Petrikirche, Taufkirche, Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Tracing Luther’s steps in 14 German cities

ABOVE: “Luther war hier. // Luther was here.” Eisleben, Germany (HL, 27 Oct 2016).

In pre-teen years, I attended a Catholic elementary school by weekday, and a missions-oriented Protestant church by weekend. I already had multiple questions running around my pre-scientist brain, like electrons appearing and dissipating in a fuzzy halo. When various disparate elements began to settle with few satisfying answers, I left behind the churches and their respective religions. But one thing that’s remained is my love of history. History has never been boring, because I carry the past (as offspring of immigrants), and I’m determined to bring history’s lessons into the present.

Even in youth, I had to ask: why was one set of churches called “Protestant”? What was under protest? How did one man help spark a movement that would help merge and create a version of a language that continues today, that would bring accessible means to literacy for the public, and that would begin to change rule by religion to rule by law?

Martin Luther (birth surname Luder)

From his birth in Eisleben; to formative years in Mansfeld, Magdeburg, and Erfurt; to the bulk of his working and teaching years in Wittenberg; to his death in Eisleben, Martin Luther set upon a course that helped change language, education, culture, religion, and governance.

Every year on the 31st of October, a number of cities, regions, and federal states in Germany mark an important event in this movement. It’s widely understood Martin Luther walked up to the Castle Church in Wittenberg and pinned his 95 Theses to the church doors on 31 October 1517. Even if direct evidence Luther actually posted papers to the doors is debatable, what’s not is that 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of Luther’s Reformation in Germany.

Luther influenced people and cities throughout what is now present-day Germany. Here below are 14 cities (in alphabetical order) where he left his mark: 6 are in the state of Saxony-Anhalt, 3 in Thuringia, 2 in Saxony, 2 in Rhineland-Palatinate, and 1 is in the state of Baden-Württemberg. Every city is easily accessible by national rail (Deutsche Bahn).


1.   Dessau (Saxony-Anhalt)

Situated only 30 kilometres (20 miles) west from Wittenberg, Martin Luther visited Dessau regularly and preached at St. Mary’s Church (Marienkirche). The city’s authorities declared the city as Lutheran in 1534, and in the same year on the Thursday before Easter, Luther offered communion to the community. Today the building is used as event space for the public.

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Marienkirche, Dessau (HL, 28 Oct 2016).


2.   Dresden (Saxony)

Standing in the square in front of Dresden’s landmark Frauenkirche is a late 19th-century memorial to Luther’s visit to the city in 1516 und 1517. The memorial statue was destroyed along with the church in Allied air raids of 1945. Post-reunification meant repair funding and work, and the statue was restored and reinstalled in conjunction with the unveiling of the Frauenkirche in 2005.


3.   Eisenach (Thuringia)

After being called to the Imperial Diet (parliament) of Worms in 1521 to answer charges of heresy, Luther departed with his life under threat. His benefactor Frederick the Wise of Saxony arranged to have Luther “kidnapped” and brought to Wartburg Castle in Eisenach to ensure Luther’s safety. In Wartburg, Luther hid as “Junker Jörg” (Knight George), and proceeded to translate the New Testament from Greek into German. From a variety of dialects at the time, he created a common simplified version of German to ensure accessibility to as many people as possible which would improve literacy at large. The Wartburg Castle has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999.


4.   Eisleben (Saxony-Anhalt)

Eisleben is the city where Martin Luther was born in 1483 and where he died in 1546. However, most of his youth- and adult-years were spent in Mansfeld and Wittenberg, respectively; see below. The Luther Birth- and Death Houses are part of the inscription as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. Below is a picture from inside the church where Luther was baptized the day after he was born.

