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.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.