|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (December 2013)|
|• Mayor||Knut Kreuch (SPD)|
|• Total||69.52 km2 (26.84 sq mi)|
|Elevation||300 m (1,000 ft)|
|• Density||640/km2 (1,700/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET/CEST (UTC+1/+2)|
Gotha is the fifth-largest city in Thuringia, Germany, located 20 kilometres (12 miles) W of Erfurt and 25 km (16 miles) E of Eisenach with a population of 44,000. The city is the capital of the district of Gotha and was also a residence of the Ernestine Wettins from 1640 until the end of monarchy in Germany in 1918. The city-native House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha spawned many European rulers, including the royal houses of England, Belgium, Portugal (until 1910) and Bulgaria (until 1946).
In the Middle Ages, Gotha was a rich trading town on the trade route Via Regia and between 1650 and 1850, Gotha saw a cultural heyday as a centre of sciences and arts, fostered by the dukes of Saxe-Gotha. The first duke, Ernest the Pious was famous for his wise rule; for example in his evangelical mindset he introduced the compulsory school attendance for all children up to the age of 12 in 1642 as one of the first rulers in the world. The cartographer Justus Perthes and the encyclopedist Joseph Meyer made Gotha to a leading centre of German publishing around 1800. In 1820, Ernst-Wilhelm Arnoldi founded the Feuerversicherung (fire insurance) in Gotha, which became a basis of German insurance business. The SPD was founded in Gotha in 1875 by mergering two predecessors. In that time, Gotha became an industrial core with companies like the Gothaer Waggonfabrik, a producer of trams and planes.
The main sights of Gotha are the early-modern residential buildings around Friedenstein Castle, one of the biggest Renaissance/Baroque castles in Germany, the medieval city centre and the Gründerzeit buildings of 19th century commercial boom.
Gotha lies in the southern part of the Thuringian Basin in a flat and agricultural landscape.
- 1 History
- 2 Geography and demographics
- 3 Culture, sights and cityscape
- 4 Economy and infrastructure
- 5 Politics
- 6 People from Gotha
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Gotha has existed at least since the 8th century, when it was mentioned in a document signed by Charlemagne as Villa Gotaha ("Good Waters") in 775. The first settlement was probably located around today's Hersdorfplatz outside the north-eastern edge of the later city centre. During the 11th century, the near-based Ludowingians received the village and established the city in later 12th century, as Gotha became their second important city after Eisenach. The city generated wealth because it was conveniently located at the junction of two important long-distance trade routes: the Via Regia from Mainz and Frankfurt to Leipzig and Wrocław and a north-southern route from Mühlhausen over the Thuringian Forest to Franconia. A first evidence of busy trade in the city is the Gotha cache of coins with nearly 800 Bracteates, buried in 1185 within the centre. In 1180, Gotha was first mentioned as a city, whereby the area between Brühl and Jüdenstraße became the core of urban development, highlighting the early presence of Jews in this old trading town.
The parish church of this first urban settlement was today's non-preserved St. Mary's Church (demolished in 1530) at Schlossberg. The castle (today's Friedenstein) was first mentioned in 1217. As the Ludowingians died out in 1247, Gotha became part of the Wettins territories, where it remained until 1918. The new town east of Querstraße was established in early 15th century (with the Neumarkt, first mentioned in 1428).
The monastery (first Cistercians, since 1258 Augustines) was founded before 1251 and abandoned in 1525. Until 1665, the bourse of Gotha was located in the middle of Hauptmarkt square inside the Renaissance building, which hosts the town hall today. The medieval town hall was located on the north-eastern edge of Hauptmarkt, where is today's Innungshalle.
Water supply was a big problem, because Gotha is not located on a river. In 1369, Landgrave Balthasar had the Leinakanal built. This channel, over 25 kilometres long, brought fresh water from the Thuringian Forest (Hörsel and Apfelstädt river) to the city. The main businesses of medieval Gotha were cloth-making and woad trade.
