In 1527, Caspar Aquila, a friend and companion of Martin Luther, came to Saalfeld as a preacher. A year later he was made the first Protestant Superintendant at St John’s Church. His task was to implement Luther’s ideas in Saalfeld, reorganise community life and comprehensively reform the school system. In 1526, the Lutheran state church began to be developed and organised via church and school visits. This resulted in the introduction of the ‘Gemeine Kasten’ (communal box) in 1527, the dissolution of the Benedictine monastery in 1532 and the relocation of the boys’ school to the Franciscan monastery in 1534. In subsequent years, Aquila strived to comprehensively reform the school system in Saalfeld together with Philipp Melanchthon.
Since 1904, the Franciscan monastery has housed the town museum. The former monastery with its extensively original cubature and architecture is one of the most exemplary medieval buildings in the state of Thuringia. The original roof timbering of the monastery church dates from 1300 and is of particular significance. The museum’s collection includes a prayer book belonging to Martin Luther with handwritten annotations.
Heidecksburg Palace in Rudolstadt can be seen from far and wide. It houses the Thuringian State Museum and features an impressive 12-metre high Rococo ballroom where Friedrich Schiller was once a guest. The baroque palace has a 160-metre wide side wing and a 67-metre high west-facing façade. Between 1571 and 1918 it was the home of the counts and princes of Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt. Almost 250 rooms were available to the court in this magnificent seat of government in the former Thuringian microstate. The art collection contains wooden carvings from the Reformation period including works by Albrecht Dürer. The ‘Rococo en miniature’ attractions are particularly interesting.
Located around 30 km south of Weimar in Großkochberg, the former country estate of the von Stein family gained fame due to Goethe’s affection for Charlotte von Stein. Between 1775 and 1788, frequent visits were made by the privy councillor to the manor, which today is almost completely intact with palace, park, plant nursery, patron saint’s church, surrounding buildings and a separate theatre. The museum in the palace features reminders of Goethe’s visits to his closest girlfriend and confidante during the initial Weimar years. A valuable writing desk can be seen in the room where Goethe stayed at Kochberg Castle; here the poet sat and penned details of his visits.