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Saxony-Eisenach around 1680 (without the County of Sayn-Altenkirchen)
The former ducal residence in Eisenach

Saxony-Eisenach was an Ernestine duchy in what is now Thuringia and a territory of the Holy Roman Empire . The capital was Eisenach .

Saxony-Eisenach was a principality in the Holy Roman Empire and as such was a member of the Upper Saxon Empire . Since the House of Wettin acquired the electoral dignity and the title of duke of the old tribal duchy of Saxony by transferring the Duchy of Saxony-Wittenberg in 1423 , all members of the family, regardless of whether they ruled or not, had the title of "Duke of Saxony". As the oldest and most distinguished title, it preceded all other titles (with the exception of the title of elector, which the Ernestines lost permanently to the Albertines in 1547 ). Since the "Prince of Eisenach" as Ernestine was also "Duke of Saxony" and this title preceded the title of prince, the term "Duchy of Saxony-Eisenach" is also used.

Due to the Ernestine succession regulations, the state as a whole was usually further split up in the course of the respective country divisions. The Eisenach area was also affected to varying degrees. It lost its independence every now and then when the ruling ducal line died out and the country was united with other Ernestine countries in the course of inheritance treaties. The independent history of the duchy ended in 1741 when it fell to the Ernestine Duke Ernst August I of Saxe-Weimar . 1809 Saxe-Eisenach was under Duke Carl August of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach by the Constitution and constitutional law with Saxe-Weimar to Duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach merged and grew at the 1815 Congress of Vienna to the Grand Duchy of.


Before taking possession by the Wettins

The city of Eisenach played an important role in the history of Thuringia even before the Wettins. The city owes this above all to the nearby Wartburg , which, according to legend, was founded in 1067 by Count Ludwig the Springer from the Ludowinger family. In 1131 the Ludowinger Landgraves became Landgraves of Thuringia and thus achieved a certain degree of dominance among the Thuringian nobles. In addition, around 1137 the family succeeded in acquiring considerable property in northern Hesse through marriage and inheritance - the former counties of the Gisonen and Count Werner . The Wartburg was expanded by the Ludowingers to become their main castle and the center of their rule in Thuringia. Around the middle of the 12th century, the town of Eisenach was also created by merging three market towns at the foot of the castle. In 1247 the Ludowingers died out with the death of Heinrich Raspe . It came to the Thuringian-Hessian War of Succession (1247-1264), as a result of which the Wettin Heinrich the Illustrious was able to claim the Landgraviate of Thuringia in 1264, while Sophie von Brabant and her son Heinrich I fought for the Hessian parts of the country. Thus, Eisenach and the Wartburg moved from the center of the Ludowinger dominion to a peripheral location with regard to the Wettin possessions.

Eisenach under the Wettins until the first split as an independent principality

Obviously, ownership of the Wartburg was decisive for the political position in the empire. Their possession symbolized the rightful rule over the Landgraviate of Thuringia. The sons of Albrecht II consequently had to assert this possession against their father as well as against the kings Adolf von Nassau and Albrecht von Austria , which led to a civil war in Thuringia that lasted for several years and was extremely brutal on all sides. Eisenach was then incorporated into the Wettin general estate, but its importance changed quickly, as the Wettins from then on concentrated on developing new warlike entanglements ( Hussite Wars ) and on the development of the country and the assertion of their territories against Bohemia and Brandenburg .

The area of ​​the Landgraviate of Thuringia also forms a whole among the Wettins.

Consequences of the divisions

In 1485 the brothers, Elector Ernst of Saxony and Duke Albrecht III. their property in the Leipzig division . The Ernestine and Albertine lines of the Wettins emerged, both of which still exist today. With this first division began a disastrous fragmentation of the country, and economic development, especially trade, was hampered. The granting of the imperial trade fair privilege to the up-and-coming trading city of Leipzig by King Maximilian I in 1497 and the tightening of these regulations in 1507 also broke Eisenach's economic strength lastingly.

Eisenach had fallen to the branch of the Ernestines, whose main residence was Wittenberg . During the Reformation , they supported Martin Luther and his followers. With the consent of Frederick the Wise , Luther came to the Wartburg in his care and translated the New Testament there . In the course of the Schmalkaldic War (1546/47) the Ernestines lost the Saxon electoral dignity and all areas outside Thuringia to the Albertines with the Wittenberg surrender in 1547 . Since they also lost their previous main residence in Wittenberg, Weimar took their place. Eisenach stayed with the Ernestines and belonged to the greatly reduced Ernestine possessions ruled from Weimar.

