They are time windows of history, architecture, music and society: in addition to castles and palaces, churches shape the cultural landscape of Thuringia. History was written from Thuringia: Musically and socially, Thuringia was the epicenter of far-reaching changes. Even today, the history of the Reformation or the life of the Bach family can be traced in numerous cities in authentic locations.
A modern and creative use of sacred buildings integrates the church into daily life and travelers quickly realize that every city and every church has undreamt-of treasures in store.
The Gotha Augustinian Monastery and its church are over 700 years old, and thus belongs to the oldest monasteries in Thuringia. The Gothic cloister courtyard dating from 1366 is reminiscent of the great era of the mendicant orders. The interior of the church was remodeled in baroque style by Friedrich I from 1675 until 1680. Along with a memorial plaque commemorating Luther’s visits to the monastery, the tombstone of Friedrich Myconius is worth seeing.
On the site of the former Franciscan Monastery, the Brüderkirche (Brothers’ Church) was constructed in Neo-Gothic style. The statue of Martin Luther is reminiscent of the reformer’s repeated sojourns in the city, where he often visited his friend and companion Georg Spalatin. Every hour on the hour, the glockenspiel of the Brüderkirche can be heard. Since 2014, the Brüderkirche is a center for pilgrims and information about the Luther hiking path and the ancient imperial road „Via Imperii“.
In the bright and colorful Castle Church of Wilhelmsburg Palace, the altar, pulpit and organ are arranged in one axis, one above the other. The valuable wooden pipe organ is one of the oldest organs in Europe still in operation. Internationally renowned organists enjoy performing here every year.
The Gottesackerkirche (Cemetery Church) St. Trinitatis (Holy Trinity) in today’s Arboretum was built between 1734 and 1739 using the travertine stones of the Marienkirche (St. Mary’s), which had been destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War. In contrast to the strict, symmetrically structured exterior, the rich baroque interior of the hall church surprises visitors with its two-story wooden gallery, the pulpit altar from 1734, and the elaborately refurbished vaulted ceiling. During the various musical events held here listeners can enjoy the unique acoustics of the cemetery church.
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The Kreuzkirche Suhl is a baroque sacred building and urban architecture highlight of Steinweg Street. It was built between 1731 and 1739 and served as a model for the Dresden Hofkirche at that time. The Eilert-Köhler organ is an exceptional instrument in Germany and offers the basis for sonorous organ concerts and recordings by world-famous musicians.
The triptych altarpiece by Lucas Cranach, which is important visual evidence of the history of the Reformation, is a famous artwork. Together with the Herderhaus (Herder House) and Garden, and the neighboring Old Grammar School, it is part of the UNESCO World Heritage "Classical Weimar". Martin Luther preached here during the Reformation. The interior of the church was restored after the Second World War, during which it was heavily damaged.
The Collegium maius was the main building of the Old University in Erfurt. It is situated on Michaelisstrasse, directly across from the Michaeliskirche in the former Latin Quarter. The founding of the Erfurt university was allowed by the “founding privilege” of 1379. Thus, the Collegium maius represents the oldest university in Germany, whose most prominent student was probably Martin Luther.
In 1945, the building was destroyed. In the meantime, the Collegium maius has been completely reconstructed and is the headquarters of the Evangelische Kirche in Mitteldeutschland (Protestant Church in Central Germany).
The impressive ensemble of St. Mary’s Cathedral and St. Severus Church is one of Erfurt’s landmarks. The Gothic cathedral is the successor of the church that Bishop Boniface had built there in 742. The choir stalls and the 17-meter-high baroque altarpiece are especially worth seeing. The largest freely swinging medieval bell in the world, the over 500-year-old “Gloriosa,” hangs in the middle tower.
St. Stephani (St. Stephen’s) church, perched on a hill, is the oldest of the two Protestant parish churches here, being first documented in 1196. The church is built of local travertine and boasts an especially elaborate decorative façade on the south side. The organ situated on the west gallery was built by the local organ builder Friedrich Erdmann Petersilie (1825-1901) and is still played today.
