs, toys and collectors’ items. Now they are more objects to be viewed in museums, but can still be purchased at the castle!
Bruno was a popular local saint and was venerated as a Catholic saint in medieval times. This practice was discontinued during the Reformation – but has persevered in Querfurt up to the present day. A number of Protestant clergy have not been too happy about the practice, but in principle all can live with it.
Since 1712, Duke Christian (1682 – 1736) had ruled over the small Querfurt district which had in the meantime been elevated to the rank of an imperial principality. He was a member of one of the most significant Protestant royal dynasties: the house of Wettin. In 1697 however, Elector August the Strong converted to Catholicism! Christian was therefore ultimately the only legitimate preserver of Protestant Saxony as the appointed director of all Protestant imperial states.
In May 1712, Christian inspected the Querfurt castle church during its ongoing reconstruction work and gave his approval for the completion of the alterations. Querfurt was his second large-scale project alongside the Trinity church in Sangerhausen. As a prelude to the anniversary year 1717, the duke ordered the festive consecration of the new castle church to be held on Reformation Day 1716. This clear signal directed at Dresden was simultaneously an acknowledgement of his sovereign ancestors in the district of Querfurt. The prince had inscriptions manufactured bearing an invitation to pray and underlined his efforts as a benefactor. What is remarkable is that Christian left the objects related to St Bruno in the church untouched.
Not far from Castle Querfurt, a burial ground dating from the late 3rd millennium BC was discovered in 1991. The graves contained burial objects for the dead for their travels into the underworld.
This type of burial is exhibited in the museum. The exhibition includes additional burial objects from later periods, among them a vessel decorated with a cross pattern dating from the 4th to 6th century AD. Is this mere decoration, or could it be early evidence of Christian influences?