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Luther's place

Lutherstadt Wittenberg
CRADLE OF THE REFORMATION

Cradle of the Reformation

Lutherstadt Wittenberg

As the place where Martin Luther lived and worked, Wittenberg is an indisputably rewarding destination for those visiting cultural sites. No other city is as closely intertwined with the history of the Reformation as this "City of Luther" on the Elbe River. The Reformation had its beginnings here. Elector Frederick the Wise elevated Wittenberg – which was the capital of the Electorate of Saxony and as the seat of power of the Elector and Duke of house Saxony-Wittenberg – to one of the leading spiritual and cultural centres of Europe. The Renaissance buildings constructed during this golden age continue to dominate the city’s skyline to this day.

In 1512, Luther was offered a professorship in Bible studies at the University of Wittenberg. Two years later, he was appointed to the Wittenberg parish church as a preacher and he would spend the next thirty years practising biblical exegesis there. According to tradition, Luther nailed his 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences to the portal of the castle church and made Wittenberg the cradle of the Reformation, a movement of great historical significance.

Martin Luther married the former nun Katharina von Bora in the city by the Elbe, had his children baptised here and would eventually be buried beneath the pulpit of the city’s castle church on 22 February 1546. The historical ensemble which consists of Castle Church, Parish Church, Lutherhaus and Melanchthon’s House was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Experience Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Wittenberg is home to the world’s largest museum of Reformation history, the Lutherhaus. The Reformer lived here, first as a monk and later as husband and father, and it is the place where he composed his writings and instructed his students. Lutherhaus’ permanent exhibition recalls not only the Reformer’s life and work, it also delves into his everyday family-life and into the rich history of the reception of his ideas. Museum highlights include the original parish church pulpit from which Luther used to preach, a Lucas Cranach tablet-piece depicting the Ten Commandments and an authentic monk’s habit worn by Luther himself.

The centrepiece of any tour of the house, however, is the Lutherstube (Luther Room’) which has largely been preserved in its original form. An absolute must-see for any visitor to Wittenberg is the portal of the castle church, the place where Luther posted his 95 Theses in 1517.

The building in which Philipp Melanchthon lived – Melanchthon’s House Melanchthon’s House.– is considered the most beautiful house in the city. Elector Johann Friedrich had the Renaissance structure with its especially characteristic gable built to house the Melanchthon family and visiting students. In 1898, the Prussian state commissioned the scholar’s study and the room where he died to be reconstructed. More than 400 paintings, prints and drawings document the life and work of the Renaissance man and closest companion of Luther. St. Mary’s parish church in Wittenberg is considered to be the ‘mother church’ of the Reformation. It has a special significance as it is where Martin Luther preached his sermons from 1514 onward. In the oldest building in the town the church services were first held in German and  bread and wine were given to the congregation the first time as part of communion.

Lucas Cranach the Elder was an enigmatic personality. Frederick the Wise brought Cranach from the Franconian town of Kronach to be the court painter in Wittenberg, where he would then live and work for over forty years. The Cranach Courts (‘Cranach-Höfe’) – where the painter had his workshop and family home alike – can still be visited in the historic town centre; they serve as an exhibition space, a home for small galleries and guest accommodation.

In Wittenberg’s market square, there are bronze statues of the town’s two most important residents – Luther and Melanchthon. The restaurant "Wittenberger Hof" offers guests the opportunity to dine as they did when Luther lived.

