Fotoeins Fotografie

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Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Eisleben UNESCO WHS: Luther’s birth and death sites

Above (HL): Luther monument by Rudolf Simmering at Eisleben’s market square. The monument was inaugurated in 1883 to mark the quatercentenary of Luther’s birth year (1483). At left and upper-right are the Hotel Graf von Mansfeld and St. Andrew’s Church, respectively.

With a population over 25-thousand people, Eisleben is a quiet town in central Germany in the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt. But the South Harz region holds a special place in German and European history: Martin Luther came into the world in Eisleben in 1483, spent his childhood years in Mansfeld, and, on a trip home from Wittenberg to negotiate a local dispute in Mansfield, died in Eisleben in 1546. As shown in the map below, a number of important locations in Eisleben are associated with Luther and the Reformation, including the Luther monument in the town’s market square, St. Peter’s Church, St. Andrew’s Church, and St. Anne’s Church. Specifically, two sites in town constitute a part of the inscription for UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996: (1) the house where Luther was born, and (2) the museum on Luther’s death.


The house where Luther was born

Across the street from the city’s Tourist Information office is the museum about Martin Luther’s birth. Born in a 15th-century house at this location, his parents brought him down the street to St. Peter’s Church to have him baptized. One year later in 1484, the family moved to Mansfeld. The house where Luther was born was almost destroyed in the fire of 1689. The town subsequently took over the property and rebuilt the house in the original half-timbered style. By 1693 a public museum for pilgrims was inaugurated within the building. The Museum Luther’s Birth House is one of the oldest museums in a German-speaking country. The house had housed a school for needy children since 1693. Commissioned by Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III in 1817, a new Luther school for the poor was built in the house’s courtyard, opening in 1819 to welcome over 100 children. The museum today includes exhibits about the Luther family, the medieval mining economy, Martin’s baptism, and the state of medieval Catholicism.

Luther’s Birth House
Address: Lutherstrasse 15.
Summer hours (1 April to 31 October): Daily, 1000h to 1800h.
Winter hours (1 November to 31 March): Tuesday to Sunday, 1000h to 1700h.
Admission fee: check here for single admission or combination admission.

Luthers Geburtshaus, Luther Birth House, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Around Luther’s Birth House, 2016: Luthers Geburtshaus (Luther’s birth house), Lutherarmenschule (Luther school for the poor, 1817); Lutherarchiv (Luther Archive, 2016); Petrikirche Zentrum Taufe (St. Peter Church where Luther was baptized in 1483), now Baptism Centre. (HL)

Luthers Geburtshaus, Luther Birth House, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Around Luther’s Birth House, c. 1830. Oil on canvas, by Carl Salomon Warmholz. I’ve added labels to compare this scene with the photo above. (Source)

Luthers Geburtshaus, Luther Birth House, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Luther Birth House.

Luthers Geburtshaus, Luther Birth House, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

The Luder family. HL: Hans Luder (father), MLi: Margarete Lindemann (mother), ML: Martin Luther, KB: Katharina von Bora (wife). One year after Martin’s birth in Eisleben (EIL), the family moved to Mansfeld (MSH) in 1484. “The Luders are related by marriage to the Mansfeld county’s leading families, belonging to the class of wealthy master-smelters. Their sons can reach high positions in administration, university, and clergy due to their academic education and social class.” (HL)

Luthers Geburtshaus, Luther Birth House, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

From Luder to Eleutherios and Luther: “In his early thirties, Martin changes his surname ‘Luder’ (also Lüder, derived from Lothar) into ‘Luther’ and begins signing his letters with ‘Eleutherios’. The Humanists’ custom at the time was a Latinization of names and Martin finds that his family name is related to the Greek word ‘eleutherios’ meaning ‘free’, which seems appropriate especially after publishing/announcing his 95 Theses in 1517.” At right is a copy of a 1579 copperplate engraving of Martin Luther with his doctor’s hat, by Johann Sadeler and Caspar Ruts after Lucas Cranach the Elder 1521. (HL)

Luthers Geburtshaus, Luther Birth House, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Luther with swan, 18th-century copperplate engraving. (Source)

Luthers Geburtshaus, Luther Birth House, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Transcription of letters by Luther and Phillip Melanchthon, 1544: “Luther loses two daughters who die young; he is especially distraught at losing 13-year old Magdalena who dies in his arms in 1542. Luther drafts the inscription on his daughter’s gravestone of which various versions have been handed down.” Sources: (1), pp.3373-3374; (2) pp.413; (3)

Luthers Geburtshaus, Luther Birth House, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Museum Luthers Geburtshaus: entrance, with passage from Danish author Hans Christian Andersen who visited Eisleben in 1831. (HL)

Luthers Geburtshaus, Luther Birthhouse, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Old front entrance on Lutherstrasse: “In diesem Haus wurde geboren Dr. M. Luther den 10 November 1483. Gottes Wort ist Luthers Lehr, darum vergeht sie nimmer mehr. / Dr. Martin Luther was born in this house on 10 November 1483. Luther’s teachings is God’s Word which will never pass away.” (HL)


