History of Bautzen

Categories: Sightseeing, Cultural and History

St. Peter's Cathedral
St. Peter's Cathedral

[ source: Wikipedia]

Bautzen (Bautzen vacation rentals | Bautzen travel guide), or Budyšin in Upper Sorbian, possesses a unique history thanks to the convergence of German and Sorbian history in eastern Saxony. Besides being the county seat, Bautzen is also the cultural and spiritual center for the Upper Sorbs, which along with the Lower Sorbs constitute the smallest Slavic people group in Europe. Located on a bluff over the Spree River approximately 40 kilometers east of Dresden (Dresden vacation rentals | Dresden travel guide), Bautzen is home to about 45,000 residents, 5-10% of which consider themselves Sorbs.

The history of Bautzen begins with its first written reference from 1002. At various times over its 1,000-year history, Bautzen fell under Polish, Bohemian, and finally Saxon rule. In the early Middle Ages, Bautzen was one of the largest cities in the central German lands, but the population growth stagnated in later centuries. Bautzen figured prominently into nineteenth century history as the site of a major Napoleonic War battle in 1813. During World War II, Bautzen again witnessed a major battle in 1945, when it became the location for the last major German panzer battle on April 26.

During the East German period, the name Bautzen became synonymous with political persecution and injustice. Most Germans linked the city with its infamous prisons. Bautzen I, nicknamed the "Gelbes Elend" ("Yellow Misery"), housed regular prisoners, but Bautzen II was a secret prison that held prisoners of conscience arrested by the Stasi, the East German secret police. In the immediate post-war period, the Bautzen prison functioned as a special prison camp for those sentenced by the Soviet occupation court. Between 1945 and 1950, at least 3,000 prisoners died here, although some estimates place the number of executions closer to 1/3 of all inmates. Today, Bautzen II is operated as a memorial to the suffering and inhuman treatment that took place within its walls.

The history of Bautzen is inextricably connected with the history of the Sorbs, which is most markedly apparent in the bilingual road signs that appear around the city. The original Sorbian settlers came to the area in the seventh century. Today approximately 60,000 people consider themselves Sorbs. Bautzen is home to numerous Sorbian cultural institutions, including the Domowina, the umbrella organization of all Sorbian societies which was founded in 1912. Besides the Domowina, the Sorbian Institute, the Sorbian Museum, the German-Sorbian Folk Theater, the Sorbian Radio and the Sorbian National Ensemble (for music, dance, and orchestra) are located in Bautzen.

Other sites of interest linked to the history of Bautzen include the Alte Wasserkunst (one of the oldest preserved waterworks in Central Europe, built in 1558), the Petersdom (eastern Germany's only interdenominational church), and the Ortenburg Castle.

[ source: wikipedia.org ]

About this Article

Rachel Hildebrandt

This travel guide has been written by Rachel Hildebrandt.

Starting with her first trip to Germany at the age of 16, Rachel has traveled, worked, and studied in Germany extensively. Although her first encounter with German culture was in Lower Saxony, since that time the focus of her subsequent work as a freelance historian and translator has shifted eastward. Building on her graduate studies in Dresden, Rachel has worked for a variety of German foundations as a historian and translator, and is currently pursuing research pertaining to the Sorbs in Lusatia (eastern Saxony).

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Location, Map, and Driving Directions

Location: Wendischer Kirchhof 7, 02625 Bautzen, Germany

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