Bach lived in the Ducal-Saxe residence city of Weimar at two different times. In 1703, he was appointed for six months by Duke Johann Ernst III von Saxony-Weimar as a violinist and lacquey in the duke’s private orchestra.
Five years later, in 1708, he returned to Weimar. Together with his pregnant wife, Maria Barbara and her sister, Friedelana Margaretha, he moved into the house at Markt 16. This is where Bach’s first six children were born, including his most famous sons: Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel. Bach’s pupils, who highly praised the teaching methods of their teacher, also had their lessons there. For the first time, he had a trained orchestra at his disposal. Thus, during this time he composed over 30 cantatas, early versions of the “Brandenburg Concertos”, a large part of his organ oeuvre that he had begun in Arnstadt, including the “Orgelbüchlein”, early versions of his Partitas for violin solo, and the “English Suites,” the latter of which having only survived in copied form.
In 1714, Johann Sebastian Bach was named “Cammer-Musicus” (chamber musician) and “Concertmeister” (concert master), and became a well-paid musician at the ducal court. However, in the Fall of 1717, Johann Sebastian Bach asked to be dismissed, in order to take on the much better-paid and more distinguished position of court conductor for Prince Leopold von Anhalt-Köthen. He had already received an advance on his salary in August, and was therefore doubly employed. Consequently, Duke Wilhelm Ernst had Bach arrested and locked up in the “Landrichter” chamber of the Bastille next to the residence castle. One month later, he was released “with registered disgrace” and without pay for the last quarter of the year.
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The Bastille ensemble comprised of a gatehouse, the castle tower, and a court-ladies’ house, is the only part of the Weimar castle that survived all the fires during the medieval and modern eras. Bach was kept under arrest there in the “Landrichter” chamber from 6 November until 2 December 1717 after he had pressured the Weimar court to dismiss him from his duties.
Experience Space "Bach in Weimar"
In the Bastille next to the City Castle Weimar you can experience a multi-media installation about Bach's life and work in Weimar. Admission is free.
Former Bach House
The three-storey home at Markt 16 is the place where Bach lived from 1708 to 1717. The building became part of the “Erbprinz” hotel in the 19th century. Unaware it had formerly been Bach’s home, famous composers such as Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner lodged here. An air raid on 9 February 1945 destroyed the entire building except for the Renaissance basement vault, and it was completely demolished in 1988/89. Today, the car park of the neighbouring “Elephant” hotel stands on the site.
Bach Monument Weimar
Not far from Bach’s home, on the front of the Rotes Schloss ("Red Castle") the composer is commemorated with a bronze bust crafted by Leipzig sculptor Bruno Eyermann, erected for Bach’s 200th birthday. The bust first stood at the former palace chapel, and later in the State Art Collection. In the anniversary year 1985, the bust was placed at Platz der Demokratie, directly opposite Bach’s former home.
Platz der Demokratie
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.
Church of St Peter and Paul (Herderkirche)
Four of Johann Sebastian Bach’s six Weimar-born children were baptised in the late-Gothic Church of St Peter and Paul. The original baptismal font and the winged altar, whose construction was commenced by Lucas Cranach the Elder and completed by Lucas Cranach the Younger, as the main example of 16th-century Saxon-Thuringian art, make the three-naved hall church an important historic monument. Luther used to preach at its pulpit.
St Jakob's Church
Johann Sebastian Bach’s friend and distant cousin, Johann Gottfried Walther (1684–1748), had been the Weimar city organist since 1707, and had thus also played in the picturesquely located St Jacob’s Church. His baroque double tombstone is situated at the southern end of the church. The new St Jacob’s Church was consecrated on 6 November 1713, and Bach, as a court musician, played music at the service for this event.
Am Jakobskirchhof 4