Last updated
Stadtkirche Saalfeld.JPG
St John's Church
Wappen Saalfeld.svg
Coat of arms
Location of Saalfeld within Saalfeld-Rudolstadt district
Saalfeld-Saale in SLF.png
Germany adm location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Thuringia location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Coordinates: 50°39′N11°22′E / 50.650°N 11.367°E / 50.650; 11.367 Coordinates: 50°39′N11°22′E / 50.650°N 11.367°E / 50.650; 11.367
Country Germany
State Thuringia
District Saalfeld-Rudolstadt
   Mayor Steffen Kania (CDU)
  Total145.56 km2 (56.20 sq mi)
235 m (771 ft)
 (2019-12-31) [1]
  Density200/km2 (520/sq mi)
Time zone UTC+01:00 (CET)
  Summer (DST) UTC+02:00 (CEST)
Postal codes
Dialling codes 03671
Vehicle registration SLF

Saalfeld (German : Saalfeld/Saale) is a town in Germany, capital of the Saalfeld-Rudolstadt district of Thuringia. It is best known internationally as the ancestral seat of the Saxe-Coburg and Gotha branch of the Saxon House of Wettin, which was renamed the House of Windsor during their British reign in 1917.



The town is situated in the valley of the Saale River north of the Thuringian Highland, 48 km (30 mi) south of the German cultural centre Weimar. Saalfeld station is currently served by Intercity-Express trains running from Berlin to Munich.

Saalfeld has 28,000 inhabitants. Together with neighbouring Rudolstadt and Bad Blankenburg, Saalfeld forms a tri-city area with a population of about 70,000.

The local mountain is the Kulm, which is 481.9 metres above sea level.


Saalfeld, Matthaus Merian, about 1650 Saalfeld-1650-Merian.jpg
Saalfeld, Matthäus Merian, about 1650

Saalfeld is one of the historic towns of Thuringia, possibly founded by the 7th century around a Thuringii (Gothic) fortress today called Hoher Schwarm or Sorbenburg (Sorbs' Castle). The area was first mentioned in an 899 deed. Kitzerstein Castle standing on an eminence above the Saale River, was said to have been originally erected by the German King Henry the Fowler, although the present-day building was not built before the 16th century. In 1012 the last Ottonian emperor Henry II ceded the former Carolingian Kaiserpfalz to Count Palatine Ezzo of Lotharingia, whose daughter Richeza bequested it to the Archbishops of Cologne.

According to the local chronicler Lambert of Hersfeld, Archbishop Anno II of Cologne in 1071 established a Benedictine abbey here, which quickly became an ecclesiastical centre in eastern Thuringia but was destroyed during the German Peasants' War in 1526. A Franciscan monastery was established about 1250, which also was dissolved during the Protestant Reformation. The Hohenstaufen emperor Frederick Barbarossa had ordered the layout of an Imperial city, parts of its medieval walls and bastions are preserved up to today. Nevertheless, the citizens in 1208 had to receive town privileges from the hands of the Counts of Schwarzburg as their feudal lords.

House of Wettin

In 1389 the town finally was acquired by Landgrave Balthasar of Thuringia, a member of the House of Wettin. Saalfeld's economy prospered from surrounding mines, transport on the Saale River as well as from fishing (expressed by the barbels in the town's coat of arms). The Wettin rulers had the Gothic Saint John hall church erected at the site of a Romanesque predecessor building until 1514. The Gothic town hall was completed in 1537. The ruling dynasty reached its height of importance, when in 1423 all Wettin lands including the Thuringian estates were incorporated into the Electorate of Saxony (Upper Saxony).

However, already in 1485 Elector Ernest of Saxony agreed on the Leipzig partition with his younger brother Duke Albert III. Ernest retained the southern Thuringian estates with Saalfeld; his grandson John Frederick I lost the electoral dignity in the 1547 Capitulation of Wittenberg ending the Schmalkaldic War, along with all his possessions outside of Thuringia. Confirmed by Emperor Maximilian II at the 1570 Diet of Speyer, John Frederick's Ernestine descendants only retained the duchies of Saxe-Weimar and (from 1572) Saxe-Coburg-Eisenach. Upon the death of Duke Frederick William I of Saxe-Weimar in 1602, Saalfeld passed to the newly established Duchy of Saxe-Altenburg, from 1673 Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg.


Saalfeld Castle Schloss saalfeld schlossgartenansicht.jpg
Saalfeld Castle

After several blazes in the early 16th century, Saalfeld had been rebuilt in a lavish Renaissance style. In 1675 Duke Albert V of Saxe-Coburg upon his accession chose the town as his residence and from 1677 onwards had Saalfeld Castle erected on the site of the destroyed Benedictine abbey, which in 1680 fell to his younger brother John Ernest IV. After Albert's death in 1699, John Ernest also claimed Saxe-Coburg and called himself a duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld.

The Castle, which has been renovated and is today the town administrative building, was home to four generations of the Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld branch. Until 1825, Saalfeld remained one of two capitals of the duchy, together with Coburg, its Franconian sister town to the south. The 4th Duke Ernest Frederick (1724–1800) was the last to be born in Saalfeld; in 1764, he moved the capital from Saalfeld to Coburg, where in 1805 his son and heir Duke Francis (1750–1806) would buy Rosenau Castle as his residence.

