The Elisabethkirche of Marburg an der Lahn, Germany is a special one: it is the oldest purely gothic-style church in Germany. Isn’t that a reason to get to this small university town in the middle between Frankfurt am Main and Kassel? The church was built from the year 1235 on and was consecrated in 1283. This construction project was done by the Teutonic Order (a.k.a. The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem). They’ve built the church on top of the grave of Saint Elizabeth of Thuringia (1207-1231). She was a Hungarian princess married to Louis IV, Landgrave of Thuringia.

Elizabeth was engaging for the poor people in Thuringia, gave them to eat and opened a hospital at Marburg. She was made a saint therefore later, which made the Elisabethkirche a place of pilgrimage. Today the amazing cathedral is belonging to the Protestant church. It is built from sandstone, has a triple choir and two towers that are approximately 80 meters high.

Today there are no relics of Elizabeth anymore in the Elisabethkirche. As she was a very famous saint, her bones have spread across Europe. Potentially her head and some bones are today located in Wien, but there is no proof for that. In 1945 the Elisabethkirche saw three other VIPs: when the Red Army fought Nazi Germany the Nazis brought the remains of Paul von Hindenburg (German president from 1925 to 1934) and the two Prussian kings Frederick II (‘Frederick the Great’) and Frederic William I (the ‘Soldier King’) to a salt mine in Thuringia, Bernterode (Breitenworbis).

When the U.S. forces discovered them in the salt mine they brought their corpses to the Elisabethkirche at Marburg (because Thuringia later became part of the Soviet influence zone and Marburg part of West-Germany). The Prussian kings have later been shifted to Burg Hohenzollern and after the German re-unification further on to Park Sanssouci. Paul von Hindenburg and his wife Gertrud remained in the Elisabethkirche and found their final grave there. Their first grave, the Tannenberg-Denkmal at East Prussia was blown-up by the German Wehrmacht before the Red Army arrived. The area today belongs to Olsztynek, Poland.

The church is currently undergoing restoration works and is therefore only partially accessible. You can visit the church free of charge. Only if you want to see the shrine for the relics of Elizabeth (recommended!) you need to pay a very small fee. The church obviously invested a lot to store her bones in a suitable way.

Marburg an der Lahn

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