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Posts tagged ‘Reformation’

Martin Luther, Playmobil, Luther Bible, Lutherbibel, Pxhere, CC0

14 for 500 on 10-31: Luther & the Reformation

Above: Playmobil Luther on top of Luther-translated Bible. (Pxhere: CC0, source tog unknown).

Why October 31 is connected with Martin Luther

In most years, October 31 is a statutory holiday in five German federal states. With 2017 as a special 500th anniversary year, all 16 federal states in Germany will observe October 31 as a statutory holiday.

On 31 October 1517, the story goes that Martin Luther strode up to the front door of the Castle Church and nailed his document called “95 Theses”. Luther’s friend and colleague, Phillip Melanchthon, relayed this story years after the fact, but there’s no evidence Luther walked up to Castle Church to pin the document. Wha is clear Luther was outraged by the Catholic Church’s abuse of power and its use of indulgences as a “guilt tax” or “get-out-of-Purgatory fee” to funnel money to Rome and finance the ongoing construction of St. Peter’s Basilica (started in 1506). What’s more likely is that Luther would’ve circulated his document among trusted friends and colleagues, and would’ve quietly sent his document as a letter to his regional Church superior, Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg. What cannot be denied is that his document was considered a provocation, questioning the supreme authority of the Church as the sole legitimate path to God and heaven. While he might not have initially guessed the full impact of his protest document, he eventually understood that it came down to matters of control and authority, and about personal choice, especially in matters of faith.

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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).

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Mansfeld: Martin Luther’s childhood home

Above: View of the town from Mansfeld Castle; numbered labels are described below.

I approach the ledge, and what appears is a typical yet modest German town: red roofs, a church steeple, green pastures, and endless hills rolling to the horizon. But this is no typical town. Five centuries ago, a young lad grew up in this town and ran through these streets. Though the area was dominated by mining activity, Dad was grooming the boy to become a lawyer, but the latter would make a life-changing decision. How was the boy to know his decision and subsequent work would eventually change religion, governance, literature, and culture in Europe.

Mansfeld is a town of about 9000 people in the southwest corner of the German federal state of Saxony-Anhalt. The town is dominated by the Mansfeld Castle situated on a rock spur above town. With origins to regional nobles, first mention of the town in official documents occurred in the late-10th century, erection of the castle’s foundations began in the 11th-century, and full charter rights of a city were granted to Mansfeld in the early 15th-century.

In 1484 one year after he was born and baptized in Eisleben, Martin Luder’s parents, Hans and Margarethe (née Lindemann), moved the family to Mansfeld, 10 kilometres to the northwest of Eisleben. Hans Luder earned good wages in a region rich with mineral ore and covered with mines. Hans first worked in the quarries, and worked up to managing smelting furnaces, and eventually, to owning individual mine shafts and smelters. Martin wandered these streets until he was 13 years of age when he departed in 1497 for further education. His parents stayed in Mansfeld for the rest of their lives, whereas Martin moved to Magdeburg, Eisenach, Erfurt, and settling in Wittenberg.

As indicated in the featured image, the town’s highlights include:

  1. Luther (Luder)1 parents house
  2. Museum Luthers Elternhaus (Luther’s parents house museum)
  3. Tourist-Information Mansfeld
  4. Stadtkirche St. Georg (St. George Town Church)
  5. Lutherbrunnen (Luther memorial fountain)
  6. Schloss Mansfeld (Mansfeld Castle), where I made the picture above.

Although Martin Luther spent much of his working life in Wittenberg, he always had a special fondness for the town where he was raised. He once wrote of Mansfeld:

“Ich bin ein Landeskind aus der Herrschaft Mansfeld, das verpflichtet ist, sein Vaterland und seine Landesherren zu lieben.” (I am born under Mansfeld’s jurisdiction which compels me to love my homeland and their rulers.)

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Manssfeld, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Published in the Topographia Superioris Saxoniae (1650, part of Topographia Germaniae), Wikimedia

1650 copy of copper engraving of Manßfeldt (Mansfeld), in “Topographia Superioris Saxoniae, Thüringiae, Misniae et Lusatiae”, part of “Topographia Germaniae”, by Matthäus Merian (Wikimedia). The St. George town church is seen at lower-left, but the castle dominates the scene at right.


1,2.   Museum Luthers Elternhaus (Museum of Luther’s Parents House)

Martin Luther’s parents lived in a modest house and spent his childhood years walking through these streets. Across the street from his parents’ house, the town unveiled in 2014 the Museum Luthers Elternhaus, a museum dedicated to Martin’s parents, their family life, and how the people of Mansfeld lived in the late 15th- to early 16th-century. Martin’s father, Hans, worked his way up from coal miner (hewer) to becoming part owner in a number of local mining operations. He became a citizen of Mansfeld (acquiring full rights) with his name mentioned as a “town deputy” in an official document in 1491. The recent archaeological dig at the house and subsequent finds show that the Luther family had status in local society and they lived and ate reasonably well.

