The roots of Wartburg Seminary go back to the missionary efforts of Wilhelm Loehe in Neuendettelsau, Bavaria. Pastors sent out from Neuendettelsau founded an educational institution in Saginaw, Michigan in 1852. The following year the school moved to Dubuque, and in 1854, seminary education began. Three years later, adverse economic conditions forced a move to St. Sebald in Clayton County, Iowa, where the name Wartburg was chosen. In 1875 expansion necessitated a move to Mendota, Illinois, where the seminary remained until 1889, when it returned to Dubuque. In 1916, the castle, designed after the German Wartburg castle where Luther translated the New Testament into German, was dedicated and continues as the present-day campus.
A statue of Martin Luther, the Great Reformer, occupies a prominent location on the campus. The present campus of some 37 acres is situated on a high ridge in southwest Dubuque, commanding a view in all directions of the rugged hill country surrounding the city.
Wartburg has merged with two other seminaries, Luther Seminary (Phelan Park) in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Trinity Seminary of Blair, Nebraska.
Wartburg’s Hispanic Ministry Program, founded in Austin, Texas, in 1974, became the Lutheran Seminary Program in the Southwest at the advent of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and is program of Wartburg Seminary and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.