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The Traces of “Wit” in Saxony

Joannes Richter

1 The Traces of “Wit” in Saxony – Google Maps


Abstract
In Saxony the ruling dynasty seems to be based on the cores “Wit” and “Wet”.
The progenitor Widukind or Wittekind, was a leader of the Saxons from 777 to 785.
Wettin Castle is the ancestral seat of the House of Wettin, ruling dynasty of Saxony and Poland.
Wettin was first documented as Vitin civitas in a 961 deed issued by German king Otto I.
Wittenberg was also the seat of the Elector of Saxony, a dignity held by the dukes of Saxe-
Wittenberg, making it one of the most powerful cities in the Holy Roman Empire. Historical
documents first mention the settlement in 1180 as a small village founded by Flemish colonists
under the rule of the House of Ascania.
The power of the Kingdom of Saxony has been founded on the silver mining on the Rammelsberg
(documented around 968; Ore mining started in Bronze Age) and at the silver rush of Freiberg
(1186).
Officially the names Widukind and Wittekind are interpreted as "child of the wood" (i.e. a wolf),
[dubious]. The name Wettin may be derived from the Old-Sorbian word vitin. Vitin is based on
“vit”, which is interpreted as Welcome.1
The idea to consider vitin as an Old-Sorbian word is rather grotesque. Any occupying Saxon
landlord will choose a Saxon title for his castle and the new settlement. A suitable root for Saxon
names is “wit” (representing “Tiw”, “Vut”, “we two”, etc.).
The rulers therefore may have based the naming conventions for Wittekind, Wittenberg, Wettin,
vitin (etc.) on the principal runes “ᚠᚢᚦ” (“Vuth” or “Wyth”).

1 Der Name Wettin lässt sich auf das altsorbische vitin zurückführen. Vitin stammt von der altsorbischen Wurzel vit,
welche als Willkommen! übersetzt wird. [2] - Wettiner. In: Sachsen-Anhalt-Wiki; abgerufen am 24. April 2015
Introduction
This essay describes the usage of the keywords (“ᚠᚢᚦ” , “ᚦᚩᚱᚳ“ and “ᚠᚢᚦᚩᚱᚳ”) of the Futhark
alphabet for the naming conventions in Saxon environments.

Old Saxony
The Saxons were one of the most robust groups in the late tribal culture of the times, and
eventually bequeathed their tribe's name to a variety of more and more modern geopolitical
territories from Old Saxony (Altsachsen) near the mouth of the Elbe up the river via the
Prussian Province of Saxony (in present-day Saxony-Anhalt) to Upper Saxony, the
Electorate and Kingdom of Saxony from 1806 corresponding with the German Free State of
Saxony, which bears the name today though it was not part of the medieval duchy (see map
on the right). 2
Old Saxony corresponds roughly to the modern German states of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt,
and the Westphalian part of North Rhine-Westphalia.
A sketch of the modern Saxon territories in Germany has been sketched in Google-Map: The Traces
of “Wit” in Saxony.
There are three successive stations for the Saxon territories, which developed in circa 3 stages:
1. Lower Saxony3 (804–1296, representing the Duchy of Saxony around 1000)
2. Saxony-Anhalt, concentrating around the Lutherstadt Wittenberg
3. The free state Saxony (concentrating around Chemnitz, Dresden and Leipzig.

Overview of the “Wit”- and “Wet”-Names


Most of the following names have been mentioned early in the Middle Age.

“Wit”- and “Wet”-Names Details AD


1 Wittenberg 1180
2 Witten 851
3 Wettin Vitin civitas in a 961 deed issued by German king Otto I 961
4 Wittlich 1065
5 Wetter (Ruhr)
Wetzlar has been documented as Witlara in a document
6 Wetzlar 943
dated 943
7 Wettringen (Münsterland) 838
8 Wettenberg
1 Overview of the “Wit”- and “Wet”-Names

2 Geography - Duchy of Saxony


3 Before the late medieval period, there was a single Duchy of Saxony. The term "Lower Saxony" was used after the
dissolution of the stem duchy in the late 13th century to disambiguate the parts of the former duchy ruled by the
House of Welf from the Electorate of Saxony on one hand, and from the Duchy of Westphalia on the other.
Lower Saxony
Rammelsberg
The mining history of the Rammelsberg occurred as a continuous process in different phases.
Initially the main product was copper ore, then, (much) later lead, and with lead, silver.
Ore mining started in the "Old Bed" or "Old Orebody" (Altes Lager), exposed on the surface by
erosion, during the Bronze Age.[1]
The Harz Mountains are the land of German fairy tales. ... This region was also known for the many
silver mines; many villagers made their living underground ... On the outskirts of Goslar is the
Rammelsberg silver mine which was in operation for over 1000 years and is now a UNESCO World
Heritage Site.
Mining on the Rammelsberg was first mentioned in the records around 968 by the Saxon chronicler,
Widukind of Corvey. According to his Res gestae saxonicae, Emperor Otto the Great had silver ore
deposits (Latin: venas argenti) opened and extracted.
The mining settlement of Goslar was not mentioned until 979. In 1005, attracted by the presence of
silver, King Henry II of Germany had the Imperial Palace of Goslar (Kaiserpfalz Goslar) built at the
foot of Mt. Rammelsberg, which, extended by his Salian successors Conrad II and Henry III,
gradually replaced the former Royal palace of Werla.

Saxony-Anhalt
The House of Wettin
The House of Wettin is a dynasty of German counts, dukes, prince-electors and kings that once
ruled territories in the present-day German states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The
dynasty is one of the oldest in Europe, and its origins can be traced back to the town of Wettin,
Saxony-Anhalt.

Wettin
Wettin Castle is a former castle that stood near the town of Wettin on the Saale river in Germany,
and which is the ancestral home of the House of Wettin, the dynasty that included several royal
families, including that of the current ruling families of the United Kingdom and Belgium.[1][2]
In 982, Dedo I (d. 1009) and Frederick (d. 1017), sons of Dietrich, count of Hassegau, received
lands taken from the Wends, including the county (or Gau) of Wettin on the right bank of the Saale.
[1][2]
There is a legend that the family is descended from one Wettekind, but this can not be
attested in any history.[3] At least one reference claims that the castle was built by a
descendant of Dietrich named Thimo.[1]
That castle is a rebuilt ruin, used as part of a building that houses a school and other public
institutions[4] but other castles owned by the Wettin family, from the 15th century, still exist in
Meissen,[5] and on the Elbe river.[6]
Wettin was first documented as Vitin civitas in a 961 deed issued by German king Otto I.
Wittenberg
Wittenberg is famous for its close connection with Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation,
for which it received the honorific Lutherstadt.
Wittenberg was also the seat of the Elector of Saxony, a dignity held by the dukes of Saxe-
Wittenberg, making it one of the most powerful cities in the Holy Roman Empire.
In the course of time the historically significant Wittenberg, home of the Protestant Reformation,
was annexed by Prussia, but Frederick Augustus was restored to the throne in the remainder of his
kingdom, which still included the major cities of Dresden and Leipzig.

The free state Saxony


Freiberg
Around 1180, the basilica "of Our Lady" was built in Freiberg, which was developing rapidly due to
the silver that had recently been found in the Ore Mountains.
Between 1541 and August II the Strong's conversion to Catholicism, nine rulers of Saxony were
buried in the quire of the cathedral.
Freiberg in Saxony was founded in 1186 and has been a centre of the mining industry in the Ore
Mountains for centuries. A symbol of that history is the Freiberg University of Mining and
Technology, often just known as the Mining Academy (Bergakademie), established in 1765 and the
second oldest university of mining and metallurgy in the world.4

Other cities
Wetzlar
Wetzlar has been documented as Witlara in a document dated 943 5.

Fulda
The chronicles of Fulda describe the deities Odin, Wodan, Thor, Freya and Krodo6.
Before the Christianisation phase by Boniface the Slavs already had settled at Fulda 7.

4 History
5 Die Geschichte der Stadt Wetzlar : Wetzlar lässt sich urkundlich erst über ein Jahrhundert später wieder als Witlara
in einer Urkunde aus dem Jahr 943 fassen,[14]
6 Chronik von Fulda und dessen Umgebungen vom Jahre 744 bis und mit 1838 (Schmitt & Müller, 1839 - 173 pages)
7 Im Fulda'- schen waren jedoch schon vor Bonifacius Slaven ansässig. Denn von Sturmius, einem Schüler des
heiligen Bonifacius, wird berichtet, daß er eines Tags mit seinen Begleitern an die Straße gekommen sei, welche aus
Thüringen ... Bericht über das Wirken und den Stand des Historischen Vereins zu . (1842)
Contents
Abstract.................................................................................................................................................2
Introduction..........................................................................................................................................3
Old Saxony......................................................................................................................................3
Overview of the “Wit”- and “Wet”-Names.................................................................................3
Lower Saxony.......................................................................................................................................4
Rammelsberg...................................................................................................................................4
Saxony-Anhalt......................................................................................................................................4
The House of Wettin........................................................................................................................4
Wettin ..............................................................................................................................................4
Wittenberg........................................................................................................................................5
The free state Saxony...........................................................................................................................5
Freiberg............................................................................................................................................5
Other cities............................................................................................................................................5
Wetzlar.............................................................................................................................................5
Fulda................................................................................................................................................5