Wartburg Castle in Thuringia

Categories: Sightseeing, Cultural and History

Wartburg
Wartburg

[ source: Wikipedia]

Despite being almost inaccessible to most American tourists for over 40 years, the Wartburg Castle in Thuringia figures prominently in the minds of many American Protestants. Because of its association with Martin Luther, the Wartburg Castle is a popular pilgrimage destination for those seeking to immerse themselves in Luther's history in Germany.

Located southwest of Eisenach (Eisenach vacation rentals | Eisenach travel guide), the Wartburg Castle is built on foundations dating back to 1068. The fortress was constructed by the Count of Schauenburg, Ludwig der Springer, to secure the outer borders of his lands. The castle soon became the center of courtly culture and the arts. In 1207, the Wartburg was the site of a legendary minstrels' contest that was later treated with some creative license by Richard Wagner in his opera Tannhaeuser. The Wartburg Castle went into decline in the early 15th century, when the margraves shifted their seat of power to Gotha (Gotha vacation rentals | Gotha travel guide) and then Weimar (Weimar vacation rentals | Weimar travel guide). Starting in the 1500s, the castle was in a state of repair.

The most prominent person to reside in the castle was Luther, who resided here, under the protection of the Saxon Elector, between May 1521 and March 1522 after he was excommunicated by the pope at the Diet of Worms (Worms vacation rentals | Worms travel guide). Here he translated the New Testament into German, the second translation of the Bible into a modern language in a thousand years.

After the Napoleonic Wars, the Wartburg Castle became popular as a symbol of ancient German greatness. The site was restored in the early 1800s by the Grand Duke of Saxony, presumably back to what it looked like when Luther lived there. The castle was not damaged by bombing in World War II, but it was looted by Soviet troops. In 1946, the extensive collection of military pieces in the Wartburg Castle's armory were taken to the Soviet Union, and have never been returned.

Because of its architectural and associative importance, the Wartburg Castle was listed by UNESCO on its World Heritage List in 1999 as "an outstanding monument of the feudal period in central Europe." The Romanesque Palace, or Great Hall, is the oldest part of the building. This area contains the original castle as it was between 1157 and 1170. The Luther Room still retains its original floor and wall paneling. For those interested in art, the Wartburg Castle's collection contains a number of important paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Picturesquely set up on a high bluff above Eisenach, the Wartburg Castle attracts numerous tourists every years. Events, such as concerts and church services, provide further incentive to travel out to the Wartburg Castle. Those who wish to extend their stay here can make use of the restaurant and hotel located in the castle. One interesting tradition here are the donkey rides offered for children from the parking area up to the castle.

[ source: wikipedia.org ]



About this Article

Rachel Hildebrandt

This travel guide has been written by Rachel Hildebrandt.

Starting with her first trip to Germany at the age of 16, Rachel has traveled, worked, and studied in Germany extensively. Although her first encounter with German culture was in Lower Saxony, since that time the focus of her subsequent work as a freelance historian and translator has shifted eastward. Building on her graduate studies in Dresden, Rachel has worked for a variety of German foundations as a historian and translator, and is currently pursuing research pertaining to the Sorbs in Lusatia (eastern Saxony).

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Location, Map, and Driving Directions

Location: 99817 Eisenach, Thuringia, Germany

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