The town of Coburg in Upper Franconia, Bavaria — about 100 km north of Nuremberg — is located on the Itz River and its epic fortress towers above the small village center. Also known as Veste Coburg, it is one of the largest surviving medieval fortresses in Germany. With panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, the castle is a tank of a building. Besides its hilltop location, there are an impressive three layers of defensive walls and numerous watchtowers. It is both a military masterpiece, art gallery and historical attraction as the one-time refuge of the German icon, Martin Luther.
History of Coburg Castle
Though the first documentation was in 1056, the oldest still-existing part of the castle is the Blauer Turm (Blue Tower) from 1230. A fire destroyed much of the other early structures but was rebuilt in 1499. The fortress continued to expand because of its strategic importance until it was one of the largest castle complexes in Germany and was unusual in retaining its medieval form.
In 1530, Martin Luther took refuge as an outlaw of the Holy Roman Empire in Veste Coburg (similar to Wartburg Castle). Here for the duration of the Diet of Augsburg, about five and half months, he continued his translation work on the Bible. In the gift shop, memorabilia commemorating his stay can be purchased.
The castle's meticulous appearance is partly due to the vast renovations that have taken place throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The descendants of local dukes actually still lived in the castle until recently, but now that the families have moved out the rest of the building is being renovated and will eventually be open for tours.
What to See at Coburg Fortress
Visitors can wander the grounds and admire the spectacular views. On our visit, medieval musicians provided the soundtrack for restaurant visitors as they enjoyed the brilliant spring weather. Inside, visitors can pay entrance to the three museums of armories, art, and exhibitions.
- Steinerne Kemenate ("Heated Stone Chamber") – On the east side of the left-hand courtyard, the Lutherstube (Luther Room) is located. Named for its most famous guest, this is where Martin Luther worked.
- Memorial room – Portraits of Electors Frederick the Wise and John the Steadfast (who protected Luther during his stay) by Cranach the Elder and a portrait of Luther by Cranach the Younger hang here.
- Lutherkapelle – 19th-century chapel beside its earlier Romanesque structure.
- Bear Enclosures – Tucked away in the left-hand courtyard, one of the former enclosures can be observed, complete with stuffed bear.
Also look for the collections of copper engravings, hunting weapons, a collection of carriages and sleighs and works by Durer, Cranach and Rembrandt.
Coburg Castle Information
As the castle is located high above the town, public transport or private vehicle is the best way to reach the castle. Coburg's SÜC operates a bus system with 22 lines.
People traveling by car should be able to follow the signs for Veste Coburg with a parking lot just below the castle.