Wartburg Castle
Wartburg Castle
Cultural Germany Europe And North America Eisenach, State Of Thuringia (thüringen)

The Castle of Wartburg is an outstanding monument of the feudal period in central Europe. It is rich in cultural associations, most notably its role as the place of exile of Martin Luther, who composed his German translation of the New Testament there. It is also a powerful symbol of German integration and unity.

The legendary creation of the castle is attributed to Count Ludwig der Springer. The first steps in its construction were taken in 1067, and it became one of the key points in the early years of Ludovician sovereignty. This sovereignty grew more firmly established during the first half of the 12th century. Raised to the dignity of Landgraves, the Ludovicians supported the policies of the Stauffen emperors. The building of the palace in the second half of the 12th century illustrates their status as Princes of the Empire. In 1227 Heinrich Raspe IV, the brother of Ludwig IV, succeeded him and, espousing the pope's cause, was appointed King of Germany on the initiative of Innocent IV. His death in 1247 ended the Ludovician dynasty.

The Margrave of Wettin, Heinrich von Meissen, took possession of Wartburg. The transfer of the seat of power to Gotha and subsequently to Weimar at the beginning of the 15th century marked the beginning of the castle's decline. From the 16th century onwards, the castle was kept more or less in a state of repair;although abandoned as a seat of power, its strategic importance was nonetheless highlighted several times. After the Napoleonic wars, a national sentiment emerged which revelled in the image of ancient Germany as symbolized by Wartburg Castle.

In the first half of the 19th century, on the initiative of the Grand Duke of Saxony, the entire site was completely renovated: the remains of the palace were raised from their ruins, the curtain wall restored, and the remainder of the buildings reconstructed under the supervision of architect Hugo von Ritgen. The large parts played by assumptions in the reconstruction have rather more to do with the romantic imagination than with historical reality. In 1945, the bombing of Eisenach spared Wartburg, although the castle was later pillaged by Soviet troops. The German Democratic Republic made Wartburg Castle a national monument;since the reunification of Germany, restoration work has concentrated primarily on the interiors and on the problems of preserving the stonework on the palace facades.

The castle occupies a rocky spur looking north and south, in the midst of the forest that looks down over the city of Eisenach. Its layout corresponds in essence to that of the original fortress, particularly the palace, the ramparts, the South Tower, and the outworks, which are now partially buried or in ruins. In architectural terms, The rocky spur is reached from the northern end, occupied by a tower with a drawbridge, followed by a number of outbuildings which form an outer courtyard. Next follows the lower courtyard, the main features of which are the keep and the palace, onto which the Knights' Baths back. The South Tower marks the farther end of the spur. The centre of the lower courtyard is occupied by a cistern. The fortress is made up of the following constructions:

  • The outworks: all that remain are archaeological traces, outlines of the foundations and ditch of the Fischerturm, the escarpments of the access ramp, and the road, carved from the living rock, leading up to the fortress, as well as the spring of fresh water.
  • The outer defences - the postern gate and drawbridge;the knights' lodging and the commissary buildings;the Marguerite and St Elisabeth wall-walks, the coping of the Wartburg Castle well, worked stone balustrades, stairs also of dressed stone, paved floors, and the surface of the courtyards of the outer wards.
  • The castle comprising the following buildings: belfry;new apartments with fireplace;new monumental staircase;the palace;Knights' Baths;South Tower;west and south curtain walls;cistern;lower castle courtyard;commandant's garden.