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Guide to Bach Tour: Main Page | Life History of J.S. Bach | Performance Dates of Bach’s Vocal Works | Maps | Route Suggestions | Discussions
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Places: Altenburg | Ammern | Arnstadt | Bad Berka | Berlin | Brandenburg | Bückeburg | Celle | Collmen | Dörna | Dornheim | Dresden | Eisenach | Erfurt | Gehren | Gera | Gotha | Halle | Hamburg | Heiligengrabe | Jena | Karlsbad | Kassel | Kleinzschocher | Köthen | Langewiesen | Leipzig | Lübeck | Lüneburg | Meiningen | Merseburg | Mühlhausen | Naumburg | Ohrdruf | Pomßen | Potsdam | Ronneburg | Sangerhausen | Schleiz | Stöntzsch | Störmthal | Taubach | Wechmar | Weimar | Weißenfels | Weißensee | Wiederau | Zeitz | Zerbst | Zschortau

Guide to Bach Tour
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Description | History
J.S. Bach: Connection | Events in Life History | Performance Dates of Vocal Works | Festivals & Cantata Series | On the trail of J.S. Bach
Features of Interest | Information & Links | Town Guide
Photos: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Maps


Arnstadt is a town in Ilm-Kreis, Thuringia, Germany. It lies along the Gera River, at the northern foothills of the Thuringian Forest mountains, close to the charming nature reserve of "Drei Gleichen", just southwest of Erfurt city. It is one of the oldest towns in Thuringia and is nicknamed Das Tor zum Thüringer Wald, The Gate to the Thuringian Forest.

Once noted for its glove-manufacturing industries, Arnstadt now has a diversified industrial structure with both light and heavy manufacturing, including a foundry for rail brakes. There are many holiday and convalescent homes in the city and vicinity.

Country: Germany | State: Thuringia | District: Ilm-Kreis | Area: 55.29 km˛ | Population: 25,500 (December 2006)



The first recorded mention of Arnstadt is in the year 704, making it the oldest town in Thuringia. Archaeological finds in and around Arnstadt tell of much earlier settlement, in the time from 4000 - 1800 BC. In 954 an imperial assembly was held here under king Otto I, later Holy Roman Emperor. The selection of Arnstadt as the place for such a meeting shows Arnstadt's importance in the empire at that time.

Arnstadt was chartered in 1266. Arnstadt was bought in 1306 from the abbey of Hersfeld by the counts of Schwarzburg, who lived there until 1716; Arnstadt became a capital of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen.. Their palace, Monplaisir (1703-1707), survives, and the 12th-14th-century Church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche) has a number of Schwarzburg graves.

From the 13th to 18th century Arnstadt was a craft town, a trading centre for woad, one of the most important winegrowing areas in Thuringia, and an important grain transshipment and timber stockpiling centre. The clothworkers, tanners, beer-brewers and potters also worked for long-distance trade.

In 1581 a serious fire in the town destroyed 378 houses, the town hall, and the Bonifatiuskirche. In 1583 the town hall was reconstructed in renaissance style, along with other attractive burgher houses at Marktplatz and Riedplatz. The "Haus zum Palmbaum" houses the Bach exhibition and has a room celebrating great Arnstadt writers. The Liebfrauenkirche is one of the most important religious buildings in Thuringia (1220-1307).

Many generations of the musical family Bach lived in Arnstadt (1620-1792). From 1703-1707 J.S. Bach was the organist of Boniface (now called Bach). Literary figures such as Ludwig Bechstein, "Marlitt" and Willibald Alexis were also drawn to Arnstadt. The town hall dates from 1583-1585. North of the city rise the castle-crowned peaks, the Three Alike (Drei Gleichen).

A special attraction is the Baroque dolls' town "Mon plaisir" in the Schloßmuseum (Palace Museum). With about 82 houses and 400 dolls it is the largest collection of historical dolls houses in the world. An original preserved Baroque porcelain cabinet is of no lesser interest.

