Age: The first historical reference dates back nearly 800 years.
Famous residents: The use of the fortress as a prison is responsible for its roll call of celebrity (and involuntary!) inhabitants: Johann Friedrich Böttger, Michael Bakunin, Frank Wedekind and August Bebel were among the inmates.
Affairs of the heart: In 1940, the French army general Henri Honoré Giraud, who was held there as a prisoner of war, became the only person in the long history of the fortress to escape. This was thanks to the food parcels sent to him by his wife – wrapped with copious lengths of twine and copper wire. Giraud spent two years patiently fashioning the rope he used in his escape.
Disasters overcome: The walls of the fortress were never breached and never destroyed. It proved to be so secure that the Saxon prince-electors and kings regularly sought refuge there. During the Great Northern War, the Seven Years War, the Napoleonic Wars and World War II, the fortress was used for safe storage of documents from the state archives and art treasures.
Modifications: In 1589, Prince Elector Christian I of Saxony began work on building the castle keep of the Königstein fortress. The walls, the gatehouse (including a new entrance), the armoury, the Christiansburg, the weir and the old barracks were constructed. Elector Johann Georg was responsible for the next spurt of building in the 17th century: the Georgenburg was given its Renaissance facade and the Johannissaal was built onto the gatehouse.
Romance factor: Nowadays high, because the fortress is a magnificent vantage point from which to survey the valley of the Elbe. When it was still used as a military redoubt, the garrison would have had little enthusiasm for admiring the scenery.
Horror factor: One of the page boys was taught a lesson he would not forget. After he was discovered in a drunken stupor on the ledge of the Christiansburg, Elector Johann Georg II had the boy tied up and then roused with a trumpet blast. On waking, the page stared down into a 40-metre-deep abyss. This spot is now known as Pagenbett, meaning the page boy’s repose.
Surprise factor: The only successful ‘invasion’ of the fortress was accomplished by an 18 year-old chimney sweep called Sebastian Abratzky. In 1848, he made an unaided ascent via the route now known as the Abratzky-Kamin and climbed over the wall. It is a popular challenge for modern-day rock climbers and has been classified as a Grade 4 ascent.