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Meiningen is a town in Germany - an idyllic, stately and cultural town, located in the Southern part of the state of Thuringia, about 30 km south of Schmalkalden, tucked between the Thuringian Forest and the Rhon mountain range. It is the district seat of Schmalkalden-Meiningen. This town situated on the Werra River.

Country: Germany | State: Thuringia | District: Schmalkalden-Meiningen | Area: 41.38 km˛ | Population: 20,800 (December 2005)


Meiningen was first mentioned in 982 and was chartered in 1230. Between 1680 to 1918, it was part of Saxe-Meiningen.

Meiningen was once the residence of the dukes of Saxe-Meiningen. The princess of Saxe-Meiningen Adelheid Louise Theresa Caroline Amelia von Sachsen-Meiningen was since 1818 the wife of the King William IV of Great Britain. The Name of Princess Adelheid is still alive as the Australian city Adelaide.

The town owes its continuing reputation as a regional cultural centre to the vision of Duke Georg II (1826-1914). In 1866 he founded a resident theatre troupe, which toured its lavish productions as far as Moscow and London and is said to be the forerunner to the Royal Shakespeare company. All in all, they gave 2,591 performances in 38 cities. Georg also catapulted the court orchestra -the Meininger Hofkapelle - to international fame by appointing the pianist-conductor Hans von Bülow as musical director. He later passed the baton to Richard Strauss and Max Reger. The annual theatre festival in spring enjoys a fine reputation throughout German-speaking countries.

There was a prisoner of war hospital in Meinengen during World War III, and Flight Lieutenant Owen J. McAlinden, of 269 Squadron, one of the few Irish pilots in Bomber Command -spent 7 months from November 1944 until May 1945 in the camp. He was shot down on the way back to England after a bombing raid, and the crew had to bail out. He was the second last to exit, but in his rush to get from the cockpit to the escape trap door, he had snagged his ripchord and the parachute half opened inside the aircraft. The last man to jump bundled up the chute and threw it out with Lt.McAlinden, thus enabling his own exit. As Lt.McAlinden's parachute did not function fully, he hit the ground quite hard, and broke his leg. He was captured almost immediately and carried to a jeep which ferried him to the Hospital campThe advancing American army freed all the prisoners in May 1945.

Chronicle of Events




First mention of Meiningen
Emperor Otto II hands over his royal estate to the Chapter St. Peter and St. Paul of Aschaffenburg
Emperor Henry II gives Meiningen to the Bishopric of Würzburg as fief.
Except some short interruptions Meiningen remains for more than a half Millenium under this rule
Emperor Ludwig the Bravarian awards Meiningen the title of the Free Imperial Town of Schweinfurt



End of the 16th/Beginning of the 17th Century

Counts of Henneberg change properties with the Bishop of Würzburg: they hand over the district
of Mainburg and receive Meiningen in exchange
The family of the Counts of Henneberg dies out.
Meiningen, according to the hereditary treaty, becomes part of the regency of the Wettiner
Meiningen experiences an economical boom due to its linen- and fustian industry


Meiningen was pillaged during the Thirty Year's War
Meiningen becomes part of the Duchy of Sachsen-Altenburg
Meiningen becomes part of the Duchy of Sachsen-Gotha
After splitting the Duchy of Sachsen-Gotha Meiningen becomes the Residence of newly created Duchy of Sachsen-Meiningen


Friedrich Schiller arrives in Meiningen on December 7 from his escape from Stuttgart and continues to Bauerbach, where he finds asylum




Inauguration of the Court Theatre of Meiningen
The railway of the Werra Valley is put into operation
As a result of the war between Prussia and Austria, Duke Bernhard II Erich Freund had to resign
and to hand over the power to his son, Georg II (1826-1914)
Starring tours of the Theatre Company of Georgi II.
The spectacular stagings of the "Meininger" are renowned all over Europe.
A fire destroys parts of the historical town. Reconstruction starts c1880
With Hans von Bülow as conductor the Meininger Hofkapelle (the Philharmonic Orchestra of the Court) becomes one of the most demanded orchestras in Germany and also tours throughout Europe



The Soldiers' and Workers' Council forces Duke Berhard III to abdicate
1945 large parts of the town were destroyed by a bomb attack.
Meiningen was then first occupied by American troups and later on by the Soviet Army
Opening of the German-German border (Just 12 km from Meiningen) and consequently ending the 40 years exclusion of the town

Theaterstadt Meiningen

The theatre town of Meiningen, tucked away in the picturesque countryside of the Werra valley, offers visitors a combination of culture, nature and traditional hospitality.

Splendid, prestigious buildings, wide avenues and extensive parks give this former seat of the Dukes of Saxe-Meiningen a special atmosphere. Its Franconian style timberframed houses, the Bleichgräben moat and the remains of the old town walls are reminders of the late Middle Ages when the town was in its heyday.

Evidence of Meiningen's rich cultural history can be seen in the English-style park with its wealth of statuary, as well as in the town's museums and Elisabethenburg Castle.

Elisabethenburg, the ducal ancestral home, was built as a three-winged baroque complex. Its residential and state rooms dating from various periods.give an insight into the life of Meiningen's former rulers.

The picture gallery, the medieval exhibition and the exhibitions on the history of theatre and music are part of the Meiningen museums' permanent displays. The finishing touches are provided by special exhibitions, soirees and evening events.

Princess Adelheid, or Adelaide, later to become Queen of England, grew up here. It is said that she helped to instill a sense of family in the British royal dynasty, and introduced the Christmas tree to the UK. Duke Georg II of Saxe-Meiningen, a great patron of the theatre and called the "theatrical duke", helped to bring modern theatre production methods to the fore with his company of actors based in Meiningen. The Meininger company of actors took their unique productions and illusionistic stage sets on tour with them all round Europe from 1874 until 1890.

