Kahla is a small town of about 10,000 people close to Jena. It is famous for its porcelain manufacture and for its impressive castle Leuchtenburg.
The castle, which seems to shine from a great distance, is also called the 'Light Castle'.
References to the castle are found in documents dated 15th April, 1221. It was built as a home and a fortress by the owners of Lobdelburg Castle, six miles away. It was ideal as a defense site being situated on a mountain that overlooked a valley.
The founders of Lobdeburg, Hartmann and Otto died leaving their possessions to be shared among their heirs; creating a Leuchtenburge line.
Kahla belonged to this noble family in the thirteenth century. The family's wealth grew rapidly but then declined because of disputes over wills.
The Counts of Schwazburg and Landgraves of Wettin bought the castle when it was pawned at a price of 3500 Schock Groschen in 1310.
These two fought each other for possession of the central Saale. During this period Germany's central power was weak and the country was split by feudal wars.
On 15-2-1333 a definite sale of the Light Castle was made to Schwarzburge after an additional payment of 1150 Shock Groschan.
In 1333 Leuchtenburg Castle was handed over to the towns of Stradtroda and Kahla. Feudal wars had killed many local people and the towns were razed to the ground. The castle was destroyed in a fire in 1370; only the Bergfried and part of the defense plant remained. However, reconstruction started in the same year.
During this time the merchants in the towns prospered while the Nobles fought.
Count Schwarzburg had to mortgage the castle to Henrich Von Paradies of Erfet. This man presided over the court that decided to hang a peasant for fishing in castle waters in 1392. The Nobles authority ended when the castle was stormed by the Margraves in revenge for that act.
In 1396 the castle was sold to the Wettiner at a price of 2100 Schock Freiberg Groschen.
The castle became a princely office and an important location in the process of State formation of Wettiner and up until 1720 was the topmost court, armed forces administration and financial world for 120 surrounding places.
The Duke of Wilhelm left the Light Castle to the vassal Apel of Vitzthum as a pledge for financial support during the Saxon war between brothers.
After the war he attacked an Electoral Legation of Vitzhum (also called fire chiefs of Thuringia). The Duke used modern warfare to besiege the castle and took it on 13-12-1452 and expelled the chiefs fromThuringia.
It was obvious at that point that the castle's defenses were not adequate so the Duke of Wilhelm had four fortified towers and an inner defense wall built immediately.
The castle became a local Government centre for Police and Crown Affairs and for the collecting of taxes. The people were so heavily oppressed with taxes that they rebelled in 1525 in what was called "The Peasant's War".
However they were betrayed, disarmed and beaten.
A special court was held in Kahla in which Elector John of Saxony sat in judgment. Many small land holders involved in the uprising were cruelly executed.
In 1530 Emperor Karl V regarded the Protestant Reformation as highly dangerous and threatened the Protestants with military elimination.
John Friedrich's Dukedom is weakened after several divided inheritances and ends in 1552. He was captured and had to serve five years in the retinue of the Emperor. His capture hardly plays any important political role.
Shortly before he died Johann Friedrich founded the University of Jena.
The thirty years war from 1618-48 again caused great suffering to the people. They had to pay war debts and feed armies that passed by. Of the Light Castle population, seventy percent died by plague or force. The survivors were mercilessly pressed to pay war taxes.
The region had to find within a day 15,000 pounds of bread, 200 buckets of beer, 200 bushels of oats and 6000 pounds of meat for running the Swedish Army. The castle was often used as a safe haven during the fighting.
In 1658 the castle tower, office house and back dwelling were burnt down.
In 1724-1871 the castle was rebuilt for cultivation, arms and a lunatic asylum.
It was turned into a prison for the homeless, beggars and vagabonds. Poor and sick people were taken into custody due to social abuses. It was thought that severe prison sentences for the "rabble traveling around" would improve morality and bring the dukedom economic profit by hard lines. During the 150 year existence of the prison 5195 people were taken into custody.
In 1871 the prison was closed and the castle was opened up for tourists. A hotel was built from the former prisoner's workhouse and an Inn replaced the main prison. The hotel had two large mass dormitories and 25 lodging rooms.
In 1912 the "refectory" became the dining hall of the hotel guests. This stylish room decorated in Art Nouveau is a popular place for seminars, marriage ceremonies and other official functions today.
1914 The Inn at the Light Castle organized Walpuris Night celebrations with witch dances, concerts and play performances. A tradition which continues today.
1921 A youth hostel was implemented at the Light Castle. It accommodated 100 boys and girls and over 80,000 visitors each year. The Castle became and important centre of the youth movement of the 20's and 30's.
One of the greatest emergency money exhibitions of Germany took place at the Light Castle from 3rd-11th September 1921. About 73,000 bills were presented by 100 exhibitors. An Honour Dipolmata was presented for the most beautiful ones.