Erfurt, Germany

Sunset view from the steps of Erfurt Cathedral. Photo © Sacred Destinations.

Erfurt is a small city in the region of Thuringia in central Germany. It was founded as a Catholic diocese in 742 and flourished in the Middle Ages thanks to the woad plant, the source of valuable blue dye. Today, Erfurt is a bustling town of 200,000 with an abundance of churches (36 churches plus 15 monasteries and other ecclesiastical buildings, to be exact).

Erfurt's many churches, chapels and monasteries have earned the city the nickname "Thuringian Rome." And Erfurt is especially famous for playing a significant role in the life of Martin Luther. In the 16th century, Luther spent six years in Erfurt, first studying at the University of Erfurt then living as a monk in the Augustinian Monastery.

In addition to all these great religious sites, Erfurt boasts a lovely medieval city center, the oldest inhabited bridge in Europe (the Krämerbrucke) and a charming Christmas market. It is no surprise, then, that Erfurt is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination for Germans and non-Germans alike. Yet Erfurt is still much less "touristy" than more famous German cities, so it's a bit quieter and accommodations tend to be more reasonably priced.

Erfurt Cathedral
This Gothic cathedral with Romanesque parts is an impressive edifice that uses its unique sloping site to full advantage. Inside are many important art masterpieces.
Kleine Synagoge
This small structure from 1840 is the oldest undamaged synagogue left in Germany. It now houses an exhibition on Erfurt's Jewish community.
Located next door to the cathedral, this church has a distinctive triple-towered east end and a celebrated monumental tomb by the Master of St. Severus.
This large Franciscan church was almost completely destroyed by WWII bombs. The nave remains in ruins but the restored choir has its 13th-century stained glass windows of St. Francis and medieval artifacts.
This was once a Dominican priory, but since the Reformation it has been Erfurt's main Protestant church. Meister Eckhart was a friar here.
The main stop on the Luther Trail in Erfurt is this Augustinian monastery where Luther lived as a monk during his turbulent, formative years in 1505-11.