Luther’s posting of the Ninety-Five Theses on October 31, 1517, was the decisive date in the Reformation. The 500th anniversary in 2017 should be more than a simple day of remembrance. During the Luther-Decade, begun in 2008, a thematic focus is to be defined for every year and then implemented in the form of popular events, major exhibitions, scholarly conventions and conferences, and cultural events.
Philipp Melanchthon provided the focus of 2010. As a memorial year, it commemorates the 450th anniversary of his death. Luther's collaborator excelled above all as a professor and educational reformer. His honorific title, ‘Praeceptor Germaniae’ (teacher of Germany), refers to his great importance for the German school system.
During the Melanchthon-year, we are therefore invited to examine the educational impulses initiated by the Reformation. The democratisation of education, the unity of faith and education, and the foundations of ‘Allgemeinbildung’ (holistic education) were the key ideas of his time. Melanchthon, a Humanist always interested in theological clarity and in dialogue, gave the Evangelical Church its Augsburg Confession. This text of 1530 and his ‘Loci communes’, a work of dogmatic theology, are considered an important part of Protestantism’s theological foundation.
Ceremony in the modern state of Baden-Württemberg in Bretten
‘Reformation and education’ served as the motto for the annual theme of 2010. Like all the years of the Luther-Decade, it was commenced on Reformation Day with a celebration service, which was presided over by Ulrich Fischer, Regional Bishop of the Evangelical Church of Baden, and Robert Zollitsch, Archbishop of Freiburg and President of the German Bishops’ Conference. The ceremony took place in Bretten.
Melanchthon was born in Bretten, in the modern state of Baden-Württemberg; the town bears the title ‘Melanchthonstadt’ (City of Melanchthon). In 2010, the town made special efforts to commemorate its most famous son. In addition to Bretten, Wittenberg also hosted a number of lectures, conferences, and concerts. The great Humanist taught at the university there until his death in the parlour of his home on April 19, 1560. Together with Martin Luther, Melanchthon was a driving force behind the Reformation in the field of church politics – in Germany and throughout Europe.
Literature Festival in Wittenberg
Together with the Evangelical Church in Germany’s (EKD) project office ‘Luther 2017’, the Luther Memorials Foundation of Saxony-Anhalt and the Melanchthon House in Wittenberg honoured the Protestant reformer with events and exhibitions. Wittenberg’s weekend-long festival of April 16-19, 2010, and the Melanchthon Literature Festival of August 26-29, 2010, provided major highlights. Their programmes included a televised church service, plays and writers' workshops related to Melanchthon, scholarly workshops, and more.
Across Germany, the national Melanchthon-year 2010 was shaped by a great number of events, week-long celebrations, educational conferences, Melanchthon workshops, lecture series, and exhibitions, as well as journalistic publications and art interventions.