High above Eisenach on a mountain range of the Thuringian Forest lies the Wartburg at an altitude of over 200 meters. It is one of the most visited places in Thuringia and offers not only castle and history lovers an unforgettable visit. The view over the region is simply indescribable!
Wartburg Castle can look back on an interesting history. For me, until my visit, it was “only” the place where Luther translated the Bible. Far from it, much more history has been written here.
Saga of the origin of the Wartburg
A fortification or an observation point probably stood on the hill for quite a long time, when Louis the Knight from the Ludovingian dynasty wanted to move the family’s ancestral seat there.
There is a legend about the origin of the castle about the swords of the Wartburg. According to this legend, Ludwig the Knight is said to have said “Wait! Mountain, you shall become a castle for me!” and thus determined the place for the construction of the castle. However, he had not considered that the mountain was not part of his property and a conquest with his 12 knights would have been hopeless. So he came up with the idea of having earth brought from his land and spreading it on the mountain. His knights rammed their swords into the “native sand” and swore in court that they were completely stuck in Ludwig’s earth. With this trick they were able to convince the court and start the construction of the Wartburg castle
The Ludovingians can be proven to be the owners of the Wartburg from about 1150. The palace was built under the direction of Landgrave Ludwig II. Also from the 12th century are parts of the gatehouse and the eastern ring wall.
In the early 13th century, the Ludovingians placed the administration and security of the castle in the hands of a plenipotentiary. This person held the office of Burgrave of Wartburg and lived with his family in the castle complex.
The history of the singer war
Allegedly, Wartburg Castle was the scene of the Singer’s War. The Thuringian historian von Apolda and the chronicler Rothe write in their works in great detail and impressively about the events that are said to have happened at Wartburg Castle during the reign of Hermann I. The latter was a patron of the arts and many artists were attracted to the castle during his reign. He was a patron of the arts and many artists were attracted to the castle during his reign.
Stories arose after this time in which famous poets were said to have competed with rivals in a kind of singers’ quarrel at Wartburg Castle. Many historians wrote, expanded and invented stories about the singers’ quarrel and so a historical event developed that never actually existed.
Later, artists such as E.T.A. Hoffmann and Richard Wagner took up the story again and incorporated the idea into their works. In the Wartburg there is a fresco from 1855 that depicts the Singers’ War. To this day, it suggests that it is located at the historically true place of the event. The inscription says:
IN DIESEM SAALE WURDE DER SÆNGER= / STREIT GEHALTEN DEN 7ten JULI 1207 / DEM GEBURTSTAG DER HEIL. ELISABETH. (IN THIS HALL THE SÆNGER= / STRUGGLE WAS HOLDED THE 7th OF JULY 1207 / THE BIRTHDAY OF HOLY. ELISABETH.)
The so-called Singers’ Hall can be visited during a tour of the Wartburg.
Martin Luther at Wartburg Castle
Emperor Charles V summoned Martin Luther to Worms in 1521. He was displeased with the Reformation writings that Luther was spreading in the country. Since he did not recant his writings, the Diet of Worms imposed imperial ostracism on Luther. This ostracism extended over the entire Holy Roman Empire of German Nations and forbade him to disseminate his works. He was considered an outlaw.
When Luther was on his way back to Wittenberg, knights captured him on the evening of May 4, 1521 and “abducted” him to Wartburg Castle. In this way, they wanted to remove him from the danger of persecution. Luther was privy to this plan and did not resist.
Until March 1, 1522, Martin Luther remained a secret guest at the castle as “Junker Jörg”. He lived in spartanly furnished quarters in a small parlor. There he studied the Bible and translated the New Testament into German in just 11 weeks. In the course of this work, Luther created numerous new words and phrases, as he could not find suitable words in the German language for many biblical terms.
Legends are still told today about Luther’s time at Wartburg Castle. For example, Luther is said to have reported being molested by the devil. He “drove out the devil with ink.” He was probably referring to the translation of the Bible.
Later, Luther’s statement was interpreted as if he had really thrown an inkwell. As early as 1713, visitors to Luther’s apartment were said to have been shown an ink stain on the wall. The stain faded with time and so it was regularly re-stained. When visitors began to remove small pieces of the stain from the wall and take them with them, this work had to be done almost daily.
The history of the Wartburg since the 19th century
In 1838, an expert was commissioned to examine the remains of the castle complex. Based on his findings, it was decided to rebuild the ruins in the historical style. In addition, several new buildings were erected on the castle grounds, which still characterize the image of the complex today. In the course of these construction measures, the Wartburg Hotel was also built, which welcomes its guests in an upscale ambience to this day.
Since 1999, the Wartburg has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Tour in the Wartburg
The Wartburg originally consisted of four sections, of which only the outer and main castles remain today.
The visitor enters the outer castle via the drawbridge through a gatehouse. To the right of the gatehouse is a building (knight’s house, bailiwick), which dates from the late Middle Ages. In the 15th century, the ring wall was provided with a half-timbered construction and roofed over. The western part is called Margaretengang and the eastern Elisabethgang.
The main castle is bordered by buildings from the second half of the 19th century. The original medieval buildings were reconstructed and so today the visitor can admire the late Romanesque palace. The southern tower, which can also be climbed, dates back to the Middle Ages. Today’s main tower, the keep, catches the eye of most visitors first because of its size. On it stands a shining cross that is visible far in the region.
The tour of the building begins in the Palas. Here you go through the individual rooms. Some of them we know very well how they were used. For other rooms there are only guesses. I was very impressed by some of the rooms and corridors.
On the first floor of the landgrave’s house there is also the bower of St. Elizabeth. Through a small door we enter the room. This room was completely decorated between 1902 and 1906 with a breathtaking mosaic of 4.5 million glass stones. The almost Byzantine looking mosaics tell the life of St. Elizabeth, who lived in Wartburg Castle as the Landgravine of Thuringia and Princess of Hungary.
