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)

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4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

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User Reviews

Gautam Sharma (14 months ago)
Well kept medivial castle with historic Martin Luther's 10 months house arrest room!
Eugen Safin (15 months ago)
Absolutely fantastic place for a visit! Interesting history and breathtaking views.
Oleg Naumov (19 months ago)
Well-preserved castle. The current museum. Stunning landscapes open from the height of the castle. An interesting exposition. Cafe, gift shop. Tickets are sold locally. Below the castle is a large parking lot. But you have to be prepared to climb high enough stairs.
Ruben Schoenefeld (20 months ago)
Beautiful castle. It's easy to find, there is plenty of parking of you get there early. It's a bit of a walk up the mountain, but they offer a shuttle for a little extra charge. Definitely take the guided tour to see more of the inside and get a bit of a history lesson. The tour is available in German and English, but not sure if other languages are available as well.
Mi Bome (21 months ago)
Although this is probably the most important place of German history, in January and February there are very few visitors. If you want to experience this beautiful castle undisturbed, and if you want to take great snaps without crowds of tourists come at this time. I am so Happy that I decided to visit Wartburg Castle in January, and on a weekday in January. Booking the tour through the castle, our group consisted of a mere 10 people. In summer the groups are easily 60 people large. Anyway, at any time of the year, this is the most important and awesome castle of Germany.
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