Fotoeins Fotografie

a question of home: 鹹水埠溫哥華? Oder woanders?
Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

Lutherstadt Wittenberg: St. Mary’s Church (UNESCO WHS)

Above: West side illuminated by afternoon sun, 30 Oct 2016 (HL).

The Stadtkirche Sankt Marien or St. Mary’s Town and Parish Church is the oldest building in Wittenberg and is one of four sites in town as part of Wittenberg’s status as UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996. Not only is this the location where Luther preached, the church also contains important relics by the Cranachs highlighting the young Reformation movement. As well as contemporaries and colleagues, the Cranach and Luther families themselves were close.

The east chancel (near the main altar) was part of the original St. Mary’s chapel built around 1280. By the early 15th-century, the chapel was incorporated into a triple-naved structure with two towers in the late-Gothic style at the west end of the new church; the Gothic tops were removed and replaced by octagonal shapes by the mid-16th century. The original pulpit from which Luther delivered his sermons has survived the centuries, and is now located in Wittenberg’s Luther House (Lutherhaus).


Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

Morning light, from Collegienstrasse.

Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

Northeast corner.

Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

Plaque on outside wall; this is the church where Luther preached regularly during his time in Wittenberg.

Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

Jewish memorial (1988) on the cobblestones; more in a subsequent post.

Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

Southeast corner; more in a subsequent post.

Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

Central aisle, facing east to the front altar.


The Reformation Altar

Completed by Lucas Cranach the Elder in 1547 AD/CE, the Reformation Altar has stood in the church chancel for over 470 years. The four panels represented pillars of the Reformation, and included portraits of key Reformation figures and supporters in Wittenberg: Luther, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen, Katharina von Bora (Luther’s wife), and Cranach. The altar was “repainted”, redone, and retouched in 1928.

Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

Luther’s influence is all over the front of the altar with key fundaments to the new “Protestantism”, including baptism (Philipp Melanchthon) at upper left, confession (Johannes Bugenhagen) at upper right, and the Last Supper at centre which includes Luther’s alias Junker Jörg. In the predalla (base or lower panel) showing a worship service, the congregation includes Lucas Cranach the Elder and Martin Luther’s wife, Katharina von Bora. In the pulpit at right is the preacher Martin Luther whose left hand rests on an open Bible and right hand points at the crucified Christ at centre, suggesting the latter’s direct link between Christ and the Luther’s words and between Christ and the congregation.

Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

Predella (base) or lower panel. Martin Luther at right preaches in church to the congregation at left. It’s believed the child dressed in red is Martin’s son, Johannes (Hans), sitting next to his mother Katharina von Bora. Standing at centre as expression of faith is the crucified Jesus whose loincloth appears to billow in response to Luther at the pulpit.

Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

Back of the altar. Side panels show Abraham’s sacrifice and serpents at left and right, respectively. The central panel has risen Christ and above him the dove of the Holy Spirit; from the sky, the hand of God points directly at Christ. Below him is the text from chapter 28 in the Gospel of Saint Matthew. This back portion of the altar was affixed to the wall and not visible at all for a very long time.


Epitaph Paintings

Along the chancel wall surrounding the main altar are epitaph paintings by the Cranach family. The paintings not only honoured the specific person and family, but also highlighted visuals to support the Reformation message.

Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

“Christ’s Baptism in Jordan”, epitaph painting for Johannes Bugenhausen and his family

“Christ’s Baptism in Jordan”, epitaph painting for Johannes Bugenhausen and his family, attributed to Lucas Cranach the Younger; signed and dated on baptism water jug, about 1560.

Johannes Bugenhagen (1485-1558) was a theologian, priest, and a significant contributor to widening and spread of the Reformation. Confessor and advisor to Martin Luther, he performed the marriage ceremony for Luther and Katharina von Bora, and he also baptized their children. The image of Christ’s baptism refers to Bugenhagen’s own given baptism name. Above Christ and John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove is connected with God above with a line of Scripture whose Latin inscription means: “This is my dear Son who brings me joy.” To (viewer) left and right, respectively, are Bugenhagen and sons, and his wife Walpurga (+ 1563) and daughters. In the background at right-centre is the townscape for Wittenberg with the just-recognizable twin towers of the Town Church and the rounded “turret-like” tower of the Castle Church. The painting implies that events pictured on the Jordan river can be transferred to Wittenberg on the Elbe river.

Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

“The Crucifixion”, epitaph image for Sara Cracov. Photo at large angle to line-of-sight; incomplete distortion correction.

“The Crucifixion,” epitaph painting for Sara Cracov (Johann Bugenhausen’s oldest daughter, died 1563), attributed to Lucas Cranach the Younger and Peter Spitzer, completed after 1565.

The central scene is dominated by the three crosses and crucifixions on Mount Golgotha. Below are the kneeling members of the family of Georg Cracov (centre-left) and Sara Cracov (below right); Sara was Johannes Bugenhagen’s eldest daughter. Most of the family is wearing black, except for two children who died prematurely and shown wearing white robes with black crosses. Georg and Sara’s youngest, John, did not survive birth, and Sara also died shortly thereafter. Clearly visible are the castle in the background, as well as the inclusion of a housefly on the leg of the crucified thief gazing skywards. The framing shown dates back to the 1920s which combines the painting and an original Latin inscription.

Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

“Christ’s Resurrection and The Harrowing of Hell”, epitaph painting for Nikolaus von Seidlitz.

“Christ’s Resurrection and The Harrowing of Hell”, epitaph painting for Nicholas of Seidlitz and attributed to Augustin Cranach; signed “HL75”. About 1582.

Working as teacher in Wittenberg, Silesian nobleman Nikolas von Seidlitz died at the age of 30 in 1582. He was subsequently buried in the Town Church. von Seidlitz is shown awake and kneeling at lower-left in a scene representing Christ’s Resurrection, a popular pictorial subject for epitaphs in the 16th-century. To the upper-left in the background is Christ in limbo pulling a woman out by the arm. Above limbo are four animal-like demons. This medieval theological theme of “The Harrowing of Hell” (Christ’s death and descent into hell defeats evil and releases hell’s victims) was repeatedly requested and ordered in the Cranach workshop, regardless of the denomination affiliation of the client.

Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien, St. Mary's Town and Parish Church, Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, UNESCO, World Heritage, Luther Country, Luther 2017, Germany, fotoeins.com

“The Lord’s Vineyard”, epitaph painting for Paul Eber (source: Wikipedia).

“The Vineyard of the Lord”, epitaph painting for Paul Eber by Lucas Cranach the Younger; about 1569.

Paul Eber was professor of theology at Wittenberg University and, later, parish priest at the Town Church. The epitaph image by Cranch the Younger is at best a colourful allegory of the growing Reformation movement, and at worst a scathing piece of propaganda against Rome’s authority. In the scene of the Lord’s vineyard are two groups: Catholics at left are ripping up vines, destroying the land through negligence, and getting drunk with wine; whereas the Reformers at right are carefully tending to the vines and grapes with key figures Luther, Bugenhagen, and Melanchthon at work in the field. At bottom right are the kneeling members of Paul Eber’s family dressed in black; the five figures in white are his children who died. At bottom left is a group of clerics led by the Pope who appear to be negotiating (unsuccessfully) with Christ and his Apostles.


More from Wittenberg

•   13 highlights in the Old Town
•   Castle Church, where Luther apparently posted his 95 Theses

Except for the last image, I made all remaining photos on 29 and 30 October 2016. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as https://wp.me/p1BIdT-9eN.

Thanks to IMG- and Sachsen-Anhalt-Tourismus, the city of the city of Wittenberg for their support, and the Luther Hotel for the warm hospitality. 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 Eisleben, Mansfeld, Dessau, Wittenberg, and Halle (Saale).

5 Responses to “Lutherstadt Wittenberg: St. Mary’s Church (UNESCO WHS)”

Please leave your comments below

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: