A Grand Occasion

State Visit to Leipzig of the Elector August II 1733

February 1st, 1733, marked the death of Friedrich August I (also known as August the Strong), who had reigned as Prince-Elector of Saxony since 1694 and additionally as King of Poland since 1697. Saxony had not celebrated the enthronement of a new Elector-King for almost forty years, so the Coronation of August II was marked with dazzling celebrations throughout the Saxon Land.

According to Ancient Custom, the new Landesherr would visit the important cities of his territory, to receive there the greetings of the populace. Leipzig, being Saxony's most important city after the capital Dresden, was first to receive the Royal Visit.

On April 20, 1733, the Prince-Elector of Saxony and King of Poland made his entry into Leipzig. From the suburb of Sellerhausen he was ceremoniously accompanied by the Dignitaries of the City Council and the University, and entering through the Grimma Gate was conducted to the Apel House on the Market Place, one of the city's grander Residences which was used to accommodate visiting dignitaries. Here the Elector descended from his Carriage and was conducted to his quarters.

The Official Celebrations were held on the next day. Following a Church Service in the Nikolaikirche, His Majesty was conveyed in a Chaise or Carrying Chair to the Bourse, there to accept the Greetings of the Nobility (Ritterschaft). He was then conducted to the Rathaus, the Town Hall, receiving Greetings from members of the Council and University.

Finally he made his appearance on the Town Hall Balcony, where he received the greetings of the popular multitude, for the entire population of the City had gathered in the Market Place. Following a Welcoming Speech by one of the Ministers, the populace greeted His Majesty as if with one voice, raising their hats and the Witness Finger in traditional salute, then throwing up their hats crying Vivat! Long May He Live and Reign.

In honour of the Royal Visit and in order further to celebrate the event, a large number of the Citizens had practised extensively in the Shooting Range (illustration bottom left). Special uniforms had been made - light grey jackets with white buttons, black hats with silver trim. Thus turned out, they formed a Guard of Honour in front of the Johanniskirche, marching then to the Market Place where they gave a three-gun salute.

Illustrations, with captions (trs from German) taken from: Bilderbuch aus der Geschichte der Stadt Leipzig, Verlag Zieger, Leipzig 1897 in possession of the editor. The reader is welcome to copy without any restriction.

During the Church Service in the Nikolaikirche, Leipzig's main church, Capellmeister and Director Musices Johann Sebastian Bach conducted a performance of the Kyrie and Gloria (expanded several years later into the B-Minor Mass) especially composed for the Occasion. Though Saxony was fervently Lutheran Protestant, August I had converted to Catholicism in order to accept the Polish Crown, and his successor August II followed suit. So the Dresden Court was officially Catholic. Bach's Kyrie and Gloria were, diplomatically, acceptable equally to both faiths.

Full notes on the B Minor Mass

For a city map and more pictures of Leipzig see:
Bach's Leipzig, 1725-1750

See also The Trauerode
for the story of August I's acquisition of the Polish Crown
and reactions in Leipzig.

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