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Luther's place

Luther's Wittenberg:
CRADLE OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION

Cradle of the protestant reformation

Luther's 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 aspired to elevate Wittenberg – which had long served as the capital of the Electorate of Saxony and as the seat of power of the Elector and Duke of house Saxony-Wittenberg – to the status of 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 Wittenberg town church as a priest. There he would spend the next thirty years practicing biblical exegesis. According to tradition, Luther nailed his 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences to the gates of the castle church. In doing so, he converted Wittenberg into the epicentre of the Protestant Reformation, a movement of great historical significance. Martin Luther married the runaway nun Katharina von Bora in the city by the Elbe. He 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, town church, Luther House and Melanchthon House was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996.

Experience Luther’s Wittenberg

Wittenberg is home to the world’s largest museum of Reformation history, Luther House. This historic site is where the Reformer lived – first as a monk and later as husband and father –, where he composed his writings and where he instructed so many of his students. Luther House’s permanent exhibition recalls not only the Reformer’s life and work, it delves into his everyday family-life and into the rich history of the reception of his ideas and of the influence they have had on people over the centuries as well. Museum highlights include the original town 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 Luther Room (‘Lutherstube’) which has largely been preserved in its original form. An absolute must-see for any visitor to Wittenberg is the gate of the castle church, the actual place where Luther is said to have posted his 95 Theses in 1517.

The building in which Philipp Melanchthon lived – appropriately named Melanchthon House –is considered the most beautiful townhouse in the city. Elector John Frederick I had the Renaissance-era structure with its especially characteristic gable built to house the Melanchthon family and to provide room for visiting students. In 1898, it was the Prussian state’s turn to contribute to the preservation of this great monument. It commissioned the scholar’s study and the room where he died to be reconstructed on the building’s first storey. Today, a collection of more than 400 paintings, prints and pieces of graphic art provide documentation about the life and work of the polymath who was Luther’s closest companion.

St. Mary’s town church in Wittenberg is considered to be the ‘mother church’ of the Protestant Reformation. What is the special significance of this place? It is where Martin Luther preached his sermons from 1514 onward, it is the oldest building in the city and it is the place where church services were held in German and where communion featured both bread and wine for the first time.

Lucas Cranach the Elder was an enigmatic personality. He too came under the patronage of Frederick the Wise, who found Cranach in the Franconian town of Kronach and appointed him to be the official court painter in Wittenberg. Lucas Cranach would go on to hold this position for forty years. The complex now known as the Cranach Courts (‘Cranach-Höfe’) – where the painter had his workshop and family home alike – is located in the heart of the historic city centre. It currently serves as an exhibition space and as a home for small galleries and guest accommodations. In Wittenberg’s market square, the city’s two most important historic residents – Luther and Melanchthon – continue to greet visitors in the form of a bronze statue. The nearby restaurant Wittenberger Hof offers guests the opportunity to dine in the style of Luther’s time.

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LUTHER HOUSE

Luther House is a converted Augustinian monastery, originally constructed in 1504. It was the centre of Luther’s activity 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 after 1525 he lived together with his family. The house is where he held lectures for students from throughout Europe as well as the place where he wrote the texts that would go on to change the world. Luther House has been a museum open to visitors since 1883. Today, it is the world’s largest museum for Reformation history.

opening times

April to October
Monday to Sunday 9.00-18.00

November to March
Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm
Closed on Mondays

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 exhibitions: "Martin Luther – Life, Ministry 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 Protestant Reformation. This is the chamber where the Protestant 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 relating to Luther’s life and work. They include Luther’s Bible, a number of valuable historical prints, manuscripts and pamphlets as well as numerous paintings by Cranach.

ADMISSION/GUIDED TOURS

Single admission 5,00 Euro 
Family admission: 12,00 Euro 
Guided tour – Cultural tourism: 35,00 Euro 
Guided tour – Historical architecture: 35,00 Euro 
Guided tour –History of daily life ("Alltagsgeschichte"): 35,00 Euro
Curator-guided tour: 60,00 Euro

CASTLE CHURCH

The Schlosskirche (All Saints’ Church) is a must-see for visitors to Wittenberg. This is where Luther is said to have nailed his famous 95 Theses to the main doors of the church on 31 October 1517. Though historians doubt whether this ‘posting of the Theses’ actually took place in the manner described, the doors to the church remain inseparably associated with the Reformer and his drive to effect change. Bronze ‘Theses Doors’ were installed in 1858 to commemorate his courageous act. The original doors were lost during the Seven Years’ War. The Theses Doors are located on the north side of the Schlosskirche.

Regrettably, the original entryway was lost during the Seven Years’ War. 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 set foot in the great ‘Reformation Memorial Church’ every year.

In 1489, Elector Frederick the Wise commissioned a new palace – a Renaissance castle spanning four wings – to be built at the location where the original Wittenberg castle stood. The castle church is actually 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 remains some 8 feet (2.4 metres) underground and is not accessible. Luther’s comrade-in-arms, 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 according to Catholic rite, dedicated ‘All Saints’ and purposed as both a castle and collegiate church. In 1525, the Catholic Eucharist was abolished and Evangelical church services introduced in its place. The church was nearly destroyed in 1760 when the region was invaded during the Seven Years’ War. It survived but not without being severely damaged. The design of the current interior stems from the period between 1883 and 1892. Amazingly, the castle church came out of both World Wars largely unscathed.