Soon after the Wittenberg surrender, a series of dynastic divisions began, in which the Duchy of Saxony-Eisenach emerged as an independent political unit. It all started with the partition of Erfurt in 1572. Johann Friedrich the Magnanimous , the last Ernestine Elector and loser of the Schmalkaldic War, had three children: Johann Friedrich the Middle , Johann Wilhelm I and Johann Friedrich the Younger . As early as 1565, the two older sons had provisionally divided their estates, with Johann Friedrich the Middle Gotha , Johann Wilhelm I. Weimar . Eisenach belonged to the domain of Johann Friedrich the Middle. He soon embarked on a daring political course, directed against the emperor and the Albertines, with the aim of regaining the electoral dignity (see also Grumbachsche Handel ). The imperial ban was therefore imposed on Johann Friedrich . He was finally captured by imperial troops in 1566 and spent the rest of his life in imperial imprisonment in Austria . His possessions were confiscated and handed over to his brother Johann Wilhelm I. For the last time, and only for a short time, the Ernestine possessions in Thuringia were united in one hand.

Johann Wilhelm I also retired because of his services for the French King Charles IX. soon the wrath of the emperor too. He therefore remembered Johann Friedrich the Middle, who was still held captive, or the fact that he had two children, Johann Casimir and Johann Ernst . At the instigation of the emperor, these two children were reinstated in the succession of the imprisoned father by the Diet of Speyer (1570). With the Erfurt partition agreement , the emperor and the Albertines forced Johann Wilhelm I to surrender the area formerly ruled by Johann Friedrich the Middle in favor of his children.

The short-lived principality of Saxe-Coburg-Eisenach was created in 1572 (not to be confused with the later Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (duchy) ). It was ruled nominally by the two brothers Johann Casimir and Johann Ernst together. However, since both were still minors, a regency was established that was led by the Albertine Elector August of Saxony . In 1586 the two brothers took over the government themselves. This phase was followed by a further division of the country in 1596: From now on Johann Casimir ruled alone in Saxony-Coburg, while for Johann Ernst western Thuringia areas and offices were separated as an independent duchy of Saxony-Eisenach. Johann Ernst thus became the first Duke of Saxony-Eisenach, which now appeared as a politically independent state.

The division of 1596 did not last. Johann Casimir von Sachsen-Coburg died childless in 1633, so that his younger brother Johann Ernst inherited his land. Thus the Principality of Saxony-Coburg-Eisenach came into being again. This too did not last, as Johann Ernst also died in 1638. Since his only son died shortly after he was born, the line of the dukes of Saxe-Coburg-Eisenach had already expired. The land was divided under the existing Ernestine lines: two thirds, including the city of Eisenach and the Wartburg, fell to Saxe-Weimar, the remaining third to Saxe-Altenburg . (see Ernestine division )

The second independence from Saxony-Eisenach

At the time of the attack on Eisenach-Gotha, Duke Wilhelm IV ruled Saxe-Weimar , but not alone, because he had to involve his two brothers Albrecht and Ernst in the government. The enlargement of the duchy by the seizure of 2/3 of the Eisenach-Gothaischen territory now offered the duke the opportunity of a new division of the country. For the two younger brothers, separate parts of the country were separated in 1641 so that Wilhelm could rule Saxony-Weimar alone. The two principalities of Saxe-Gotha, where Ernst ruled as Ernst I, "the Pious", and Saxe-Eisenach, which fell to Albrecht, were created again.

Albrecht von Sachsen-Eisenach only ruled for three years. He died in 1644 without any descendants. Saxe-Eisenach was divided half between Saxe-Gotha and Saxe-Weimar, and the city of Eisenach and the Wartburg fell back to Saxe-Weimar. The offices of Volkenroda , Krayenberg , Heldburg , Eisfeld , Veilsdorf and Salzungen with Allendorf came to the Duchy of Saxony-Gotha .

The country's third independence

Saxony-Eisenach was ruled from Saxony-Weimar for almost 20 years. In 1662, however, the state was divided again, with Saxony-Eisenach re-established as an independent principality. In that year the Weimar Duke Wilhelm IV died. He left four children, Johann Ernst , Adolf Wilhelm , Johann Georg and Bernhard , who divided the Duchy of Saxony-Weimar again. The oldest was named Johann Ernst II. Duke in Weimar. Adolf Wilhelm received the Duchy of Saxony-Eisenach, which was divided off from Weimar, and took his residence in Eisenach. However, he had to share the land with his younger brother Johann Georg I, who received the income from a number of offices in Saxony-Eisenach and who took his residence in Marksuhl . Adolf Wilhelm married Marie Elisabeth in 1663, a daughter of Duke August von Braunschweig . He had five children with her, the four oldest of whom died shortly after their birth. Adolf Wilhelm died in Eisenach in 1668, shortly before the birth of his fifth child, Wilhelm August. Saxony-Eisenach was now administered by Johann Georg I, as guardian of Wilhelm August. Wilhelm August died in 1671. Johann Georg I ruled alone in Saxony-Eisenach. Through his marriage to Johanetta von Sayn-Wittgenstein in 1661, the County of Sayn-Altenkirchen also came to Saxony-Eisenach by 1741 .

