Wittenberg has gained another Luther attraction: the panorama “LUTHER 1517” takes visitors to the town on the Elbe on a journey to the age of the Reformation.
With LUTHER 1517 to the age of the Reformation
The peddler of indulgences is in town. Sitting on a bench, he hands out letters of indulgence as a lady inserts her coins into the Tetzel box, which is watched over by two guardsmen. Next to her a visibly relieved man holds up one of the coveted letters for inspection. Behind them stands an apparently endless queue of people waiting to swap sins for indulgence in exchange for cash. We are in the Wittenberg of the early sixteenth century. The scene described is part of the 360° panorama “LUTHER 1517 – FAITH, KNOWLEDGE, SELF-DETERMINATION” on display from today (22.6.2017) in Lutherstadt Wittenberg. It was designed by the artist Yadegar Asisi, whose rotundas in five cities, including Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin, have already captivated hundreds of thousands. For the anniversary of the Reformation he has now come to Wittenberg.
Wittenberg in the sixteenth century
“This work is an attempt to get near to an age that seems so distant and yet has so many parallels to the present,” explains Asisi. At the centre of the 15x75-metre circular painting he has depicted Martin Luther and his contemporaries. To this end, a scene unfolds before Wittenberg’s Castle Square ca. 1517. The viewer thus becomes witness to a hive of activity between the Castle Church, the town gate, the provost and the Amtsmühle mill. In the background stands the Town Church, surrounded by dark clouds.
As in his previous panoramas, Asisi compresses the picture’s content and juxtaposes historical personalities, topographical elements and architecture. LUTHER 1517 depicts a time span of around thirty years. The reformer Martin Luther appears in the painting several times: discussing his theses in front of Wittenberg’s Castle Church surrounded by Dominican and Augustinian monks, a few metres further he tears a letter of indulgence from a woman’s hand, while in another scene he stops Thomas Müntzer, a lone figure opposing the Elector of Saxony on horseback. Homage to Luther as the “prince’s servant”? The two reformers are joined by contemporaries such as Frederick the Wise, Philipp Melanchthon, Lucas Cranach, Katharina von Bora, and Ernst von Wettin along with nobles, peasants and craftsmen.
Attention to detail
LUTHER 1517 conveys an atmospheric impression of an entire epoch in which the diverse pictorial elements act in perfect harmony. Hence the project’s patron, Margot Käßmann, says that the panorama is part of the “core of the World Exhibition on the Reformation”. In her opinion, it also appeals to people who would otherwise not relate to the Reformation. “The people will see this town differently again,” says the ambassador of the Reformation. The panorama provides a low-threshold approach to the Reformation, not least because it is not only about the Reformation itself. Rather it documents the everyday life of Wittenberg’s citizens at the time. Peasants haul their harvest to the mill while the procession passes them. On the other side of the painting, craftsmen load barrels filled with paper, and six metres up a merchant holds a diamond to the sun shining behind the Castle Church.
It is this extraordinary attention to detail that makes the monumental panorama such an attraction: there is a man relieving himself behind a house, dogs, cats and goats are running around, in a garden ladies in waiting are playing with a ball by a fountain. Even the puddle before the town gate reflects the face of a passerby. The more often and the longer you look at the scene, the more you discover. Through sound and light effects the viewer can experience the change from day to night and feel transported back to the events around 1517.
The project, developed in cooperation with the association Reformationsjubiläum 2017 e. V. and Lutherstadt Wittenberg, can be seen in the newly constructed exhibition rotunda for at least five years. It is run by the not-for-profit organisation Luther 1517 GmbH. Half a million visitors are expected for the anniversary of the Reformation in 2015. In the following years, annual numbers of 150,000 to 200,000 are projected. The project’s costs are reported to run to four and a half million euros.
Keywords: Asisi Panorama, Luther 1517, Panorama in Wittenberg, Reformation