Festung Königstein is the largest fortress in Germany. It sits on a hilltop, towering some 240 m (750 ft) above the Elbe. The fortress' history dates back to the early 13th century and it has been part of the Mark Meißen, later Saxony, since 1459. Its main purpose from then on was as a refuge for the Saxon court and art treasures in times of crisis. This role it performed masterfully, for it was never conquered. During the Seven Years’ War with Prussia and during the revolutionary events of 1848-1849, the court hightailed it here.
[ Related page: Great Castles of Germany ]
Festung Königstein also served as a prison and has associations with Johann Böttger, inventor of European porcelain, who was its most famous inmate, incarcerated here from 1706 to 1707. However, due to the presence of much of Saxony’s ammunition in the castle, Böttger was not allowed to experiment here using fire. In World War II, it served as a prison for captured senior officers, primarily French.
Possibly unknown to those prisoners of war, they shared the castle with themost highly prized museum pieces from Dresden, many of which were to detour via Russia before returning home in the mid-1950s. Among some of the more willing overnight guests here were Czar Peter I and Napoleon Bonaparte (Saxony was actually a French ally, albeit with disastrous consequences.)
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