World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Wartburg Castle


Wartburg Castle

For other uses, see Wartburg (disambiguation).
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Wartburg Castle
Name as inscribed on the World Heritage List
Type Cultural
Criteria iii, vi
Reference UNESCO region Europe and North America
Inscription history
Inscription 1999 (23rd Session)

The Wartburg is a castle situated on a 1230-foot (410-m) precipice to the southwest of, and overlooking the town of Eisenach, in the state of Thuringia, Germany. In 1999 UNESCO added Wartburg Castle to the World Heritage List as an "Outstanding Monument of the Feudal Period in Central Europe", citing its "Cultural Values of Universal Significance".[1]


The castle's foundation was laid about 1068 by the Thuringian count of Schauenburg, Louis the Springer, a relative of the Counts of Rieneck in Franconia. Together with its larger sister castle Neuenburg in the present-day town of Freyburg, the Wartburg secured the extreme borders of his traditional territories.[2]

According to tradition, the castle (Burg) got its name when its founder first laid eyes on the hill upon which the castle now sits; enchanted by the site, he is supposed to have exclaimed, "Warte, Berg -- du sollst mir eine Burg tragen!" ("Wait, mountain -- you shall bear a castle for me!").[3] It is a German play on words for mountain (Berg) and fortress (Burg). In addition, Louis the Springer is said to have had clay from his lands transported to the top of the hill, which was not quite within his lands, so he might swear that the castle was built on his soil. In fact, the name probably derives from German: Warte, a kind of watchtower as stated in the above source.

The castle was first mentioned during the Investiture Controversy in a 1080 deed, when Louis's henchmen attacked a military contingent of King Henry IV of Germany. The count remained a fierce opponent of the Salian rulers, and upon the extinction of the line, his son Louis I was elevated to the rank of a Landgrave in Thuringia by the new German king Lothair of Supplinburg in 1131.

The Wartburg remained the seat of the Thuringian landgraves until 1440, and as a place of courtly culture it became around 1207 the venue of the Sängerkrieg, the Minstrels' Contest [4] in which such Minnesänger as Walther von der Vogelweide,[5] Wolfram von Eschenbach,[6] Albrecht von Halberstadt (the translator of Ovid) and many others took part. The contest was later to be treated with poetic licence in Richard Wagner's opera Tannhäuser.

At the age of four, St. Elisabeth of Hungary was sent by her mother to the Wartburg to be raised to become consort of Ludwig IV of Thuringia. From 1211 to 1228, she lived there and was renowned for her charitable work. Three years after moving to Marburg upon the death of her husband, she died at the age of 24 and was canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.[7]

From May 1521 to March 1522, Martin Luther stayed at the castle, 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, under the name of Junker Jörg (the Knight George), translated the New Testament into German. Luther's was not the first German translation of the Bible but it quickly became the most well known and most widely circulated.

From 1540 until his death in 1548, Fritz Erbe, an Anabaptist farmer from Herda, was held captive in the dungeon of the south tower, because he refused to abjure anabaptism. After his death, he was buried in the Wartburg near the chapel of St. Elisabeth.[8] In 1925 a handwritten signature of Fritz Erbe was found on the prison wall.

On 18 October 1817, the first Wartburg festival took place. About 450 students, members of the newly founded German Burschenschaften ("fraternities"), came together at the castle to celebrate the German victory over Napoleon four years before, condemn conservatism and call for German unity. Speakers at the event included Heinrich Hermann Riemann, a veteran of the Lützow Free Corps, the philosophy student Ludwig Rödiger, and Hans Ferdinand Massmann.

With the permission of the absent chaplain Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, the Code Napoléon and other books were burned 'in effigy': instead of the costly volumes, scraps of parchment with the titles of conservative books (including August von Kotzebue's History of the German Empires) were placed on the bonfire. Karl Ludwig Sand, who would assassinate Kotzebue two years later, was among the participants.

This event and the similar gathering at Wartburg during the Revolutions of 1848 are considered seminal moments in the movement for German unification.

The buildings

The castle has been renovated throughout its existence with many earlier parts being overbuilt by later constructions and additions. From 1952 to 1966, for example, the East German Government restored it to what it looked like in the 16th century, which included the Luther Room (right) with its original floor and paneled walls.

The Romanesque Palas (Landgrafenhaus or Great Hall) is the oldest and architecturally most impressive of the buildings. Besides the chapel, it contains the Sängersaal (Hall of the Minstrels), which is in fact Wagner's setting for Act II of Tannhäuser and the Festsaal (the Feast or Festival Hall), both of which contain fine frescoes by Moritz von Schwind with the theme of the minstrels' contest in the Sängersaal and frescoes of the triumphs of Christianity in the Festsaal. Part of the Palace consists of the original castle as it was between 1157 and 1170, as an image of power and residence of the Thuringian landgraves.

The castle gate behind the drawbridge is the only access to the Castle, and it has remained exactly as it was throughout the centuries.

The Knights' House on the western side of the drawbridge is half-timbered, and dates back to the 15th century. It probably served as a hall of residence for the servants and guards.

There are two towers, the South Tower (the only tower preserved of the medieval castle, having been erected in 1318 and which has the dungeon; and the bergfried (finished in 1859, partially incorporating the foundations of its medieval predecessor, and which has the landmark four-meter Latin cross at its top.

Other features include the Vogtei (the Bailiff's Lodge) in which the Luther Room is situated and to which a 15th-century oriel was attached in 1872; two covered walks, the Elisabeth and the Margaret Hallways, which form part of the 15th-century defence ring and whose projecting beams are supported by wooden consoles; and the New Bower (the Kemenate or Women's Chamber) which contains the Wartburg collection.

The Rüstkammer (the armoury) of the Wartburg, used to contain a magnificent collection of about 800 pieces, from the splendid armour of King Henry II of France, to the items of Frederick the Wise, Pope Julius II and Bernhard von Weimar. All these objects were taken by the Soviet Occupation Army in 1946 and have disappeared in the Soviet Union. Two helmets, two swords, a prince's and a boy's armour, however, were found in a temporary store at the time and a few pieces were given back by the USSR in the 1960s. The new Russian Government has been petitioned to help locate the missing treasures.


For centuries, the Wartburg has been a place of pilgrimage for many people from within and outside Germany, for its significance in German history and in the development of Christianity. Several places (especially US towns founded by Lutherans) and a local brand of automobile have been named after the Wartburg. Wartburg College in Iowa, USA, is named in commemoration of Martin Luther's receiving refuge at the castle and because of the college's forest location and its Thuringian heritage.[9]


External links

  • History, architecture and tour of the Wartburg
  • History and present
  • [1]

Coordinates: 50°57′58″N 10°18′23″E / 50.9662°N 10.3065°E / 50.9662; 10.3065

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.