The Wartburg (German pronunciation: [ˈvaʁtbʊʁk]) is a castle originally built in the Middle Ages. It is situated on a precipice of 410 meters (1,350 ft) to the southwest of and overlooking the town of Eisenach, in the state of Thuringia, Germany. It was the home of St. Elisabeth of Hungary, the place where Martin Luther translated the New Testament of the Bible into German, the site of the Wartburg festival of 1817 and the supposed setting for the possibly legendary Sängerkrieg. 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. In 1999, Wartburg Castle was inscribed on...Read more
The Wartburg (German pronunciation: [ˈvaʁtbʊʁk]) is a castle originally built in the Middle Ages. It is situated on a precipice of 410 meters (1,350 ft) to the southwest of and overlooking the town of Eisenach, in the state of Thuringia, Germany. It was the home of St. Elisabeth of Hungary, the place where Martin Luther translated the New Testament of the Bible into German, the site of the Wartburg festival of 1817 and the supposed setting for the possibly legendary Sängerkrieg. 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. In 1999, Wartburg Castle was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its quintessential medieval architecture and its historical and religious significance.
The castle's foundation was laid about 1067 by the Thuringian count of Schauenburg, Louis the Springer ( Ludwig der 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. 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.
The castle was first mentioned in a written document in 1080 by Bruno, Bishop of Merseburg, in his De Bello Saxonico ("The Saxon War") as Wartberg.
During the Investiture Controversy, 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.
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.: 149
The castle thus became the setting for the legendary Sängerkrieg, or Minstrels' Contest in which such Minnesänger as Walther von der Vogelweide, Wolfram von Eschenbach, Albrecht von Halberstadt (the translator of Ovid) and many others supposedly took part in 1206/1207. The legend of this event was later used by Richard Wagner in his 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 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.: 4
In 1247, Heinrich Raspe, the last landgrave of Thuringia of his line and an anti-king of Germany, died at the Wartburg. He was succeeded by Henry III, Margrave of Meissen.
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.: 15, 18
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.
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. In 1925, a handwritten signature of Fritz Erbe was found on the prison wall.
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.: 7
In 1777, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe stayed at the Wartburg for five weeks, making various drawings of the buildings.
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 under the motto "Honour - Freedom - Fatherland". 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 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.
Drawing on a suggestion by Goethe that the Wartburg would serve well as a museum, Maria Pavlovna and her son Karl Alexander also founded the art collection (Kunstkammer) that became the nucleus of today's museum.: 24–28
The reign of the House of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach ended in the German Revolution in 1918. In 1922, the Wartburg Stiftung (Wartburg Foundation) was established to ensure the castle's maintenance.
After the end of World War II, Soviet occupation forces took the renowned collection of weapons and armour. Its whereabouts still remain unknown.: 10 The Rüstkammer (the armoury) of the Wartburg used to contain a notable 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.
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.: 24
In 1967, the castle was the site of celebrations of the GDR's national jubilee, the 900th anniversary of the Wartburg's foundation, the 450th anniversary of the beginning of Luther's Reformation and the 150th anniversary of the Wartburg Festival.: 29
On June 13, 1980, Devo performed at the castle during their Freedom of Choice tour.
In 1983, it was the central point of the celebrations on account of the 500th birthday of Martin Luther.: 29
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