Wartburg Castle – A Romanesque Hilltop Perch

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Wartburg Castle is, in many respects, “the ideal castle,” thanks to its seamless integration with the surrounding natural woodland setting. Little of the castle’s original feudal-era architecture survives today but combined with the form it took in a 19th-century reconstruction, the castle provides a relatively accurate picture of the fortress as it could have looked during the height of its defensive and seigniorial strength.

This massive medieval stronghold, perched on a hillside in the suburbs of Eisenach, is one of Germany’s most familiar national emblems. The castle was believed to be the asylum place of Martin Luther. Let’s dive into the incredible history and interesting facts about Wartburg castle that will surely make you want to visit this place with your family and friends.

Despite never having served as a fortress, Wartburg Castle is constructed as a fortress castle. 

The side view of Wartburg Castle.
The side view of Wartburg Castle.
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Frequently Asked Questions

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Early History

The castle was supposedly built in 1067 by Knight Graf Ludwig. The first mention of the castle in historical documents dates back to 1080, when Bruno, Bishop of Merseburg, wrote about it. Wartburg is one of Europe’s most well-preserved examples of a Romanesque castle. Here are other examples of Romanesque castle design. The main building, which is located in the heart of the castle, is thought to have been constructed sometime around 1155. The castle was unlike any other area in its day, making it famous well beyond its borders.

A picture of the students marching to the castle in 1817.
A picture of the students marching to the castle in 1817. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wartburg-Studentenzug-1817.jpg#/media/File:Wartburg-Studentenzug-1817.jpg

Castle Myths 

The various historical events that have taken place within Wartburg’s massive walls hold the ability to fill many volumes of books. According to one myth, the Minnesingers’ Contest, or “Singers War,” took place in the Castle in 1206 when six musicians (including Walther von der Vogelweide and Wolfram von Eschenbach) assembled to perform for the castle’s master, Hermann I. 

A debate arose about the worst singer, after which the local celebrity minstrel, Meister Klingsor, was called in to arbitrate. Those judged to have the worst sense of music were given the death penalty. Meister Klingsor decided that there was no victor in the battle of the singers, as is customary in historical epics.

A  view from Wartburg South Tower.
A view from Wartburg South Tower. A.Savin, FAL, via Wikimedia Commons

Refuge of Thinkers at Wartburg Castle

In 1521–after being excommunicated by the pope and proscribed by the Holy Roman Emperor for undermining Catholic dogma with his 95 Theses–German church reformer Martin Luther sought refuge in Wartburg Castle. 

While Luther was in hiding here, he translated the New Testament from Greek into German–his work is still the basis for the present German Bible. Since Luther departed from Wartburg Castle, the castle’s modestly furnished parlor, where the father of the Reformation resided and worked, has been a popular visitor attraction.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the most well-known writer in Germany, spent five weeks at Wartburg Castle in 1777. During that time, he sketched the now-dilapidated structure and visited the beautiful Thuringian Forest. Around 500 students gathered at Wartburg Castle on October 18, 1817, for the “Wartburgfest,” the first public manifestation of democracy in the country’s history. The student’s dedication to a free and united Germany was declared under the slogan “Honor, Freedom, Fatherland.”

The Wartburg Castle watchtower.
The Wartburg Castle watchtower.

Becoming a Heritage Site

The castle gradually deteriorated and fell into disuse over the years. Extensive renovations of the castle’s interior did not begin until the 1950s. The primary structure was renovated to its original Romanesque architecture under the watchful eye of the communist German Democratic Republic.

The palace, which is the oldest structure in the castle, was constructed during the late Romanesque period in the 12th century and is now used as a performance hall. On the grounds of the castle is a museum with priceless artifacts from the past several centuries on display, such as tapestries, medieval musical instruments, and silverware.

The front court of Wartburg's Castle.
The front court of Wartburg’s Castle.Krzysztof Golik, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Current Times

Wartburg Castle is a popular tourist destination and the most-visited site in Thuringia. Its unparalleled beauty, attractive history, and outstanding architecture attract tourists worldwide. Today, almost 3000 tourists visit daily to walk up the cliff to see the stunning Wartburg Castle. 

Wartburg Castle has served as a knowledge hub for Christianity throughout German history. Due to this, it has long been a place of pilgrimage for the people of Germany and beyond. Due to its exceptional medieval architecture and historical and religious value, UNESCO classified Wartburg Castle on the World Heritage List in 1999. 

Not only it is a heritage site but an active place for community events such as occasional concerts held in the late Romanesque palace.

A picture showcasing walkways in Wartburg castle.
A picture showcasing walkways in Wartburg castle.