Francis' children were linked to many of Europe's royal families: His daughter Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1786–1861) by her marriage with Prince Edward became the mother of Queen Victoria. Her brother Duke Ernest III of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1784–1844) was the father of Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Consort Albert. This line continues unbroken from Queen Victoria through to Queen Elizabeth II today. At about the same period, their brother Duke Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1790–1865) became the ancestor of the royal House of Belgium in 1831, while their sister Princess Juliane of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld (1781–1860) married Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich of Russia. Other descendants of Duke Francis include Wilhelm II, German Emperor, Alexandra, Empress consort of Russia, Victoria, Queen consort of Spain, Ferdinand II, King consort of Portugal, Carlota, Empress consort of Mexico, Ferdinand I, King of Bulgaria, Sofía, Queen consort of Spain, Princess of Greece and Denmark, Maud, Queen consort of Norway, and Marie, Queen consort of Romania.

During the time of Duke Ernest III in 1826, the neighbouring ducal line of Saxe-Gotha and Altenburg became extinct. Ernest received the former Saxe-Gotha but in exchange had to give up Saalfeld in favour of his Ernestine cousin Duke Bernhard II of Saxe-Meiningen.

Modern times

On 10 October 1806 a united Prussian and Saxon contingent met with a corps of the French Grande Armée under Marshall Jean Lannes at the Battle of Saalfeld, whereby Prince Louis Ferdinand of Prussia was killed. The opening of the Leipzig-Probstzella railway further boosted the town's development. After World War I and the German Revolution of 1918–1919, Saalfeld became part of the newly established Free State of Thuringia. As a railway junction and garrison town of the Wehrmacht armed forces from 1936, it was strongly affected by strategic bombing during World War II.

Upon the post-war division of Germany, Saalfeld was an Inner-German border station on the Saal Railway—one of two routes that could be taken by trains between Leipzig/Halle and Nuremberg. As a border station its steam locomotive shed assumed extra importance as Saalfeld essentially became the southern terminus of DDR train services. Due to the continued use of steam locomotives in East Germany after the end of steam working in West Germany, the area became a mecca for railway enthusiasts for some years. However, despite being very close to the Inner German border to the south, it was only accessible by a very roundabout route.

In July 2018 the former municipalities of Saalfelder Höhe and Wittgendorf were merged into Saalfeld. The former municipalities Reichmannsdorf and Schmiedefeld were merged into Saalfeld in January 2019.


Traditionally, Saalfeld was known for its silver mines. Today, Saalfeld has a number of prosperous industries, including the manufacture of machinery, bricks, paint, malt, cigars, hosiery, chocolate and vinegar. Other industries are brewing, printing and iron-founding, and there are ochre and iron mines in the area.

Tourism and recreation-related activities make up a significant part of the local economy. [2] Saalfeld is located in the mountainous forests of Thuringia, a province well known for its winter sports, supplying half of the gold medals for overall medal table winner Germany in the 2006 and 2010 Winter Olympics. [3]

Saalfeld is a popular base for hikers taking on the mountainous 168 km Rennsteig ridge, Germany's legendary hiking trail and other nearby outdoor options including hiking, skiing, fishing, hunting, rock climbing, sailing and many other sports. [4]

Twin towns – sister cities

Saalfeld is twinned with: [5]

Notable people

Johann Kirnberger Johann Philipp Kirnberger.jpg
Johann Kirnberger

See also

Related Research Articles

Saxe-Coburg and Gotha Collective name for the duchies of Saxe-Coburg and Saxe-Gotha in Germany

Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, or Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, was an Ernestine, Thuringian duchy ruled by a branch of the House of Wettin, consisting of territories in the present-day states of Thuringia and Bavaria in Germany. It lasted from 1826 to 1918. In November 1918, Charles Edward, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was forced to abdicate. In 1920, the northern part of the duchy was merged with six other Thuringian free states to form the state of Thuringia: Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Saxe-Altenburg and Saxe-Meiningen, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, as well as the People's State of Reuss. The southern part of the duchy, as southernmost of the Thuringian states, was the only one which, after a referendum, became part of Bavaria.

House of Wettin German noble and royal family

The House of Wettin is a dynasty of German counts, dukes, prince-electors and kings that once ruled territories in the present-day German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The dynasty is one of the oldest in Europe, and its origins can be traced back to the town of Wettin, Saxony-Anhalt. The Wettins gradually rose to power within the Holy Roman Empire. Members of the family became the rulers of several medieval states, starting with the Saxon Eastern March in 1030. Other states they gained were Meissen in 1089, Thuringia in 1263, and Saxony in 1423. These areas cover large parts of Central Germany as a cultural area of Germany.

