In 1707 Meissen porcelain became the first successfully produced true white porcelain in Europe.
In the 17th and 18th century’s Chinese porcelain was all the rage in Europe, especially amongst the royals and aristocrats. As early as 1615, Chinese porcelain appeared in the still-life paintings of a handful of Dutch artists. The porcelain-crazed filled their palaces with the ‘white gold’ and Augustus II of Saxony, most often referred to as August the Strong, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland was obsessed with it. He alone collected nearly 30,000 pieces of chinese porcelain.
Despite his wealth, collecting and importing Asain porcelain was still an expensive hobby. Like many European ruler’s of his time, he financially backed alchemists in the search to turn simple metals into gold. In 1702 he brought the alchemist Böttger to work in Dresden for that purpose. Although Böttger failed to create gold, by late 1707 he announced to August the Strong that he had successfully created white porcelain.
A porcelain manufacturing facility was set up and operating within two years. Although they attempted to keep their secret porcelain recipe contained, soon competing manufacturers were producing porcelain. By 1722, in order to identify the Meissen porcelain and ensure its authenticity, the crossed swords from August the Strong’s coat of arms were used as a trademark on the Meissen porcelain. Today the Meissen Porcelain trademark, called the augustus rex mark, is one of the oldest continuously used trademarks in the world. The Meissen mark celebrates its tercentenary (1722–2022) this year.
In the next photo they have used the attractive trademark as design.
Meissen porcelain, also referred to as Dresden porcelain, has been produced at the Meissen factory, near Dresden in the State of Saxony, from 1710 through to the present day.
Visiting the museum also includes an opportunity to attend a demonstration workshop, where each guest is given an audio guide that explains how pieces are created, formed, molded, hand-painted and glazed while in-person artisans demonstrate their incredible level of workmanship and skill.
The museum advertises that it showcases 300 years of their finest porcelain in their exhibitions and we certainly were in awe of the exquisite details on the various styles of the pieces we viewed.
The charming small city of Meißen in German, (where the letter “ß” stands for a double “s”) and written as Meissen in English, has a current population of 30,000 and was founded in 929 CE. It lies just 16 miles (25 km) northwest of Dresden and was the perfect one-day excursion from Dresden.
The Albrechtsburg Castle sits regally above the city and Elbe River. It is Germany’s oldest “schloss” (equivalent to a French château or English castle) and was constructed in the latter half of the 15th century atop an old fortress that had been built in 929.
Adjacent to Albrechtsburg Castle on the hill is the gothic styled Meissen Cathedral or the Church of St John and St Donatus, built between 1260 and 1410.
The defining twin steeples were added in 1909.
We found the Frauenkirche or Church of Our Lady in the center of the old marketplace. The Gothic Medieval Church dates to 1205. The tower was struck by lightning in the 16th century and replaced with its current octagonal shape and Renaissance style.
Meissen is often called the Cradle of Saxony and the Frauenkirche has been at its center for nine centuries.
The 37 uniquely shaped tunable porcelain carillon is the most recent and prized addition to the church. They were the first church in the world to acquire porcelain bells. The carillon was added to the Frauenkirche in 1929 to celebrate Meissen’s 1000th birthday. Each day, 6 times a day, the bells play church chorales and we timed our visit to the square perfectly to hear the unparalleled melodies.
On the north side of the same Marktplatz is the town hall, called Rathaus in German. The Rathaus Meißen was built in 1478 and the 3 ornate dormers certainly caught our eye. Can you spot the attractive solar clock on the wall in the photo below?
After visiting the Porcelain Museum at the Zwinger Palace in Dresden we were totally inspired to take a day and visit Meissen. Witnessing the iconic beauty of the porcelain work that is still hand-made exclusively in the city was amazing. We appreciated the classical figurines made in the 1700’s as much as the designs and flawless execution of the pieces created throughout the last 300 hundred years. There is seemingly no end to the variety of designs Meissen Porcelain can conceive and achieve.
Happy travels, y’all
Prost from these Meisseners,
Ted + Julia
View our Meissen Porcelain Foundation photo album here