Coburg (German pronunciation: [ˈkoːbʊʁk]) is a town located on the Itz river in the Upper Franconia region of Bavaria, Germany. Long part of one of the Thuringian states of the Wettin line, it joined Bavaria by popular vote only in 1920. Until the revolution of 1918, it was one of the capitals of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Through successful dynastic policies, the ruling princely family married into several of the royal families of Europe, most notably in the person of Prince Albert, who married Queen Victoria in 1840. As a result of these close links with the royal houses of Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Coburg was frequently visited by the crowned heads of Europe and their families.
Coburg is also known as the location of Veste Coburg, one of Germany's largest castles. In 1530, Martin Luther lived there for six months during which he worked on translating the Bible into German.
Today, Coburg's population is close to 41,500. Since it was little damaged in World War II, Coburg retains many historic buildings, making it a popular tourist destination.
Coburg lies about 90 kilometres (56 miles) south of Erfurt and about 100 kilometres (62 miles) north of Nuremberg on the river Itz. It is an urban district and is surrounded by the Landkreis Coburg. Coburg lies at the foot of the Thuringian Highland. Coburg, Bavaria was part of West Germany until reunification in 1990, but on three sides it borders Thuringia which was East Germany. The border between Bavaria and Thuringia was also the inner German border.
Coburg is divided into 15 Stadtteile:
Coburg was first mentioned in a monastic document dated 1056, which marked the transfer of ownership to the Archbishop-Elector of Cologne,:16 although there was a settlement at the site that predates it called Trufalistat. The origin of the name Coburg is unclear; the first element may be kuh, which would give a literal meaning of "cow borough".
"Coburg" initially referred to a property centred on the hill where Veste Coburg was later built. Its oldest remains date to the 12th or 13th century. In 1248, the castle came into possession of the House of Henneberg and in 1353 it passed to the House of Wettin:16 with the marriage of Frederick III with Catherine of Henneberg and was initially regarded by them as a Saxon outpost within Franconia.
During the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 reformer Martin Luther spent six months at the castle (located at the southernmost point of the Saxon duchy) while his liege lord, John, Elector of Saxony, attended the Diet. Luther was forbidden to attend by the Elector, who feared that he would be imprisoned and burned as a heretic. While quartered at the castle Luther continued with his translation of the Bible into German.
In 1547, the princely residence was moved from the Veste to a former monastery, rebuilt as a Renaissance palace, the Ehrenburg.:16
In 1596, Coburg was raised to the status of capital of one of the dynasty's splintered Saxon-Thuringian territories, the newly created Duchy of Saxe-Coburg under the leadership of Duke John Casimir (ruled 1596–1633). From 1699 to 1826, it was one of the two capitals of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, and from 1826–1918 it was a capital of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Ernest Frederick, the fourth Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, moved his capital from Saalfeld to Coburg in 1764. Coburg then became capital of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld and later of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
In the early 19th century, the town's medieval fortifications were demolished and replaced by parks. The duke also started the collection of copperplate engravings that is today part of the Veste Coburg museum. Under his son, Ernest, the Schlossplatz17with what is today the Landestheater Coburg was created. He also rebuilt the Ehrenburg in Gothic revival style.:
In the mid-19th century, Duke Ernest II supported national and liberal ideas and Coburg hosted the first meeting of the German National Association, the founding of the Deutscher Sängerbund17and the first Deutsches Turnfest (national sports festival).:
During the 19th century, dynastic marriages created ties with the royal families of Belgium, Bulgaria, Portugal and Britain. This turned the ducal family from the rulers of a fairly obscure backwater duchy into one playing an influential role in European politics. The era of political influence peaked with Leopold Frederick; born Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, becoming the King of Belgium in 1831 and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, born in Schloss Rosenau, marrying his first cousin, Queen Victoria in 1840. The marriage between Albert and Victoria established the present British royal house, which renamed itself Windsor during World War I. This marriage in turn led to a union with Germany's ruling dynasty, the Hohenzollerns, when the couple's eldest child, Victoria, married the future Kaiser Friedrich III.