Notable People

Adam Drese (1620-1701), composer and poet of church hymns
Johann Caspar Vogler (1696-1763), organist and composer
Johann Peter Kellner (1705-1772), organist and composer
Willibald Alexis (the pseudonym of Georg Wilhelm Heinrich Haring) (1798-1871), historical novelist
Ludwig Bechstein (1801-1860), writer and collector of folk fairy tales
Eugenie Marlitt (pseudonym of Eugenie John) (1825-1887), one of the most successful writers of serial novels in the periodical Die Gartenlaube
Paul Keller (1873-1932), journalist and writer
Members of the Bach family


Bach Connection

Arnstadt is the town in Thuringia where J.S. Bach lived as an organist in 1703-1707. Most parts of Thuringia were governed then by several collateral branches of the ducal family of Saxony, but another family, the counts of Schwarzburg, owned three central parts of Thuringia, with Rudolstadt, Sondershausen, and Arnstadt as their capitals. Thus in Arnstadt the castle, Schloß Neideck, acted as a second town centre to the Markt ('market-place').

Arnstadt has two main churches, the Barfüßerkirche (or Oberkirche, 'upper church'), situated south of the Markt, and the Liebfrauenkirche (or Unterkirche, 'lower church') to the west of the town centre. A third church is in the north-east corner of the Markt. In J.S. Bach's time this was known as the Neuekirche ('new church') on account of its having been rebuilt in 1676-1683 after it had been destroyed by fire in 1581. Formerly the Bonifatiuskirche, it has been called the Bachkirche since 1935.

Arnstadt was one of the first towns 'cultivated' by the Bachs, first of all by a Caspar Bach [3/56] (c1570-after 1640) in the 1620's. Later, two of the three sons of J.S. Bach's greatgrandfather Johann(es) [Hans] Bach [2] (1550-1626) held posts there, each of them establishing 'dynasties' of their own. The elder, Christoph Bach [5] (1613-1661), was a Stadtpfeifer who passed on the profession to his twin sons Johann Ambrosius Bach [11] (1645-1695) (J.S. Bach's father) and Johann Christoph Bach [12] (1645-1693). The younger, Heinrich Bach [6] (1615-1692), became organist at the Liebfrauenkirche; his three sons (the 'Eisenach' Johann Christoph Bach [13] (1642-1703), J.S. Bach's father-in law Johann Michael Bach [14] (1648-1694), and Johann Günther Bach [15] (1653-1683), who continued to live in Arnstadt) were organists too. Presumably, J.S. Bach lived in Arnstadt at that time with his cousin, Johann Ernst Bach Johann Ernst Bach [25] (1683-1739), who occasionally stood in for him when he was on his travels, and his uncle Johann Christoph Bach [13] in the house which is still standing in the Kohlgasse 7. 17 members of this large family of musicians were born here between 1620 and 1792, 24 are buried in the Old Cemetery. Unfortunately their graves morial and Literary have not been preserved. They lived and worked as court and town musicians, as cantors and organists. In Arnstadt and met annually for their tradtional family get-together in the Restaurant "Goldene Sonne" (Golden Sun).

J.S. Bach's first connection with Arnstadt is puzzling. As an 18-year-old court musician at Weimar he was invited to test the new organ in the Neuekirche, built by Johann Friedrich Wender in 1699-1703. How J.S. Bach acquired the knowledge to act as an organ expert (which entailed, for example, approving the alloy used for the pipes) is not yet known. Shortly afterwards he became organist at the Neuekirche, beginning his duties there on August 14, 1703 at an annual salary of 84 florins 6 groschen. Parts of J.S. Bach's organ are still extant: the original case and seven stops in the church, the console as the principal showin a small collection of Bach memorabilia housed in the Stadtgeschichtliches Museum in the Markt.