Early modern period
The Reformation was introduced in Gotha in 1524 and the castle was rebuilt as a bigger fortress between 1530 and 1541. While Gotha was already part of the Ernestine Wettins territory after the 1485 Treaty of Leipzig, the Ernestines' loss of power after the Schmalkaldic War in 1547, the Treaty of Erfurt in 1572, as the city became part of Saxe-Coburg, and the Thirty Years' War pulled down Gotha. The turnaround was brought by the choice of Gotha as a ducal residence in the 1640 territorial partition, when Ernest the Pious founded the duchy of Saxe-Gotha. The both evangelical and absolutist sovereign reorganized his small state quickly and fostered in particular the school system, for example by introducing the Compulsory education up to the age of 12 in 1642. This was the origin of the often mentioned liberal education of the Gotha citizens and the following cultural heyday.
The Friedenstein castle was built between 1643 and 1654 and is one of the first big Baroque residence castles in Germany. Between 1657 and 1676, the city received a stronger fortification, which was put down between 1772 and 1811. At their place, a park around Friedenstein and a boulevard around the city were established. Some important scientific institutions were the ducal library (today's Forschungsbibliothek Gotha as part of the University of Erfurt), founded in 1650, the coin cabinet (1712), the art and natural collection, basis of today's museums, and the Gotha Observatory at Seeberg mountain, established 1788. The Gotha porcelain manufactory (established in 1767) was famous around 1800 for their faiences, the Almanach de Gotha was first published in 1763 and Justus Perthes founded his science publishing company in 1785. Joseph Meyer followed him up in 1826 by founding the Bibliographisches Institut, one of the two leading encyclopedia publishers in German language besides the Brockhaus and Adolf Stieler first published his Handatlas in Gotha in 1816.
From 1826 to 1918, Gotha was one of the two capitals of the Duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Under the rule of Duke Ernest II, Gotha was a centre of Germany's liberal movement, where the Gothaer Nachparlament, an aftermath of 1848 German Revolution took place. In 1875, the German socialist party (SPD) was founded in Gotha through the merger of two organizations: the Social Democratic Workers' Party, led by August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht, and the General German Workers' Association, founded by Ferdinand Lassalle. A compromise known as the Gotha Program was forged, although it had been strongly criticized by Karl Marx for its reformist bias in his Critique of the Gotha Program. The first crematory in Germany was built in Gotha in 1878.
Industrialization started in Gotha around 1850, as the city was connected to the Thuringian Railway in 1847. The city became a centre of engineering with companies like the Gothaer Waggonfabrik, a tram and plane constructer founded in 1883. During the 19th century, Gotha became also a centre of banking and insurances in Germany. Ernst-Wilhelm Arnoldi funded the first fire insurance in 1820, followed by the life insurance in 1827. The Gothaer mutual insurance is one of the biggest insurance companies in Germany and moved to Cologne after World War II. Gotha's tram network was established in 1894.
The German Revolution of 1918–19 brought some trouble to the city. The dukes of Gotha abdicated in 1918 and the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany, a left-wing breakaway of the SPD was founded in Gotha in 1917 to object against SPD's war policy during World War I. This was the beginning of the fission of Germany's workers movement, which remained until today. A far-left government was elected in Gotha in 1919 and opposed heavily against both the Weimar National Assembly and the Kapp Putsch in 1920 bringing the city to the edge of a civil war. Nevertheless, the state of Gotha joined the new founded Thuringia in 1920.
The Nazi rule made Gotha to a centre of arm industry with nearly 7,000 fourced labourers working in the city's factories, where more than 200 died. Furthermore, the Gotha barracks at the southern periphery were enlarged and the synagogue was destroyed during the Kristallnacht in 1938. Bombings in 1944/45 damaged some buildings in the city, in particular the theatre (ruin demolished in 1958) and the main station (which is only a "half building" until today) and the main church (rebuilt after the war). Nevertheless, some 95% of the city's buildings survived the war unscathed.
The American Army reached the city in April 1945 and was replaced by the Soviets in July and in 1949, Gotha became part of the GDR. During this period, some historic inner-city quarters were replaced by Plattenbau buildings, especially west of the Hauptmarkt and at Gartenstraße north of the city centre. Many other buildings derelicted during the later GDR period and the city's shrinking time in 1990s, whereas others were refurbished after the German Reunification in 1990. Gotha's economy was hit by the transition from state to market economy after 1990, nevertheless, some companies survived or were newly founded and make in economics a relatively successful city of Gotha.
Geography and demographics
Gotha is situated in a flat landscape within the fertile Thuringian Basin. A tectonic dislocation traverse the city in north western – south eastern direction. Thereby, it forms three prominent hills: the 431 m high Krahnberg with the Ratsholz forest in the north-west, the hill of Friedenstein Castle in city centre and the 409 m high Seeberg in the south-east. The city itself lies in an elevation of 300 m and the municipal territory is nearly free of forest (with the two named mountains as exceptions) and in intensive agricultural use. As one out of only very few ancient cities in Germany, Gotha is not situated on a river, so that water supply was already a problem in the Middle Ages. For that reason, the Leinakanal was built in the 14th century over a distance of more than 25 kilometres, which was an enormous act with the contemporary means. The Leinakanal brings water from Hörsel and Apfelstädt river to Gotha, overcoming the watershed between Elbe (Apfelstädt) and Weser (Gotha). The drain of Leinakanal is the Flutgraben, a tributary of Nesse. The Thuringian Forest is located 15 km (9 mi) south-west of Gotha.
Gotha abuts the following municipalities, which are all part of Gotha district: Goldbach, Remstädt, Bufleben, Friemar, Tüttleben, Drei Gleichen, Günthersleben-Wechmar, Schwabhausen, Emleben, Leinatal and Hörsel.
Gotha is divided in 11 districts. The urban districts are Mitte, Weststadt, West, Nord, Süd, Oststadt and Ost and the rural districts are Boilstädt (incorporated in 1994), Siebleben (1922), Sundhausen (1974) and Uelleben (1994).
Gotha has always been one of the biggest towns in Thuringia. During the Middle Ages, it was a town of 5,000 to 6,000 inhabitants and the choise as residence brought another impetus during the 17th and 18th century, so that Gotha had already more than 10,000 inhabitants in 1800. The number rose to 15,000 around 1850, as industrialisation started and the city got connected to the railway. It saw a steady growth to 23,000 in 1875, 35,000 in 1900, 46,000 in 1925 and 58,000 in 1950, as the peak was reached. Until 1990, the population stayed around 57,000. After the German reunification in 1990, the city saw a significant decline in population, it shrunk to 48,000 in 2000 and 44,000 in 2012.
The average decrease of population between 2009 and 2012 was -0.05% p. a, whereas the population in bordering rural regions is shrinking with accelerating tendency. Suburbanization played only a small role in Gotha. It occurred after the reunification for a short time in the 1990s, but most of the suburban areas were situated within the administrative city borders. During the 1990s and the early 2000s, many inhabitants left Gotha to search a better life in west Germany or other major east German cities like Jena or Erfurt. Since 2005, emigration is no big issue anymore. Now, the birth deficit, caused by the high average age of the population, is getting a bigger problem because the immigration isn't sufficient to compensate it in all the recent years. Despite urban planning activities to tear down unused flats, vacancy is still a problem with rates around 9% (according to 2011 EU census). A positive side effect for the inhabitants is that Gotha has a low rent level.
The birth deficit was 175 in 2012, this is -3.9 per 1,000 inhabitants (Thuringian average: -4.5; national average: -2.4). The net migration rate was +6.2 per 1,000 inhabitants in 2012 (Thuringian average: -0.8; national average: +4.6). The most important regions of origin of Gotha migrants are bordering rural areas of Thuringia as well as foreign countries like Poland, Russia, Ukraine, Hungary, Serbia, Romania and Bulgaria.
Like other eastern German cities, Gotha has only a small amount of foreign population: circa 2.5% are non-Germans by citizenship and overall 7.1% are migrants (according to 2011 EU census). Differing from the national average, the biggest groups of migrants in Gotha are Russians, Vietnamese people and Ukrainians. During recent years, the economic situation of the city improved: the unemployment rate in the district declined from 17% in 2005 to 7% in 2013 with little bit higher rates in the city than in the other municipalities of the Gotha district. Due to the official atheism in former GDR, most of the population is non-religious. 18.2% are members of the Evangelical Church in Central Germany and 4.8% are Catholics (according to 2011 EU census).
Culture, sights and cityscape
Gotha hosts various museums, which are – together with the royal buildings – promoted as the Baroque universe of Gotha.
- Friedenstein Castle hosts the following museums:
- The Ekhof Theatre is a Baroque court theatre and the world's only 17th century theatre with original stage machinery still working.
- The Historic Museum hosts an exhibition about municipal and regional history and culture of Gotha.
- The Museum of Nature shows a natural history exhibition with animals, minerals and fossils.
- The Castle Museum contains the former ducal living rooms with their gorgeus equipment and several items of cultural history.
- The Ducal Museum opposite to the castle hosts the ducal collection of art, containing Egyptian antiques, Renaissance Old Masters paintings, Chinese and Meissen porcelaine and more.
- The Insurance Museum at Bahnhofstraße is Germany's only museum on the history of insurances, which had been a big business in Gotha since 1820.
- The Tivoli at Cosmarstraße is the place of foundation of the Social Democratic Party of Germany and hosts a small exhibition of the party's history.
The city centre of Gotha has two medieval parts: the old town around Hauptmarkt and the new town around Neumarkt. Both were walled until 1810, as the city walls were broken down and a boulevard was laid out instead of them. Early-modern suburbiums established to the south-west (around Dreikronengasse), to the west (around Große Fahnenstraße) and to the east (around Mohrenberg). The later 19th century brought larger extensions to all directions. Especially the axis between the main station and the city centre got a representative development in capital-city style. Due to Gotha's function as a ducal residence, the most buildings between 1870 and 1914 were set in generous style and many mansions were built. Only some outer districts show the typical German working-class tenements (e. g. around Oststraße and Seebergstraße). The biggest Plattenbau settlement of Gotha was established at the western periphey during the late GDR period. During the 1980s, big parts of the western old town were demolished and replaced by small-scale Plattenbau houses. After 1990, many buildings got thoroughly refurbished after derelicting during the GDR times. Nevertheless, a relatively high amount of ruinous historic buildings is characteristic for Gotha (in comparison to neighbour cities like Eisenach, Erfurt or Weimar), especially within the historic new town and the 19th century belt around the city centre. The government sometimes fail to manage the conservation of historic sights, so that they got demolished like the Volkshaus zum Mohren in 2007 or the Winterpalais in 2011 (reconstruction is implemented). The Orangerie could be saved in 2006, whereas the Prinzenpalais is still endangered.
Sights and architectural heritage
- The evangelical main church St. Margarethen at Neumarkt was built between 1494 and 1543 in late-Gothic style.
- The evangelical church St. Salvator at Klosterplatz is a former Augustine's monastery, built around 1300 in Gotic style and annulled in 1525.
- The ducal chapel inside Friedenstein Castle is located at the north-eastern corner and was designed in 1697.
- The evangelical Friedrichskirche at Erfurter Landstraße was built between 1712 and 1715 in Baroque style.
- The evangelical church St. Helena at Siebleben district was built between 1818 and 1827 in classicistic style.
- The catholic parish church St. Bonifatius at Moßlerstraße was built in 1855 in neo-Romanesque style.
Castles and palaces
- The former royal residence of the Saxe-Gotha dukes is Friedenstein Castle, one of the biggest late-Renaissance/early-Baroque styled castles in Germany. It consists of three wings in U-form with two towers at their ends and was built between 1643 and 1654.