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Lutherstadt Wittenberg - where it all started

 

Things to see in Lutherstadt Wittenberg

In the footsteps of Martin Luther

LUTHERHAUS (LUTHER'S HOUSE)

The Lutherhaus is a converted Augustinian monastery, originally constructed in 1504. It was the centre of Luther’s work for more than thirty-five years. It is where he took up residence after his arrival in Wittenberg in September 1508, where he lived as a monk and where  he lived together with his family after 1525. He held lectures here for students from throughout Europe and it is the place where he wrote the texts that would go on to change the world. The Lutherhaus has been a museum open to visitors since 1883. Today, it is the world’s largest museum for Reformation history.

opening hours

April to October
Monday to Sunday 9am - 6pm

November to March
Tuesday to Sunday 10am - 5pm
Monday closed

Contact information

Lutherhaus Wittenberg
Collegienstraße 54
06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Phone: +49 (0)3491 4203118
Fax: +49 (0)3491 4203270
Mail: info@martinluther.de
Web: www.lutherstadt-wittenberg.de

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The room of Martin Luther in the Lutherhaus

Permanent exhibition: "Martin Luther – Life, Work and Impact"

The permanent exhibition tells the story of Luther’s life and works, placing these into the context of the transformations wrought by the Reformation. The Lutherstube is by and large preserved in its original state and has a particular aura. It is here that the Reformer would hold his famous ‘Table Talks’. The magnificently furnished lecture hall and the refectory are also both highly impressive. All of the objects on display are authentic artefacts including Luther’s Bible, a number of valuable historical prints, manuscripts and pamphlets as well as numerous paintings by Cranach.

ADMISSION/GUIDED TOURS

Single admission 8.00 Euro

Reduced admission 6.00 Euro

School Pupils 5.00 Euro

Family admission 14.00 Euro

Group ticket (from 10 people) 6.00 Euro per person

Guided tour (10 to 25 people) 60.00 Euro

Curator-guided tour: 90.00 Euro

 

CASTLE CHURCH

The Schlosskirche (All Saints’ Church) is a must-see for visitors taking a short break or city trip to Wittenberg. This is where Luther is said to have nailed his famous 95 Theses to the main door of the church on 31 October 1517. Although historians now doubt whether this ‘posting of the Theses’ actually took place in the manner described, the door to the church remains inseparably associated with the Reformer and his drive to effect change. A bronze ‘Theses Door’ was installed in 1858 to commemorate his alleged act. The original door was lost during the Seven Years’ War. The Theses Door is located on the north side of the Castle Church.

Wittenberg’s Castle Church is steeped in history. In 1489, Elector Frederick the Wise commissioned a new palace – a Renaissance castle spanning four wings – to be built on the site of the original Wittenberg castle. The Castle Church constitutes the North-Eastern wing of the former palatial complex. Four days after Martin Luther’s death, he was laid to rest near the Castle Church’s pulpit. His coffin rests some 8 feet (2.4 metres) underground and is not accessible. Luther’s fellow campaigner Philipp Melanchthon, is buried in the church as well. Beneath the foyer lies the dynastic tomb of the Ascanian Electors.

In 1503, the building was consecrated as a castle and collegiate church according to Catholic rite, and designated as ‘All Saints’. In 1525, Roman Catholic mass was abolished, and Evangelical church services introduced. The church was nearly destroyed in 1760 during the Seven Years’ War. The design of the current interior dates from the period between 1883 and 1892. Amazingly, the Castle Church survived both World Wars largely unscathed.

Between 1507 and 1815, the site served as the university church for the University of Wittenberg’s Leucorea foundation and as the burial site for its deceased professors. Today, Wittenberg Castle Church is used to host religious services as well as baptism and wedding ceremonies and as a venue for sacred music events, some of which feature the renowned Ladegast Organ. Some 180,000 visitors from all over the world visit the great Reformation memorial church every year.

contact information

Schlosskirche Wittenberg
Schlossplatz
06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Phone: +49 (0)3491 402585
Mail: info@schlosskirche-wittenberg.de

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Castle church in Lutherstadt Wittenberg

