Wartburg Castle

Wartburg Castle: All the Splendor of German Feudalism

Mary Elizabeth Collins

The setting for Wagner’s opera “Tannhäuser,” this UNESCO World Heritage Site hosted many famous residents, including religious reform advocate Martin Luther and the writer Goethe.

There are many European castles that look like they belong in a fairytale; Spain’s Alcázar in Segovia, the fortress of Guaita in San Marino and the dreamy Eilean Donan of Scotland, among others. But Germany is surely home to the most beautiful fortresses of the old continent. With its grandeur and striking location, Wartburg Castle is one of the most beautiful in Northern Europe, not to mention that it is also rich in history and masterfully preserved.
Wartburg Castle

To visit the castle, you must travel to the town of Eisenach, in Thuringia, a beautiful region known for its large lush, mountain-framed forest.

The Wartburg fortress, which sits on a 1,230-foot cliff, was the first German castle to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s an illustration of the feudal period’s peak in central Europe, despite the reforms and additions made in later centuries.

Germany is surely home to the most beautiful fortresses of the old continent.

The castle represents more than a thousand years of Germany’s history, with its origins dating back to the end of the ninth century. It’s believed that it was founded by the feudal lord of Schauenburg, who had a beautiful residential building built within the walls surrounding the castle, completed in 1180. This building, called the palas, is considered a jewel of late Romanesque architecture. To the east of this marvelous building are the castle’s walls and buttresses and, inside, there is a large patio surrounded by arches supported by 200 columns.
Wartburg Castle

Apart from its interior and exterior beauty, the Wartburg was a silent witness to great historical events in Germany, and a home to many notable figures, including Elizabeth of Hungary, later Elizabeth of Thuringia, who became known throughout the region for her kindness. She died at the early age of 24, and was later canonized by the Roman Catholic Church and became known as Saint Elizabeth. Martin Luther, a renowned advocate of religious reform during the sixteenth century, took refuge in Wartburg Castle, where he completed his German translation of the New Testament. Composer Richard Wagner was inspired by Wartburg’s backdrop, which he featured in his opera Tannhäuser and German poet and writer Goethe spent periods of rest in the castle.

While you’re there, be sure to take in the castle’s art collection. Created more than 200 years ago at Goethe‘s recommendation, it includes jewels that date back more than eight centuries, as well as tapestries, paintings by artist Lucas Cranach, antique furniture, Tilman Riemenschneider sculptures and Renaissance crafts.

Now, famous Wartburg concerts are held in the palas, as well as other events, including a theater festival and an endearing Christmas market, whose fame attracts visitors from all over the world.  ■

PHOTOS: © DZT Christof Herdt, DZT_Wartburg-Stiftung, Foto-Design Ernst Wrb.

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