Germany’s Luther Routes – Reformation and Cultural Heritage

May 31, 2016

Martin Luther now synonymous with the reformation of the church in Europe, having been involved with the growth of Protestantism and rejection of the medieval Catholic Church across western Europe and Scandinavia, but particularly in Germany.

The impact of the reformation is still felt to this day, and you can find traces of its influence in many unusual places around Germany, as well as the more obvious locations such as Wittenberg, where Luther spent many years. 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, this is the latest route, which demonstrates the cultural heritage of the era.

Martin Luther spent several years at school in Eisenach. Years later, he would spend time in the nearby Wartburg Castle. It was here that he found time to translate the New Testament into German. From there, it’s a short trip to visit the Luther family home in Möhra, which is now open for visitors, and nearby is the town of Schmalkalden, famous for the Schmalkaldic League, which was a defensive alliance of Lutheran princes across the Holy Roman Empire during the 16th century. The city is also known for its romantic mediaeval architecture and the wonderful Wilhelmsburg Palace.

Not far from here is the town of Mühlhausen, where the reformer and leader of the peasants’ revolt Thomas Müntzer was executed in 1525. You can learn more about him at the Müntzer memorial in St. Mary’s Church, the second-largest hall church in the state of Thuringia. Speaking of Thuringia, Luther was a student at the university in Erfurt, which was dubbed the ‘Rome of Thuringia’, and he later entered the Augustinian monastery here in 1505, making it an important place to visit in order to contextualise Luther’s education and the impact it had on his view of the church.

Luther often stayed in Weimar, preaching many sermons in the town too, and this is a city which has had an incredible influence on European history, having also been the home of the failed German government which led to the Second World War. The city is also home to the most famous portrait of Luther, and now his defining image, by the great Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder. Cranach’s Damnation and Redemption is also display at the Herzogliches Museum in Gotha. This famous piece was probably created in collaboration with Luther himself.

Our last stop is nearby Altenburg, where Luther’s friend and ally Georg Spalatin resided, and which was an important strategic point during the Reformation. The palace there is now a popular visitor attraction, and will help give you a deeper appreciation for the areas where Luther spent long periods of his life.

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