The idea that actors have to empathise with the parts they are playing became one of the principles of the art of acting on the stage of the royal theatre in Meiningen. Theatres in the rest of the world then adopted this concept. Stanislavsky was influenced by the Meiningen ensemble when developing his method of directing, which Lee Strassberg later continued in his Actors Studio, where Hollywood legends such as Al Pacino and Robert de Niro started their careers.

In "The Magical World of Stage Scenery" theatrical museum there is an original stage set with appropriate lighting effects set up as if in a theatre, where visitors can experience the way that Meiningen productions must have fascinated 19th century audiences.

At the same time, in the cultural atmosphere created at court by Duke Georg II, the Meiningen Court Orchestra under the direction of Hans von Bülow was developing into one of the most talented musical entities of that period, and was attracting famous musicians such as Johannes Brahms, Richard Strauss and Max Reger. J. Brahms' 4th Symphony had its world premiere in Meiningen. In recognition of his close connection with Meiningen, the town's citizens erected the first statue in honour of this musician in Germany.

The Meininger Theatre with its long tradition and great reputation is a most popular attraction in Thuringia and an unmissable part of its cultural life.

The young theatre company, striving to live up to the Meiningen legend, searches out stories, material and dramatic art forms to bring the third millennium to life. Their primary concerns are to entertain the senses and stimulate the intellect.

The fairy-tale atmosphere of Landsberg Castle is more than just a setting for lavish banquets. It is also a venue for concerts, ranging from classical to jazz and the "Ludwig Bechstein prize for Thuringian folk tales and fairy tales" is awarded here every two years. Meiningenborn Ludwig Bechstein was an extremely popular 19th century writer of fairy tales and he told the story of Holle or Hulda, in his 1853 book Deutsches Sagenbuch (German Myths). This goddess of nature is supposed to have been the first to make the Thuringians' favourite dish of potato dumplings in Meiningen. At least that is what Rudolf Baumbach, a more recent writer, maintains in his Lied vom Hütes ("Song of the Dumpling").

Meiningen is situated in the Werra valley where there are plenty of opportunities to relax and have fun. You could go walking in the Rhon hills or the Thuringian Forest, tour the waters of the Werra river or go cycling on the 300 km Werra Valley Cycle Route. A visit to the Goetz-Höhle cave is an exciting experience, not just for potholers, as it is the biggest accessible fissure cave in Europe.

The steam locomotive works is another popular attraction for visitors to the town. It is the only location in Germany that still has the expertise and technology needed to maintain and repair steam locomotives. Thousands of fans come to the Steam Locomotive Days in September to take a close look at the engines, to talk shop or just to be allowed to drive a train themselves. A tour of the works is one of Meiningen's tourist attractions.


Notable People

Johann Steurlein (1546-1613), poet of church hymns; was secretary in the chancery at Meiningen to the Henneberg administration, then a notary public, and c1604 was mayor at Meiningen
Ludwig Bechstein (1801-1860), fairy tale collector and writer; he was an archivist in Meiningen
Hans von Bülow (1830-1894), conductor, painist and composer
Friedrich Grützmacher (1832-1903), violoncellist and composer; was for many years first violoncello in the Meiningen orchestra
Max Reger (1873-1916), composer, pianist and conductor
Karl Korsch (1886-1961), German Marxist theorist
Members of the Bach family, see below.


Bach Connection

J.S. Bach has never been in Meiningen. However, Saxe-Meiningen was one of the duchies and principalities in Thuringia where the Bach family lived and worked. Members of the Bach family who worked in Meiningen were:
Nicolaus Ephraim Bach [73] (1603, Wasungen - 1760, Gandersheim), son of Johann Jacob Bach, was appointed in 1708 musician and in 1719 organist at the Meiningen court. In 1724 he became organist in Gandersheim.
Johann Ludwig Bach [3/72] (1677, Thal near Eisenach - 1731, Meiningen), son of Johann Jacob, was a court musician in Meiningen from 1699 to 1703. He was buried in Meiningen.
Samuel Anton Bach [75] (1713, Meiningen - 1781, Meiningen), son of Johann Ludwig Bach, studied with J.S. Bach in Leipzig around 1732. Late he was court organist in Meiningen and for time also court painter.
Gottlieb Friedrich Bach [76] (1714, Meiningen - 1785, Meiningen), son of Johann Ludwig Bach, was court organist and painter (Kabinettmaler) in Meiningen.
Johann Philipp Bach [85] (1752, Meiningen - 1846, Meiningen), son of Gottlieb Friedrich Bach, was court organist and painter (Kabinettmaler) in Meiningen from 1790.

Events in Life History of J.S. Bach: None.

Performance Dates of J.S. Bach’s Vocal Works: None.

Bach Festivals & Cantata Series: None.


Features of Interest

Schloß Elisabethenburg: with Reneissance at collection, Music Museum and Theater Museum.
Castle Landsberg
Das Meininger Theater
Büchnersches Hinterhaus


Information & Links

Markt 14
98617 Meiningen
Tel: 03693/44650 | Fax: 03693/446540 | International: +49-3693-44650

Meiningen (Official Website) [German]
Meiningen Online [German]
Das Meininger Theater [German]
Kirchen in Meiningen [German]
Meiningen (Meinestadt) [German]
Cityreview: Thüringen > Meiningen


Prepared by Aryeh Oron (March 2004 - December 2009)

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Last update: ýDecember 30, 2009 ý17:35:37