I could have stayed in this room forever. The mosaics are so detailed that there is a lot to see.
A connecting corridor, which at first seemed inconspicuous, revealed amazing works of art. Here are works by the painter Moritz von Schwind. In 1854/55, he created a multi-part cycle on the life of St. Elisabeth, which, among other things, deals with the “Rose Miracle” and the departure of Elisabeth from the Wartburg.
Tip: Today, during the tour, the visitor enters the gallery from the “wrong” side and can first see the last pictures of the cycle. I felt it was nicer to view the paintings in the chronologically correct order and therefore recommend going to the door at the end of the aisle and starting the tour from there.
Sängersaal (Singers’ Hall)
In the Singers’ Hall hangs a painting by Moritz von Schwind depicting the legend of the Singers’ Quarrel. An impressive room, which is defined by the beautiful fresco.
The text of the singer’s quarrel hangs in the singer’s arbor.
Fact on the side: The singers’ arbor already existed before the mural. The artist has cleverly integrated it into his painting and thus creates the impression that the singers’ war took place in this room.
I was particularly impressed by the ballroom with its magnificent design. The view of the beautiful ceiling, the carved details on the benches and the paintings on the walls give the room a very special glamor. The hall is 40 meters long and was built on top of the original structure.
Grand Ducal Apartments
The actual dwelling of the grand ducal family extended over three new buildings in the castle. Since the middle of the 20th century, you can visit them in the Wartburg Museum.
I liked the well-preserved prince’s bedroom, but I wonder how small the user must have been. The size of the bed reminds me more of a child’s bed. The view of the Thuringian Forest from this room is a dream!
Walk to Luther’s apartment
Through the Margarthengang, the western battlement, one finally reaches Martin Luther’s apartment. He had a small, well-sealed apartment at his disposal, which consisted of a chamber and a parlor. On the same floor there was also a bailiff’s apartment and a kitchen. From there he received his meals. The chamber was furnished in a very simple and functional way with a chair, a table and a piece of storage furniture. The pieces of furniture exhibited there today are appropriate for Luther’s time, but not original.
It’s worth stopping in front of the room for a while. There are surprising things to see and hear…
View from the keep
Actually, no one is allowed to enter the keep of Wartburg Castle, but sometimes we are lucky and get to experience something that is otherwise not possible.
We climb the 112 steps to the keep with your golden cross on top and the effort was really worth it. What a view. With good visibility, you can see the 17 km nearby Großer Inselsberg in the southeast, the 58 km distant Wasserkuppe in the south-southwest, and the 95 km distant Brocken in the north.
In the middle of the forest on a rock wall I discover a large “M”. It doesn’t look like it was painted there by mistake. The letter stands for Maria. This was the first name of the Saxon-Weimar duchess Maria Pavlovna, after whom the valley was named. In 1805, the 6.50 meter high M was carved into the rock on the slope of the Maria Valley and ceremoniously unveiled on the occasion of Maria Pawlowna’s visit. The M was clearly visible until the 1940s, when it became overgrown. The M was largely forgotten. In 2004 it was uncovered again by the forestry and newly gilded.
The view of the castle courtyard and the hotel on the Wartburg is also really something special from this tower. Only from there it becomes apparent that the Wartburg is actually quite a small and manageable complex.
A night at the Wartburg
The Romantik Hotel auf der Wartburg is located directly on the castle hill. To spend the night here I felt as something very special. In these historic walls right next to the castle, I liked it.
My single room was on the 3rd floor directly under the roof. The view from the window showed me the Thuringian Forest and I could also see a small piece of the castle.
On a small foray through the building, I happened to land in a large event hall. I think the hall is called the Knights’ Hall, in any case I found the design of the walls unique.
I particularly liked the fireplace room. There are cozy seating areas there, and when it gets cold a fire crackles in the fireplace – a place to feel good.
The restaurant of the Wartburg Hotel spoiled us with an excellent meal in the evening. After an aromatic cress soup, we were served braised venison with juniper sauce, cranberries, red cabbage and Thuringian dumpling. I love dumplings with sauce and this sauce was exquisitely flavorful. If the tender venison roast hadn’t smelled so tempting and tasted just as good, I would have been satisfied with just the dumpling and gravy. The dinner concluded with a small assortment of sour cream with vanilla parfait, currant compote, yeast doughnuts and Wartburg ice cream. A successful conclusion to the menu.
Auf d. Wartburg 1,
Good to know
Opening hours interiors:
1.4.- beginning of November: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
beginning of November – 31.3.: 9.30 a.m. – 3.30 p.m.
01.04. – beginning of November: 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
beginning of November – 31.03.: 9.30 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Visits to the outdoor facilities, castle courtyards and the Thuringian Adventure Portal are free of charge.
Discounts are offered.
per person: 1,-€
No, visitors must park in the paid parking lot. Hotel guests are also not allowed to drive up to the Wartburg. There is an extra parking lot for them.
Bus line 3 goes from the train station and the city center to the parking lot of the castle complex. Bus line 23 goes from the P+R parking lot in Mariental to the Wartburg.
From 8-17 o’clock the parking of a car costs 5,-€. Buses and motorhomes are more expensive, to park the motorcycle costs 2,-€.
From 5-8 pm the fees differ. Then the car costs only 1,-€, motorhomes have to pay 10,-€.
There is a paid shuttle (minibus). The ride costs 2,50€ per person.
No, these must remain in the visitor parking lot.
The visit to Wartburg Castle and the overnight stay in a hotel were part of a press trip with Thüringer Tourismus GmbH.