Martin Luther and Erfurt

Martin Luther, the great Reformer, once declared that Erfurt was "in the ideal location, the perfect place for a city".

Erfurt invites you to a rendezvous in the heart of Germany.

Now the regional capital of Thuringia, it was founded by Boniface in 742 AD and has one of the largest, listed medieval town centres in Germany.

Visitors encounter a delightful combination of fine Patrician town houses and lovingly reconstructed half-timbered buildings as well as the abbeys and churches for which the city became known as the "Rome of Thuringia". Its skyline is dominated by the towering spires of St. Mary's Cathedral and the Church of St. Severus on Cathedral Hill. "Gloriosa", the massive cathedral bell, is more than 500 years old and the biggest free-swinging bell in the world.

The Merchants' Bridge (Krämerbrücke) - with buildings all along its 120-metre length - is Europe's longest inhabited bridge.

There are currently 32 houses on the bridge. The oldest synagogue in central Europe (built around 1100) is another of Erfurt's historical cultural and architectural gems. A large hoard of gold and silver hidden by Jews was discovered during excavations and is on display here.

Just a stone's throw from Cathedral Hill is the only extensively preserved baroque town fortress in the whole of central Europe, with an intricate maze of underground passageways for visitors to explore.

Originally marking the crossroads of two major trading routes, the Via Regia and the Geleitstrasse, Erfurt is a university city with a fascinating history, a magnificent cathedral and important connections with Martin Luther.

The medieval structure of the charming old town, with its atmospheric winding lanes and little squares, is largely preserved and it is an important example of German town architecture. Lovingly restored buildings form a picturesque backdrop and create an idyllic atmosphere.

The city is a member of the "Historic Highlights of Germany" association.

During its complex history as Thuringia's commercial, spiritual, cultural and political centre, the city has always been a magnet for the great luminaries of the day, including Martin Luther, Adam Ries, the influential arithmetician, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich von Schiller, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Johann Sebastian Bach, Tsar Alexander I and Napoleon. Significant historical buildings such as the Augustinian monastery, the old university and the Imperial Hall have been reconstructed and they give a faithful, vivid impression of the past. Erfurt University was founded in 1392, making it the third oldest in present-day Germany. Martin Luther was its most illustrious student.

Erfurt was the young Luther's spiritual home. In 1505 he graduated with a Masters degree from the university's faculty of philosophy. It is said that a violent storm close to Erfurt that same year prompted him to become a monk at the Augustinian Monastery in gratitude for his survival. Martin Luther stayed in Erfurt until 1511 and was ordained as a priest in the cathedral. Even after he had left the city, he often returned to preach to enthusiastic crowds, in the university church (St. Michael's) for example. It is more than 500 years since Luther was a student at the collegium maius, the old Erfurt university's main building, which is now being restored.

Every year, Erfurt stages the ecumenical Festival of St Martin (Martinmas) on 10 November when thousands of local people and visitors gather in the cathedral square to celebrate Martin Luther's birthday and to remember St Martin. The square is lit by thousands of lanterns.

Many other events take place during the day and services are held in the churches and the Augustinian monastery. St Martin's market is also traditionally held in the cathedral square.

A wide variety of events take place throughout the year with a broad spectrum of concerts, exhibitions, operas and theatrical performances to choose from.

The Thuringian Bach Festival takes place in spring, in venues such as churches and historical locations. There are other festivals of organ music and church music, including international organ recitals and competitions in the cathedral and church music festivals.

A whole weekend in June is devoted to the medieval Merchants' Bridge Festival, the biggest old town festival in Thuringia for which the entire old quarter is transformed into a medieval town with street performers, crafts, historical costumes and music.

The Cathedral Steps Festival in summer sees the 70 steps between St. Mary's Cathedral and St. Severus Church transformed into one of the most beautiful open-air festival stages in the world.

Erfurt's Christmas market is an established tradition dating back more than 150 years. 200 wooden huts are set up in the cathedral square and all around the city centre where for four weeks visitors can enjoy the atmosphere of this evocative Christmas market with festive music, traditional hand-made wares and delicious food and drink.

Why not let Erfurt's 1,270 years of living history work their own special magic on you?