Merseburg is situated at an elevation of 88 m on the river Saale in southern Saxony-Anhalt. The municipality has a population of about 34,000 (2015) and is also the seat of the administration of the Saalekreis district.
Mersiburc was first mentioned in 881/889 in a tax register of Hersfeld. King Heinrich I (Henry the Fowler) built a royal residence here after 919. His successor, King Otto I (Roman Emperor in 962), who beat the Hungarians finally in 955 in the Battle of Lechfeld vowed to found a monastery, and consequently founded the bisphopric of Merseburg in 968. Howevr, the bisphopric was dissolved already in 981, but was re-founded in 1004 by Emperor Heinrich II. Although being one of the smallest bishoprics in Germany, it incorporated important centres such as the city of Leipzig. In its history Merseburg was the residence of 43 bishops. A civic administration of the town was first mentioned in 1289. In 1428, Merseburg, against the opposition of the bishop, joined the Hanse federation of trading towns, of which it remained a member until at least 1604. In the Treaty of Leipzig of 1485, which perpetuated the division of the territories of the Wettin dynasty (see chart) into a Saxon and a Thuringian part, Merseburg remained in the Duchy of Saxony (Albertine line of the House of Wettin). During the Reformation period and after the death of the last Catholic bishop, Merseburg became Lutheran in 1561; the territory of the bishops was secularised and was incorporated into the Electorate of Saxony. Between 1656 and 1738 Merseburg was the capital of the Duchy of Saxe-Merseburg, a collateral line of the Electorate of Saxony. After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Merseburg became the capital of the district Merseburg within the Prussian province of Saxony. In 1846, Merseburg was connected to the railroad system as a station on the line from Halle (Saale) to Naumburg. The district Merseburg was merged with that of Querfurt in 1994 (district Merseburg-Querfurt). In 1997, the official name of the city, Merseburg (Saale), was changed to Merseburg. In 2007, Merseburg became the administrative centre of the new district Saalekreis after the merging of the previous districts Merseburg-Querfurt and Saalekreis.
Merseburg castle [left, no. 3767, and right, no. 3234]
was first built by the bishop of Merseburg in 1245 in 1265. The castle was rebuilt in 1470–1500 as a
three-winged castle connected to the cathedral as the fourth wing. Between 1656 and and 1738 it was the residence
of the Dukes of Saxe-Merseburg, a collateral line of the Electorate of Saxony. Extensive renewals were made in
1604/1605. Renovated in the 19th century, the castle in 1815 became the seat of the administration of the district
Merseburg within the Prussian province of Saxony. The eastern wing was destroyed during World War II, but
was restored until 1971. Today, the castle is still the seat of the Saalekreis district administation.