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 Luther's Wittenberg

MELANCHTHON's HOUSE

Melanchthon's House in Wittenberg is an architectural jewel. The Renaissance-era structure features a characteristic gable and is considered one of the most beautiful houses in the city. The site at what is now Collegienstraße 60 was home to Philipp Melanchthon from the moment the bachelor arrived in Wittenberg in 1518 and would remain so, in one form or another, until the day he died.

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 John Frederick I in 1536 as a recruitment tool to keep Philipp Melanchthon – the ‘Teacher of Germany’ – tied 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. From 1898 to 1899, it commissioned the scholar’s study and the room where he died to be reconstructed on the building’s first storey.

After undergoing extensive renovation and expansion, Melanchthon House was reopened in February 2013.

opening times

April to October
Monday to Sunday 10am to 6pm

November to March
Tuesday to Sunday 10am to 5pm
Closed on Mondays

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 Luther's Wittenberg

PERMANENT EXHIBITION: "Melanchthon and his house“

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 centring 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.

ST. MARY’S TOWN CHURCH

St. Mary’s town church in Wittenberg is a place where visitors can steep themselves in the history of the Reformation. The oldest building in Wittenberg, St. Mary’s is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Martin Luther held countless sermons here. The original pulpit has been loaned out to Luther House where it remains on display. Fellow traveller Johannes Bugenhagen was active here, passing on his reformatory insights.

The current altar was designed by none other than 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 are treated to works of contemporary art. In preparation of the Reformation Jubilee, Wittenberg town church will be extensively renovated. The church will not be fully accessible to visitors during that time.

opening times

Easter through October:
Monday to Saturday 10.00 – 18.00
Sunday 11.30 – 18.00

November through Easter:
Monday through Saturday 10.00 – 16.00
Sunday 11.30 – 16.00

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 town church in Luther's Wittenberg

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 Wittenberg, the "City of Luther", 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 altarpieces and portraits of Reformers like Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon and of Electors.

The reformer Martin Luther was one of the artist’s closest 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 parlour inside the castle. By 1512 he had acquired the neighbouring market properties at Markt Nr. 3 and 4. It is believed that this was the year in which he was married and in which he moved to the market location as well.

A citizens’ initiative has been active trying to save the Cranach Courts since 1989. Its mission is the same today as it was then, to preserve the physical structure and to see it used as a centre for cultural activities. Since 1990, the group has been engaged in combined efforts with the city of Wittenberg, who as the property’s owner is ultimately responsible for the project, to stop the structure’s further dilapidation and to promote its renovation and restoration. On 6 June 1998, the first stage of construction on the court at Markt 4 was completed. When the second and final stage came to fruition on 24 January 2007, the courts were finally handed over to the public.

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. There he opened a printing press together with his business partner Christian Döring. Among the works illustrated and published by the two is included 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-Höfe, Lutherstadt Wittenberg

GUIDED TOURS

Guided Cranach historical tours, 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-Hof in Schlossstraße 1 is home to a treasure from the past - a historic printer's room operated by Andreas Metschke. In the footsteps of Gutenberg, Cranach and many others you can experience history live.

The walls are full of different prints. Monochrome, sometimes colorful, portraits, invitations, sayings - everything that can happen with ink on paper is made here as it was 500 years ago. The printing press stands powerfully in the corner, waiting to be put into operation. The other half of the room is covered with massive cabinets, in which letters of various fonts are stacked in the setting boxes.

Andreas Metschke is a trained printer. In addition, for 26 years, he has been practicing his profession historically. Scripture and words are his passion as well as the language, or their development. "It's sad that almost nobody has a Duden anymore", he says and denounces the decay of the language. His own duden may well not contain many of the words that are very common today - at least it suggests 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 impression is made. Although the printing press in this workshop is not from the 15th century, but the principle is the same.

Setting the printing form takes between 30 and 60 minutes, depending on the subject. Printing itself is then the shortest part of the process. If you watch how quickly the finished printed sheets pile up - always with a lubricating sheet in between so that nothing rubs off - you can be hypnotized by the spectacle. Finally, the print then dries for another 24 hours, which may take longer or shorter depending on the ink and the substrate.

Luther can be seen in every corner of the printing workshop: whether drying prints with slogans, portraits or templates. Everywhere you come across the reformer. Even if you look at the cabinets full of letters in various fonts. Here is also the font "Rundgotisch". Luther used exactly that for his Bible because it was easy to decipher for everyone. Without frills, serifs or other embellishments it is good and clearly legible. Just the thing for Luther's message.

Even as we look around the printing workshop, larger and smaller groups of travelers keep their heads in and watch Andreas Metschke at work. This also allows one or the other fun with the tourists, casually, while he operates the heavy machine.

Who is interested in book printing and its history, is absolutely right here. And even those who want to print something themselves have the opportunity with a guided tour. You can also order prints.

contact information

Historische Druckerstube
Schlossstraße 1
06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg

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In the historic printer's room on the Cranachhof in Luther's Wittenberg
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