The German Language Trail


Friedenstein Castle, 99867 Gotha
Forschungsbibliothek (research library) Gotha, Information and Lending: (0361) 737-5540
Foundation Friedenstein Castle: (03621) 8234-0
Forschungsbibliothek (research library) Gotha - project management: (0361) 737-5539
Tour booking - Foundation Friedenstein Castle: (03621) 8234-57
Forschungsbibliothek (research library) Gotha:

Gotha, former residence city, has a long history of education, publishing and theatre history. This is where people such as the reformer Friedrich Myconius, the educator Andreas Reyher, the publishers Justus Perthes and Joseph Meyer as well as the actor Conrad Ekhof worked. Their activities nurtured the German language in different ways. Libraries and museums at the Friedenstein castle bring these traditions to life.

Castle Friedenstein and the research library Gotha

Gotha became residential city of the newly created Duchy of Saxe-Gotha after the Ernestine Partition in 1640. Duke Ernest I (1601 - 1675) called Ernest the Pious, rebuilt the lands destroyed by the Thirty Years' War and his residential city which was again destroyed in a fire in 1646. On the ruins of Castle Grimmenstein he constructed Castle Friedenstein from 1643 to 1654, the largest early-Baroque castle in Germany. Since 1647 the Ducal Library has been located inside the Castle, which is known today as the Gotha Research Library of the University of Erfurt.
It is one of the most important historical libraries in Germany and is considered a reference collection for the history of Central German Protestantism of the 16th to 18th century due to its unique collection of manuscripts, old prints, correspondences, diaries and estates of famous reformers.
Three essential aspects of the history of German language meet in the Gotha Research Library as it offers distinguished handwritten and printed sources on the history of the German language, theater and literature as well as education in the 16th to 18th century:

Language and Religion (Protestantism): 16th century

About 1,100 of Martin Luther’s letters, as originals or as contemporary copies, are located at the centre of the collection on the history of Reformation and account for a quarter of all surviving letters of Luther. Additionally, there are more of Luther’s writings as well as manuscripts, many of them written in German, which signifiy how important he was for the development of this language.
The print manuscript of his translation of the Prophet Jeremiah in 1530, for instance, shows that Luther often did not only translate but also enriched the language itself by creating unique expressions, poetic imagery and new wordplays. Words such as fewreyffer (ardor) and lestermaul  (scandalmonger) as well as metaphors like Perlen vor die Säue werfen (to cast pearls before swine) and ein Buch mit sieben Siegeln (riddle wrapped up in an enigma/ lit.: a book with seven seals) can be attributed to him.

The Gotha Research Library further preserves a part of the estate of Luther’s supporter Georg Spalatin as well as original letters and their contemporary copies of Friedrich Myconius (1490 - 1546), who impacted Protestant culture of remembrance significantly with his Geschichte der Reformation (history of Reformation) written in German. Spalatin, on the other hand, became one of Thuringia’s early chroniclers by writing a chronicle of Saxony in German as an assignment by Elector Frederick III of Saxony, also known as Frederick the Wise.

Language and Education: 17th century

In addition to various textbooks in German as well as the school library of the former Gymnasium Illustre in Gotha, today’s Gymnasium Ernestinum - one of the oldest grammar schools in Thuringia - the Gotha Research Library preserves the estates of educational theorists and practitioners: The collections include writings of educators Wolfgang Ratke (1571-1635) and Andreas Reyher (1601-1673) who were both very influential educational reformers in Germany. Ratke was a strong advocate for lessons held in German and developed a completely new way of teaching. Reyher became principal of the Gotha Gymnasium Illustre in 1641. He was counsel to Ernest the Pious, Duke of Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Altenburg, and was assigned to reform the school system in the Duchy of Saxe-Gotha.
The Duchy of Saxe-Gotha sought to implement compulsory education for boys and girls, which had been requested again and again since the early 16th century. Reyher developed curricula, textbooks and guides for teaching Maths, Science, Music and of course the German language.
The various editions of his Schulmethodus (school methodus) are important pieces of local literature with national impact and only available in the Gotha Research Library.

Language and Art: 18th century

A Baroque theater with the oldest preserved stage machinery (1681) can be found inside Friedenstein Castle: The Ekhof theater was named after the father of German acting, Conrad Ekhof (1720-1778), who arrived at Gotha’s court with the Seylersche theater Company in 1774. After its founder Abel Seyler had left Gotha, Duke Ernst II and Ekhof founded the first German court theater offering actors secure employment contracts. Up to his death three years later, Ekhof contributed to German theater as stage director of Gotha and the residential town became the centre of German theater. To this day the original stage machinery of the Ekhof theater is used to show how Ekhof and his cast made language come alive on this stage.
The Gotha Research Library houses a significant collection of literature on German theater, including a part of Conrad Ekhof’s private collection, such as his translation of the comedy Le Philosophe Marié Ou Le Mari Honteux De L'Être (The married philosopher or the husband who was ashamed to be one) by Néricault Destouches into German.

Opening Hours
Gotha Research Library
Monday to Friday 09:00 am - 08:00 pm
Saturdays 09:00 am - 01:00 pm

Service hours: Lending and Special Reading Room
Monday to Friday 09:00 am - 08:00 pm

Free of charge tours of the Gotha Research Library display rooms can be attended from April to October on Wednesdays at 3 pm.
Participants meet at the lending library counter.

Museums in Castle Friedenstein
(Castle Museum, Museum of History, Museum of Nature, Ekhof Theater)
Tuesday to Sunday
(closed on Mondays, open on public holidays)
10:00 am - 05:00 pm
(November to March: 10:00 am - 04:00 pm)

Ducal Museum
Monday to Sunday 10:00 am - 05:00 pm
(November to March: 10:00 am - 04:00 pm)