Luther's parents house, Mansfelder Land, Luther Country, Mansfeld Südharz, Mansfeld Lutherstadt, Mansfeld, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Luther’s parents house

Museum Luthers Elternhaus, Luther's Parents House Museum, Mansfelder Land, Luther Country, Mansfeld Südharz, Mansfeld Lutherstadt, Mansfeld, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Across from the house on the other side of the street is the Museum Luthers Elternhaus


3.   Touristinformation (TI), Luther’s 1st School

The building here is a reconstruction and houses the town’s tourist information office. A plaque hangs over the front door:

“In diesem Haus hat Dr. Martin Luther (geboren am 10. November 1483) seinen ersten Schulunterricht erhalten. Gewidmet von Konsul Georg Kaiser Berlin. (Born 1483 November 10, Martin Luther received his first school lessons at this location.)”

Tourist Information, Luther's 1st school, Mansfelder Land, Luther Country, Mansfeld Südharz, Mansfeld Lutherstadt, Mansfeld, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Tourist-Information Mansfeld, which was once Luther’s 1st school


4.   Stadtkirche St. Georg (St. George Town Church)

Consecrated in the second-half of 1497, the town’s main church honours St. George (the dragonslayer) as the patron saint of Mansfeld. Also venerated is St. Anne, mother to Mary (Christ’s grandmum) and the patron saint of miners. The church is also tomb for the counts of Mansfeld. After his trial at the Diet of Worms in 1521, Luther was declared “heretic” by the Holy Roman Empire, which in effect put a price on his head. He was willingly “kidnapped”, escaping quickly into exile at Wartburg Castle in Eisenach. In hiding, Luther adopted the name “Junker Jörg” (Squire George) in direct reference to St. George.

Stadtkirche St. Georg, St. George Church, Luther sculpture, Marc Fromm, Mansfelder Land, Luther Country, Mansfeld Südharz, Mansfeld Lutherstadt, Mansfeld, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Stadtkirche St. Georg

Stadtkirche St. Georg, St. George Church, Luther sculpture, Marc Fromm, Mansfelder Land, Luther Country, Mansfeld Südharz, Mansfeld Lutherstadt, Mansfeld, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Stadtkirche St. Georg

St. George Church, Luther sculpture, Marc Fromm, Mansfelder Land, Luther Country, Mansfeld Südharz, Mansfeld Lutherstadt, Mansfeld, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Sculpture over church’s north portal: “Martin Luther als Treckejunge” (Martin Luther as young trekker)

From about 1520, a large limewood sculpture of St. George slaying a dragon hung over the church’s north portal. The sculpture suffered years of weathering, forcing a move inside the church for protection. To replace the St. George relief, church authorities commissioned new work by way of a sculpture created by artist Marc Fromm. Unveiled in 2016, the sculpture “Martin Luther als Treckejunge” (“Martin Luther as young trekker”) symbolizes Luther’s life and work as a long journey. While symbolic, it’s worth pointing out Martin never worked in the local mines, although boys and young men often worked demanding manual labour to drag rock and other materials out of mines. The 1.2-metre (4-foot) high sculpture includes a young Martin holding a small crucifix, accompanied by a mining cart with a dragon tail to represent the “good hunt to slay evil” and an apple tree to represent “tree of life.” The letters “VDMA” is a Latin acronym, “Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum” (“God’s word is eternal”), used as greeting by members of the Protestant Schmalkaldic League in the middle of the 16th-century. Additional description (in German) of the sculpture is located here.

Due to ongoing interior renovations and reconstruction, the church interior was closed at the time of my visit in late-2016.


5.   Lutherbrunnen (Luther Memorial Fountain)

The sculptor Paul Juckoff began construction of a fountain and memorial dedicated to Martin Luther. The limestone structure consisted of three bronze reliefs to represent the three stages of Luther’s life: (1) “out into the world”, when Luther left Mansfeld at the age of 13 for Magdeburg; (2) “into the struggle”, when Luther posted his 95 Theses, changing religion and Europe; (3) “through to victory”, as Luther became the great Reformer, avoided the death sentence as “heretic”, and helped translate the Bible fully into the German language. The Luther fountain in Mansfeld was inaugurated in November 1913.

Lutherbrunnen, Luther fountain, Lutherplatz, Mansfelder Land, Luther Country, Mansfeld Südharz, Mansfeld Lutherstadt, Mansfeld, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

At 13, Martin goes out into the world (“hinaus in die Welt”).

Lutherbrunnen, Luther fountain, Lutherplatz, Mansfelder Land, Luther Country, Mansfeld Südharz, Mansfeld Lutherstadt, Mansfeld, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Hinaus in die Welt (out into the world): “protecting” young Martin are portraits of his parents and a sculpture of St. George on his horse.


