Arnstadt enjoys a special status among the Thuringian Bach locations. There is no other city where this many original sites of the Bach family of musicians have survived. The members of the Bach family worked here as city pipers, folk musicians, organists, composers, and court musicians long before Johann Sebastian Bach’s day.
And there is no other Bach city that shows Johann Sebastian from his rebellious side as vividly as Arnstadt. On July 13th, 1703, he inspected the organ in the New Church (today’s Bachkirche), and played the instrument so impressively that only a few weeks later he had an employment contract as the organist in his pocket.
The young Bach not only fell in love with his future wife Maria Barbara in Arnstadt, he also engaged in some escapades. Apparently, Bach rehearsed with an “unknown maiden” on the organ gallery. Aside from the fact that his partner was a female, the Arnstadt authorities might also have objected to Bach rehearsing with someone else and neglecting his rehearsals with the choir pupils, which he considered an unpleasant task. Consequently, another conflict evolved, for which he was reprimanded by the church council: When Bach called the choir pupil Geyersbach a “Zippelfagottisten” (“fidgety bassoonist”), the latter responded with his fist, which resulted in the legendary fistfight.
Bach took four weeks’ leave for a journey to Lübeck to study with Dietrich Buxtehude, but ended up staying for almost four months. When Bach returned, however, his organ playing was transformed. There were complaints that Bach “played many curious variations, and mixed in many strange tones, so that the congregation became confused”. Altogether, these differences most certainly played a part in Bach’s decision to apply soon thereafter to become the successor of the renowned organist Johann Georg Ahle in Mühlhausen.
More about Arnstadt Bach Family.
of all Bach Locations
Listen to the young Bach's music in authentic places. Here can you find a stylised organ, on which you can push the pedal and play Bach's compositions. It also offers the most important information about his life there.
Module 1: Bach Church
Module 2: Neideckruine
Bach Monument in Arnstadt
Arnstadt was given its own Bach monument on the occasion of Bach’s 300th birthday. Sculptor Bernd Göbel wanted to show the young Bach the way he looked at the age of 18 when he first came to Arnstadt.
Bach Church in Arnstadt
Johann Friedrich Wender from Mühlhausen built the organ for the place of worship between the years 1699 and 1703. The 18-year-old Johann Sebastian Bach was responsible for the final inspection and was the organist here until 1707.
An der Neuen Kirche
Castle Museum Arnstadt
A visit to the Castle Museum seems like a journey through time, back to the Baroque period. The museum holds a very special object in its Bach collection: the original two-manual playing console made by Johann Friedrich Wender, which Bach played as the organist of the New Church.
Beginning in the mid-16th century, the moated Neideck castle served as the residence for the counts of Schwarzburg-Arnstadt. Today, only the tower has survived. With a height of 65 metres, it offers a wonderful, panoramic view of Arnstadt and the surrounding countryside.
Bach House in Arnstadt
The modest house at Kohlgasse 7 was in the possession of the Bach family for over 40 years. It is the only residence that has survived, where Johann Sebastian Bach was a frequent guest. Perhaps he even lived here for a while.
The Liebfrauenkirche is considered the most significant late Romanic/early Gothic sacred building in central Germany. One of Johann Sebastian Bach’s great-uncles, Heinrich Bach was the organist at both churches. He was succeeded in both positions by Bach’s cousin, Johann Ernst Bach.
An der Brunnenkunst 2
In Bach’s day, the Oberkirche was the city and royal church of the counts of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, and thus the church of Arnstadt superintendent Johann Gottfried Olearius, Johann Sebastian Bach’s supervisor. Various members of the Bach family itself also worked as organists at the Oberkirche.
Gentle hills, colourful meadows, small rivers and castles shrouded in legend - the landscape at the heart of Thuringia is picturesque. Enjoy a varied circular bicycle tour through charming places and be enchanted by the yound Bach in Arnstadt.
Route can begin/end anywhere
Parking: Arnstadt town centre