One of the most unusual J.S. Bach Memorials was designed by the sculptor Bernd Göbel from Halle, and erected in the Markt (Market Square) during the J.S. Bach tercentenary year, 1985 [see: Memo-1202. A young man lounging around in his shirt sleeves in solH"ary splendour on his pedestal. For many people, this was a provocation. But the artist had obviously touched the nerve of the time in Arnstadt, when J.S. Bach had his first position as organist at the New Church (today the Bach Church) from 1703 to 1707. The twenty year old was already seen as quite self-willed and did not let anyone make his mind up for him. He experimented in organ playing and annoyed the community, because he "made many odd variations in the choral and mixed in many strange sounds". He was often in conflict with his superior church administration too.

Only a few of J.S. Bach's works can be assigned with any degree of certainty to his Arnstadt years. Possibly some of the compositions in the Andreas Bach Buch and the Möller manuscript date from that time: the Prelude and Fugue in G minor BWV535a, for example, as well as some of the keyboard toccatas. Other Arnstadt works probably include the capriccios BWV 992-993 and the organ Chorale Prelude Wie schön leuchtet uns der Morgenstern (I), BWV 739.

J.S. Bach's time in Arnstadt was overshadowed by three disputes. The first came to light through a trifling incident. On August 4, 1705 J.S. Bach was attacked by a senior pupil from the Gymnasium. Johann Heinrich Gbybrsbach, while walking home from the casde late at night, and drew his sword to defend himself. The crux of the matter was brought out in hearings conducted by the consistory. J.S. Bach was on very bad terms with the school pupils. Apparendy he refused to perform figural music (i.e. ambitious pieces, such as cantatas) with them, declaring that his contract stipulated only that they should sing chorales. The town authorities contradicted this, but indeed in J.S. Bach's contract nothing was mentioned beyond his normal duties as an organist.

The second quarrel concerned his visit to Lübeck, in order to listen to the "famous organist Dietrich Buxtehude at the Church of St. Mary", for which he was granted four weeks' leave, but extended it to four months. He returned by February 7, 1706, and so his journey must have begun only two months after the Geyersbach incident. It was therefore inevitable that the general problem of performing figural music was revived by the consistory. Another question was raised by the disturbing way in which J.S. Bach accompanied chorales in the service. The words recorded by the town scribe suggest that this was not something new, resulting from J.S. Bach's visit to D. Buxtehude, but that it had persisted since his installation. At all events, the distinction between the typical advanced profile of north German organ compositions and the traditional Thuringian style had become apparent in J.S. Bach's music. There was also criticism of the length of time his playing occupied (apparently between the lines of the chorales sung by the school pupils). This hearing was therefore concerned mainly with stylistic questions, but it ended with the recurrent charge that J.S. Bach refused to perform figural music with the students.

The third dispute, in November 1706, continued where the second left off, but it also brought to light a new complaint: that J.S. Bach had allowed a young lady to sing from the organ loft. Perhaps this expressed J.S. Bach's new interest in concerted music (in a way which was typical of north German organists), and this would explain why the consistory raised yet again the question of figural music. Some writers suggest that the lady in question was Maria Barbara Bach, Johann Michael Bach's daughter, whom J.S. Bach married in 1707. By the following Easter J.S. Bach had auditioned for a post at Mühlhausen, and on June 19, 1707 he returned the organ keys to the consistory and left Arnstadt. His successor there was his cousin Johann Ernst Bach, who earned 15 gulden less than his predecessor.

The Bach Church on the Market Square is where J.S. Bach tested the organ of Johann Friedrich Wender from Mühlhausen when he.was 18 years of age. It will be possible to listen to the organ, which is being reconstructed true to the original, during the anniversary year 2000 in the rennovated place of worship. Not far from here in the Museum for Town History "Haus zum Palmbaum" (House of the palm tree), which is the official Bach Memorial and houses documents on the life and work of Bach. The keyboard from the Wender organ of that time is still there, as is a music cupboard from the New Church and pieces of furniture from the consistory. Every year the town of Arnstadt honours its famous ancestors with concerts from the Arnstadt Bach Days within the framework of the Thüringer Bachwochen and a few months later with. the traditional Organ Summer. However, not only were the family of musicians attracted to the delightful country town.

