From 24 April to 28 August, the Thuringian state exhibition “The Ernestines. A Dynasty Shapes Europe” sheds light on a fascinating dynasty of rulers who shaped the history of Germany and Europe. Members of the Ernestine line can still be found in several royal dynasties in Europe including – guess what – the UK where the Ernestine line of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha has survived in the current Royal Family, albeit as the House of Windsor after a name change in 1917.

The exhibition is hosted in Weimar and Gotha, both former Ernestine home towns, and showcases renowned artworks and extraordinary objects from over 400 years of Thuringian and European cultural history: In the UNESCO World Heritage town of Weimar, visitors can explore the Ernestine dynasty in the City Castle and in the Neues Museum where the exhibition is arranged according to three themes, “Belief”, “Empire and Nation” and “Science”. In Gotha, about 30 miles west of Weimar, the splendid surroundings of the town's Friedenstein Palace with its Ducal Museum form the perfect backdrop for the exhibition, which here focuses on the Ernestines' relation with their country, their ingenious marriage policy and their patronage of art and culture.

Visiting the exhibition is also a great opportunity to discover some stunning sights that are off the beaten tourist track: Gotha's “Baroque Universe” includes not only Friedenstein Palace with the Ducal Museum, Palace Museum, Museum of History and Museum of Nature but also the Ekhof Theatre, the world's oldest baroque theatre with a still functioning stage machinery, plus a beautiful English landscape garden that was one of the first in continental Europe laid out in the English style. Friedenstein, which rises on a hill above Gotha, is one of the largest early baroque palaces in Germany and was built after the formation of the Saxe-Gotha duchy in the middle of the 17th century. It features beautiful architecture, stunning art collections and magnificently designed rooms and halls, still in their original style and with their original furnishings.