A place of refuge for Cranach’s godfather Luther

Eisenach and the Wartburg would certainly have figured in Luther’s discussions with Cranach the Elder. Luther’s mother was born in the town, and his father came from nearby Möhra. Luther’s associations with Eisenach, which he referred to as his beloved town go back to his childhood: it was here that he went to school and gave sermons.

Luther's Chamber at Wartburg Castle, EisenachAt that time, the castle had entered a quieter period and the extravagant celebrations of the Middle Ages had long since ceased. The Wartburg guaranteed the necessary safety and seclusion for the excommunicated – and during the Diet of Worms ostracised – monk, who shook the Roman Catholic Church. From 4 May 1521 until the 1 March in the following year, Luther remained in hiding at his Patmos and it was one of the most productive periods of his life. His translation of the New Testament is regarded as a defining moment in the development of a standardised German language.

The fact that the Wartburg houses a number of other works by Cranach the Elder and his son, as well as several Luther portraits, is thanks to a direct descendant of the painter. Hans Lucas von Cranach was commander of the castle from 1895 and died there in 1929.

Among Cranach’s masterpieces of portraiture are the paintings of Martin Luther’s parents, which are on display in the Wartburg. In 1527, Luther’s daughter Elisabeth was born, and his parents probably travelled to Wittenberg for the christening where they then sat for Cranach. Their expressive faces – Luther’s father proudly wearing his fur collar, and his mother wearing a white head scarf draped over her shoulders in a dignified fashion – show contented people, reconciled with their son and eminently proud of him.

Places to visit

Art collections at the Wartburg with artworks spanning eight centuries including some outstanding paintings by Cranach.