The Bridges of Meissen (Saxony), Germany

Albrechtsburg Castle and Cathedral on the hill overlooking the River Elbe and the old town.

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Bridgehunting can provide you with some finds in the rough that many of us don’t even think about until we are there. This community of 27,000 inhabitants in eastern Saxony is one of them. Meissen is located on the River Elbe between the cities of Dresden and Riesa. It was founded by German King Henry the Fowler in 926 AD.  The city has a tradition of producing high-quality ceramics as the Meissen Porcelain Company has been in business since 1710.  One of the oldest publishing companies in Germany, also dating back to the 17th Century, can be found in the city center, which has one of finest Christmas markets and other local events. Even a tourist can enjoy the different types of beer courtesy of the oldest brewery in Saxony. The historic old town features architecture dating back to the Renaissance period, the most popular is the Church of Our Lady, which was built in 1450. The daytrip to Meissen must be completed with the tour of Albrechts Castle, which housed the very first German-speaking royal family in the Wettin family. Both the castle and the cathedral were built in the 16th Century and are located on the hill, overlooking the city and the valleys of the Elbe and Triebisch Rivers as they meet in the city.

Albrechts Castle & Cathedral and two bridges at the confluence of the Elbe and Triebisch

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As I had written five years earlier, the city of Aue in the Ore Mountains of Saxony was known by many as the Venice of Saxony with its historic and unique bridges along the Zwickau Mulde and Schwarzwasser Rivers. Yet after touring the town and finding many unique bridges in Meissen, one should retract those comments a couple steps. Aue may be considered the Saxony version of Venice but more on the scale of the Ore Mountains, whereas Meissen is the eastern Saxony version of Venice and for a good reason.

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While Meissen has three, well-known Elbe River crossings, including the railroad bridge that is almost a century old, the diamonds in the rough are the bridges along the River Triebisch, which empties into the Elbe between the Altstadtbrücke and the Railroad Bridge near the entrance of the historic old town. Five historic arch bridges, a pair of century old railroad bridges and two rather unique but modern railroad bridges and two GDR-era bridges can be found over a six kilometer stretch of the river from its mouth with the Elbe to the garden section a kilometer west of the railroad station Meissen-Triebischtal. We’ll feature the top ten bridges one should see, though the complete tour guide of the bridges can be found in Google Maps below for you to take a look at and visit when you are in Meissen. You will see by the examples presented that there is a big additional reason for visiting Meissen apart from its prized treasures. So sit back and enjoy!

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Meissen Railroad Bridge

Until 1868, Meissen had only one bridge that crossed the River Elbe in the Altstadtbrücke. That changed with the coming of the railroad in 1865 and with that two railroad lines that would go through Meissen- the line between Dresden and Leipzig and another between Borsdorf and Coswig. A contract was let to Johann Caspar Hackort of the bridge building company Hackort, located in Duisburg, to build Meissen’s first railroad bridge in 1865. It took three years to construct a three-span iron through truss bridge with parabolic Whipple truss spans of 54 meters each. It opened to traffic on 22 December, 1868 and would serve traffic until 1924 when structural deficiencies led to the bridge being closed to all rail traffic.

Coinciding with the construction of the rail stop at Meissen-Altstadt, a new span over the Elbe was constructed in 1926 with  Lauchhammer-Rheinmetall AG in  Berlin overseeing the construction of the span. Originally a through truss span, the draft was altered and the spans built were bedstead Howe lattice pony trusses with a total length of 255 meters, the longest span was 56 meters.

Towards the end of World War II, the bridge sustained significant damage to the span going to Dresden, with one of the spans collapsing into the Elbe. It was rebuilt in 1949 but as part of the reparations to the Soviet Union, only one track was allowed to cross the bridge and therefore the track going to Dresden was removed. That was restored when the bridge was restored in 2002. The line was electified with the installation of overhead poles in 1970.

Today, the bridge remains in service and the connections have been restored to a certain extent. Passenger rail service stops at Meissen-Triebischtal, which is four kilometers west of the bridge. Yet freight service has been restored going to Willsdruff and through other villages enroute to Borsdorf and Leipzig. The bridge is a great spot for walking across it, as a pedestrian/bike path has been built to accommodate it. It’s also a great photo vantage point. As a bonus, a small café with a view of the bridge and Elbe can be found next to the structure- easily accessible by bike, but with car, one has to use the parking area next to the river approximately 50 meters away on the north side.

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Altstadtbrücke

Spanning the River Elbe at the entrance to the historic Old Town, the Altstadtbrücke is one of the most photographed places in Meissen, primarily because of its approximate location near the Albrechts Castle and Cathedral. One can see the castle and the bridge on all the postcards dating back over a century ago. The bridge is the second oldest structure in Meissen and is one of the oldest crossings along the River Elbe.

The first crossing was mentioned in 1291 after the castle and its bridge was built. Even though the bridge was destroyed multiple times due to flooding or fires, the first well-known structure was one that lasted the longest- a span of over 370 years. It featured a covered bridge made of wood with stone arch approach spans. From 1443 until 1813, the bridge was in service despite being set on fire during three different wars. The structure finally succumbed to arson during Napoleon’s War in 1813. It was then rebuilt in 1815 in a similar fashion and lasted until the main span was replaced with an iron through truss structure with Whipple truss design in 1868. Until 1839, the bridge was the only Elbe River crossing between Augustusbrücke in Dresden and the next crossing in Torgau. In 1934, the bridge was replaced with a Lattice truss structure. It lasted only 11 years until it was destroyed at the end of World War II. The next structure that came into place was a steel girder span similar to today’s bridge, with three spans. It was built in 1954 and was subsequentially rebuilt in 1999-2000, two years after the new bridge to the north was built to alleviate traffic.

