World Heritage Sites – Wartburg Castle, Germany

Wartburg Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Eisenach, Germany. 

The location of the castle is above the border of what used to be West and East Germany, so for over forty years it was pretty inaccessible.  Either because of this, or because it is such a famous pilgrimage site, the day we were there so were  plenty of people.  Last year there were over 400,000 visitors.

As a good castle should be, Wartburg is situated up high, above the town on a jutting precipice.  We drove up, up, up, and then the only parking available was down the hill a little.  Darn it!  That just meant more climbing.

Wartburg Castle, Eisenach.
Wartburg Castle, Eisenach

We parked the car, and as we stepped out into the cool, German spring air, we smelled the beckoning aroma of grilled bratwurst.  Even though I’m not much of a sausage fan, I’ve found that many of the towns in the old “East” Germany still handmake their wursts, and they are delicious!  Don’t pass them up, I say.

Upon first look at Wartburg, it really feels like an old Tudor castle.  It’s majestic, yet quaint at the same time.  I love the half-timbered areas combined with the stone walls.  There is plenty to see at the site. Like many castles nowadays, it is a museum housed in a fortress, but the frescoed ceilings, the kitchen, the halls, the bedrooms, all are filled with furniture and items from various periods of the castle’s existence.

Guided tours are offered all day long at Wartburg Castle, but there is only one English tour each day at 1:30 p.m.

One of the main reasons Wartburg is such a pilgrimage site is because it housed two very important religious figures, Saint Elisabeth and Martin Luther.   One Catholic and one starting the Protestant movement, it was interesting to note that on the tour that we took, the guide told us many, many things about Saint Elisabeth, and just mentioned Martin Luther.

St. Elisabeth's Betrothal
St. Elisabeth’s Betrothal

Saint Elisabeth came to the castle when she was four to marry one of the Thuringer Landgraves at the young age of 14.  During this time, she was reported to be very pious and giving.  She often gave away her clothes to the poor.  She lived in the castle until he went off to fight in the Crusades where he was promptly killed.  This left poor Elisabeth a widow, and she was turned out of the castle to live in a nearby monastery.  There she continued her good deeds, helping to build a hospital, but unfortunately died very young at 24.  She was sainted by Pope Gregory the IX in 1235, and only four years later they dug up her remains and took them to Marburg where a Gothic church was being built in her name.

Martin Luther Room
Martin Luther’s Room, where he translated the New Testament into German.

The second religious figure to have lived in Wartburg was Martin Luther.  By the time he made it there in 1521, he had already been persecuted greatly because of his beliefs, writings, and speeches.  He came to Wartburg under the guise of Junker Jorge or Knight George.  Luther hid in Wartbug Castle because he was named a heretic by Pope Leo X. In the short ten weeks he was there, he was sequestered in a small, spartanly decorated room, which you can visit after the tour, and he took the time to translate the New Testament into German.

Conservatory in Wartburg.
The Conservatory at Wartburg Castle

One other famous event happened in Wartburg and that was a singing competition in 1207.  It became famous and Richard Wagner referred to it in his Tannhäuser und der Sängerkrieg auf Wartburg .  When you visit the conservatory you can see how grand it is, and the acoustics are superb.  There are many concerts still given, but it is virtually impossible to get tickets.  I hope to do so one day.

A great day out, we thoroughly enjoyed visiting Wartburg castle fortified with Thuringer sausages.  I hear in the winter they hold a medieval Christmas market there.  I might have to go back!

Have you been to Eisenach or Wartburg Castle?  Have you tried the sausages? What did you think?

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