After her marriage, Queen Victoria said of Coburg:
If I were not who I am, this would have been my real home, but I shall always consider it my second one.
Due to the royal connections among the royal houses of Europe, Coburg was the site of many royal Ducal weddings and visits. Britain's Queen Victoria made six visits to Coburg during her 63-year reign. In 1894 the wedding of Ernest Louis, Grand Duke of Hesse and Princess Victoria Melita of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha brought together Queen Victoria, her son Edward (future Edward VII), her second son Alfred (Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha), her daughter the German Dowager Empress Friedrich (Victoria), and many of her grandchildren, such as future Tsar Nicholas and Alexandra of Russia (Alix of Hesse), Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and the future King George V of the United Kingdom.
In November 1918, the last Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Charles Edward, abdicated. The Freistaat Coburg which now came into being had to decide whether to become part of Thuringia or Bavaria. In a November 1919 referendum, the locals voted to join Bavaria with an 88% majority. On 1 July 1920, Coburg joined Bavaria.:17
In 1929, Coburg was the first German town in which the Nazi Party won the absolute majority of the popular vote during municipal elections. In 1932, Coburg was the first German town to make Adolf Hitler an honorary citizen.
Coburg had Jewish citizens as early as the 14th century. In the 1870s they were granted permission to lease permanently the Church of St. Nicholas for conversion into a synagogue. In 1931 an unofficial boycott was imposed against Jewish businesses. In 1932 the municipal council abrogated the lease of St. Nicholas Church, and a year later the synagogue was closed down (it still remains standing). On 25 March 1933, 40 Jews in Coburg were arrested and tortured. They were not released until the affair became internationally known. On 9 November 1938, all Jewish men were interned and Jewish homes, shops, and the school were destroyed. Coburg's Jewish community numbered 68 in 1869, 210 (1.3% of the total population) in 1880, 316 (1.3%) in 1925, and 233 (0.9%) in 1933. Around 150 managed to leave by 1942, either emigrating from Germany or moving to other German cities. The rest were deported to Riga, Izbica, and Theresienstadt in three transports between November 1941 and September 1942. The memorial book of the German Federal Archives for the victims of the Nazi persecution of Jews in Germany lists in particular 63 Jewish inhabitants of Coburg, who were deported and mostly murdered. Coburg's Jewish community was not reestablished after the war.
After World War II, which Coburg survived largely undamaged, the town faced the challenge of integrating over 15,000 refugees. In addition, whilst the other Saxon-Thuringian principalities were incorporated into the German Democratic Republic, Bavarian Coburg became part of West Germany. As a result, the town spent the Cold War years lying right next to the Iron Curtain, surrounded by East German territory on three sides and cut off from much of its natural back country.:17
In 1946, Polish ambassador Oskar R. Lange alleged that Coburg was a base for the Western Allies to organize a Polish armed insurgency led by Władysław Anders against the Soviet-backed communists in Poland.
Over two-thirds of Coburg's population live in the core town of Coburg rather than in one of the Stadtteile merged with it in the 20th century. Some of those retain a largely rural character.
Most residents of Coburg are members of the Evangelical Church (Lutheran). Other Christian communities are Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, the ICF Movement, Jehovah's Witnesses, Catholics, Old Catholics and the New Apostolic Church, as well as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There are also three communities of Muslims. Coburg had a large Jewish community until the 1940s. Jews had lived there since the 14th century. The old synagogue was a former church. Today it is used by Old Catholics. Coburg became Protestant after the Reformation. All Catholics were persecuted. A new Catholic community was founded in the 19th century.
In 1919 Max Broseand Ernst Jüngling established the metal works Max Brose & Co. to manufacture car parts. The company is still in operation today, as Brose Fahrzeugteile.