Other well-known artists and authors worked here such as the fairy tale poet Ludwig Bechstein, the author Willibald Alexis and Eugenie John who became a famous author of the "Gartenlaube" under the pseudonym of "Marlitt". The Dolls' Town "Mon plaisir" is housed in the palace museum opposite the Neideck Tower, in which Caspar Bach spent several years as caretaker. This is the most extensive historic collection of dolls in the world. The palace park which lies behind the museum and the 150 year old theatre in the palace garden complete the historic valuable ensemble. Arnstadt is the oldest town in Thuringia and is also called the "Gate to the Thuringian Forest".

The charming countryside in the castle triangle of the "Drei Gleichen" is an invitation for romantic excursions in the surrounding area. A few kilometres east of the town is one also the village of Dornheim, where Bach married his cousin Maria Barbara Bach in 1707. The lovingly restored village church has become a true gelm and extremely worth a trip.

See: Map & Description at at: On the trail of J.S. Bach

Article by Konrad Küster in Malcolm Boyd (Editor): Oxford Composer Companion - J.S. Bach (Oxford University Press, 1999)
BDok ii, nos. 7-17
Konrad Küster: Der junge Bach (Stuttgart, 1996), 121-150
K. Müller and F. Wiegand: Arnstadter Bachbuch: Johann Sebastian Bach und seine Verwandten in Arnstadt (2nd edition, Arnstadt, 1957)
Martin Petzoldt: Bachstäten Ein Reiseführer zu Johann Sebastian Bach (Insel Verlag, 2000)
Arnstadt brochures from Bach Tours of Aryeh Oron (1999, 2004)

Events in Life History of J.S. Bach



Arnstadt (1703-1707)

Aug 9, 1703

Appointment as organist at the New Church in Arnstadt

Aug 14, 1703

Acceptance of appointment as organist at the New Church in Arnstadt

Aug 4, 1705

Altercation with Johann Heinrich Geyerbach

Nov +, 1705

Prolonged visit to Lübeck to stay four months with Dietrich Buxtehude

Dec 2-3, 1705

D. Buxtehude oratorios Castrum doloris and Templum bonoris performed in Lübeck

Feb 1706

Return to Arnstadt

Feb 21 +, 1706

Reprimand by church Consistory for long absence

Nov 28, 1706

Organ examination at Langewiesen, near Gehren

Apr 24, 1707

Easter Sunday: audition for the organist position at Blasiuskirch, Mühlhausen; performance of a cantata (BWV 4?)

June 14-22, 1707

Negotiations with the Mühlhausen Town Council; accepts appointment

June 29, 1707

Returns organ keys to Arnstadt authorities

Performance Dates of J.S. Bach’s Vocal Works






Arnstadt (1703-1707)


1704-1707 ?

Penitential Service


Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich

1st performance

Bach Festivals & Cantata Series

Festival (Link to Website)

Artistic Director






Gottfried Preller



Arnstadt, Germany


Thüringer Bachwochen

Christoph Drescher



Thuringia, Germany



Features of Interest

Arnstadt has a beautifully kept Old City, restricted to pedestrian traffic. Some of its noteworthy buildings include the 13th-century Church of Our Lady and an 18th-century palace.

New Church (Bach Church): where J.S. Bach was an organist from 1703 to 1707. The organ screen and seven registers have survived to the present day. Two commomerative plaques remind us of the great musician.
Bach Memorial: in the ‘Haus zum Palmbaum” contains the original restoed keyboard of the Wender organ, a music cabinet and many other Exhibits. Reading and concerts are also held here.
The House “Zur goldenen Kron: where J.S. Bach first met his cousin Maria Babara.
Memorial Plaque: in the Baroque Church of the Ascension commemorates the members of the Bach family.
The Bach Statue: was created in 1985 by Professor Bernd Göbel to mark the 300th anniversary of J.S. Bach’s birth. It sepicts the composer as an 18 year-old youth.
The Renaissance Town Hall: (1585) with ornamental gable.
Palace Museum: includes the “dolls’town (known as “Mon Plaisir) and many other items.

Art And Culture
With exhibition space totalling 800 square metres, Arnstadt Museum of Art is devoted to conserving modern and contemporary art. The gallery mounts temporary fine art exhibitions in a variety of genres.

The Theatre in the Palace Gardens offers a varied programme, featuring guest performances by artists from around Germany and abroad. Modern plays are staged alongside the classics.

Arnstadt has its traditional aspects and its sporty side, it is innovative and it is musical, and visitors are always welcomed with open arms. For such a small town in central Germany, Arnstadt takes great pride in offering an interesting and varied diary of events. One sporting fixture that has become something of an Arnstadt tradition - and attracts top international athletes competing at the highest level - is the high jump with music competition. As befits the town which gave J.S. Bach his first post as organist, Arnstadt continues to keep this great musical legacy alive. Numerous eminent musicians are attracted to the Arnstadt Bach Festival concerts, for example. Jazzlovers also flock to the town, especially for the Arnstadt Jazz Weekend, when many different jazz styles can be enjoyed in the towf1'S bars, streets and squares.

Places of interest close to Arnstadt
Arnstadt's beautiful local scenery, diversity of culture and proximity to other towns and cities along the Classics Route make it a perfect base for discovering Thuringia.

The surroundings are ideal territory for hiking or for going on long walks or cycle tours, particularly when accompanied by a guide with good local knowledge.

Food and Drink
Arnstadt's chefs excel in preparing traditional Thuringian food as well as international cuisine. The town has a proud 600-year twin tradition of serving "bratwurst" and brewing beer. Visitors can still enjoy beer and "bratwurst" made to traditional Thuringian recipes at Arnstadt town brewery, the oldest wheat beer brewery in Germany.

See detailed description and photos at: Town Guide


Arnstadt US

Information & Links

Kultur-und Fremdenverkehrsamt
Markt 1
D-99310 Anstadt
Tel: +49-3628/602848 / Fax: +49-3628/640720
Website: Arnstadt

Markt 3
Hotline for the travel industry
Tel: +49-3628/602049 | Fax: +49-3628/745748

Stadt Arnstadt (Official Website) [German]
Arnstadt-Online [German]
Cityreview: Thüringen > Arnstadt [German]
Arnstadt (Meinestadt) [German]

Musikhaus J.S. Bach, Arnstadt
Arnstadt 1703-1707 (Koster)
The J.S. Bach Tourist 7: Arnstadt (Koster)
On the Traces of J.S. Bach: Arnstadt (Germany Tourism)
J.S. Bach Biographie: Arnstadt-Weimar 1703-1708 (Schlu) [German]
J.S. Bach Education & Career: Arnstadt 1703-1707 (T.A. Smith)
J.S. Bach Biography: Arnstadt (Carolina Classical)
MUSIC: Johann Sebastian Bach and Arnstadt: A Collage


Prepared by Aryeh Oron (October 2003 - December 2009)

Guide to Bach Tour: Main Page | Life History of J.S. Bach | Performance Dates of Bach’s Vocal Works | Maps | Route Suggestions | Discussions
Maps of Bach Places | Videos of Bach Places | Symbols (Coats of Arms) of Bach Places | Organs in Bach Places
Places: Altenburg | Ammern | Arnstadt | Bad Berka | Berlin | Brandenburg | Bückeburg | Celle | Collmen | Dörna | Dornheim | Dresden | Eisenach | Erfurt | Gehren | Gera | Gotha | Halle | Hamburg | Heiligengrabe | Jena | Karlsbad | Kassel | Kleinzschocher | Köthen | Langewiesen | Leipzig | Lübeck | Lüneburg | Meiningen | Merseburg | Mühlhausen | Naumburg | Ohrdruf | Pomßen | Potsdam | Ronneburg | Sangerhausen | Schleiz | Stöntzsch | Störmthal | Taubach | Wechmar | Weimar | Weißenfels | Weißensee | Wiederau | Zeitz | Zerbst | Zschortau


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Last update: Friday, June 02, 2017 13:42