One of the most famous names in Germany’s Christian history is undoubtedly Doctor Martin Luther. Whether he is a spiritual leader or just a person of interest to you, you may want to consider visiting Luther’s homeland in Germany and seeing the places where the birth pangs of the Reformation occurred. Wittenberg is a beautiful old town, and one with many things to see and explore. For those who like history, architecture, famous people, or scenery (or all four), Wittenberg is definitely a great choice for the aspiring traveler.
One of your first stops should be Castle Church; this is the place where Martin Luther posted the famous paper known as the 95 Theses (edicts and belief systems he believed needed to be cleansed within the Catholic Church). The few people who could read the Latin of the day spread the word, and others began making copies on Germany’s new printing presses and getting the message of the Reformation swiftly across the European front. Castle Church (known in German as Schlosskirche, which means Castle Church) is valued for more than the 95 Theses, of course. Its appearance is stunning, with its huge walls and high medieval towers. Rivaling many other churches in Europe for its architecture, the Castle Church is a great place to soak up the history of Wittenberg. You will probably read that the current church door is not the same one on which the Theses once hung; fire destroyed what may have been the most historic door in Europe, and it was replaced.
Check out the Rathaus; no, it’s not a place where rats have a party, but rather a government construction that should not be missed when traveling in the region of Saxony-Anhalt. The stunning architectural elements make it one of the city’s most beautiful buildings, but then again, most of Wittenberg’s houses have a touch of beauty. Anywhere you walk in the main part of the city you should be able to find the tall, thin, many-storied houses that Germany is famous for. At times you may even find them in unique colors like coral or yellow. One particular word would describe Wittenberg very well: charming. If you are traveling in the square you will see a stately Martin Luther statue calming regarding the city. It seems fitting that he looks over the place he once called home. Philipp Melanchthon, Luther’s colleague in Germany’s troubled Reformation era, also stands over the square, immortalized in bronze statuary.
Since Martin Luther was an Augustinian monk before breaking from the monastery and trying to reform the Church, it seems eerily fitting that the home where he spent much of his married life was a former cloister. One of the first views you will see of the Black Cloister is of a gothic-looking building that in some places resembles a church, sporting many windows. The building has a severe yet graceful effect. It was constructed in the early 1500s but when the religious community went elsewhere, Martin Luther and his wife Katharina von Bora were allowed to take up residence in the building. Here they raised their children. You might want to take notes of certain odd little things you will see at Lutherhaus (or Lutherhalle, depending on where you look). For one thing, one of the towers has a small but gilded clock as a decoration. You will also notice oddly shaped windows and even dormer-style windows peeking out from the roof.
Another religious side-trip that should not be missed is the Stadtkirche. “Stadtkirche” is German for City Church. Its proper title is Marienskirche and it was named for St. Mary. Although the majority of the current structure is from the late 15th century, certain parts were built during the Middle Ages in the 1200s and 1300s; thus, there are no other buildings in Wittenberg that can claim such a long time span. The entrance to Stadtkirche is made of stone, soaring and ominous. Twin towers connect a middle span of stone where visitors enter Wittenberg’s most historic church. Coincidentally, Martin Luther’s favorite place to share his sermons was probably within these very walls. Inside the church you will find simple pews contrasted with huge vaulted archways, beautiful artwork, and probably many other visitors appreciating this chunk of Germany’s history. Try to visit at a time when it doesn’t seem there will be many people, so you can properly soak in the ambiance.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer