A short introduction to the history of the Altzella Monastery Park

Ruins of the Abbey of the ancient monastery Altzella
Ruins of the Abbey of the ancient monastery Altzella

In the year 1162 the founder of the monastery, Margrave Otto von Meissen, known as “Otto the Rich”, received permission from Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa to establish a monastery which would also be the burial site for his family, the Wettins. The Cistercian order took over the construction of the monastery, moving in 1175 and starting its monastic life. Even today it is still possible to see signs of their devotion to a simple and poor life in the grounds, based on pure belief and the agricultural knowledge of the Cistercians.

Altzella Monastery, at that time known as “Cella Sanctae Mariae”, developed to be one of the most important monasteries in central Germany. Monks from Altzella were involved in the founding of the universities of Prague and Leipzig, where they were running the so-called Bernhard-Kolleg. At its height about 250 monks were living permanently in the monastery. The monastery possessed an important scientific library, which was housed in the library hall erected in 1506. The library consisted of about 960 volumes, mainly works on theology, philosophy, law and medicine. The monastery also had a decisive economic influence on the region. The economic system of the abbey, known as the granges, stretched as far as Bohemia. This system allowed the abbey to be self-sufficient in raw materials and food, thus being economically independent.

The monastery was dissolved during the period of the reformation in Saxony. The nobility at the Saxon court took control of its possessions. The rest of the contents were distributed, most of the books from the library being given to the University of Leipzig. Later several of the buildings of the former monastery were demolished in order to obtain materials form the construction of the nearby Nossen parish church and the residential palace. The economic area of the former monastery was rebuilt as a manor farm of the ruling family in Saxony.

It was only in 1676 that the Elector of Saxony, Johann Georg II, ordered excavations in order to honor his ancestors, and had his own burial chapel built. It remained unfinished however, and could only be completed as a neo-classical-style mausoleum in the period 1787 to 1804. It was at that time, around 1800, that a landscaped park in the Romanticist style incorporating the buildings and ruins could be laid out by the court gardener Johann Gottfried Huebler.

A short introduction to the history of the Cistercian order

The first Christian monks lived alone, before monasteries with fixed rules began to develop in the 5th century. The Reform Order of the Cistercians was founded in 1098. The name was taken from the Citeaux mother abbey in Burgundy. The Cistercians lived according to the principles of St. Benedict (480-547) in their original and purest form. In this way they were able to adapt to the strict rules of the Benedictine monastic life.

The basics Bendedictine rules are:

Opus Dei – Holy mass

Lectio Divina – Spiritual reading

Labor Manuum – Work with the hands

The order’s constitution determined its organization. Amongst others, it laid down that all the brothers of the order were equal, and that the life of the monastery was to be in accordance with the standards of the Citeaux Monastery.

Furthermore the constitution said that each monastery, in accordance with the principle of Filiation (Latin: filia – daughter) could found independent “daughter” monasteries. There was to be an annual visit to the daughter monastery by the mother monastery, as well as the annual holding of a general chapter at Citeaux, which the abbot had to take part in. The order expanded throughout Europe along the lines of the filiation relationship.

The primary abbeys at Citeaux are:

-La Ferté (1113)

-Pontigny (1114)

-Clairveaux (1115)

-Morimond (1115)

There were two kinds of monks: The choir monks, who had to observe hourly prayers, and the work monks, known as converses. All monks took the vows.


Altzella Monastery Park

Zellaer Straße 10 | 01683 Nossen

Property of State Palaces, Castles and Gardens of Saxony, non profit

+49 (0) 35242 504-50

Opening hours

March 25 to October 31, 2016

  • Tue - Fri: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
  • Sat, Sun, public holidays: 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

November 2016 to March 2017

  • closed

Subject to modifications.

Ticket rates

  • Full rate 5,00 EUR
  • Reduced rate 2,50 EUR
  • Full rate: EUR 5.00
  • Reduced rate*: EUR 2.50
  • 2 adults and up to 4 children**: EUR 12.00
  • 1 adult and up to 2 children**: EUR 7.00
  • Group rate (15 people and more): EUR 4.00 per person
  • Group rate for pupils: EUR 1.50 per person
  • Annual ticket: EUR 9.00 

Combined ticket: Altzella Monastery Park and Nossen Castle 

  • Full rate: EUr 7.00 
  • Reduced rate*: EUR 4.00 
  • 2 adults and up to 4 children**: EUR 15.00
  • 1adult and up to 2 children**:  EUR 9.00
  • Group rate (15 people and more): EUE 5.00 per person 

Guided tours

  • Guided tour surcharge: EUR 2.50 per person 
  • Guided tour surcharge for pupils: EUR 1.50 per person
  • Minimum surcharge for guided tours: EUR 35.00

Free admission:

  • Children aged 5 or younger
  • People visiting the castle on their birthday
  • Accompanying adults of severly disabled people (entry »B« iin the disability pass)
  • Tour guides
  • Tour bus drivers accompanying a tour group
  • 1 accompanying adult per 10 pupils
  • Journalists for reporting purposes (valid identification required)
  • Holders of the schloesserlandPASS

Subject to modifications.