1672 went out with the death of Friedrich Wilhelm III. the line of the dukes of Saxe-Altenburg . A quarter of their territory fell to the Weimar Line. Now a separate duchy was also divided up for Bernhard: he received Saxony-Jena . Saxony-Eisenach received a number of other offices and thus the shape it had until its end in 1741.

In 1685 Johann Georg I introduced the primogeniture for Saxony-Eisenach to prevent further division of the country.

A total of four dukes ruled Saxony-Eisenach. It was not until 1741 that the line became extinct with the death of Wilhelm Heinrich and the land fell, this time for good, to Saxe-Weimar.

This gave the Duchy of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach its final shape in 1741. It consisted of two larger parts of the country, Weimar and Eisenach, which were not geographically connected. The two parts also continued to exist separately from a constitutional point of view, because they were only linked by a personal union in the person of their ruler. The two parts of the country had different rights, in particular the rights of the estates . Duke Ernst August I , the first to rule both territories again, therefore had some difficulties in enforcing his Weimar, absolutist style of government in Eisenach. It was not until 1809 that Saxony-Weimar and Saxony-Eisenach were united under constitutional law through the “ constitution of the united landscape of the Ducal Weimar and Eisenach lands including the Jena land portion ”.

Timeline and table of rulers

Adolf Wilhelm Duke of Saxony-Eisenach (1662–1668) by Christian Richter (1587–1667)
  • 1067: legendary foundation of the Wartburg.
  • 1131: The Landgraviate of Thuringia is founded under the Ludowingers
  • Mid-12th century: The city of Eisenach was founded.
  • 1264: The Wettins acquire the Thuringian part of the Landgraviate of Thuringia, at the same time the Landgraviate of Hesse emerges from the western dominion of the Ludowingers with the centers of Marburg and Kassel . Important Wettin landgraves are Friedrich the Freidige , Albrecht the Degenerate , Friedrich the Serious and Balthasar of Thuringia .
  • 1485: Leipzig division, the Ernestine and Albertine lines of the Wettins arise, Eisenach falls to the Ernestines.
  • 1547: The Ernestines lose the Saxon electorate.
  • until 1572: Eisenach is part of the entire Ernestine property.
  • 1572: Erfurt partition. Eisenach is part of the Principality of Saxony-Coburg-Eisenach.
  • 1596: Eisenach is separated from Sachsen-Coburg.
  • 1596–1638: Duke Johann Ernst (born 1566, died 1638).
  • 1633: Johann Ernst acquires Sachsen-Coburg, Eisenach is in turn part of Sachsen-Coburg-Eisenach.
  • 1638: Eisenach is divided between Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Altenburg, the city of Eisenach falls to Saxe-Weimar.
  • 1638–1641: Eisenach is part of Saxony-Weimar.
  • 1641: Eisenach is separated from Saxony-Weimar.
  • 1641–1644: Duke Albrecht (born 1599, died 1644).
  • 1644: Division of Eisenach between Saxe-Weimar and Saxe-Gotha.
  • 1644–1662: Eisenach is part of Saxony-Weimar.
  • 1662–1668: Duke Adolf Wilhelm (born 1632, died 1668).
  • 1668–1671: Duke Wilhelm August (born 1668, died 1671) under the tutelage of his uncle Johann Georg I.
  • 1672–1686: Duke Johann Georg I (born 1634, died 1686).
  • 1672: Saxony-Eisenach receives additional territories after the extinction of Saxony-Altenburg.
  • 1685: Johann Georg I introduces the principle of primogeniture for Saxony-Eisenach.
  • 1686–1698: Duke Johann Georg II. (Born 1665, died 1698).
  • 1698–1729: Duke Johann Wilhelm (born 1666, died 1729).
  • 1729–1741: Duke Wilhelm Heinrich (born 1691, died 1741).
  • 1741 Eisenach falls again, this time finally to Saxe-Weimar
  • 1809 Union of Saxony-Weimar and Saxony-Eisenach under constitutional law.


Individual evidence

  1. Reinhard Jonscher, Willy Schilling: Small Thuringian History . Jena 2005, ISBN 3-910141-74-9 , p. 93
  2. August BeckErnst I, "the pious", Duke of Saxe-Gotha and Altenburg . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 6, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1877, pp. 302-308.
  3. Eckard Hanke: The district of Altenkirchen is created (1816) . In: Pedagogical Center of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate / PZ of the district of Altenkirchen (ed.): The district of Altenkirchen. Teaching materials on the history of the district (=  PZ information history ). No. 5/91 , 1991, ISSN  0170-7272 , pp. 2 .