Erfurt: 12 stations through the Old Town
Above/featured: Krämerbrücke in shadow, at first light.
Located along the Gera river near the centre of Germany, Erfurt is an historical hub of east-west trade, a stop on the historical road “Via Regia” dating back to the Middle Ages, and is considered a spiritual home for Martin Luther. He left behind plenty of traces throughout the city which is now the capital city for the German state of Thuringia (Landeshauptstadt Thüringens). For its preserved medieval Old Town, half-timbered houses, and churches, Erfurt has the nickname “Thuringian Rome.”
Each of the following locations in addition to the Erfurt’s Hauptbahnhof (Central Station) is indicated with an icon in the map below. All 12 places below can be reached with tram routes 3, 4, or 6 in a common stretch with stops at Anger, Fischmarkt / Rathaus (Fish Market / City Hall), and Domplatz (Cathedral Square).
Visual Walk in Erfurt
- Alte Synagoge (Old Synagogue)
- Anger (village green or commons)
- Augustinerkloster (Augustinian Monastery)
- Domplatz (Cathedral Square)
- Fischmarkt, Rathaus (Fish Market, Town Hall)
- Kaufmannskirche, Luther-Denkmal (Merchants’ Church, Luther Memorial)
- Kollegium Maius
- Krämerbrücke (Shopkeepers’ Bridge)
- Michaeliskirche (St. Michael’s Church)
- Mikwe (Mikveh)
- Neue Mühle (New Mill)
- Zitadelle Petersberg (Petersberg Citadel)
1. Alte Synagoge
Dating back to 1270, this is the oldest surviving synagogue in Central Europe with its roof intact. The building contains a treasury with Jewish artifacts which survived the 14th-century pogrom, including one of three last surviving Jewish wedding rings. The site and the Mikwe (see below) are important elements of Jewish life in the Middle Ages; together they form the city’s application for status as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Common village space:
‘Anger’ is the German word for a town’s open common space; e.g., the village green or commons. The town was once the centre of woad production and trade. Kaufmannskirche (Merchants’ Church; see also below) and ANGER 1 commercial complex are at left and right, respectively.
Built around 1300, the Augustinian Monastery became home for Martin Luther as a monk from 1505 to 1511. Rooms are available for visitors for overnight stays in a quiet comfortable environment. The site underwent post-war reconstruction after suffering heavy bombing damage.
In this southwest view from Domplatz to the top of Domberg hill sit respectively Mariendom or Erfurter Dom (St. Mary’s Cathedral or Erfurt Cathedral, left) and Severikirche (St. Severus’ Church, right). Most of the Cathedral is Gothic by construction from the 14th- and 15th-centuries. Martin Luther was ordained as priest at the Cathedral in 1507.
5. Fischmarkt, Rathaus
Fish Market, Town Hall:
16th-century buildings around the Fischmarkt square highlight the wealth brought into the city from trade. With the first hall erected in the 11th-century, the Rathaus (shown at right) was constructed in the neo-Gothic style of the late 19th-century.
6. Kaufmannskirche, Luther-Denkmal
Merchants’ Church, Luther Memorial:
The Protestant Kaufmannskirche (Merchants’ Church) was built in the 11th-century by Frisian merchants. Martin Luther preached here in 1522; Johann Sebastian Bach’s parents exchanged wedding vows in 1668 in the very same church.
7. Kollegium Maius
After post-war reconstruction, this site is where the main building of the old university stood. Depending on the account, Erfurt’s university is either the oldest (1379) or third oldest (1392) university in Germany; Heidelberg has its own claim. At the age of 17, Martin Luther enrolled here as university student in 1501, first in the “seven liberal arts”, and subsequently in law. This location is opposite the Michaeliskirche.
Lying along the “Via Regia”, the Krämerbrücke over the Gera river is Europe’s longest bridge entirely covered with inhabited houses. One of the plaques next to the bridge reads:
Krämerbrücke: Älteste urkundliche Erwähnung als Holzbrücke im Jahre 1117, durch Brand mehrere Male zerstört. In Stein erbaut im Jahre 1325. Die Brücke lag auf der Wegstrecke der Ost-West-Handelstrasse Kiew-Breslau-Erfurt-Frankfurt/Main.”
