Why is Saxon Switzerland called “Saxon Switzerland”? Where does the name come from?


Saxon Switzerland is the part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains located in Saxony, Germany. The part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains located in the Czech Republic is called “Bohemian Switzerland” (České Švýcarsko). As an overall name is also said “Saxon-Bohemian Switzerland”.

How did the expression “Saxon Switzerland” originate?

The expression “Saxon Switzerland” goes back to the two Swiss artists Adrian Zingg (*1734 in St. Gallen – † 1816 in Dresden) and Anton Graff (*1736 in Winterthur – † 1813 in Dresden). Graff was a (landscape) painter. Zingg was an engraver. Both were appointed as professors at the Dresden Art Academy in 1766. When they saw the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and also hiked there, they felt reminded of their homeland – Switzerland and the Jura Mountains. In their letters to relatives back home, they used the term “Saxon Switzerland” to refer to the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. (It was about a day’s walk from Dresden to Saxon Switzerland).

Until about 1780, the Saxon part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains was simply called “Meißner Hochland”. With the name “Meißner Hochland” the margraves of Meissen expressed their claim to ownership of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. Other names were: “Bohemian Forests”, “Lusatian Mountains”, “Meissen Uplands”, “Heath above Schandau”, “Pirnian Sandstone Mountains” or “Forests above Schandau”.

By the way, the Romans called the Elbe Sandstone Mountains and adjacent forests “hercynian forest”. What exactly the word “hercynian” or “hercynian” means is disputed. Some suggest that hercynian means “high,” others suspect a relationship with the Indo-European word for “oak” perkuniā.

The author Wilhelm Leberecht Götzinger (1758 – 1818) used the expression “Saxon Switzerland” in his books and descriptions of the Saxon part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains. He thus spread the expression. Among others, he published “Schandau und seine Umgebungen oder Beschreibung der sogenannten Sächsischen Schweiz” in 1804 and “Topo- und Petrographische Reisekarte durch die Saechsische Schweiz und umliegende Gegend” in 1812.

The designation as “Switzerland” was readily accepted by locals, as Switzerland was synonymous with beautiful and impressive landscapes at that time. So calling the Saxon part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains “Saxon Switzerland” was a distinction and a praise that the Saxons gladly accepted.

Through the emerging Romanticism, the expression “Saxon Switzerland” spread further and Saxon Switzerland also became better known, since many Romantics found ideals here that they lacked in other places. They liked the landscape, the mountains, walls, towers, streams, rivers and forests.

The expression “Bohemian Switzerland” is based on the expression “Saxon Switzerland”. Other names used in the Czech Republic for the Czech part of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains are “Tetscher Bergland” (Děčínská vrchovina) or “Elbsandsteingebirge” (Labské pískovce).

More about Saxon Switzerland

Saxon Switzerland is now a national park, which was created in 1990 – shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It is 93 km² in size.

From 1994 to 2008 there was a district called “Saxon Switzerland” in Saxony. Since 2008 – in the context of the district reform – there is the district “Sächsische Schweiz-Osterzgebirge”.

Autor: Pierre von BedeutungOnline

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