MELANCHTHON's HOUSE

Melanchthon's House in Wittenberg is an architectural jewel. The Renaissance structure features a characteristic gable and is considered one of the most beautiful houses in the city. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The site at what is now Collegienstraße 60 was home to Philipp Melanchthon from the moment he arrived in Wittenberg in 1518. From 1520 onward, Melanchthon was joined in what was then a modest timber frame house by his wife, Katharina. The current three-storey edifice was originally commissioned by Elector Johann Friedrich in 1536 to tie Philipp Melanchthon, the ‘Teacher of Germany’, to the local university. The new house offered enough space for his family and for his students alike. The Prussian state purchased the building in 1845 and in 1898/1899 commissioned the scholar’s study and the room where he died to be reconstructed on the building’s first storey.

opening hours

April to October
Monday to Sunday 10am - 6pm

November to March
Tuesday to Sunday 10am - 5pm
Monday closed

contact information

Melanchthonhaus
Collegienstraße 60
06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Phone: +49 (0)3491 4203110
Fax: +49 (0)3491 4203270
Mail: melanchthonhaus@martluther.de 

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Melanchthon's House in Lutherstadt Wittenberg

PERMANENT EXHIBITION: "Life, Work and Impact“

The most important object in the new exhibition is actually the building itself. Visitors are given a chance to visualise how Melanchthon was as a person, as a husband and as the father of a family, all from a modern perspective. The heart of any tour through Melanchthon House remains the first storey, where both of the authentically furnished rooms – the study and the room where the scholar died – are located. A modern addition to the neighbouring property provides almost 600 square metres of exhibition space for the 390 original artefacts. This area centres on Melanchthon and all of his diverse undertakings: Melanchthon as scholar and reformer, as foreign secretary of the Reformation, as author of the Augsburg Confession. These include a larger-than-life portrait of Melanchthon that has undergone painstaking restoration.

The exhibition was designed to appeal to children, too: Young visitors receive a key to open chests and cabinets. Melanchthon’s ten-year-old daughter Magdalena leads them on a journey through the story of the Reformation and her family’s daily life.

ADMISSION/GUIDED TOURS

Single admission 5.00 Euro

Reduced admission 2.50 Euro

Family admission 10.00 Euro

Group ticket (from 10 people) 4.00 Eur

Guided tour (10 to 25 people) 45.00 Euro

Curator-guided tour: 75.00 Euro

ST. MARY’S PARISH CHURCH

St. Mary’s parish church in Wittenberg is a place where visitors can steep themselves in the history of the Reformation. As the oldest building in Wittenberg, St. Mary’s is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Martin Luther held countless sermons here. The original pulpit still exists has been loaned out to the Lutherhaus. Luther’s companion Johannes Bugenhagen was active here, passing on his reformatory insights. The Reformation altar was designed by the famous painter Lucas Cranach the Elder and can be admired as part of a guided tour. Additionally, the church possesses several Cranach panel paintings, the ornate Hermann Vischer baptismal font, which is the oldest artefact in the church, and a magnificent organ. In the sacristy, visitors can view works of contemporary art.

opening hours

Easter to October
Monday to Saturday 10am - 6pm
Sunday 11.30am - 6pm

November to Easter
Monday to Saturday 10am - 4pm
Sunday 11.30am - 4pm

contact information

Evangelische Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien
Jüdenstraße 36
Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Phone: +49 (0)3491 404415
Mail: naumann@kirche-wittenberg.de

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Market with parish church in Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Guided Tours

Daily 2pm

4.00 Euro per person

1.50 Euro reduced per person

CRANACH COURTS

Well-known painter and printmaker Lucas Cranach the Elder (born in Kronach in 1472, died in Weimar in 1553) spent more than 45 years of his very active life in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, where he ran the most important artistic workshop of his day. This was where he produced the paintings that currently hang in the world’s major museums. He painted  portraits of Reformers like Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon and of Prince Electors and created altarpieces.

The Reformer Martin Luther was one of the artist’s friends. In 1505, Elector Frederick the Wise appointed Lucas as the official painter of his court at Wittenberg. At first, Cranach lived in the painter’s studio inside the castle. In 1512, he acquired the neighbouring market properties at Markt No. 3 and 4. It is believed that this was the year in which he married and moved to the market square with his family.

