It was a brief guest performance in the life of Johann Sebastian Bach. In 1707, in an attempt to flee the suffocating relationships in Arnstadt, the 22-year-old composer moved 70 kilometres away to Mühlhausen in the Unstruttal Valley, nestled between the mountains of the Hainich and Eichsfeld districts. The medieval Free Imperial and Hanseatic City of Mühlhausen, with its eleven Gothic churches, a closed but partially walkable city wall with defence towers, and residential homes from various epochs, was considered a centre of Protestant church music.
Tourist Information Mühlhausen
After his organ prelude on Easter Sunday 1707, the 22-year-old Bach followed in the footsteps of his predecessors Johann Rudolf and Johann Georg Ahle and began working as an organist at the three-naved Divi Blasii Church. His considerably higher salary – not at all typical of the time – of 85 Gulden may have been one of the reasons Johann Sebastian Bach decided to start a family, and on 17 October 1707, he married his second cousin Maria Barbara Bach in Dornheim near Arnstadt. As part of a guest performance for the dukes of Weimar in June 1708, Johann Sebastian Bach was offered the position of court organist and footman for a salary of 150 Gulden. The increase in the cost of living following another city fire in May 1707, the little hope of a new organ, and the prospect of a better financial situation, saw Johann Sebastian Bach leave Mühlhausen again in June 1708.
Thuringia 20 km
Divi Blasii Church
The town’s second main church, a Gothic hall church, stands at Untermarkt Square, and has close ties with the name Johann Sebastian Bach. The composer worked as an organist here from 1707 to 1708. The Bach monument created by sculptor Klaus Friedrich Messerschmidt next to the Divi Blasii Church where Bach worked depicts a young Bach standing alongside a monument pedestal.
St Mary's Church
Mühlhausen’s crowning glory is St Mary’s Church in the upper town, Thuringia’s largest church after Erfurt Cathedral. It was here that radical reformer Thomas Müntzer used to preach, putting the town in the spotlight of German history during the times of the German Peasants’ War. Of note are the church’s dimensions, as well as the sculptural adornments on the exterior of the southern transept.
Bei der Marienkirche
The town hall’s core was built around 1300, and extensions from the Gothic, Renaissance and baroque epochs resulted in the formation of a unique complex in the old town. Key attractions are the hall, the Grosse Ratsstube (Great Council Chamber) with Gothic paintings, and the Imperial City Archive from 1614. It was here that Johann Sebastian Bach signed his “certificate of appointment” in 1707.