In 1950, the Haftpflicht-Unterstützungs-Kasse kraftfahrender Beamter Deutschlands a. G. (today HUK-Coburg) relocated from Erfurt to Coburg. HUK is today the largest employer and largest payer of Gewerbesteuer (local corporate tax) in Coburg.
Kapp Werkzeugmaschinen has been a manufacturer of machines since 1953, after taking over the production assets of COMAG (Coburger Maschinenbau GmbH).
Coburg has an above-average share of goods-producing employees. In 2013, out of 32,962 employees 10,421 worked in the manufacturing or construction sectors (31% vs. a national average of 24%), 4,853 in trade, transport and tourism, 10,381 in professional services and 7,230 in public and private services.:9
Hotels in Coburg counted over 61,000 overnight visitors in 2014 (of which around 53,000 were from Germany). They stayed for a total of almost 120,000 nights, or close to two nights on average.:15
In 2017, the GDP per inhabitant was €91,506 in Coburg, placing it 5th among the 96 urban and rural districts (Bavarian average: €46,698).
Coburg is twinned with:
Coburg's coat of arms, honouring the town's African patron Saint Maurice, was granted in 1493. In 1934, the Nazi government forbade any glorification of the African race, and they replaced the coat of arms with one depicting a vertical sword with a Nazi swastika on the pommel. The original coat of arms was restored in 1945 at the end of World War II. Today, the siluette of the patron saint of the city of Coburg can be found mainly on manhole covers and the city coat of arms.
Coburg has the typical features of a former capital of a German princely state. There are numerous houses from the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The most important landmarks include:
Coburg is home to two major festivals: Samba-Festival Coburgand Johann Strauss Musiktage. Coburg is referred to as "Europe's Capital of Samba."
As a result of the large presence of the US Army prior to German re-unification, Americans and American culture are still present in Coburg and the surrounding area. This influence ranges from American-style pubs and restaurants to two sports clubs sponsoring baseball teams.
The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council asserts that Frankfurt is traditionally credited with originating the frankfurter. According to the Council, this claim is disputed and the hot dog was created in the late 17th century by Johann Georghehner, a butcher, living in Coburg.
A popular local delicacy is the Coburger Bratwurst, a sausage (the official measure of which is denoted by the Marshall's staff held by the statue of the town's patron, Sankt Mauritius, located on the town hall and overlooking the square) roasted over a pine cone fire.:58 The sausage is served in a Semmel (a small bread bun, a third the size of the sausage itself), and is highly popular with locals and tourists alike. According to rumours, the Coburger Bratwurst was first produced in 1530 on the occasion of a stay and boarding of Martin Luther and the Electoral Train.
Coburg Peak on Trinity Peninsula in Graham Land, Antarctica is named after the town, in connection with the Bulgarian royal house of Coburg (Saxe-Coburg-Gotha).
Coburg can be reached by car via B 303 Schweinfurt-Coburg-Schirnding, B 4 Hamburg-Coburg-Nuremberg or motorway A 73 Suhl-Coburg-Nuremberg.
Coburg has four train stations:
From the main station one can go to Lichtenfels, Bamberg, Forchheim, Erlangen, Fürth and Nuremberg, to Neustadt bei Coburg, Sonneberg, to Bad Rodach and to Kulmbach, Neuenmarkt-Wirsberg. Since December 2017, the Coburg station is served by Intercity Express high speed trains of the Munich-Nuremberg-Coburg-Erfurt-Berlin(-Hamburg) line (Nuremberg–Erfurt high-speed railway).
Small planes can land on the two airfields:
Large airports nearby are in Frankfurt, Erfurt and Nuremberg.
The public transport system in Coburg is operated by SÜC (Stadt- und Überlandwerke Coburg) with 9 bus lines. The OVF (Omnibus Verkehr Franken) covers Coburg's surrounding countryside with an additional 11 bus lines.