The starting point for the Thuringian Bach Weeks is the unique historical potential of Johann Sebastian Bach's places of activity in the Free State of Thuringia. With the Bach House and the baptistery in Eisenach, the wedding church in Dornheim, the early places of activity as organist in Mühlhausen, Arnstadt and Weimar as well as the ancestral homes in Erfurt and Wechmar, Thuringia has the majority of authentic Bach locations in Germany. These impressive locations are the stage and setting for sophisticated concerts and events. Discover the traces of the great composer in Thuringia, for example in the state capital Erfurt.
Bach in Erfurt is a topic in itself. Johann Sebastian Bach visited the city from time to time in his younger years, but left little to no traces that are still visible today. Nevertheless, a story in passing: the great composer would almost have been born in Erfurt if Duke Johann Georg I of Saxony-Eisenach had not refused Johann Sebastian's father's wish to leave Eisenach and the court service there in 1684 to live in Erfurt again as a town musician. Johann Ambrosius, who was born in Erfurt, must have felt very much at home there, in the magnificent city on the Gera and the Via Regia. After all, many of Bach's relatives lived and worked in the city.
So no Bach memorial as a starting point for a short city tour. Hence our confident suggestion to start the tour where the Thuringian Bach Festival has its headquarters: On the 120-meter-long Krämerbrücke, one of the most beautiful and popular places in Erfurt. It has a Mediterranean charm, is a lively place of enjoyment where craftsmen and artists live and work and lend the bridge, which is built on both sides, a lot of flair as one of the city's landmarks. The Bach family is also said to have once lived in one of the small houses and would certainly consider themselves lucky today to have a chocolate factory or the small delicatessen bistro Mundlandung just around the corner.
From the bridge, the next destination is Kaufmannskirche. Along the little river Gera, in the small street called Junkersand, there are further memorials to the Bach family. Johann Sebastian's parents lived in houses 1 to 3. Today, a memorial plaque commemorates the famous residents, including the Baroque composer Johann Pachelbel, who not only worked as an organist in the Predigerkirche, but was also an acquaintance of the Bach family.
We now make our way through the narrow alleyways and lively streets to the Kaufmannskirche. This church is one of the few authentic Bach sites in the city. More than 60 christenings, weddings and funerals of the Erfurt Bach family of musicians are recorded in the church registers of the Kaufmannskirche. Bach's father and his twin brother Johann Christoph were baptized in the church in 1645, and Johann Ambrosius and Elisabeth Lämmerhirt were married 23 years later before the family left for Eisenach three years later.
The members of the Bach family shaped musical life in the town long before the famous Johann Sebastian, sometimes as town musicians and sometimes as organists. Bach's grandfather Christoph worked as a council musician in Erfurt, as did his father Johann Ambrosius. Even after moving to Eisenach, there were regular "Bach family days" in Erfurt, Arnstadt or Eisenach, to which Johann Sebastian also traveled to Erfurt. In front of the church, at the latest, you will notice another great Erfurt figure: the Luther monument commemorates the time of the reformer, who lived and studied in Erfurt from 1501 to 1511 and entered the Augustinian monastery as a monk. This historic site in the middle of the old town is also worth a visit, and not just because of the many references to Luther. Bach came to the Augustinian church in 1716 to inspect the organ there.
As the state capital of Thuringia, Erfurt itself has undergone many transformations: Away from the Krämerbrücke bridge, a magnificent and spectacular find can be seen - thanks to a fortunate circumstance: in 1998, silver coins, gold and wrought iron work as well as a Jewish wedding ring were discovered in the cellar of an old house. The Erfurt treasure and other evidence of medieval Jewish culture are on display in the Old Synagogue. Erfurt itself has been striving for years to be awarded the title of "UNESCO World Heritage Site" for its diverse medieval Jewish heritage.
The Cathedral Square with its impressive view of the church ensemble of St. Mary's Cathedral and St. Severi's Church is also an exciting and much-visited place. Whether as a daily weekly market or a permanent fixture for festivals such as the traditional Christmas market with up to two million visitors, the city has long since become a very lively, international cultural and university city. Incidentally, one of the Thuringian Bach Festival's favorite cafés is located not far from the cathedral. The small Café Hilgenfeld is an ideal place for a break and a little insider tip for coffee connoisseurs.