Wartburg Castle

Eisenach, Germany

Wartburg castle, overlooking the town of Eisenach, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was the home of St. Elisabeth of Hungary, the place where Martin Luther translated the New Testament of the Bible into German and the site of the Wartburg festival of 1817. It was an important inspiration for Ludwig II when he decided to build Neuschwanstein Castle. Wartburg is the most-visited tourist attraction in Thuringia after Weimar. Although the castle today still contains substantial original structures from the 12th through 15th centuries, much of the interior dates back only to the 19th-century period of Romanticism.

The castle's foundation was laid about 1067 by the Thuringian count of Schauenburg, Louis the Springer. Together with its larger sister castle Neuenburg in the present-day town of Freyburg, the Wartburg secured the extreme borders of his traditional territories.

From 1172 to 1211, the Wartburg was one of the most important princes' courts in the German Reich. Hermann I supported poets like Walther von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach who wrote part of his Parzival here in 1203.

At the age of four, St. Elisabeth of Hungary was sent by her mother to the Wartburg to be raised to become consort of Landgrave Ludwig IV of Thuringia. From 1211 to 1228, she lived in the castle and was renowned for her charitable work. In 1221, Elisabeth married Ludwig. In 1227, Ludwig died on the Crusade and she followed her confessor Father Konrad to Marburg. Elisabeth died there in 1231 at the age of 24 and was canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church just five years after her death.

In 1320, substantial reconstruction work was done after the castle had been damaged in a fire caused by lightning in 1317 or 1318. A chapel was added to the Palas. The Wartburg remained the seat of the Thuringian landgraves until 1440.

From May 1521 to March 1522, Martin Luther stayed at the castle under the name of Junker Jörg (the Knight George), after he had been taken there for his safety at the request of Frederick the Wise following his excommunication by Pope Leo X and his refusal to recant at the Diet of Worms. It was during this period that Luther translated the New Testament from Ancient Greek into German in just ten weeks. Luther's was not the first German translation of the Bible but it quickly became the most well known and most widely circulated.

Over the next centuries, the castle fell increasingly into disuse and disrepair, especially after the end of the Thirty Years' War when it had served as a refuge for the ruling family.

On 18 October 1817, the first Wartburg festival took place. About 500 students, members of the newly founded German Burschenschaften ('fraternities'), came together at the castle to celebrate the German victory over Napoleon four years before and the 300th anniversary of the Reformation, condemn conservatism and call for German unity. This event and a similar gathering at Wartburg during the Revolutions of 1848 are considered seminal moments in the movement for German unification.

During the rule of the House of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Grand Duke Karl Alexander ordered the reconstruction of Wartburg in 1838. The lead architect was Hugo von Ritgen, for whom it became a life's work. In fact, it was finished only a year after his death in 1889. The reign of the House of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach ended in the German Revolution in 1918. In 1922, the Wartburg Foundation was established to ensure the castle's maintenance.

Under communist rule during the time of the GDR extensive reconstruction took place in 1952-54. In particular, much of the palas was restored to its original Romanesque style. A new stairway was erected next to the palas.

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Details

Founded: c. 1067
Category: Castles and fortifications in Germany
Historical period: Salian Dynasty (Germany)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

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User Reviews

Daipeng Zhang (3 months ago)
this castle has a long history and has experienced many renovations. Some room has been luxuriously refurnished. It is located high on a hill. Martin Luther has translated the germany Bible here. Goethe has also visited here. Better take the guiding tour, it is about an hour, and the guide speak perfect english.
Mark Witbeck (3 months ago)
A great part of Germany's history took place here. Including Martin Luther who recognized some inconsistencies in the catholic faith. Translated part of the bible here. In addition to the miracle of the roses that took place here. Amazing.
Zeus Asterion (3 months ago)
One of the most beautiful castles of Germany. Very old, very important historic place (Martin Luther, ...). Museum for the whole family with Audioguides in many different languages. A great view and hike. Really cool "Weihnachtsmarkt" (Christmas-Market) in December. Parking lots on the mountain. I recommend to visit for anyone interested in German history and the history of the world (yes world, it is that important ;) ). If you visit take a look around the nearby town of Eisenach, worth a visit! (Great museum on Martin Luther in the middle of the city, as well as a train station).
Stephen Balza (4 months ago)
Spectacular. As a lifelong Lutheran I’ve always wanted to tour the Wartburg. It did not disappoint. The setting is spectacular and the history significant. We stayed at nearby Haus Hainstein (highly recommended) and walked up. It’s a bit of a hike but very doable for most.
Markus Ernst (4 months ago)
Fantastic castle with a lot of history and a great view. You can get a guided tour for 10€ through the different rooms which is definitely worth doing. Keep in mind that parking is at the start of the slope do you have to pay 5€ and walk about 200m upwards.
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Limburg Cathedral

The Cathedral of Limburg is one of the best preserved late Romanesque style buildings. It is unknown When the first church was built above the Lahn river. Archaeological discoveries have revealed traces of a 9th-century church building in the area of the current chapel. It was probably built in Merovingian times as a castle and the chapel added in the early 9th century.

In 910 AD, Count Konrad Kurzbold (cousin of the future King Konrad I) founded a collegiate chapter of 18 canons, who lived according to the rule of Bishop Chrodegang of Metz, on the hilltop site. The original castle chapel was torn down and a three-aisled basilica was built in its place. The foundations of this basilica have been found beneath the present floor.

The construction of current cathedral is dated to 1180-90. The consecration was performed in 1235 by the archbishop of Trier. It seems certain that the cathedral was built in four stages. The first stage encompassed the west facade, the south side aisle, the choir and the transept up to the matroneum. This section forms the Conradine church. The second stage consisted of the addition of the inner pillars of the south nave. In this stage the bound system was first introduced. In the third phase, the matroneum in the southern nave was built. The fourth stage included the north side of the transept and the choir matroneum. By this stage Gothic influence is very clear.

The interior was destroyed by Swedish soldiers during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) and reconstructed in a late Baroque style in 1749. The Baroque renovation was heavy-handed: the surviving medieval stained glass windows were replaced; all the murals were covered up; the ribs of the vaults and columns of the arcades were painted blue and red; the capstones were gilded; the original high altar was replaced. The colorfully painted exterior was coated in plain white and the central tower was extended by 6.5 meters.

The collegiate chapter of Limburg was dissolved in 1803 during the Napoleonic period, but then raised to the rank of cathedral in 1827 when the bishopric of Limburg was founded. Some renovations in contemporary style followed: the walls were coated white, the windows were redone in blue and orange (the heraldic colors of the Duke of Nassau) and towers were added to the south transept (1865).

Further changes came after Limburg was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866. It was now the Romantic period and the cathedral was accordingly restored to an idealized vision of its original Romanesque appearance. The exterior stonework was stripped of all its plaster and paint, to better conform with the Romantic ideal of a medieval church growing out of the rock. The Baroque interior was stripped away and the wall paintings were uncovered and repainted.

Further renovations came in 1934-35, enlightened by better knowledge of the original art and architecture. Art Nouveau stained glass windows were also added. A major restoration in 1965-90 included replastering and painting the exterior, both to restore it to its original appearance and to protect the stonework, which was rapidly deteriorating while exposed to the elements.

The interior is covered in medieval frescoes dating from 1220 to 1235. They are magnificent and important survivals, but time has not been terribly kind to them - they were whitewashed over in the Baroque period (1749) and uncovered and repainted with a heavy hand in the Romantic period (1870s) before finally being restored more sensitively in the 1980s.