Museum on Luther’s death

With a short walk across town, you arrive at the museum about the house where Luther died (Museum Luthers Sterbehaus). Martin Luther arrived from Wittenberg in late-January 1546 to mediate a dispute among Mansfeld’s counts. Already in poor health, his condition deteriorated, but he successfully negotiated a resolution. At age 62, he died soon after on the evening of 17-18 February. By the 18th-century, people had begun associating the house near St. Andrew’s Church with the place where he died. The Prussian government purchased the house in 1862-1863, restored the building in late-Gothic style, and authorized recreations of the rooms and furnishings at the time of Luther’s death. Key items now on exhibit include a 1541 Bible with handwritten notes by Luther and other Reformers, and the cloth covering Luther’s coffin in 1546 on the procession from Eisleben to Wittenberg. Other displays include his final weeks and days leading up to his death, and his thoughts on mortality and life after death. A look at the modern extension to the museum can be found here.

Museum Luther’s Death House
Address: Andreaskirchplatz 7.
Summer hours (1 April to 31 October): Daily, 1000h to 1800h.
Winter hours (1 November to 31 March): Tuesday to Sunday, 1000h to 1700h.
Admission fee: check here for single admission or combination admission.

Museum Luther Death House, Museum Luthers Sterbehaus, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

The plaque above the front portal reads: “In diesem Hause starb Dr. M. Luther den 12. Februar 1246.” (Dr. Martin Luther died in this house on 12 February 1246.) We now know he died in another location down the street at Markt 56. (HL)

Museum Luther Death House, Museum Luthers Sterbehaus, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Luther’s final journey in 1546 to Eisleben to mediate a dispute among Mansfeld noblemen. (HL)

Museum Luther Death House, Museum Luthers Sterbehaus, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Lucas Furtenagel was on hand to draw Luther’s portrait in death. This Bible was owned by Furtenagel and what makes the book unique are the handwritten notes from Luther, his reformer colleagues, his son, and his two grandchildren. “Rudolstädter Medianbibel”, Vol. 2. Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1541. (HL)

Cloth used to cover Luther coffin, Museum Luther Death House, Museum Luthers Sterbehaus, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Under clear housing in a wood case is the cloth (pall) used in 1546 to cover Luther’s coffin from Eisleben to Wittenberg. (HL)

Museum Luther Death House, Museum Luthers Sterbehaus, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Casts of Luther’s death mask and hands, 1926 plaster reconstruction by Prof. Hans Hahne. Original casts made immediately after Luther’s death are now housed in Halle’s market church “Unser Lieben Frauen”. (HL)

Museum Luther Death House, Museum Luthers Sterbehaus, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

A mighty tree in the courtyard in the modern expansion of the museum (HL)

Museum Luther Death House, Museum Luthers Sterbehaus, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Actual location where Luther died

The much publicized location of Luther’s death house is not the actual site of his death. Due to miscommunication and confusion, Luther died at the location now occupied by the Hotel Graf Von Mansfeld across the town hall and town square. At what is now Markt 56, the original building where Luther died was demolished in 1570, and another building took its place. The Prussian State had erroneously purchased the building up the street near St. Andrew’s Church, because an historian at the time mistook the residence of the Drachstedt family (who were family friends of the Luthers) for the site of Martin Luther’s death. The error wasn’t discovered until recently, and it was too costly to make wholesale changes to the museum (let alone move, even if it was possible). Also, with the current location occupied by the hotel and the hotel’s owners uninterested in turning the venue into a pilgrims’ site, the museum about Luther’s death serves its purpose to educate, and visitors should simply keep in mind the distinction between locations.

Hotel Graf von Mansfeld, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

Hotel Graf von Mansfeld

Hotel Graf von Mansfeld, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

The hotel menu is front and centre on display, but at upper right is the sign “Luther war hier” (Luther was here)

Hotel Graf von Mansfeld, Eisleben, Lutherstadt Eisleben, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, UNESCO, World Heritage Site, fotoeins.com

“Luther rose” in cobblestone pavement in front of the hotel


With the train, Eisleben is about 80 minutes from Erfurt, 80 minutes from Leipzig (with 1 change of train in Halle or Bitterfeld), and 2 hours from Berlin (with 1 change of train in Halle or Bitterfeld).

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

My thanks to IMG- and Sachsen-Anhalt-Tourismus, the city of Eisleben, and Anja Ulrich for her time as guide in Eisleben and Mansfeld. I made the photos above on 26 and 27 October 2016. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-9gq. IMG- and Sachsen-Anhalt-Tourismus supported my visit to the German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt from 25 October to 3 November 2016 inclusive. I also received assistance from the cities of Mansfeld, Dessau, Halle (Saale), and Wittenberg.

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