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".
The castle's foundation was laid about 1068 by the Thuringian count of Schauenburg, Louis the Springer, a relative of the Counts of Rieneck in Franconia. Together with its larger sister castle Neuenberg in the present-day town of Freyburg, the Wartburg secured the extreme borders of his traditional territories. According to tradition, the castle (Burg) got its name when its founder first laid eyes on the hill upon which the castle now sits; enchanted by the site, he is supposed to have exclaimed, "Warte, Berg -- du sollst mir eine Burg tragen!" ("Wait, mountain -- you shall bear a castle for me!").
It is a German play on words for mountain (Berg) and fortress (Burg). In addition, Louis the 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 soil. In fact, the name probably derives from German: Warte, a kind of watchtower as stated in the above source.
The Castle has been renovated throughout its existence with many earlier parts being overbuilt by later constructions and additions. From 1952 to 1966, for example, the East German Government restored it to what it looked like in the 16th century, which included the Luther Room (right) with its original floor and paneled walls. The Romanesque Palas (Landgrafenhaus or Great Hall) is the oldest and architecturally most impressive of the buildings.
Besides the chapel, it contains the Sängersaal (Hall of the Minstrels), which is in fact Wagner's setting for Act II of Tannhäuser and the Festsaal (the Feast or Festival Hall), both of which contain fine frescoes by Moritz von Schwind with the theme of the minstrels' contest in the Sängersaal and frescoes of the triumphs of Christianity in the Festsaal. Part of the Palace consists of the original castle as it was between 1157 and 1170, as an image of power and residence of the Thuringian landgraves.
For centuries, the Wartburg has been a place of pilgrimage for many people from within and outside Germany, for its significance in German history and in the development of Christianity. Several places (especially US towns founded by Lutherans) and a local brand of automobile have been named after the Wartburg. Wartburg College in Iowa, USA, is named in commemoration of Martin Luther's receiving refuge at the castle and because of the college's forest location and its Thuringian heritage. Also noteworthy is The Wartburg Adult Care Community in Mount Vernon, New York, that serves the elderly. Its founder, William Passavant, commented that its original site was akin to the site of The Wartburg where Luther translated the New Testament.