Around 1517/1518, Cranach sold the property at the market, presumably because his rapidly expanding workshop had outgrown it. In turn, he acquired the property with the largest court yard in all of Wittenberg, located at Schlossstraße 1. In 1522, Cranach was able to buy back the space at Markt 4 as well. He opened a printing press there together with his business partner Christian Döring. The works illustrated and published by him include Martin Luther’s New Testament in German.

Today, both Cranach courtyards are under historic preservation and entice visitors with handcrafted items, culture and gourmet food in a history-laden setting. Markt 4 features the permanent exhibition ‘Cranach’s World’, whilst the historic printing workshop can be seen at Schlossstraße 1.

contact information

Cranach Stiftung
Markt 4
06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Phone: +49 (0)3491 4201911
Mail: cranach-hoefe@t-online.de or cranach-stiftung@web.de

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Cranach Courts, Lutherstadt Wittenberg

GUIDED TOURS

Guided Lucas Cranach tours and tours through the Cranach Courts as well as guided tours relating to the special exhibitions are available upon request. Please reserve ahead.

Historical tour: "Following the Footsteps of Cranach the Elder"

The Cranach Courts offer groups guided tours focusing on the cultural history of the facilities. Gain access to rooms normally closed to visitors, become publishers on the replica printing press and feast upon little delicacies prepared by Cranach’s own maidservant Adelheid.

Group size: 10-20
Duration: ca. 120-150 minutes
Admission: 14.00 Euro per person

HISTORICAL PRINTER ROOM

The Cranach Court in Schlossstraße 1 is home to a treasure from the past - a historic printer's room operated by Andreas Metschke. You can experience history live, following in the footsteps of Gutenberg, Cranach and many others.

A variety of prints are hung on the walls. Some are black & white, some brightly coloured, portraits, invitations, sayings - everything that can be done with ink on paper is made here just as it was 500 years ago. The printing press stands impressively in the corner, waiting to be put into operation. The other half of the room is filled with massive cabinets, where the letters of the various fonts are stacked in the letter cases.

Andreas Metschke is a trained printer. He has also worked as a historical printer for the past 26 years. Script and words are his passion, as is language and its development. "It's sad that almost nobody owns a Duden any more", he says and decries the decline of language. His own Duden may well not contain many of the words that are really common today – that at least is the impression given by its historical appearance.

The principle of a mechanical printing press is not very difficult: a printing plate is filled with letters into a printing form and clamped in the printing press. A roller carries the ink onto the printing form, which is then pressed onto a printing material. This is how an imprint is made. Although the printing press in this workshop is not from the 15th century, the principle is the same.

Typesetting the printing form takes between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the subject. Printing itself is then the shortest part of the process. Watching how quickly the finished printed sheets pile up – always with a blank sheet in between so that nothing rubs off – can be quite hypnotic. Finally, the print then dries for more or less 24 hours, depending on which ink was used and the printing substrate.

The printing workshop is full of Luther: you can see him everywhere, either on prints with slogans which are still drying, in portraits or on templates. You come across the Reformer wherever you look. Even if you look at the cabinets full of letters in the various fonts. Of course, the font "Rundgotisch” can be found here. It was this font that Luther used for his Bible as it was easily decipherable. Without frills, serifs or other embellishments it is easily and clearly legible. A perfect match for Luther's message.

Even as we look around the printing workshop, larger and smaller visitor groups keep looking in to watch Andreas Metschke at work. He allows himself a few jokes in passing with the tourists, while operating the heavy machine. This is just the right place for anyone who is interested in book printing and its history. A guided tour even gives visitors the option of doing some printing themselves if they wish. Prints can also be ordered.

contact information

Historische Druckerstube
Schlossstraße 1
06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg

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In the historical print room in the Cranach Courts in Lutherstadt Wittenberg
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