The Wartburg, built in the 11th century as a medieval hilltop castle by the Landgrave of Thuringia near Eisenach, advanced to become a courtly center in the High Middle Ages. The ideal castle is inextricably linked with the poet Wolfram von Eschenbach and the reformer Martin Luther, who found shelter at the Wartburg in 1521 thanks to the Elector Frederick the Wise and translated the Bible into German there according to homosociety.
|Cultural monument:||Wartburg with dining and knight’s hall, Elisabeth bower, landgrave room, castle church, keep and Luther parlor|
|Meaning:||a special monument from the feudal history of Central Europe and a symbol of integration and unity|
|1080||first mentioned castle building|
|1131||Rank of residence|
|after 1172||Expansion under Landgrave Ludwig III.|
|1203||Wolfram von Eschenbach lives on the Wartburg|
|1207-1231||Elisabeth of Hungary, canonized in 1235|
|1317/18||Destruction of large parts of the castle by fire|
|April 17/18, 1521||Luther’s defense of his Reformation writings at the Reichstag in Worms and then ten months’ refuge in the Wartburg|
|October 18, 1817||Gathering of around 500 students from German universities who demand unity and freedom in a single fatherland|
|1838||Beginning of restoration work in the sense of Romanticism|
|1854-56||Fresco painting by Moritz von Schwind|
|since 1990||Modernization and restoration measures|
Junker Jörg and the ink stain
Just imagine that Martin Luther alias Junker Jörg had never stayed at the Wartburg for a long time and only for the purpose – let’s say, to write a rough love letter to his loved one. No “ink-blot relic” today probably marked the location of the comparatively banal events, no romantic reconstruction would have broken through the decaying walls of the Wartburg. But at the end of the day there was no Luther Bible, no Protestantism, no peasant uprising and no Thirty Years War? If that had been the case, then perhaps a Roman Catholic church would still benefit more sustainably from the “indulgence trade” in earthly sins than from its modern variant, the church tax? But, as we know, the story was different.
Whichever roof over the head would have given protection to the renegade churchman, it would undoubtedly have achieved comparable fame as the unclouded half-timbered idyll of the Wartburg. It stood in the midst of the church division and the religious struggle, the inevitable result of rampant internal contradictions of an official church that was overfed to the point of immobility.
Even places steeped in history usually end up as mounds of rubble overgrown by weeds – because of »noble ruins«. The local population valued the relics of the past primarily as convenient quarries. Only the changed aesthetics of Romanticism freed the draughty walls from their rough slumber.
The Wartburg survived the Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment and even its own reinterpretation as a symbol of political unity and freedom. Although their popularity increased over the years, this process was not without wounds and severe loss of substance. When Luther set foot over the thresholds of this Thuringian palace castle, its heyday was actually already part of the past. It was previously the courtly center of the High Middle Ages, of Minnesong singing and of saints legends – the stuff from which handsome legends are spun. Wolfram von Eschenbach devised motifs from the “Parzival” at the Wartburg, a theme that Richard Wagner, the composer of romantic operas, took up much later. Saint Elizabeth prayed piously here in her bower.
The time may have been ripe for a figure as vigorous as Luther’s. And the same time would definitely be a completely different one without this figure. Brother Luther’s prose, born out of a furiously written thesis paper, quickly grew into a fiery appeal, which at the same time hit the nerve of the time as precisely as a hammer hit the nail head. Luther succeeded right away, which many competitors had failed thoroughly. With its vernacular translation of the Bible into the national language, the Latin version of the Bible, which had been binding for a long time, became a dangerous alternative: an initial spark of historical significance. The “Holy Scriptures light” in connection with Gutenberg’s printing trade was undoubtedly a revolutionary act. Even a more talented strategist than Luther would have their real potential in barely a year that he spent at the Wartburg is impossible to estimate. The Lutheran Reformation tore up the tablecloth of a centuries-old religious entity. Luther’s personal courage, paired with charisma and verbal power, on the other hand, founded the most likely much more short-lived “bourgeois” idea of freedom.
The third “heyday” of the Wartburg turned into the all-German “roller coaster ride”, and contradicting things were bundled under the supposedly harmless surface of romantic half-timbered houses: the Wartburg as a symbol of freedom, black, red and gold sanctuary, national political parade backdrop, anti-capitalist inheritance and again a symbol of the youngest Germans Unit.