6.   Schloss Mansfeld (Mansfeld Castle)

Mansfeld Castle is on a rock spur some 40 to 50 metres above the town. The castle grounds contains ruins of a fortress, ruins of three castles from the Mansfeld noble family (who governed the region until the 18th-century), and the preserved castle church.

In the 16th-century, the counts of Mansfeld were among the most influential nobles in the German Holy Roman Empire, but the year 1501 saw a division into three new family lines: Vorderort, Mittelort, Hinterort. Construction of three separate castles began in 1518 and completed in 1532. With the rise of the Reformation, the counts of Mansfeld-Mittelort and -Hinterort followed suit, but the count of Mansfeld-Vorderort stuck with Catholicism. Martin Luther likely visited the Castle with his family when he was a boy, but he was a frequent guest as an adult (as “The Reformer”). In his final visit in December 1545, he mediated a dispute among the Mansfeld counts. Already in bad health, he subsequently made his way to Eisleben, and died weeks later in February 1546.

The castle site is now owned and run by the evangelical organization CVJM Sachsen-Anhalt, and in 1997, the Förderverein Schloss Mansfeld association was established.

Schloss Mansfeld, Mansfelder Land, Luther Country, Mansfeld Südharz, Mansfeld Lutherstadt, Mansfeld, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

Schloss Mansfeld, from Lutherplatz

Schloss Mansfeld, Mansfelder Land, Luther Country, Mansfeld Südharz, Mansfeld Lutherstadt, Mansfeld, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany, fotoeins.com

West-northwest view from the castle

The spacious site is perfect for weddings and events. Unfortunately, the operating organization recently refused to allow gay and lesbian couples to have weddings on site, despite objections by town officials and Saxony-Anhalt’s Minister of Justice and Equality (Mitteldeutschland Zeitung, 7 April 2017).


How to reach Mansfeld

From Eisleben, driving to Mansfeld takes 20 to 25 minutes. With VGS Südharzlinie public transport, it’s about 50 minutes with Bus 420 (Eisleben-Mansfeld-Hettstedt); look for scheduled times between stops “Eisleben Bahnhof” and “Mansfeld, Oberstadt”. Click on the arrow-window icon at the upper-left corner of the map below for the legend.

1 In his thirties, Martin changed his surname from “Luder” to “Luther”, because the noun “Luder” had unsavory meanings and “Luther” was similar to the Greek word “Eleutherius“; see also Deutschlandfunk interview with Dr. Jürgen Udolph in German on 9 May 2016.

More on Mansfeld

•   Luther 2017 (English)
•   Luther Country (English)
•   Mansfeld-Südharz regional tourism (German)
•   Germany Tourism (English)

Museum Luthers Elternhaus (Luther’s Parents’ House)

•   Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten (English)
•   Lutherstädte Eisleben Mansfeld (German)

Thanks to IMG- and Sachsen-Anhalt-Tourismus, the town of Mansfeld for access to both museum and castle, and Anja Ulrich (Tourist-Information Lutherstadt Eisleben und Stadt Mansfeld e.V.) for guiding both Eisleben and Mansfeld. I made the photos above on 27 October 2016. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-9H2. 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).

Coat of arms, Landkreis Mansfeld-Suedharz, Mansfeld-Suedharz, Saxony-Anhalt, Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany. Drawn by T. Rystau (Wikimedia)

Martin Luther, Diet of Worms, Emperor Charles V, Reformation, Reformation 500, Luther 2017, Worms, Rheinland-Pfalz, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, fotoeins.com

Worms: Martin Luther on trial, 1521

For anybody strolling around a German town, a natural point of visual gravity is the spire associated with the town’s cathedral. That’s no different in the town of Worms on the Rhine river between Mainz and Mannheim. What is different in a walk through the gardens next to the cathedral is that “Martin Luther was here” and that events here put his life in danger.

2021 will mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s trial at the Imperial Parliament (Diet) in Worms.

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Worms: world’s largest Reformation Monument

Arriving by German rail or on Rhine river cruises, visitors to the city of Worms (pronounced ‘VOHRmz’) will likely sample the crisp wine from the surrounding Rheinhessen region; learn about the 5th-century Nibelung saga; see important religious symbols including the “crown” that is St. Peter’s Cathedral, and remaining structures from the once-thriving Jewish community which along with Speyer and Mainz formed a medieval league of Jewish communities. Many will retrace Martin Luther’s steps in the city.

In April 1521, Luther was ordered to appear at the Diet (Imperial Parliament) convening in Worms. In the presence of Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Fifth, Luther held firm against charges of heresy and refused to recant. What’s amazing is that Luther survived the triumphant journey from Wittenberg to Worms and, with his subsequent status as “outlaw” from the imperial edict following the Diet, Luther survived departure from Worms because his benefactor, Friedrich III, secretly arranged for Luther to be “kidnapped” and brought to safety at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach.

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