Mentioned in oldest documents as wooden bridge in 1117, destroyed several times by fire. Built with stone in 1325. The bridge lay along the East-West trade route: Kiev, Wroclaw, Erfurt, Frankfurt am Main.
St. Michael’s Church:
Built at the end of the 12th-century, St. Michael’s Church was also once the university’s church. Once enrolled as a university student, Martin Luther gave a sermon here in 1522. This location is opposite the Kollegium Maius.
A mikveh is a Jewish immersion bath used for ritual purification. Found near the Krämerbrücke, the baths were discovered and excavated between 2007 and 2011. The baths’ construction and first written record go back to the middle of the 13th-century. The Mikveh and Synagogue (see above) are important elements of the Jewish community; these sites are a part of the city’s application for status as UNESCO World Heritage Site.
11. Neue Mühle
Erfurt has traditionally been a city of water mills, with up to 50 along the river Gera. With the first mill constructed at the location in 1255, the building seen here was built in 1826. The present-day site is home to the Neue Mühle Technisches Denkmal und Museum (also, called the New Mill Technical Monument and Museum).
12. Zitadelle Petersberg
As one of the finest preserved fortresses in Europe, Zitadelle Petersberg (Petersberg Citadel) provides examples of Romanesque, Baroque, and neo-Prussian construction from the 12th through to the 19th century. The Mainzer Rad (Wheel of Mainz) represents the city’s historical, religious, and political association and rule from Mainz.
More on Erfurt
• The City of Erfurt
• Thuringia State
• Historic Highlights of Germany
• (Martin) Luther Country
• Germany Tourism
Thanks to Germany Tourism, Thüringen Tourismus, and the Erfurt Tourism and Marketing Board for support and access to places and activities; and to Mercure Hotel Erfurt Altstadt for their generous hospitality. Special thanks to Matthias Gose from Erfurt Tourismus for his excellent guided tour of the city. I made these photos on 26 and 29 April 2015 with a Canon EOS6D mark1. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins DOT com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-6ZX.
11 Responses to “Erfurt: 12 stations through the Old Town”
What a great historic tour! I miss doing these, as we used to travel a lot in Europe. Beautiful pictures to go with the historical information
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Hi and thanks for reading and for your kind words!
I always love your photos. I’ve never been to Erfurt except to their Christmas market. Your photos remind me I’ve got to go back. It’s a beautiful city!
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Thanks for your very kind compliment, Corinne! How did you manage to visit the city’s Christmas market but not the city itself? Were you on your way elsewhere later that evening?
That’s a fantastic town review! It’s incredible all these historic places that can be found in Europe. Thank you for sharing, great pics and great itinerary!
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Hi, Eloise. I had a very informative stay and visit to both Erfurt and Weimar, separated by a short 15-minute journey on the train. Thanks for reading and for your comments!
I haven’t heard of Erfurt before but it looks like such a charming town, I’d love to visit it when I make it to Germany.
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Hi, Vlad. You might have heard of Weimar; from that city with two UNESCO World Heritage Site classifications, Erfurt is only 15 minutes away with the train. I’m really glad to have visited these two cities and the state of Thuringia. Thanks again for reading; I hope you’ll visit Thuringia.
I think my great grandfather may have emigrated from Erfurt. I’m only now learning a bit about it. His family were farmers, though, so I’m guessing they may not have lived in the city itself. Thanks for these beautiful pictures, giving me a taste of what the city is like.
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Hi and you’re welcome, Rosemarie. Erfurt and Weimar were a real joy to discover, and I hope to return, especially as I’d like to also go back to Eisenach and to go farther east to Jena. There’s still a lot of farming in the area, as seen in the products sold in the outdoor markets. The “central” part of Germany in the state of Thuringia is a beautiful and historic part of the country, though many might forego what was once the former “east” (GDR/DDR). Thank you for reading and for taking the time to leave your comment!
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