Begun in 1067 (and expanded through the centuries), this mighty castle has hosted a parade of German celebrities. Hermann I (1156–1217), count of Thuringia and count palatine of Saxony, was a patron of the poets Walther von der Vogelweide (1170–1230) and Wolfram von Eschenbach (1170–1220). Legend has it that this is where Walther von der Vogelweide, the greatest lyric poet of medieval Germany, prevailed in the celebrated Minnesängerstreit (minnesinger contest),
which is featured in Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser.
Within the castle's stout walls, Frederick the Wise (1463–1525) shielded Martin Luther from papal proscription from May 1521 until March 1522, even though Frederick did not share the reformer's beliefs. Luther completed the first translation of the New Testament from Greek into German while in hiding, an act that paved the way for the Protestant Reformation. You can peek into the simple study in which Luther worked. Be sure to check out the place where Luther saw the devil and threw an inkwell at him. Pilgrims have picked away at the spot for centuries, forcing the curators to "reapply" the ink.
Frederick was also a patron of the arts. Lucas Cranach the Elder's portraits of Luther and his wife are on view in the castle, as is a very moving sculpture, the Leuchterengelpaar (Candlestick Angel Group), by the great 15th-century artist Tilman Riemenschneider. The 13th-century great hall is breathtaking; it's here that the minstrels sang for courtly favors. Don't leave without climbing the belvedere for a panoramic view of the Harz Mountains and the Thuringian Forest.