Meissen, a town of Saxony, on the Elbe, 12 m. N. W. of Dresden; pop. in 1871, 11,455. It contains a castle founded by Henry the Fowler, and a fine Gothic cathedral, said to have been built by the emperor Otho I. The town is noted for its manufactures of porcelain, known as Dresden china. It also produces carved ivory ware and other similar articles, and has a considerable trade in wine and fruits. In the middle ages it was the capital of the margraves of Meissen (or Misnia, which included Dresden, Bautzen, and other towns) until their removal to Dresden, after which it continued to be the residence of the burgraves and the bishops until the reformation. It suffered much during the thirty years' war; the bridge over the Elbe was partially destroyed by the French in 1813, and again in 1866, during the war between Prussia and Austria. - The inar-graviate, which arose under Henry the Fowler and his son Otho I., was ruled by members of various families till the close of the 11th century, when it fell to the house of Wettin, in which it soon after became hereditary. Under this house the margraviate rose to considerable power, and in 1423 Frederick the Warlike, in reward for services in the Hussite war, received from the emperor Sigismund the duchy of Saxony with the dignity of elector.
In the division of the Saxon dominions in 1485, Meissen fell to the elder or Albertine line. (See Saxony).