Wartburg Castle – a UNESCO World Heritage site Where 1,000 years of history come to life
Wartburg Castle sits in splendour over the town of Eisenach in Thuringia. It was the first German castle to be designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, described as an exemplary hilltop castle of the feudal period in central Europe, despite alternations and additions made in later centuries. Wartburg Castle presents an impressive overview of 1,000 years of German history.
Welcome to Wartburg Castle!
According to legend, the castle's origins date back to 1067. The surviving main castle building, the 12th century palas (great hall), a gem of late Romanesque architecture, still bears traces of its former glory. As the main seat of the landgraves, the castle was a pre-eminent centre of artistic endeavour where all of the fine arts were celebrated. It once echoed to the songs of Walther von der Vogelweide and inspired a number of epic poems by Wolfram von Eschenbach. This was the setting of the fabled Battle of the Bards, a tale immortalised in Richard Wagner's opera Tannhäuser. Wartburg Castle was also the home of Saint Elisabeth, still revered to this day, and it provided a refuge for the exiled Martin Luther, who translated the New Testament into German here. The Wartburg Festival of 1817, organised by the student fraternities, celebrated the achievements of Luther, the Reformation and the Battle of Leipzig. It was the first popular declaration of sentiment for a unified and independent nation state.
Wartburg Castle was the setting for all of these crucial points in German history – as a mighty fortress and splendid residence and as a place of safety, shelter and retreat for its inhabitants through centuries past. Throughout its history the castle has always remained relevant.
However, the buildings were only renovated and redecorated in the 19th century, when the medieval architecture was restored and supplemented in parts by new additions. The outstanding example illustrating the concept of art in the 19th century is without doubt the ceremonial hall in the main castle building (palas), which now provides an amazing backdrop for the famous Wartburg concerts during the summer season as well as a number of other events.
The Wartburg Castle art collection with its treasures spanning eight centuries was created at the recommendation of Goethe nearly 200 years ago.
On a guided tour of the castle's rooms or a visit to the museum – with its famous paintings by Lucas Cranach, priceless tapestries and furniture, Tilman Riemenschneider sculptures and Renaissance arts and crafts – you are surrounded at every step by history, culture and the arts. The many events, from the Summer Nights festival to theatre and the historical Christmas market, attract visitors from around the world and bring the ancient walls to life.