The Veste Coburg in 1506. Woodcut by L. Cranach the Elder.
THE VESTE COBURG
Situated on a high rise amidst the hilly country between the Thuringian Forest and the upper valley of the Main the massive walls of the Veste Coburg dominate the former duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The triple line of the ramparts of the Veste (= fortress) surmount a dolomite formation which falls steeply on three sides and rises some 464 m (1522 ft) above sea level and 167 m (550 ft) above the town of Coburg. Covering an area of some 135 x 260 m (443 x 854 ft), the Veste Coburg forms one of the most extensive fortified strongholds in Germany. Visible from afar, it dominates with its buildings, towers, parapets and salients not only the town below but also the surrounding landscape for many miles. From its salients one has a view of the region stretching from the Thuringian Forest to the Franconian Jura. Here are situated the famous baroque buildings of the monastery at Banz and the pilgrimage church of Vierzehnheiligen, Johann Balthasar Neumann's great masterpiece, and the Staffelberg that features in the writings of Viktor von Scheffel. One's gaze reaches as far as the Rhön Mountains in the west and the Frankenwald and Fichtelgebirge in the east. As an architectural and historical monument, this magnificent fortified complex is still redolent today of the late Gothic period and the Renaissance. The Veste Coburg with its silhouette of classic beauty well deserves its by-name "Crown of Franconia".
- The excavations of 1966 showed that there was a settlement here in late neolithic times, c. 2000 B. C. During the migrations of the peoples it may be presumed that a fortified sanctuary was situated here.
- The name Coburg is mentioned for the first time in 1056 in a deed of gift of the Polish Queen Richeza, daughter of Count Palatine Erenfrid-Ezzo, granddaughter of Emperor Otto ll and niece of Emperor Otto lll. In it Richeza donates her property at Saalfeld and Coburg (originally royal lands) to her brother, Archbishop Hermann of Cologne.
- In a bull of Pope Honorius II in 1126, a "mons coburg" with its adjoining lands is also mentioned. According to the linguistic usage of the time, this expression is undoubtedly a reference to a mountain fortification.
- The height of the Coburg, practically predestined as it was to be capped by a fortress, more and more assumed the task of protecting Trufalistat, the predecessor settlement to Coburg in the valley below, and the nearby trade route leading from Italy via Nuremberg and Erfurt to Leipzig.
- In 1225 the word "sloss" (residence) is first used for the Coburg in a translation of a document. At that time it was in the possession of the powerful dukes of Morania from the old Bavarian house of the counts of Diessen-Andechs. They are followed in 1248 by the counts of Henneberg.
- In that year the Veste passes by way of succession to Margrave Friedrich the Strict of Meissen (1332-1381) of the house of Wettin (the name of the castle from which the Saxon counts stem). As a consequence (1423) of the Saxon electoral dignity passing to Friedrich the Warlike, margrave of Meissen (1340-1428), the name Saxon is also applied to the rest of the possessions of the House of Wettin (Mark Meissen and Thuringia). Coburg, as "a Saxon locality in Franconia", thus becomes an appendage of the distant family possessions of the Wettins. By division of the inheritance in 1485, the House of Wettin is split into two main branches: the older Ernestine line at Wittenberg and the younger Albertine line at Leipzig and Dresden.
- The Veste Coburg falls, together with the Thuringian possessions, to the Ernestine branch. In 1486, the brothers Elector Friedrich the Wise and Duke Johann the Steadfast together rule over the Coburg lands, the latter residing at the Veste in 1499. The Ernestine line later divides by way of succession into 7 branches (Gotha, Coburg, Meiningen, Eisenberg, Römhild, Hildburghausen, Saalfeld). This accounts for the later segmentation of Thuringia. Johann Casimir (1564-1633) becomes the first Duke of Saxe-Coburg in 1596; his munificent building activity has left its mark on Coburg down to the present day.
- From 1638 to 1672, Coburg, and thus the Veste as well, is in the hands of the dukes of Saxe-Weimar-Altenburg.
- In 1672 the region passes to the dukes of Saxe-Gotha and is finally united with the duchy of Saxe-Saalfeld in 1735.
- From 1826 onwards the Veste is owned by the duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. After the abdication (1918) of the last duke of Coburg, Carl Eduard (1884-1954), who lived in the Veste until his death, the Veste was taken over in 1920 by the Free State of Bavaria.
C. 1500 and in the years 1508-09, Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), the great German painter and from 1505 on court painter to the Saxon Elector Friedrich the Wise, was on various occasions at the Veste.
- One of the highlights in the history of the Veste was from 15 April to 4 October 1530, when Martin Luther took refuge for the duration of the Augsburg Diet and composed a number of his writings here. At that time negotiations were being conducted at Augsburg which were of decisive importance for the further development of the Reformation. The result was the Augsburg Confession which is still central to Lutheran beliefs.
Through his stay here the Veste Coburg became one of the most important memorials to Luther in Germany.
- In the history of the Veste the unsuccessful 7-day siege by the imperial army under Wallenstein during the 30 Years' War (September 1632) also deserves mention. The Veste under the command of the Swede Georg Christoph v. Taupadel proved at that time to be one of the strongest bulwarks of its day. What Wallenstein did not achieve was successfully accomplished by strategem in a new imperial attack 3 years later under Wilhelm Lamboy, who was helped by the disunity of the defenders. The fortress was surrendered after a 5 month siege on 17 March 1635.
- With the end of the 30 Years' War the Veste passes out of the limelight of history. Not until the early 19th century, with the romantic recollection of Germany's past greatness, at a time of newly awakened awareness of nature does the Veste Coburg as a monument of art, nature and history with its wealth of symbolical associations again achieve significance.
Weekly market in front of the Old Townhall
You can get more information from the Coburg HomepageLetztes Update: 07.10.2011