- The Schloss Friedrichsthal at Friedrichstraße is the former ducal summer residence, built between 1707 and 1711 in French Baroque style.
- The Winterpalais at Friedrichstraße is the former ducal winter residence, built in 1822 in late-Baroque style.
- The Orangerie at Friedrichstraße consists of two symmetric orangery houses and a Baroque park in between, built between 1747 and 1774.
- The Prinzenpalais at Mozartstraße was the ducal guesthouse, built in 1776.
- The Marstall at Parkallee were the royal stables, built in 1847.
- The Schloss Mönchhof at Siebleben district was a ducal summer residence, built in late 18th century.
- The town hall at Hauptmarkt was built as bourse between 1566 and 1574 in Renaissance style. It is in use as town hall since 1665.
- There are some Renaissance patrician's houses around Hauptmarkt and Brühl, showing the city's wealth through the 15th and 16th century.
- The Hospital St. Mary is the former city hospital and was built between 1716 and 1719 in Baroque style.
- The Crematorium at main cemetery is the oldest one in Germany, established in 1878.
- The Wasserkunst (waterworks) at Schlossberg were established in 1895 with three cascades traversed by the water of Leinakanal.
- The Courthouse at Justus-Perthes-Straße was built in 1895/96 in sumptuous historicistic forms.
- The 19th and early-20th century school buildings in Gotha are in appealing design, for example the Ernestinum (1837/38) at Bergallee, the Myconiusschule (1865) at Bürgeraue, the Herzog-Ernst-Schule at Reinhardsbrunner Straße, the Andreas-Reyher-Schule (1898–1900) at Mozartstraße, the Arnoldischule (1909–1911) at Eisenacher Straße and the former Baugewerbeschule (1910/11) at Trützschlerplatz.
- The banks' and insurances' houses in Gotha are also interesting. They were built during Gotha's time as a centre of finance industry around 1900. The Deutsche Grundkreditbank at Bahnhofstraße (1872–1877) was built by Ludwig Bohnstedt, same as the Gothaer Feuerversicherung (1872–1874) at Bahnhofstraße and the Gothaer Privatbank (1873–1877) at Ekhofplatz. The Gothaer Lebensversicherung (1893/94) was built by Bruno Eelbo at Bahnhofstraße and the Ducal Cashier's Office (1908) at Justus-Perthes-Straße was built by Alfred Cramer.
- The garden city Am Schmalen Rain was built in 1928 in garden-city style like Hellerau near Dresden.
Economy and infrastructure
Agriculture, industry and services
Agriculture is still important in the region around Gotha with its fertile soil. More than 60% of the municipal territory are in agricultural use for growing maize, crop, vegetables and sugar beets.
Vehicle construction is still the most important industrial branch in Gotha. The famous Gothaer Waggonfabrik has two successors after 1990: the Gothaer Fahrzeugwerke, a Schmitz Cargobull factory with 800 workers and the Gothaer Fahrzeugtechnik, a crane manufacturer with 400 employees. The brewery belongs to Oettinger Beer and has 300 employees. In 2012, there were 28 companies with more than 20 workers in industrial sector, employing 3,300 persons and generating a turnover of more than € 850 millions. The old industrial district is situated in the east of Gotha, a new one developed after 1990 in the south. Further, the neighbouring small towns of Waltershausen and Ohrdruf have strong industrial cores, where many commuters from Gotha find work.
As a former state capital (until 1920) and then district capital, Gotha is also a hub of public and private services. The city centre hosts some retail and at the south-western periphery the biggest regional hospital was built after the reunification. The Friedenstein barracks are one of the biggest Bundeswehr bases in Thuringia, further a national archive of Thuringia and the Land's Financial Court have their seat in Gotha. In contradiction to the various sights and the colorful history, tourism plays no important role in Gotha yet. In 2012, there were only 68,000 hotel guests with 154,000 overnight stays in Gotha (compared to 310,000 in Eisenach, 650,000 in Weimar and 750,000 in Erfurt) and no significant growth within the last decade.
