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“Mother Church of the Reformation”

City and Parish Church St. Mary in the Luther City of Wittenberg (Photo: epd-bild/Rolf Zöllner)

The City and Parish Church of St. Mary in the Luther City of Wittenberg was the church where Luther preached. It is closely connected to the events of the Reformation in Wittenberg. Here, Holy Mass was celebrated in German for the first time, and the Lord's Supper was first distributed to the parishioners “in both forms”, as bread and wine. The City Church is therefore regarded as “Mother Church of the Reformation”.

Oldest building of the city

The parish church of St. Mary was first mentioned in a document from 1187. It is therefore the oldest building of the city. The former interior was almost completely destroyed during the iconoclasm in 1522. For that reason, Martin Luther returned from the Wartburg to Wittenberg and delivered his famous “Invocabit” homilies in order to bring the unrest to an end. In 1523, Johannes Bugenhagen was elected as the first Protestant minister of the City Church.

City and Parish Church St. Mary in the Luther City of Wittenberg (Photo: Jürgen M. Pietsch)

In 1547, the painter Lucas Cranach the Elder created the world-famous Reformation altarpiece for the Protestant City Church. It can still be seen there today. Its four panels depict impressive images of the fundamentals of Protestant parish life and the way how the Reformation understood the church.

Artworks of cultural and historical eminence

Cranach painted famous protagonists of the Reformation age in Wittenberg into the scenes: Philipp Melanchthon, Martin Luther, Johannes Bugenhagen, Katharina von Bora, as well as the painter himself can be seen. The church is also the home of a number of valuable panel paintings (epitaphs) by Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515-1586), as well as other precious furnishings – all of them artworks of cultural and historical eminence.

The City and Parish Church St. Mary in the Luther City of Wittenberg belongs to the UNESCO world heritage. In preparation for the Reformation anniversary in 2017, the building is in the process of being thoroughly renovated. In order to cover the high expenses, the Protestant parish of the City Church has launched a donation campaign and appeals for support.