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Erfurt ( ) is the capital city of Thuringiamarker and is the main city nearest to the geographical centre of Germanymarker, located 100 km SW of Leipzigmarker, 150 km N of Nürnbergmarker and 180 km SE of Hannovermarker. Erfurt Airportmarker can be reached by plane via Munichmarker. It lies in the southern part of the Thuringian Basin, within the wide valley of Gera Rivermarker, a tributary of the Unstrutmarker. To the south, the city is surrounded by the hilly forest of Steigerwald.


1493 drawing of Erfurt
Old synagogue (oldest one in Europe)
Old university (1392)
Citadel on Petersberg
Town hall
main station
Christmas market
Mariendom at night
Wenigemarkt square

Erfurt was first mentioned in 742 under the name of "Erphesfurt". It was an important trading town during the Middle Ages near a ford across the Gera river. Together with the other five Thuringian woad-towns of Gothamarker, Tennstedtmarker, Arnstadtmarker and Langensalzamarker it was the centre of the German woad trade.

In 1349, during the wave of pogroms which followed the Black Death across Europe, the Jews of Erfurt were rounded up, with more than 100 killed and the rest driven from the city. Recently, the medieval synagogue has been discovered beneath newer buildings, and is being restored (completion expected 2009). In 1392, the University of Erfurtmarker, where Martin Luther was matriculated, was founded. One of the leading German universities for many centuries, it fell upon hard times in the early 19th Century, and was forced to close in 1816. It was refounded in 1994 by the Thuringian state parliament and has regained its status as a leading German academic and research institution.

In 1664, the city and surrounding area were brought under the dominion of the Electorate of Mainz. Erfurt became part of the Kingdom of Prussiamarker in 1802, part of the First French Empire in 1806 as Principality of Erfurt, and was returned to Prussia in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars. Although enclosed by Thuringian territory in the west, south and east, the city remained part of the Prussian Province of Saxonymarker until 1944. The city was the site of the failed Erfurt Union of German states in 1850.

Bombed as a target of the Oil Campaign of World War II, Erfurt suffered only limited damage and was captured on April 12, 1945, by units of Patton's Third United States Army. On July 3, American troops left the city and the city became part of the Soviet Zone of Occupation and East Germanymarker. After German reunification, Erfurt became the capital of the re-established state of Thuringiamarker.

Main sights

Erfurt has preserved an intact medieval city centre. The city is known for its two churches, Erfurt Cathedralmarker (Mariendom) and Severikirche, which stand side by side and together form the emblem of the city. Both churches tower above the townscape and are accessible via huge open stairs called Domstufen. Another remarkable site is the Krämerbrückemarker, a bridge crossing the narrow Gera River. The bridge is covered with 32 inhabited buildings. It was built in 1325 with a church on either bridgehead, one of which, the Ägidienkirche, is still functional. The Augustinerkloster is an old Augustinian monastery. Martin Luther studied at the university and lived in the Augustinerkloster for a few years after 1505.

The eleventh century Erfurt Synagoguemarker is thought to be the oldest synagogue building still standing in Europe. It is now a museum displaying the Erfurt Treasure.


Martin Luther attended the University of Erfurt and received his bachelor's and master's degrees of theology there. Luther lived there as a student from 1501 to 1511 and, as a monk, from 1505 to 1511.

The city is the birthplace of one of Johann Sebastian Bach's cousins, Johann Bernhard Bach, as well as Johann Sebastian Bach's father Johann Ambrosius Bach. Bach's parents were married in 1668 in a small church, the Kaufmannskirche (Merchant's Church), that still exists on the main square, Anger.

The sociologist Max Weber was born in Erfurt, and the theologian and philosopher Meister Eckhart was Prior of Erfurt's Dominican Order.

Johann Pachelbel served as organist at the Prediger church in Erfurt. Pachelbel composed approximately seventy pieces for organ while in Erfurt. After 1906 the composer Richard Wetz lived in Erfurt and became the leading person in the town's musical life. His major works were written here, including three symphonies, a Requiem and a Christmas Oratorio.

Erfurt Theater

Since 2003, the modern new built opera house is home of Theater Erfurt and its Philharmonic Orchestra. The "grand stage" section has 800 seats and the "studio stage" can hold 200 spectators. In September 2005, the opera Waiting for the Barbarians by Philip Glass premiered in the opera house. The Erfurt Theater has been source of controversy recently. In 2005 a performance of Humperdinck's opera Hänsel und Gretel stirred up the local press since the performance contained suggestions of pedophilia and incest. The opera was advertised in the program with the addition "for adults only".

On April 12, 2008, a version of Verdi's opera Un ballo in maschera directed by Johann Kresnik opened at the Erfurt Theater. The production stirred deep controversy by featuring nude performers in Mickey Mouse masks dancing on the ruins of the World Trade Centermarker and a female singer with a painted on Hitler toothbrush moustache performing a straight arm Nazi salute, along with sinister portrayals of American soldiers, Uncle Sam, and Elvis Presley impersonators. The director described the production as a populist critique of modern American society, aimed at showing up the disparities between rich and poor. The controversy prompted one local politician to call for locals to boycott the performances, but this was largely ignored and the premiere was sold out.


Erfurt lies on two Bundesstraßen (federal motorways):

Also there are two Autobahnen crossing each other at Erfurter Kreuz nearby:

There have been trams in the city since 1883. Today there are six tram lines to most of the parts of Erfurt, supplemented by several bus lines

Railways run from Erfurt main stationmarker to:


University of Applied Sciences Erfurt

The University of Applied Sciences Erfurt was founded on 1991. It is characterised by a combination of scientific training and its practical applications. In the winter term 2008/09 there studied approximately 4600 students.


  • Faculty of Social Affairs
  • Faculty of Business, Logistics and Transport
  • Faculty of Landscape Architecture, Horticulture and Forestry
  • Faculty of Architecture
  • Faculty of Civil Engineering and Conservation/Restoration
  • Faculty of Building Services Engineering and Computer Science

University of Erfurt

The University of Erfurt was founded on 1994 so it is the youngest public universtity in Germany. It sees itself in the tradition of the historic University that had been there as from 1392 to 1816. In the winter term 2008/09 there studied approximately 4700 students.


  • Faculty of Philosophy
  • Faculty of Political Science
  • Arts Faculty
  • Faculty of Education
  • Faculty of Catholic Theology
  • Max-Weber-College


Erfurt is the home of the Born Feinkost, producing the mustard served to the Thuringia Bratwurst.

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

Erfurt is twinned with:


  1. Lehmann, Hartmut. "Weber's Protestant Ethic". Cambridge University Press, 1995. 118.
  2. German staging of Verdi's A Masked Ball on 9/11 with naked cast in Mickey Mouse masks — Telegraph

External links

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