"Making waves." The font in which Martin Luther was baptized on 11 Nov 1483 appears at centre-left. Next to the famous font, the modern baptistry with pumps underneath to simulate the constant flow of water is a focal point from which circular waves emanate. Underneath the Luther Rose on the ceiling lies a second focal point (at lower centre) representing the impact of Luther/Protestantism. The church here was built between 1447 and 1513, although a previous church dedicated to Peter had already been present by the end of the 13th-century. Peter-Pauli-Kirche (Peter and Paul Church), Lutherstadt Eisleben, Germany – 26 Oct 2016 (SP, #SaxonyAnhalt). #LutherCountry #MartinLuther #Luther2017 #Luthergedenkstaetten #sachsenanhalt #GERnow #Eisleben #LutherstadtEisleben #GermanyTourism #Reformation500 #goeuro #teamcanon #fotoeins

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5.   Erfurt (Thuringia)

Erfurt is the city where Luther enrolled at the University of Erfurt in 1501 to successfully complete the Baccaleureat and Master’s degrees in arts and humanities, and where he changed his life and entered the Augustine monastery in 1505 at the age of 22 to become a monk. After successfully hiding out in Eisenach’s Wartburg Castle (see above), he visited the Kaufmannskirche (Merchants’ Church) in 1522.


6.   Halle an der Saale (Saxony-Anhalt)

Halle was the home of Luther’s great rival, Cardinal Albrecht, Archbishop of Magdeburg and Mainz, who was the highest-ranking dignitary after the Pope in the Holy Roman Empire. Albrecht would have been the recipient of Luther’s letter with arguments against Catholic dogma and challenges against excess by Albrecht and the Church. Albrecht would eventually be forced out of Halle in 1541. After Luther’s death in Eisleben in 1546, the subsequent funeral procession on foot to Wittenberg stopped in Halle where molds of his death mask and hands were made. These relics now reside in the Marktkirche St. Marien (St. Mary’s Market Church). Across from the church is Germany’s oldest and likely largest Protestant library, the Marienbibliothek, with several Luther Bibles.


7.   Heidelberg (Baden-Württemberg)

To commemorate Luther’s visit and debate in the university town in 1518, a memorial plaque was installed in 1983 at Universitätsplatz (University Square). The plaque reads:

Martin Luther (1483-1546): zum Gedenken an seinen Aufenthalt im Kloster der Augustiner und an seine Heidelberger Disputation am 26. April 1518. Im Lutherjahr 1983.” // “In memory of his visit to the Augustinian monastery and to his Heidelberg disputation on the 26th of April 1518.

HD Uniplatz, photo by Anneyh for Wikipedia

Memorial plaque at Heidelberg Universitätsplatz (By Anneyh for Wikipedia).

8.   Leipzig (Saxony)

The Leipzig Disputation in 1519 pitted Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, and Andreas Bodenstein (Karlstadt) against Johannes Eck from Ingolstadt. During the debates, the Protestant reformers cast doubt on the absolute doctrinal authority of the Pope. The Reformation movement bore fruit in the city with the first Lutheran sermons in 1522. Luther returned to Leipzig in 1539 with a visit to St. Thomas Church after the city converted officially to the Reformation. This same church is best known for Johann Sebastian Bach; he was the church’s Kapellmeister (music director) from 1723 until his death in 1750, and his grave is near the church’s main altar.


9.   Magdeburg (Saxony-Anhalt)

In 1497 at the age of 14, Luther left Mansfeld for further education in Magdeburg for about a year, before he moved onto Eisenach and Erfurt. Luther would subsequently visit Magdeburg a number of times later in life. Most notably in 1524, he visited the Johanniskirche (St. John’s Church) and his sermon helped convince most of the city’s council to convert to the Reformation. A monument to Luther by Emil Hundrieser in 1886 now stands in front of St. John’s Church.


10.   Mansfeld (Saxony-Anhalt)

Between the ages of 1 and 14, Martin Luther lived with his family in Mansfeld, a mere 10 kilometres (6 miles) from Eisleben (see above). Mansfeld was where Hans and Margarethe Luder lived and raised their children. By all historical and archaeological accounts, the Luder family lived comfortably. The restored family house and the modern museum across the street provide an account for life in the late-15th and early-16th century in the Mansfeld-Südharz region.

