Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, where Luther translated the New Testament into German, and the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt, where he lived as a monk for five years, are among the most famous Reformation sites in Thuringia, but they are by no means the only ones. Schmalkalden and Weimar, for example, are also closely linked with the history of Luther. The Routes to Luther association and the Luther Trail offer the opportunity to learn more about the work of the great reformer and theologian. The Routes to Luther network includes Mühlhausen, Gotha, Arnstadt, Saalfeld, Rudolstadt, Apolda, Jena, Gera and Altenburg.
The Reformation fundamentally changed the way the church operated and its consequences can still be felt today. It indirectly led to the founding of Jena University, which brought prosperity and academic recognition to the city. The Luther Church in Apolda is the largest neo-Gothic brick church in central Germany.
Erfurt is Martin Luther’s intellectual hometown. He studied here from 1501-1505. In July of 1505, he entered the Augustinian Monastery and lived here as a monk until 1511. Today, the monastery serves as an ecumenical convention center, a Luther memorial, a lodging house for the ecumenical Way of Saint James or Camino de Santiago, along with being a significant center of the Reformation and an important stop along the Luther Path.
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 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.
It is one of the most famous libraries in Germany. The Rococo hall, which has been restored to its former glory after the devastating fire in 2004, with its historical books and music, can be visited every day except Monday.
The former monastery church of St. Crucis (Holy Cross) now houses an exhibition that provides information about the course, highlights and aftermath of the German Peasant War in the historical context. An insider tip is the monastery garden, a green gem in the middle of the historic center.
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.
From 1498 until 1501, Martin Luther stayed with the Cotta’s, a highly regarded councilman’s family, in what is probably the oldest half-timber house in Thuringia, and attended the Latin school nearby. Visitors can newly discover Luther’s historic Bible translation in a contemporary exhibition that includes medieval art treasures, works by Cranach, and the baptism register showing Johann Sebastian Bach’s name – all in a unique historical atmosphere.
Dr. Martin Luther lived in this half-timbered house, which was built around 1520, from February 7th to 26th 1537, during the most important meeting of the Schmalkaldic League. He published his famous Schmalkald Articles, which made their way into the world as the creed of the Lutheran Church.
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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.
The Oberkirche (Upper Church) was built in the 13th century as a Franciscan monastery. Later, the tower was added to help stabilize the building. When entering the church, visitors are surprised by splendid early baroque furnishings from the 17th century. Numerous paintings illustrating Bible scenes decorate the balustrades of the galleries.
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
St. Georgs Church
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.
ST. MICHAEL’S TOWN CHURCH
The castle, which has belonged to UNESCO World Heritage since 1999, has served as a protective fortress and a splendid residence for almost 1,000 years. Wartburg Castle bears witness to key moments of German history and culture: Medieval court artists, the life of Saint Elisabeth, Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament, the Wartburg festival of the German Burschenschaften (student fraternities), and Wagner’s romantic opera Tannhäuser.
Built between 1585 and 1590 as a secondary residence of the Hessian landgraves, the castle is considered a unique jewel among the Renaissance castles in Germany due to its almost completely preserved exterior, its original room layout inside, and its magnificent wall paintings and stucco work.