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Centre of the Reformation

City church
City church at the market square with Luther memorial (Photo: epd/ Rolf Zoellner)

Wittenberg's most famous square metres are most likely those of the portal of the Castle Church. Martin Luther is said to have nailed his 95 theses to the door on October 31st, 1517. Although there exists no historic evidence for this public announcement, its image is linked with Wittenberg's reputation as a Luther city.

Nevertheless, the city at the river Elbe was Martin Luther's main place of work, and it has been influenced and shaped by the historical heritage of the Reformation, which remains visible until today. Wittenberg has an abundance or impressive Renaissance buildings, which have been built during the city's heydays in the 16th century, when the city used to be the capital of the district of the Saxonian Elector. Once it was the residence of the Dukes and Electors of Saxony-Wittenberg. Under the Elector Frederick the Wise, who protected and supported Luther, Wittenberg became one of the spiritual and cultural centres of Europe.

A theologian's career in Wittenberg

In 1508, Martin Luther lived as a monk in the so-called Black Monastery at the eastern periphery of the city. After having graduated as a doctor of theology at Wittenberg University in 1512, he became professor for Bible studies there. In 1514, he was also appointed as a preacher in Wittenberg's City Church.

Until then, his life had been a collection of data for a successful personal career of a theologian. However, after 1517, when Luther published his 95 theses against the papal selling of indulgences – an event remembered by history as a poster campaign on the doors of the Castle Church -, Wittenberg became the place of origin of the Reformation, and the theology professor Martin Luther developed into the protagonist of a movement with major historical implications. 

The Castle Church in Wittenberg
The Castle Church in Wittenberg (Photo: Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt)

An eminent role in the church, in science and culture 

Apart from Martin Luther, other eminent figures also left their traces behind in the city, for example the scholars Philipp Melanchthon and Johannes Bugenhagen, as well as the painter Lucas Cranach. Their houses and monument can be found along the so-called "historical mile" of the Schlossstraße and the Collegienstraße.

Under the influence of the Protestant thinkers, the Leucorea University of Wittenberg, which was founded as late as in 1502, developed into one of the most renowned universities of Europe, making the city known all over the world. Until far beyond the 16th century, Wittenberg maintained an eminent role in the church, in science and culture. Since 1938, it is officially a Luther City; since 1996, the historical ensemble of the Castle Church, the City Church, the Luther House and the Melanchthon House belong to the UNESCO world heritage.

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