Gotha is connected by the Thuringian Railway to Erfurt and Leipzig in the east and to Frankfurt/Kassel in the west. Furthermore there are some regional railways from Gotha to Leinefelde via Mühlhausen and to Gräfenroda (out of service since 2011). Besides the main station, there is another one at the Leinefelde line: Gotha Ost in the north-eastern part of the city. Long-distance trains connect Gotha with Frankfurt in the west and Leipzig/Dresden in the east every two hours, same as a regional express train to Göttingen in the north-west and Zwickau/Glauchau in the east via Erfurt and Jena. The local trains to Eisenach in the west, Halle in the east (via Erfurt and Weimar) and Bad Langensalza in the north are departing once an hour.
The two Autobahnen crossing each other nearby at Erfurt junction are the Bundesautobahn 4 (Frankfurt–Dresden) and the Bundesautobahn 71 (Schweinfurt–Sangerhausen). Furthermore, there are two Bundesstraßen connecting Gotha: the Bundesstraße 7 from Eisenach in the west to Erfurt in the east and the Bundesstraße 247 from Ohrdruf in the south to Mühlhausen in the north. Important secondary roads lead from Gotha to Bad Tennstedt in the north-east, to Arnstadt in the south-east, to Waltershausen in the south-west and to Goldbach in the north-west. An eastern bypass road to release the city centre from transit traffic along B 247 is in planning process.
The Erfurt-Weimar Airport is situated 20 kilometres east of Gotha and in use for holiday flights to the southern European touristic regions. The next major airport is Frankfurt Airport, approx. 250 km (155 mi) to the south-west.
Biking is getting more and more popular since the construction of quality cycle tracks began in the 1990s. For tourism serve the Thuringian city string track (Radweg Thüringer Städtekette). It connects points of tourist interest near to medieval Via Regia from Eisenach via Gotha, Erfurt, Weimar and Jena to Altenburg.
The public transport system consists of a tram network with three branches, connecting the city centre with the main station in the south-east, the east station in the north-east and the hospital in Sundhausen district in the south-west. A peculiarity is the 22 km (14 mi) long Thüringerwaldbahn (established in 1929), one of Germany's last traditional interurban tramway lines to Tabarz, Waltershausen and Friedrichroda which is frequented both for everyday traffic and as a touristic sight. Buses serve urban quarters and near villages without tram or rail connection.
Education and research
There are three state-owned Gymnasiums in Gotha. Further, the Thüringer Fachhochschule für öffentliche Verwaltung (school of public administration) with 500 students has its seat in Gotha, same as the school of Thuringia's ministry of finance and the school of Thuringia's geodesy authority.
Research with focus on early modern history is carried out by the Forschungsbibliothek Gotha, the national archive and the Friedenstein Foundation, which runs also the museums at Friedenstein Castle.
Mayor and city council
The last municipal election was held in 2009 with the result:
|Party||Percentage||Seats in council|
|SPD (social democratic)||31.0||11|
|The Left (post-socialistic left)||19.3||7|
|Free Voters (citizen-oriented/populist)||11.4||4|
|FDP (classical liberal)||5.7||2|
|Local initiative Gotha/Sundhausen, Uelleben, Boilstädt||4.8||2|
Gotha is twinned with:
- Martin, Slovakia
- Gastonia, North Carolina USA
- Kielce, Poland
- Romilly-sur-Seine, France
- Salzgitter, Germany
People from Gotha
- "Bevölkerung der Gemeinden, erfüllenden Gemeinden und Verwaltungsgemeinschaften nach Geschlecht in Thüringen". Thüringer Landesamt für Statistik (in German). 13 July 2013.
- According to Thüringer Landesamt für Statistik
- According to Thüringer Landesamt für Statistik
- According to Thüringer Landesamt für Statistik
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Gotha.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1921 Collier's Encyclopedia article Gotha.|
|Eisenach||Erfurt — Weimar — Jena|