Interesting Wartburg Castle Facts

  • Despite never having served as a fortress, Wartburg Castle is constructed as a fortress castle
  • The main building of Wartburg Castle, established in 1067, was built in the 12th century. In contrast, Neuschwanstein in Bavaria (partly inspired by Wartburg), is a late-nineteenth-century fairy-tale confection.
  • From 1838 through 1890, portions of the castle were converted into a fantasy of frescoes, mosaics, and other German Romantic artworks.
  • After being labeled an outlaw and a heretic at the Diet of Worms, Martin Luther fled to Wartburg Castle for 300 days in 1521–1522, where he translated the Bible into German. 
  • There is a museum at Wartburg Castle, a popular tourist destination that receives about 500,000 visitors a year, and a venue for concerts and opera performances.
  • The Wartburg Castle features some of the most exemplary Romanesque architecture in the area.
  • From the 1500s until the Grand Duke of Saxony chose to re-establish and renovate the fortress early in the nineteenth century, Wartburg Castle was mainly neglected and abandoned.

Visiting Wartburg Castle – Tips and Tricks

Wartburg is one of the world’s most alluring and beautiful castles. Due to its extensive historical significance, tourists frequent this place of significant importance. Knowing all these fascinating facts are sure to inspire you to visit it with all your zeal and vigor, at least once in your lifetime … so here is some practical information to help you plan your trip.

The beautiful night view of Wartburg Castle.
The beautiful night view of Wartburg Castle.

How to get to Wartburg Castle?

In the German state of Thuringia, Wartburg Castle is situated just outside the community of Eisenach. Large parking lots are provided at the foot of the Castle for vehicles, or you can use public transport from the town’s center to get there. 

The cab cost from Thuringia to Wartburg Castle is about $240-$290 USD. If you are using your private car to drive up to Wartburg, it can cost about $12-$18 USD.

Several paths can also be used to get to the castle grounds, with the majority being 2 to 3 kilometers (1.25 to 1.8 miles) long.

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

The best thing about Warburg Castle is that it is open throughout the year due to its legacy as a World Heritage Site. All you need to do is focus on the visiting hours in a particular day.

From April 1 to November 6, 2022

The museum, Luther’s room, and the palace of the castle are open for visitors from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm, whereas the castle grounds and courtyards are open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. You can also have your guide who will guide you separately without any extra charge or fee.You can also tour the castle virtually by using Wartburg app from 3:00 pm.

From November 7, 2022 to March 31, 2023

The museum, Luther’s room, and palace are open from 9:30 am to 3:30 pm, whereas the castle grounds and courtyard are accessible for visitors from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. 

And for the individual virtual tour, you can visit the Wartburg app from 2:30 pm. 

The unique architecture of Wartburg castle.
The unique architecture of Wartburg castle.

Your visit to Wartburg Castle is very economical as it costs €12 ($12 USD) for seniors and adults, €8 ($8 USD) for trainees, students, and disabled visitors, €5 ($5 USD) for children, and a family with school-age children costs €29. 

In contrast to many other castles where you can take photos of your own without any charge, at Wartburg Castle you have to get a permit to click pictures and make memories. To obtain the license, you have to pay €2 ($2 USD). After that, you are free to go with your camera.

Things To Do in Wartburg Castle 

Every castle is known for its unique characteristics that make it stand out among the other castles. However, Wartburg Castle is wonderfully blessed as a World Heritage Site. Here is a short list of things you can do at the castle. 

Visiting tourists at Wartburg Castle.
Visiting tourists at Wartburg Castle.
  • The most popular tourist attraction in Wartburg Castle is the Luther Room or Lutherstube. Martin Luther lived in this castle room when he was exiled for almost 300 days from 1521-1522. Well-preserved from the era, sights like these are rare to find these days. Don’t miss it!
  • The architecture of the castle is dated back to the 12th century. Your tour will start from the Romanesque area of the castle, where you can see the ceiling beams from the 12th century. The closer you look, the more you will admire the people’s work from that time.
  • You will also find a gift shop near the ticket office with many books, handicrafts, books, and other items. You can buy something for your friends and family to give them a treasure piece from Wartburg Castle.
  • There are many stone carvings in the castle, such as the carving of the Virgin Mary with her family. These carvings are from the 14th and 15th centuries, adding to the Castle’s exquisiteness.

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

A complete tour of Wartburg Castle will take around two hours or more. Although the guided tour will take only one hour, there is a lot to see in the castle, including a museum, so it might take a bit longer than some other castles on your list.

If you want to look around and admire the thrilling historical castle, you will need around five hours to get in, see everything, and then get out.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • Visitors who need assistance can use a free shuttle service, especially ran for the elderly and the disabled. 
  • Kids can pay to ride donkeys to the castle on lovely summer days. Locate the Eselstation, also known as the donkey station, along the road a short distance past the parking area.
  • More than three thousand people visit Wartburg every day throughout the summer. Staying on a weekday during the peak season will help you skip the crowds and long queues at the attractions. So, if you want to avoid crowds, you have to carefully decide on the season to visit the Castle and try to be as early as possible to enjoy the beauty of the beauty with fewer visitors.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Wartburg Castle Areas

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Kainat Khalid
Kainat Khalid
Kainat is an English literature graduate with a profound interest in historical architecture. She has studied and explored the dusted pages of history for years which has ignited her passion to explore the existing remnants of our past glory and revisit them from a revised perspective. “There is no present without the past” is what she believes in and what drove her to begin cataloging these timeless historical monuments.

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