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The Wartburg is a castle situated on a 1230-foot (410 m) precipice to the southwest of, and overlooking the town of Eisenach, in the state of Thuringia, Germany. In 1999 UNESCO added Wartburg Castle to the World Heritage List as an "Outstanding Monument of the Feudal Period in Central Europe", citing its "Cultural Values of Universal Significance".[1]



The castle was founded in 1067 by the count of Schauenburg, Ludwig der Springer. According to tradition, the castle (Burg) got its name when its founder first laid eyes on the hill upon which the Wartburg now sits; enchanted by the site, he is supposed to have exclaimed, "Warte, Berg -- du sollst mir eine Burg werden!" ("Wait, mountain -- you shall become a castle for me!"). [2] It is a German play on words for mountain (Berg) and fortress (Burg). In addition, Ludwig der Springer is said to have had clay from his lands transported to the top of the hill, which was not quite within his lands, so he might swear that the castle was built on his ground. In fact, the name probably comes from Warte, a kind of watch tower as stated in the above source.

The Wartburg remained the seat of the Thuringian landgraves until 1440, and as a place of courtly culture it became around 1207 the venue of the Sängerkrieg, the Minstrels' Contest [3] in which such Minnesänger as Walther von der Vogelweide[4], Wolfram von Eschenbach[5], Albrecht von Halberstadt (the translator of Ovid) and many others took part. The contest was later to be treated with poetic licence in Richard Wagner's opera Tannhäuser.

At the age of four, St. Elisabeth of Hungary was sent by her mother to the Wartburg to be raised to become consort of Ludwig IV of Thuringia. From 1211 to 1228, she lived there and was renowned for her charitable work. Three years after moving to Marburg upon the death of her husband, she died at the age of 24 and was canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church.[6]

From May 1521 until March 1522, Martin Luther stayed at the castle, after he had been taken there for his safety at the request of Frederick the Wise following his excommunication by Pope Leo X and his refusal to recant at the Diet of Worms. It was during this period that Luther, under the name of Junker Jörg (the Knight George), translated the New Testament into German, the first translation into a modern language in over a millennium.

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