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City of the League and the creed

Swan on the Luther house in Schmalkalden
Swan on the Luther house in Schmalkalden (Photo: Tourist-Information Schmalkalden)

Schmalkalden, situated on the southern side of the Thuringian forest, once belonged to Hessia. The city was a focal point of the German and European history during the 16th century. Its ruler, Philip of Hessia, was one of the first Protestant sovereigns and an enemy of Emperor Karl V. He recognised the Reformation of the church and the faith by Martin Luther not only as a transformative event in the empire, but understood the eminence of these changes for the whole of Europe.

After the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 and the renewal of the Edict of Worms, Philip belonged to the rulers who recognised the necessity of a protective alliance of all Protestants against the emperor. Due to these rulers, the Schmalkaldic League was founded in 1530. Seven conferences of the League were held in the city.

Luther's "private creed"

The meeting in 1537 made history as the "most glorious Princes' day". Assembled were 16 princes, six counts, envoys of the emperor, of the pope and of the French and Danish kings, representatives of 28 free and Hanseatic cities, as well as 42 Protestant theologians, led by Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon. According to the commission of John Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, Martin Luther presented articles of faith, which were issued in the Book of Concord of the Lutheran church as the Schmalkaldic Articles. They are still used during the ordination of all Lutheran Protestant ministers worldwide. Luther wrote these articles with his heart's blood. They are often called his "private creed".

A place where the most renowned theologians of their time preached

The city church of St. George in the centre of Schmalkalden is one of the most beautiful late Gothic hall churches of Thuringia. The first Protestant minister was already installed in 1525, by Landgrave Philip of Hessia, the co-founder of the Schmalkaldic League (1530). During the League conference of 1537, the most popular theologians of the time preached there. The former paraments' chamber above the sacristy, which is called "Luther's chamber" today, is the place where the Reformer is said to have warmed himself up for morning services during his stay in February 1537. Today, the room houses a small church museum.

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