Meissen (in German orthography: Meißen; Sorbian: Mišno; Misena, Misnia, Misnensium) is a town of approximately 30,000 near Dresden on both banks of the Elbe in the Free State of Saxony, in eastern Germany. Meissen is the home of Meissen porcelain, the Albrechtsburg castle, the Gothic Meissen Cathedral and the Meissen Frauenkirche.
Meissen is sometimes known as the "cradle of Saxony". The city grew out of the early Slavic settlement of Misni and was founded as a German town by King Henry the Fowler in 929. In 968, the Diocese of Meissen was founded, and Meissen became the episcopal see of a bishop. The Catholic bishopric was suppressed in 1581 after the diocese accepted the Protestant Reformation (1559), but re-created in 1921 with its seat first at Bautzen and now in Dresden.
The Margraviate of Meissen was founded in 968 as well, with the city as the capital of the Margraves of Meissen. A market town by 1000, Meissen passed to Poland in 1018 by Boleslaw I, to hands of Conrad II in 1032 and the House of Wettin in 1089. The city was at the forefront of the Ostsiedlung, or German colonization of the Slavic lands east of the Elbe, and its reception of city rights dates to 1332.
The construction of the Meissen Cathedral was started in 1260 on the same hill as the Albrechtsburg castle. The resulting lack of space led to the cathedral being one of the smallest cathedrals in Europe. The cathedral is also known as being one of the most pure examples of Gothic architecture.
Meissen is famous for the manufacture of porcelain, based on extensive local deposits of china clay (kaolin) and potter's clay (potter's earth). Meissen porcelain was the first high quality porcelain to be produced outside of China.
The first European porcelain was manufactured in Meissen in 1710, when the Royal Porcelain Factory was opened in the Albrechtsburg. In 1861, it was moved to the Triebisch valley of Meissen, where the Meissen porcelain factory can still be found today.
The Albrechtsburg, the former residence of the House of Wettin, is regarded as being the first castle to be used as a royal residence in the German-speaking world. Built between 1472 and 1525, it is a fine example of late Gothic style. It was redecorated in the 19th century with a range of murals depicting Saxon history. Today the castle is a museum which is just as popular with visitors as the cathedral, whose architecture is Gothic and whose chapel is one of the most famous burial places of the Wettin family. Near the castle is Meissen Cathedral (Meißner Dom), built in the 13th century in the Gothic style. The hill on which the castle and the cathedral are built offers a view over the roofs of the old town.
Meissen's historical district is located mostly around the market at the foot of the castle's hill. It contains many buildings of Renaissance architecture. Also imposing is the view from the 57 metre high tower of the Meissen Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady), situated in the old market-place. Another popular tourist sight is the world-famous Meissen porcelain factory.
From spring to autumn, several festivals take place in Meissen, such as the pottery market or the Weinfest, which celebrates the wine harvest. Meissen wine is produced at the vineyards in the river valley around the town.