To this day. the bridge serves local traffic connecting the Old Town with the districts to the east. It still remains a vantage point for photographing the castle on the hill, yet one has to ask this question:

What would it have been like to have a bridge like the one in the 1400s as a foreground photo in the present? Would it have been a bonus or a burden?

Click on the information with drawings and the like here and decide for yourself.

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Burgbrücke at Albrechtsburg

Built in 1228, the stone arch bridge is the oldest of Meissen’s Bridges and is the only one that has been considered historically significant according to the State Department of Historic Preservation and Monument (Denkmalschutz). This stone arch bridge took seven years to build and precedes the Albrecht Castle and Cathedral, which was built beginning in the 14th Century. To this day, the bridge still provides traffic between the historic old town and the Castle on the Hill,even as a pedestrina crossing. The bridge provides a great view of both sites.

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New Town Bypass (B 101)

The New Town Bypass is the youngest of the bridges in Meissen but when it was built, it was part of a larger project. The bridge was built in 1997 by the German bridge company Dyckerhoff & Widmann AG but it was part of a large scale project to reroute German Highway B101 away from Meissen’s historic Old Town and off the Altstadtbrücke, which was rebuilt after this bridge opened to traffic. This included building a tunnel that goes underneath the hill where Albrechts Castle and Cathedral are located and with that a bypass of over 10 kilometers going around the western side of the city. The steel beam bridge was also unique as the spans were constructed offsite and then erected onto the beams by crane, a feat that was one of the first in Saxony post 1990 during that time. The bridge has a total length of 330 meters, the main span over the Elbe is 108 meters, making it one of the longest along the Elbe.

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Fährmann Brücke at Highway B6

Known as the last Triebisch crossing until its confluence with the Elbe only 20 meters away, the Fährmann Bridge represents a clear example of a Luten arch bridge made of concrete. Its construction date goes back to the time between 1910 and 1940 given the appearance of the structure combined with the fact that concrete arch bridges were constructed during that time. The guess here is between 1920 and 1925. The bridge was rehabilitated after the flooding of 2002, which devastated Meissen and other cities along the Elbe. The roadway was widened to accommodate traffic and allow for pedestrians and cyclists to use it. The bridge serves Highway B6 which is the main route between Dresden and Leipzig via Riesa, the town next to Meissen along the river. When looking at the bridge more closely, it resembles a crossing flanked by historic housing thus making the Triebisch appear like Venice.

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Martinsbrücke

The next bridge inwards is the Martinsbrücke, which carries Martinsstrasse. The bridge is over 130 years old and features a stone arch bridge. It provides one-way traffic going into the city center with Kleinmarkt, one of three market squares located on the northern side of the bridge. It’s also the starting point of the Gerbergasse, which is the shopping mile in Meissen’s city center, parallel to the river.

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Hahnemannbrücke

This unusual arch bridge is between 100 and 110 years old. It features an sandstone arch design which is shallow and does not anchor to the abutment or pier like a normal arch span. A faux pas steel beam was added when it was rehabilitated as it was to be expanded to include sidewalks on both sides. The bridge serves Hahnemannsplatz, a street that goes directly to the market square, but

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Nicolas Bridge at Neumarkt

Located at Neumarkt, this single-span closed spandrel concrete and stone arch bridge is the only Triebisch River crossing with some information on its existence. According to the plaque, the bridge was built in 1910 and was rehabilitated in 2001. The bridge is located between two parks- Kathe Kollwitz on the north side, and the City Park on the south side. It’s also located adjacent to the county court house and carries Poststrasse which turns into Talstrasse when crossing it going towards Meissen Porcellaine which is only 200 meters away from the bridge. This bridge has seen a lot of traffic but it is regulated through a series of lights to avoid any accidents and traffic jams. This bridge is the most used of the Triebisch crossings in Meissen.

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Bahnhofsbrücke Triebischtal

This bridge is located at the entrance to the train station Meissen-Triebischtal. The single-span concrete arch bridge with closed spandrel features dates back to the 1920s, yet it was rehabilitated a while back with the installation of anchors to support the arch. This is visible on the street side of the structure. The bridge provides an excellent background with a row of century-old houses lined up along the river along Talstrasse. Once can photograph it along the street or on the opposite end at the parking lot next to the train station. The train station itself is the final stop (Endhaltestelle) of the line going to Coswig via Dresden.

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The Bridges at Zuckerhut

The westernmost crossing along the Triebisch leaving Meissen are a pair of bridges located at a garden complex next to Ossietzkystrasse near the Zuckerhut ruins. They feature a deck-plate girder span dating back to the 1920s and a subdivided Warren deck truss span with no vertical beams that is at least 50 years older. That span features a triangle inside a larger triangle, thus making the Warren span very unique. Both spans have a length of approximately 31 meters. The deck plate girder span serves railroad freight traffic between Dresden, Meissen and Nossen although plans are in the works to extend the passenger rail service to Nossen within the next five years. Passenger train service ends in Meissen-Triebischtal at present. The truss span was once part of a six-gauge rail line that connected Meissen with Wilsdruft located 25 km SW of Dresden. That line was abandoned by 1972 and the bridge has been sitting abandoned ever since. Both bridges can be access by crossing a nearby bridge from Ossietzkystrasse at the garden complex, 300 meters away. One just has to follow the trail which leads to this bridge and nearby Zuckerhut, another 200 meters up the hills of the Triebischtal.

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To find out where the bridges are located in Meissen, I’ve created a map for you to use as you plan your trip to the city. There you will find more photos and other interesting facts about the bridge which you can use to plan your bridgehunting trip. And that in addition to exploring the historic old town, the castle/cathedral and buying its signature chinaware and beer. Enjoy the city and its beautiful places.

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Map: