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Reformation everywhere – the programme for the anniversary year of 2017 A small selection of the events celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation

The first New Testament in Korean
The first New Testament in Korean, 1887. (Photo: © Bodleian Library, Oxford)

2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, with an abundance of exhibitions, conferences, panel discussions, readings and celebrations examining its international impact.

The Reformation was not only a German event, something which was brought into focus in 2016 with a theme year on Reformation and One World. Of course, the main emphasis of the events is still on Germany. It was from here that the crucial impulses for the Reformation emanated. In 2017, the country is celebrating the anniversary of the Reformation with a wide array of activities. Here we provide an overview of a small selection of the many events:

The National Special Exhibitions

Over the course of the year, three National Special Exhibitions will shed light on various aspects of the history of the Reformation. The first will be held by the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin, with its exhibition “The Luther Effect. Protestantism – 500 Years in the World” from 12 April–5 November. Many outstanding exhibits from around the world will be on display in an exhibition covering 3,000 square metres.

A few days later, on 4 May, the second National Special Exhibition, “Luther and the Germans”, opens at Wartburg Castle in Eisenach. It was here that Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German, ultimately laying the foundations for a standard German written language. The exhibition examines the leitmotifs of the Reformation as well as the various images of Luther in different periods of German history.

 The third National Special Exhibition takes place from 13 May to 5 November in Lutherstadt Wittenberg. The double exhibition “Luther! 95 People – 95 Treasures” presents 95 people and their relationship with Martin Luther, thereby examining 95 approaches to the historical figure and asking what the reformer means to us today. But it also wrestles with Martin Luther himself, in an attempt to free him from five centuries of historical reception. This is achieved via the “95 treasures”, outstanding loans from home and abroad. Exhibits include Martin Luther’s private Bible, on loan from the castle Veste Coburg, archaeological finds from the stations of his life and his will written in his own hand from the year 1542. Tickets for the exhibitions can already be pre-booked. A combined ticket is also available.

The former prison in Wittenberg
The former prison in Wittenberg has been transformed into an exhibition room. (Photo: epd-bild/Rolf Zöllner)

Other exhibitions

Several other exhibitions complement the National Special Exhibitions, including the Bavarian State Exhibition “Ritter, Bauern, Lutheraner” at the castle Veste Coburg, where visitors can discover what life was like in both town and country around 1500. The exhibition focuses on the splendour of the princely courts, the life of knights, the Peasants’ War and the debate concerning the path to salvation. Jüterbog, which hosted the conference “Tetzel – Indulgence – Purgatory” in 2016, is offering an exhibition under the same name in 2017. The Braunschweigisches Landesmuseum in Brunswick and the Ruhr Museum in Essen are also holding exhibitions on the Reformation.

 For the documenta in Kassel, the anniversary of the Reformation provides the context for the question as to the relationship between autonomous art and the Church in today’s world and how a free and open dialogue can benefit both parties. The exhibitions shaped by this question are running concurrently from 18 May to 17 September in the Karlskirche in Kassel, the St. Matthäuskirche in Berlin and in the Old Prison in Lutherstadt Wittenberg.

The Mayor of Wittenberg, Torsten Zugehör, the Special Envoy of the Evangelical Church in Germany for the Anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, Margot Käßmann, and the director of the registered association “Reformationsjubiläum 2017 e.V.”, Ulrich Schneider, present the designs for the seven “Gates of Freedom”. (Photo: epd-bild/

European Roadmap, World Reformation Exhibition and Kirchentag

The European Roadmap with its history truck has been travelling through Europe since November 2016. Along with several stations in Germany – such as Regensburg, Worms or Wartburg Castle – it will also visit towns in Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Ireland and Rome. At each station, regional and ecumenical partners invite visitors to a celebration and other events highlighting the local connection to the Reformation. At each station the truck also collects personal history that will shape the World Reformation Exhibition in Wittenberg, the final destination of the European Roadmap on 20 May.

The World Reformation Exhibition seeks to demonstrate that the Reformation is not an isolated event, but an international process of permanent change – affecting society beyond the boundaries of faith. Under the watchword “Gates of Freedom”, churches, cultural figures and cultural organisations share their thoughts on the subject of the Reformation in the 21st century in seven thematic areas. In the summer, the German Evangelical Kirchentag takes place in Berlin. The main event in the federal capital is supplemented by six “Kirchentage on the way” in Central German cities – Leipzig, Magdeburg, Erfurt, Jena/Weimar, Dessau-Roßlau and Halle/Eisleben – with an ecumenical service on Ascension Day. On 28 May all the guests and participants will head to Wittenberg, where a festive service marking the summer of the Reformation will be held on the Elbwiesen.

The Chairman of the Catholic German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx (left) and the Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Landesbischof Heinrich Bedford-Strohm. (Photo: Norbert Neetz/epd-bild)

Music and Ecumenism

Along with exhibitions there are also many concerts and stage productions marking the anniversary of the Reformation. There is something for every taste: “Luther – the Pop Oratorium”, a choir project with 1,500 to 2,500 choristers (depending on the location), several concerts, such as “Epoches and Episodes” as part of the Rhineland-Palatinate Summer of Culture or Giacomo Meyerbeer’s opera “The Huguenots. A further highlight is the Deutsche Oper’s staging of “The Prophet in Berlin, another Meyerbeer opera. The Frauenkirche Year of Music in Dresden is also honouring the Reformation with several concerts.

Of course, the anniversary of the Reformation could not be celebrated without continuing the rapprochement between the Protestant and Catholic Churches. Indeed, it is the first time that both confessions have celebrated the anniversary together. With the Pope having held a service together with Lutherans in October, a penance and reconciliation service  will take place in Hildesheim in March. The service will be jointly led by the Chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx, and the Chair of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany, Landesbischof Dr. Heinrich Bedford-Strohm.

The brochure for the anniversary year of 2017 is available to download as a PDF.

Further programme information can be found in the event calendar.


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