PIRNA, an ancient town of Saxony, lies on the left bank of the Elbe, on the margin of the " Saxon Switzerland," 11 miles above Dresden. It is on the whole a regularly built town, with promenades on the site of the former ramparts, but contains no notable edifices except the fine Gothic Hauptkirche (1502-46) and the townhouse. The chief source of its prosperity is formed by the excellent sandstone found on both banks of the Elbe above the town ; but manufactures of cigars, chemicals, enamelled tinware, pottery, and leather are also carried on. Besides the export of the sandstone, it transacts a trade in grain, fruit, and timber, mainly by river. The population in 1880 was 11,680, almost all Protestants.
Pirna, originally a Slavonic settlement, long oscillated between Bohemia and Meissen (Saxony), but became permanently united with the latter in 1404. Having at a very early period received the privilege of holding fairs, it was at one time among the most flourishing of Saxon towns, but afterwards lost its importance through pestilence and the disasters of the Thirty Years' and Seven Years' Wars. On a rock above the town rises the fortress of Sonnenstein, now a lunatic asylum, erected in the 10th century on the site of an older castle, and once considered the most important fortress on the Elbe. It successfully withstood the Swedes in the Thirty Years' War, though the town was stormed, but was captured and dismantled by the Prussians in 1758. In 1813 it was occupied by the French, and held for several mouths.