Its name, first mentioned in 1521 within the council minutes at that time, is derived from the fact that these buildings — originally twelve of them — sheltered priests and further attendants of St. Mary’s Cathedral in the beginning.
Besides teachers of the nearby Latin school, which was quite famous back then, lived there as well. Initially experts thought that these buildings dated back to the 15th or 16th century; but this assumption had to be revised as preliminary archaeological investigations prior to the reconstruction showed that they are much older. Dating by dendrochronological analysis, confirmed by archaeological findings, give evidence that the oldest building originates from 1264.
Back in 1466 the complete ensemble had already been existing in its basic structure. Thus, the four historical Priesterhäuser housing the museum are the oldest preserved residential building in Saxony.
Until 1880 the ensemble was owned by the church. Afterwards it has been owned by the municipality and used for residential purposes until the 1970s.
Unlike the bigger part of the medieval development in the old town of Zwickau, which was teared down due to the construction of ‘Plattenbau’ buildings common in the former GDR, the western city center was spared from any socialistic rebuilding attempts. A first attempt to reconstruct the Priesterhäuser in the mid-1980s ended up in a mere securing of the ensemble for safety reasons.