Auf dem Berge 9
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The Liebfrauenkirche in Arnstadt belongs to the most beautiful Romanesque-Gothic buildings in central Germany. Today, its towers still dominate the city’s silhouette. Its winged altarpiece, the “Schöne Madonna” (Beautiful Madonna) carved out of linden-wood, and the epitaph for Prince Günther XLI von Schwarzburg – called “the militant” – and Katharina von Nassau are impressive treasures of art.
Erected between 1890 and 1894 in neo-Gothic style, the Luther Church is Apolda’s most impressive structure. From May to October, its colorful lead-glass windows, stately interior, and the sound of the Sauer organ invite visitors to come and linger in this, for Thuringia unusual, brick church.
The spire of the impressive Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church), the highest church tower in Thuringia, is visible far beyond the city limits. St. Mary’s Church serves as a monument of both architecture and history, a minting memorial, a concert hall as well as a place to encounter religion and culture, and is closely linked to the fate of the city and its citizens.
The exhibition areas in the building, which was secularized in 1975 and has been used as a museum since then, offer a wide range of exhibits. In the side aisles of the church, the exhibition "Of Unicorns and Dragon Slayers" displays Thuringian art of the Middle Ages, including precious altars and sculptures. A separate area in the chapels is dedicated to the radical reformer and former preacher of St. Mary's Church, Thomas Müntzer. The "Tower Museum" provides information on the construction history and the restoration of this remarkable structure.
St. Bonifacii (St. Boniface), first documented in 1272, was erected using blocks of local travertine and finished in 1592. The ca. 73-meter-high tower with its Renaissance upper floor offers a wonderful view over the city. The organ, built in 1799 by Georg Christoph Heidenreich and redesigned in 1861 by the local organ builder Petersilie, is used for concerts and worship services.
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The Predigerkirche, in which many traces of the great theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart can be found today, was built by Dominican monks in the 13th/14th centuries. Among other sights, the medieval lead-glass windows in the northern nave, the choir stalls dating from 1280, and the monastery complex with the chapter house and refectory are very worth taking in. Organ recitals take place here regularly during the summer months.
The St. Bartholomäikirche (St. Bartholomew’s Church) with its crypt dating from the high Renaissance, is Altenburg’s oldest house of worship. The tower has an accessible watchman’s chamber, and offers a wonderful view over the city. Georg Spalatin was the city pastor here beginning in 1525, and later he became the church superintendent, which enabled him to effectively implement the Reformation here. The St. Barthomaikirche was named European Heritage in 2011.
This church, which dominates the Old Town and was erected between 1437 and 1509, is one of the most beautiful Gothic hall churches in Thuringia. In 1537 the most renowned Protestant theologians, including Dr. Martin Luther, preached here. The watchman’s chamber offers a panoramic view of the entire city from May to October.
The church, built around 1182, is the nuptial church of Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia. Martin Luther sang from the gallery when he was a “Kurrende” (walking choir) singer, and later he preached here. Johann Sebastian Bach was baptized on 23 March 1685 in this church; for over 130 years, four generations of the Bach family occupied the organ bench
The late baroque hall church was largely destroyed during World War II and was later rebuilt in simple beauty. Gotha’s protestant City Church, which also serves as the burial place of the family of Duke Ernst I of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, is a wonderful venue for concerts thanks to its excellent acoustics.
The imposing town church presents itself to today's visitor as a successful combination of Gothic (choir), neo-Gothic (nave) and neo-Romanesque (west façade) elements. The lower part of the north tower still bears witness to its Romanesque predecessor, which was built around the year 1000. Every Wednesday from May to October, visitors can climb the steps to the top of the church tower. Upon their arrival, the “tower women” greet them high above the roofs of the city with coffee and homemade cakes.
Stadtkirche „Unserer lieben Frauen“
When the Erfurt university was founded and its main building, the Collegium Maius, was erected across from the Michaeliskirche, it became the university chapel in 1392. Martin Luther, who was studying in Erfurt, was a regular participant at the masses at the Michaeliskirche. Luther then preached here himself on 21 October 1522. The concerts performed on the Compenius organ are very popular events.
The late-Gothic hall church with its imposing ornamented facade and western tower already impressed Luther, who preached several times from the Gothic stone pulpit. The original tomb plate of the reformer can be seen inside the church.
Stadtkirche St. Michael