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Meissen, District Of

MEISSEN, DISTRICT OF, a German margraviate now merged in the kingdom of Saxony. The mark of Meissen was originally a district centring round the castle of Meissen or Misnia on the Middle Elbe, which was built about 920 by the German king Henry I., ;he Fowler, as a defence against the Slavs. After the death of Gero, margrave of the Saxon east mark, in 965, his territory was divided into five marks, one of which was called Meissen. In 985 the emperor Otto III. bestowed the office of margrave upon Ekkard I., margrave of Merseburg, and the district comprising the marks of Meissen, Merseburg and Zeitz was generally known as the mark of Meissen. In 1002 Ekkard was succeeded by his brother Gunzelin, and then by his sons Hermann I. and Ekkard II. Under these margraves the area of the mark was further increased, but when Ekkard II. died in 1046 it was divided, and Meissen proper was given successively to William and Otto, counts of Weimar, and Egbert II., count of Brunswick. Egbert was a rival of the emperor Henry IV. and died under the imperial ban in 1089, when Meissen was bestowed upon Henry I., count of Wettin, whose mother was a sister of the margrave Ekkard II. Henry, who already ruled lower Lusatia and the new and smaller Saxon east mark, was succeeded in 1103 by his cousin Thimo, and in 1104 by his son Henry II., whose claim on the mark was contested by Thimo's son Conrad. When Henry died without issue in 1123 Meissen was given by the emperor Henry V. to Hermann II., count of Wintzenburg; but, renewing his claim, Conrad won the support of Lothair, duke of Saxony, afterwards the emperor Lothair II., and obtained possession in 1130. Conrad, called the Great, extended the boundaries of Meissen before abdicating in 1156 in favour of his son Otto, known as the Rich. Otto appointed his younger son Dietrich as his successor and was attacked and taken prisoner by his elder son Albert; but, after obtaining his release by order of the emperor Frederick I., he had only just renewed the war when he died in 1 190. During his reign silver mines were opened in the Harz Mountains, towns were founded, roads were made, and the general condition of the country was improved. Otto was succeeded by his son Albert, called the Proud, who was engaged in warfare with his brother Dietrich until his death in 1195. As Albert left no children, Meissen was seized by the emperor Henry VI. as a vacant fief of the empire; but Dietrich, called the Oppressed, secured the mark after Henry's death in 1197. Dietrich married Jutta, daughter of Hermann I., landgrave of Thuringia, and was succeeded in 1221 by his infant son Henry, surnamed the Illustrious; who on arriving at maturity obtained as reward for supporting the emperor Frederick II. against the pope a promise to succeed his uncle, Henry Raspe IV., as landgrave of Thuringia. In 1 243 Henry's son Albert was betrothed to Margaret, daughter of Frederick II.; and Pleissnerland, a district west of Meissen, was added to his possessions. Having gained Thuringia and the Saxon palatinate on his uncle's death in 1247, he granted sections of his lands to his three sons in 1265, but retained Meissen. A series of family feuds followed. His second son Dietrich died in 1285, and on Henry's own death in 1288 Meissen was divided between his two remaining sons, Albert (called the Degenerate) and Frederick, and his grandson Frederick Tutta, the son of Dietrich. Albert was engaged in struggles with his three sons, who took him prisoner in 1288; but he was released the following year by order of the German king Rudolph I. About this time he sold his portion of Meissen to his nephew Frederick Tutta, who held the title of margrave and ruled the greater part of the mark until his death in 1291. Albert's two remaining sons, Frederick and Dietrich or Diezmann, then claimed Meissen; but it was seized by King Adolph of Nassau as a vacant fief of the empire, and was for some time retained by him and his successor King Albert I. In the course of constant efforts to secure the mark the brothers Frederick and Dietrich defeated the troops of King Albert at Lucka in May 1307 and secured partial possession of their lands. In this year Dietrich died and Frederick became reconciled with his father, who, after renouncing his claim on Meissen for a yearly payment, died in 1314. Having obtained possession of the greater part of the mark, Frederick was invested with it by the German king Henry VII. in 1310. During these years the part of Meissen around Dresden had been in the possession of Frederick, youngest son of the margrave Henry the Illustrious, and when he died in 1316 it came to his nephew Frederick. About 1312 Frederick, who had become involved in a dispute with Waldemar, margrave of Brandenburg, over the possession of lower Lusatia, was taken prisoner. Surrendering lower Lusatia he was released, but it was only after Waldemar's death in 1319 that he obtained undisputed possession of Meissen. Frederick, who was surnamed the Peaceful, died in 1323 and was followed as margrave by his son Frederick II., called the Grave, who added several counties to his inheritance. From this latter Frederick's death in 1349 until 1381 the lands of the family were ruled by his three sons jointly; but after the death of his eldest son Frederick III. in 1381 a division was made by which Meissen fell to his youngest son William I. In 1407 William was succeeded by his nephew Frederick, called the Warlike, who in 1423 received from the emperor Sigismund the electoral duchy of Saxe- Wittenberg. The mark then became merged in the duchy of Saxony, and at the partition of 1485 fell to the Albertine line. As Meissen was relieved from the attacks of the Slavs by the movement of the German boundary to the east, its prosperity increased. Many towns were founded, among which were Dresden, Leipzig and Freiburg; Chemnitz began its textile industry; and although the condition of the peasants was wretched, that of the townsmen was improving. The discoveries of silver brought great wealth to the margraves, but they resorted at times to bedes, which were contributions from the nobles and ecclesiastics who met in a kind of diet. During this period the mark of Meissen lay on both banks of the Elbe, and stretched from Bohemia to the duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg, embracing an area of about 3000 sq. m.

See O. Posse, Die Markgrafen von Meissen und das Haus Wettin (Leipzig, 1881) ; F. W. Tittmann, Geschichte Heinrichs des erlauchten Markgrafen zu Meissen (Dresden, 1845-1846); C. F. von PosernKlett, Zur Geschichte der Verfassung der Markgrafschaft Meissen im ij. Jahrhundert (Leipzig, 1863). See also Urkunden der Markgrafen von Meissen und Landgrafen von Thuringen, edited by E. G. Gersdorf (Leipzig, 1864); and H. B. Meyer, Hof- und Zentralverwaltung der We.ttiner (Leipzig, 1902).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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