Germany’s Luther Routes – Heartland of Luther’s Legacy

April 1, 2016

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Martin Luther is perhaps the most famous figure when it comes to the reformation of the church in Europe, being involved with the growth of Protestantism and rejection of the medieval Catholic Church across western Europe and Scandinavia.

There are 8 tourist routes across Germany which tell the story of Martin Luther’s life, and help us see the theological and religious impact that he had across the country. The first of these is the Heartland of Luther’s Legacy route which takes us to Eisleben and Wittenberg, two of the most important places in Luther’s life.

This route begins in Berlin, and where better to learn about Martin Luther’s impact on the church than in the city’s cathedral?

Berlin Cathedral is one of the most striking and easily distinguished buildings in the city, dominating a large part of the skyline, and its story is one of constant renovation and reinvention. Originally a small parish church built in the 1400s, it was reformed by Martin Luther in 1539, before being rebuilt completely in 1747. Since then it has been redesigned, torn down, rebuilt and destroyed by allied forces in the Second World War. The cathedral which stands today was rebuilt in 1975, including a statue of Martin Luther himself.

Just outside of Berlin, Potsdam is another area rich in history, including St Nicolas’ Church If the building – and particularly the dome – looks familiar, then that’s because the architect who worked on St Nicolas’ Church is Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who also worked on Berlin Cathedral. These days the church is open for visitors and normal church services continue as normal, as well as concerts and other events.

One of the most famous events of the Reformation was Martin Luther nailing his “95 Theses” document to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg, which is more commonly referred to as Castle Church. Although there is no evidence to suggest that Luther actually did nail his theses to the door of Castle Church, the legacy of the event is felt throughout the city, with the area now being considered a cradle of the Reformation, and referred to as Lutherstadt Wittenberg.

In Wittenberg you’ll find Luther’s former home, which is probably the world’s largest museum dedicated to the history of the Reformation, as well as the Church of St Mary where Luther preached and gave Holy Communion for the first time. Luther’s grave is located at Castle Church, and is a site of pilgrimage for Protestants every year.

Eisleben, the site of Luther’s birth and death, hosts a celebration every year to celebrate his birthday, and the house where he died provides a fascinating insight into how people lived in the time between the Middle Ages and the Modern Age. The houses where Luther was born and died were both granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996. Just outside of Eisleben is Salle, where his body was held overnight before being transported to Wittenberg, here you can see his death mask and a cast of his hands.

Finally, head to Magdeburg, where Luther spent time both as a schoolboy and as an outspoken and fiery preacher. Visit the Augustinian Church and St John’s Church, where Luther gave sermons regularly, to learn more about the Reformation, before heading home with a new-found expertise on the life and times of one of European theology’s most important figures.

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1 comment on “Germany’s Luther Routes – Heartland of Luther’s Legacy”

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