Mystery Bridge Nr. 54: The Moritzburg Pavilion Bridge in Zeitz, Germany

Author’s Note: This Mystery Bridge is part of the bridgehunting tour through the small town of Zeitz, located along the River White Elster in the eastern part of the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. A tour guide of the town that has “Rather stood still in time” will follow here in the Chronicles.

All photos were taken by the author in March 2015
All photos were taken by the author in March 2015

Our next mystery bridge takes us back to Germany and specifically, to Saxony-Anhalt. Despite being the most sparsely populated state in the Bundesrepublik based on population versus land size ratio, the state is an attraction as far as nature, historic buildings (many of them sitting abandoned since 1990) and historic bridges are concerned (especially if we look at the bridges in Halle (Saale), Magdeburg and Quedlinburg).

Zeitz is no exception to the rule. Located along the River White Elster between the cities of Gera and Leipzig, and east of Weissenfels and Naumburg, the town of 29,000 was once an industrial community dominated by the rail, steel and agricultural industries. Today, the town is a poster boy of a typical East German community that has stood still in time. Many historic buildings dating back to the late 1800s to 1930s are sitting empty, but have retained its original charm.   The city has been used as a platform for films focusing on the GDR. And as far as historic bridges are concerned, it competes with Halle and Quedlinburg in terms of numbers and appearance.

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This includes this pavilion-style bridge located east of the community at Moritzburg Castle. Spanning a canal, just 40 meters from its mouth at the White Elster, the bridge appears to date back to the Baroque Period because of the features that are typical for this era. The bridge span itself is a closed spandrel brick arch with a span of 15 meters at the most, long enough to span the canal. The total length appears to be close to 30 meters in length, counting the approach spans. As for the architecture that is on the bridge, it features the following going from center outwards:

Close-up of the dome and cupola
Close-up of the dome and cupola

The center of the span features a concrete dome covered with black ceramic paneling. The dome is not completely round for it is four-sided, bordered by a grey ceramic lining. The top of the dome is covered by another, much smaller cupola, resembling a small round barn. The reason for the bridge being considered a pavilion is for it is supported by concrete columns, the rounded ones encircle the dome, while six squared-shaped columns make up the front façade facing the river. Each side is ornamental, representing a different form of inscribed artwork, topped by a finial with sculptures. The middle four feature two inner ones that are taller than the outer two and that line the canal bank. Like the rounded columns, they support the dome and the gabled roof flanking the front end and containing carved artwork. Between the two inner columns are three round columns, supporting the flat head board made of concrete. The outer two of the middle four columns as well as the outermost squared columns also feature three rounded inner columns on each side supporting the head board, resembling the extremely widened version of Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photos of the bridge show in detail what the structure looks like in terms of its functionality and aesthetic appearance.

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It is unknown when the pavilion bridge was built, let alone who built it. However it is known that the Moritzburg Castle was built in a Baroque style in 1667, replacing an earlier castle destroyed by the Swedish army in 1644 during the 30-Years War. The reconstruction effort took 10 years. Yet the castle dates back to the time of the establishment of the diocese of Zeitz by King Otto I in 968. Both the castle and its neighboring Zeitzer Dom Cathedral were restored in the 1990s and still serves as the key attraction for people visiting the community. The pavilion itself, given its similar appearance to the rebuilt castle, dates back to the 1700s, yet it is unknown when exactly it was built, who was responsible for this unusual construction, and more importantly, why it was built over the canal that was only 100 meters away from its junction with the White Elster.

Any clues as to when it was built? We would love to hear them from you. Submit your information to the Chronicles via e-mail or through its social network pages and any information on the bridge will be added to the tour guide of Zeitz, which will be published in the Chronicles.

Zeitz is one area that has not been explored by any pontists- neither from its own country nor from elsewhere. Yet this bridge represents a vast number of bridges in this area that have a very high aesthetic value and potential for history for other people to know about, especially when it comes to their role in the development of the community and how it survived a wide array of adversities, including surviving two World Wars and 40 years of communist rule that ended in 1989. Like the other bridges in the region where the former East Germany existed, the bridges of Zeitz are definitely worth having a look at, especially if we look at this bridge in particular.

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