"Martin Luther roamed these streets until he was 14." Shortly after Martin was born in 1483, his parents, Hans and Margarete Luder, moved the household from Eisleben to nearby Mansfeld for better economic opportunities; historically, the surrounding area was dotted with many mines for ore and minerals. With steady income from mining and subsequent mining operations, Martin's parents lived in Mansfeld for the rest of their lives. Martin grew up in Mansfeld until the age of 14. In 1497, Martin departed for Magdeburg and Eisenach to further his education. Martin would sign documents and letters with the surname evolving from Luder to Eleutherius to Luther. West view from Schloss Mansfeld; what is now the city's Tourist Information (TI) office was once the location of Luther's first school. Mansfeld is 10 km northwest from the town of Eisleben in the German state of #SaxonyAnhalt – 27 Oct 2016 (SP, Saxony-Anhalt). #SachsenAnhalt #Luther2017 #LutherCountry #GERnow #MartinLuther #Mansfeld #MansfelderLand #MansfeldSuedharz #SchlossMansfeld #GermanyTourism

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11.   Speyer (Rhineland-Palatinate)

Completed in 1904, the Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church) acknowledges the reformers’ protests against the reinstatement of the absolute authority of the Catholic Church at the Imperial Diet (royal parliament) in Speyer in 1529. To a large extent, reformers from this point forward would become “protestors”, as the Reformation gathered steam to become the Protestant movement.

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Luther memorial in the Gedächtniskirche, Speyer (HL, 21 Nov 2015).


12.   Weimar (Thuringia)

Weimar’s St. Peter and Paul parish church (also called the Herder Church) contains a pulpit that was used by Luther between 1518 and 1540. The church also features the 1555 altar triptych. The triptych was painted by Lucas Cranach the Senior and Junior, both of whom were Luther’s contemporaries. The altar piece is an important testament to Reformation history for Weimar and present-day Thuringia. The Herder Church is part of the “Classic Weimar” inscription as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1998.


13.   Wittenberg (Saxony-Anhalt)

Wittenberg is where Martin Luther spent a large part of his life and career, happily married to former nun Katharina von Bora who would be his business and managing partner. Four sites make up the town’s inscription as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996: St. Mary’s Town Church, Castle Church, Luther House, and Melanchthon House. Wittenberg will be a centre of attention for events marking the Reformation quincentenary in 2017.


14.   Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate)

Martin Luther was called to the Imperial Diet (parliament) of Worms in 1521 to answer charges of heresy. Luther denied all charges and stuck to his arguments against excess and absolute authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church. Designed by Ernst Rietschel and unveiled in 1868, the Luther Memorial in Worms is the world’s largest Reformation monument which also includes other important persons of the Reformation.

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Luther at the centre of the Reformation Monument, Worms (HL, 21 Nov 2015).


•   Martin Luther timeline (Luther Country)
•   Towns of the Reformation (Luther 2017)
•   Places associated with Luther (Germany Travel)

Click on the arrow-window icon at the upper-left corner of the map below for details.

Luther Country map, www.visit-luther.com

This map of “Luther Country” in the German federal states of Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia shows places where Martin Luther left his mark; nine cities marked with orange squares are included in the list above.


Except for Heidelberg, I made the (Instagram) photos shown above between December 2014 and November 2016. The photo at Heidelberg’s University Square is by Anneyh for Wikipedia and is used here with Creative Commons license 3.0. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-9aV.

Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing supported my visit in December 2014. Germany Tourism, Visit Thuringia, and TMG Saxony supported visits to Erfurt, Weimar, Dresden in April 2015. In December 2015, Romantic Cities (Rheinland-Pfalz) supported visits to Speyer and Worms, and Magdeburg MMKT supported my stay in Magdeburg. IMG Sachsen-Anhalt supported my October 2016 visit to the German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt with additional assistance from the cities of Eisleben-Mansfeld, Dessau-Rosslau, Wittenberg, and Halle.

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