1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gotha

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GOTHA, a town of Germany, alternately with Coburg the residence of the dukes of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in a pleasant situation on the Leine canal, 6 m. N. of the slope of the Thuringian forest, 17 m. W. from Erfurt, on the railway to Bebra-Cassel. Pop. (1905) 36,906. It consists of an old inner town and encircling suburbs, and is dominated by the castle of Friedenstein, lying on the Schlossberg at an elevation of 1100 ft. With the exception of those in the older portion of the town, the streets are handsome and spacious, and the beautiful gardens and promenades between the suburbs and the castle add greatly to the town’s attractiveness. To the south of the castle there is an extensive and finely adorned park. To the north-west of the town the Galberg—on which there is a public pleasure garden—and to the south-west the Seeberg rise to a height of over 1300 ft. and afford extensive views. The castle of Friedenstein, begun by Ernest the Pious, duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in 1643 and completed in 1654, occupies the site of the old fortress of Grimmenstein. It is a huge square building flanked with two wings, having towers rising to the height of about 140 ft. It contains the ducal cabinet of coins and the ducal library of nearly 200,000 volumes, among which are several rare editions and about 6900 manuscripts. The picture gallery, the cabinet of engravings, the natural history museum, the Chinese museum, and the cabinet of art, which includes a collection of Egyptian, Etruscan, Roman and German antiquities, are now included in the new museum, completed in 1878, which stands on a terrace to the south of the castle. The principal other public buildings are the church of St Margaret with a beautiful portal and a lofty tower, founded in the 12th century, twice burnt down, and rebuilt in its present form in 1652; the church of the Augustinian convent, with an altar-piece by the painter Simon Jacobs; the theatre; the fire insurance bank and the life insurance bank; the ducal palace, in the Italian villa style, with a winter garden and picture gallery; the buildings of the ducal legislature; the hospital; the old town-hall, dating from the 11th century; the old residence of the painter Lucas Cranach, now used as a girls’ school; the ducal stable; and the Friedrichsthal palace, now used as public offices. The educational establishments include a gymnasium (founded in 1524, one of the most famous in Germany), two training schools for teachers, conservatoires of music and several scientific institutions. Gotha is remarkable for its insurance societies and for the support it has given to cremation. The crematorium was long regarded as a model for such establishments.

Gotha is one of the most active commercial towns of Thuringia, its manufactures including sausages, for which it has a great reputation, porcelain, tobacco, sugar, machinery, mechanical and surgical instruments, musical instruments, shoes, lamps and toys. There are also a number of nurseries and market gardens. The book trade is represented by about a dozen firms, including that of the great geographical house of Justus Perthes, founded in 1785.

Gotha (in old chronicles called Gotegewe and later Gotaha) existed as a village in the time of Charlemagne. In 930 its lord Gothard abbot of Hersfeld surrounded it with walls. It was known as a town as early as 1200, about which time it came into the possession of the landgraves of Thuringia. On the extinction of that line Gotha came into the possession of the electors of Saxony, and it fell later to the Ernestine line of dukes. After the battle of Mühlberg in 1547 the castle of Grimmenstein was partly destroyed, but it was again restored in 1554. In 1567 the town was taken from Duke John Frederick by the elector Augustus of Saxony. After the death of John Frederick’s sons, it came into the possession of Duke Ernest the Pious, the founder of the line of the dukes of Gotha; and on the extinction of this family it was united in 1825 along with the dukedom to Coburg.

See Gotha und seine Umgebung (Gotha, 1851); Kühne, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Entwicklung der socialen Zustände der Stadt und des Herzogtums Gotha (Gotha, 1862); Humbert, Les Villes de la Thuringe (Paris, 1869), and Beck, Geschichte der Stadt Gotha (Gotha, 1870).