The former royal seat Gotha looks back on a long history of education, publishing and theater history. People like the reformer Friedrich Myconius, the pedagogue Andreas Reyher, the publishers Justus Perthes and Joseph Meyer as well as the actor Conrad Ekhof worked here, who promoted the German language in various ways through their activities. Library and museums at Friedenstein Castle bring this tradition to life.
With the Ernestine division of the country in 1640 Gotha became the residence city of the newly created duchy of Saxe-Gotha. Duke Ernst I (1601-1675), known as the Pious, rebuilt the country devastated by the Thirty Years' War and his residence city, which had been devastated by another city fire in 1646. From 1643 to 1654 he had Friedenstein Castle, the largest early baroque castle complex in Germany, built on the ruins of Grimmenstein Castle. Since 1647 it has housed the ducal library, today the Research Library Gotha of the University of Erfurt (FB Gotha). This is one of the most important historical libraries in Germany and, thanks to its unique collection of manuscripts, old prints, correspondence, diaries and bequests of important reformers, it ranks as a reference collection for the history of Central German Protestantism from the 16th to the 18th century. With its outstanding handwritten and printed sources on the history of the German language, on the history of literature and theater and on the history of education from the 16th to the 18th century, the holdings of FB Gotha bring together three essential aspects of German language history:
Language and religion (Protestantism): 16. Century
The core of the Reformation history collection of FB Gotha is formed by the approximately 1,100 letters of Martin Luther, which have been handed down in original or contemporary copies and make up about a quarter of all surviving letters of Luther. In addition, there are other writings and manuscripts by Luther, many of them in German, which clearly show how much the Reformer influenced them. The print manuscript for the translation of the Prophet Jeremiah from 1530, for example, shows that Luther often not only provided a pure translation service, but also contributed to linguistic enrichment by creating idiosyncratic expressions, poetic images and new word plays. To him we owe words like "fewreyffer" (Feuereifer) and "lestermaul" as well as metaphors like "cast pearls before swine" and "a book with seven seals".
FB Gotha also holds the partial estate of the Luther supporter Georg Spalatin, who from 1510 onward wrote a Saxon chronicle in German on behalf of the Saxon Elector Frederick the Wise (1463-1525) and thus also became an early chronicler of Thuringia, as well as original letters and their contemporary copies by Friedrich Myconius (1490-1546), who contributed significantly to the Protestant culture of remembrance with his "History of the Reformation" written in German.
Language and education: 17. Century
In addition to numerous German-language textbooks and the school library of the former Gymnasium Illustre in Gotha, - one of the oldest Gymnasiums in Thuringia - the research library also preserves the legacies of educational theorists and practitioners: With the writings of the pedagogues Wolfgang Ratke (1571-1635) and Andreas Reyher (1601-1673), the research library possesses the legacy of two very important German school reformers. Ratke vehemently advocated teaching in German and developed a completely new teaching method. Reyher became principal of the Gotha Gymnasium in 1641. He was advisor to Duke Ernst the Pious and was given the task of reforming the school system in the duchy of Saxe-Gotha. At the same time, this duchy made great efforts to actually put into practice the general compulsory education for boys and girls, which had been demanded time and again since the early 16th century. Reyher wrote curricula, textbooks and instructions for teaching arithmetic, reality, music and of course the German language. The various versions of his “School Methodology” are unique as important pieces of local literature with supra-regional impact and are only available in the Gotha Research Library.
Language and art: 18. Century
In Friedenstein Castle there is a baroque theater with the oldest stage technology from 1681, which is still in its original state: The Ekhof Theater is named after the "Father of German Acting", Conrad Ekhof (1720-1778), who came to the court of Gotha in 1774 with the Seyler Theatre Company. When its founder Abel Seyler left Gotha again, Duke Ernst II. together with Ekhof founded the first German court theater with permanently employed actors. Until his death, three years later, Ekhof worked from Gotha as an acting director for the German theater and made the residence city the center of German theater. Even today, on selected occasions, the preserved stage construction of the Ekhof Theater is set in motion and shown how Ekhof and his troupe once brought language to life on these stage boards. FB Gotha also houses an important collection of German theater literature, including some of Conrad Ekhof's personal collections, such as his translation into German of the comedy "Le Philosophe Marié Ou Le Mari Honteux De L'Être" (The Married Philosopher, or The Husband Who Was Ashamed of Being One) by Néricault Destouches.
Reasearch Library Gotha
Monday to Friday 9AM–08PM
Service hours of the lending desk and the special reading room:
Monday to Friday 9AM–06PM
Public guided tours through the historical showrooms of the Gotha Research Library through email@example.com can be booked in advance.
Museum in Friedenstein Castle
(Castle Museum, Historical Museum, Museum of Nature, Ekhof Theater)
Tuesday to Sunday 10AM–05PM
(closed every Monday, but open on public holidays)
(November to March: 10AM–04PM)
Monday to Sunday 10AM–05PM
(November to March: 10AM–04PM)