Saxe-Altenburg German duchy

Saxe-Altenburg was one of the Saxon duchies held by the Ernestine branch of the House of Wettin in present-day Thuringia. It was one of the smallest of the German states with an area of 1323 square kilometers and a population of 207,000 (1905) of whom about one fifth resided in the capital, Altenburg. The territory of the duchy consisted of two non-contiguous territories separated by land belonging to the Principality of Reuss. Its economy was based on agriculture, forestry, and small industry. The state had a constitutional monarchical form of government with a parliament composed of thirty members chosen by male taxpayers over 25 years of age.

Saxe-Meiningen Saxon duchy held by the Ernestine line of the Wettin dynasty in Thuringia, Germany

Saxe-Meiningen was one of the Saxon duchies held by the Ernestine line of the Wettin dynasty, located in the southwest of the present-day German state of Thuringia.


Saxe-Coburg was a duchy held by the Ernestine branch of the Wettin dynasty in today's Bavaria, Germany.


Saxe-Gotha was one of the Saxon duchies held by the Ernestine branch of the Wettin dynasty in the former Landgraviate of Thuringia. The ducal residence was erected at Gotha.

Coburg Place in Bavaria, Germany

Coburg is a town located on the Itz river in the Upper Franconia region of Bavaria, Germany. Long part of one of the Thuringian states of the Wettin line, it joined Bavaria by popular vote only in 1920. Until the revolution of 1918, it was one of the capitals of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Through successful dynastic policies, the ruling princely family married into several of the royal families of Europe, most notably in the person of Prince Albert, who married Queen Victoria in 1840. As a result of these close links with the royal houses of Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Coburg was frequently visited by the crowned heads of Europe and their families.

House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha German dynasty

The House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha is a German dynasty. It takes its name from its oldest domain, the Ernestine duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, but its members later sat the thrones of the United Kingdom, Belgium, Portugal, and Bulgaria.


Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld was one of the Saxon Duchies held by the Ernestine line of the Wettin Dynasty. Established in 1699, the Saxe-Coburg-Saalfield line lasted until the reshuffle of the Ernestine territories that occurred following the extinction of the Saxe-Gotha line in 1825, in which the Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld line received Gotha, but lost Saalfeld to Saxe-Meiningen.

Saxe-Weimar Former duchy in Thuringia, Germany

Saxe-Weimar was one of the Saxon duchies held by the Ernestine branch of the Wettin dynasty in present-day Thuringia. The chief town and capital was Weimar. The Weimar branch was the most genealogically senior extant branch of the House of Wettin.


Saxe-Eisenach was an Ernestine duchy ruled by the Saxon House of Wettin. The state intermittently existed at three different times in the Thuringian region of the Holy Roman Empire. The chief town and capital of all three duchies was Eisenach.

Ernestine duchies A set of related states in Germany

The Ernestine duchies, also known as the Saxon duchies, were a changing number of small states that were largely located in the present-day German state of Thuringia and governed by dukes of the Ernestine line of the House of Wettin.


Reinhardsbrunn in Friedrichroda near Gotha, in the German state of Thuringia, is the site of a formerly prominent Benedictine abbey, the house monastery of the Ludovingian Landgraves of Thuringia abbey extant between 1085 and 1525. Later used as an administrative seat by the Ernestine dukes of Saxony, the premises were turned into a castle and park erected by the Dukes of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha from 1827.


Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg was a duchy ruled by the Ernestine branch of the House of Wettin in today's Thuringia, Germany. The extinction of the line in 1825 led to a major re-organisation of the Thuringian states.

Treaty of Leipzig

The Treaty of Leipzig or Partition of Leipzig was signed on 11 November 1485 between Elector Ernest of Saxony and his younger brother Albert III, the sons of Elector Frederick II of Saxony from the House of Wettin. The agreement perpetuated the division of the Wettin lands into a Saxon and a Thuringian part, which in the long run obstructed the further development of a Central German hegemonic power in favour of Brandenburg-Prussia.

Johann Wilhelm, Duke of Saxe-Weimar Duke of Saxony

Johann Wilhelm was a duke of Saxe-Weimar.

John Frederick II, Duke of Saxony Duke of Saxony

John Frederick II of Saxony, was Duke of Saxony (1554–1566).

Coat of arms of Saxony Coat of arms of the German state of Saxony

The coat of arms of the present-day German free state of Saxony shows a tenfold horizontally-partitioned field of black (sable) and gold/yellow (or) stripes, charged with a green (vert) crancelin running from the viewer's top-left to bottom-right. Although the crancelin is sometimes shown bent (embowed) like a crown, this is due to artistic license. The coat of arms is also displayed on the state flag of Saxony.

Coat of arms of Thuringia Coat of arms of the German state of Thuringia

The coat of arms German state Thuringia was introduced in 1990. Like the 1949 coat of arms of Hesse it is based on the Ludovingian lion barry, also known as the "lion of Hesse", with the addition of eight mullets.

Thuringian states Several federal states within the German Reich

The Thuringian states refers to the following German federal states within the German Reich:


  1. "Bevölkerung der Gemeinden, erfüllenden Gemeinden und Verwaltungsgemeinschaften in Thüringen Gebietsstand: 31.12.2019". Thüringer Landesamt für Statistik (in German). August 2020.
  2. "Partnerstädte". (in German). Saalfeld/Saale. Retrieved 2021-03-17.