EISENACH, a town of Germany, second capital of the grand-duchy of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, lies at the north-west foot of the Thuringian forest, at the confluence of the Nesse and Hörsel, 32 m. by rail W. from Erfurt. Pop. (1905) 35,123. The town mainly consists of a long street, running from east to west. Off this are the market square, containing the grand-ducal palace, built in 1742, where the duchess Hélène of Orleans long resided, the town-hall, and the late Gothic St Georgenkirche; and the square on which stands the Nikolaikirche, a fine Romanesque building, built about 1150 and restored in 1887. Noteworthy are also the Klemda, a small castle dating from 1260; the Lutherhaus, in which the reformer stayed with the Cotta family in 1498; the house in which Sebastian Bach was born, and that (now a museum) in which Fritz Reuter lived (1863-1874). There are monuments to the two former in the town, while the resting-place of the latter in the cemetery is marked by a less pretentious memorial. Eisenach has a school of forestry, a school of design, a classical school (Gymnasium) and modern school (Realgymnasium), a deaf and dumb school, a teachers' seminary, a theatre and a Wagner museum. The most important industries of the town are worsted-spinning, carriage and wagon building, and the making of colours and pottery. Among others are the manufacture of cigars, cement pipes, iron-ware and machines, alabaster ware, shoes, leather, etc., cabinet-making, brewing, granite quarrying and working, tile-making, and saw- and corn-milling.
The natural beauty of its surroundings and the extensive forests of the district have of late years attracted many summer residents. Magnificently situated on a precipitous hill, 600 ft. above the town to the south, is the historic Wartburg (q.v.), the ancient castle of the landgraves of Thuringia, famous as the scene of the contest of Minnesingers immortalized in Wagner's Tannhäuser, and as the place where Luther, on his return from the diet of Worms in 1521, was kept in hiding and made his translation of the Bible. On a high rock adjacent to the Wartburg are the ruins of the castle of Mädelstein.
Eisenach (Isenacum) was founded in 1070 by Louis II. the Springer, landgrave of Thuringia, and its history during the middle ages was closely bound up with that of the Wartburg, the seat of the landgraves. The Klemda, mentioned above, was built by Sophia (d. 1284), daughter of the landgrave Louis IV., and wife of Duke Henry II. of Brabant, to defend the town against Henry III., margrave of Meissen, during the succession contest that followed the extinction of the male line of the Thuringian landgraves in 1247. The principality of Eisenach fell to the Saxon house of Wettin in 1440, and in the partition of 1485 formed part of the territories given to the Ernestine line. It was a separate Saxon duchy from 1596 to 1638, from 1640 to 1644, and again from 1662 to 1741, when it finally fell to Saxe-Weimar. The town of Eisenach, by reason of its associations, has been a favourite centre for the religious propaganda of Evangelical Germany, and since 1852 it has been the scene of the annual conference of the German Evangelical Church, known as the Eisenach conference.
See Trinius, Eisenach und Umgebung (Minden, 1900); and H.A. Daniel, Deutschland (Leipzig, 1895), and further references in U. Chevalier, "Répertoire des sources," etc., Topo-bibliogr. (Montbéliard, 1894-1899), s.v.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)