An April 2003 trip
to Lutherstadt Wittenberg by kjlouden
Quote: Luther’s home (a former monastery), the "Mother Church of the Reformation" (where Protestantism was first preached) and Wittenberg Castle Church (where Luther is buried)--add plenty of commentary in English and more Lucas Cranach paintings than anywhere else, and the excitement of the Protestant Reformation comes to life.
The main street Collegienstrasse is replete with sites that bring the narrative to
life. Walking from the rail station, we first encountered Lutherhaus and took time to read all literature on displays (allow 1.5-2 hours) to become familiar with Luther’s friends, foes and chronology. Continuing up the street, we found the "Mother Church" (Stadtkirche) behind Market Square, and Schlosskirche with Wittenberg Castle at the end of the street, where Luther nailed his "95-Thesis" on the door.
Our stops pieced together the time, place, and people of the Reformation, not just Luther,
but his best friend Philipp Melanchthon, noted reformer in his own right. His home is next to Lutherhaus, and Lucas Cranach’s is on the square. Melanchthon, Cranach, Friedrich the Wise, and Katharina von Bora (Luther’s "perfect wife") figure in
all narratives and are represented in statuary and paintings. Lutherstadt is the
place to learn more about Cranach the Elder, as he was Court Painter here, as well as
Mayor, printer, and businessman. Every place in town is loaded with his works.
Visitor Info is across from the Castle and has audio programs for self-guided and guided tours, so anyone starting at that end of the street can choose from "famous people," "architecture," or "parks/city walls." There is even a tour about Philipp Melanchthon, who is buried next to Luther in Schlosskirche.
For those who need a hotel in town, the brand new Best Western Stadtpalais on Collegienstrasse looks charming and is less than 80 euros. It's a great location, and I didn't see any other large chains in the Altstadt.
We arrived on the ICE train from Leipzig to Berlin’s main station Zoologischergarten, then down one level for the subway to Potsdamer
Platz. The hotel was only a block to the left. The entire area is new, developed since Reunification, and a great neighborhood for strolling after dark. Shops, eateries, Daimler-Chrysler’s new musical theater, an Omnimax -- all this and upscale residential buildings, too, create a "downtown" atmosphere in this suburb of the "New Berlin."
Front desk was efficient, hospitable, and spoke English. Our room had two strong suits: it was free (Hyatt’s "Faster Free Nights" promo again), and the marble bath was outrageous! The shower enclosed with glass was larger than most full hotel baths and incorporated tub, shaving mirror, and stool on heated marble floor. The vanity area with glass shelves on the walls displayed more of Hyatt’s "Portico" brand supplies than I’ve ever been offered, and a ceiling-to-floor wood closet opposite the vanity had room for our carry-on bags, plus blankets and bathroom scales (another Hyatt "homey" touch).
"Hyatt Home" continued into our sleeping room, where more glass shelves above our hospitality area displayed a lovely vase, other decor items, some fruit, a metal pot with hotplate for warming water, an assortment of coffees, teas, and snacks, even books! The fridge was recessed into the hallway wall (out of the way), and the opposite wall was filled with more mirrored wood cabinetry than we would need for a month’s stay. The room was large with desk, chair, and ottoman. Everything was immaculate and perfect!
The view seemed very "Berlin." Twin gold buildings with seeming concave-slope roofs rising to sharp points were curiousity pieces, somewhat of a contrast to the warm "New Berlin" of minimalist indulgence Grand Hyatt exemplifies, but the greatest contrast was ahead in the 800-year-old buildings of Lutherstadt/Wittenberg, 1.5 hours by ICE.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 6, 2003
Grand Hyatt Berlin
Marlene Dietrich Platz 2
Attraction | "Lutherhalle/Lutherhaus"
Inside, room after room is filled with artifacts and art: Luther’s last monk’s robe, his Bible with handwritten margin notes, part of the pulpit (removed from
Stadkirche) from which he first preached Protestant Doctrine, kitchen items,
weapons, tools, desk, bed, stove, and more. At least Luther's room here is of UNESCO World Heritage designation. Commentary in English adds details: his love for Katharina, their family life, his friendship with Melanchthon, and his privileged and fortunate association with the Elector Friedrich the Wise, who stalled representatives from Rome when the Pope insisted he "outlaw" Luther, the customary civil action following papal excommunication. In sly defiance, Friedrich arranged to have the reformer disguised as ordinary monk and transported to Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, now a few hours by train.
It’s an inspiring story the walls tell, especially the beginning of church after church to preach Luther’s doctrine for him while he was in hiding. No more papal pardons or dispensations only the rich could afford! Man’s relationship with Christ becomes
personal! Exit the priest as go-between! And, clergy can marry and raise families for the community to emulate, as Luther and Katharina did in 1525. With this, the stranglehold of the Roman Church since the fall of the Roman Empire was broken--well, perhaps the story continues . . . .
I left Lutherhalle with an understanding of the life and importance of the reformer and his
friends. "Scenes" enabled me to invision Luther, the teacher, where he liked to meet with his students at night and Luther, the family man, where he had dinner with his wife and children. The house seemed full of the guests who came to discuss the status of new ideas and current events. Some rooms have been preserved with little alteration, so old
one must walk through on a platform so as not the disturb the wide plank floors; others have been restored good as new. The monastery ceilings are wonderful in the new part, and some of the old has interesting wallpaper. Cranach paintings and paintings and statuary by other artists illustrate the characters, places, and events particular to the Reformation. It’s a good tour (5 euros) with storyline important to the history of Western Civilization. Lutherhaus is closed Mondays.
Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany
This is the church where Luther nailed his "95-Theses" to the door in 1517 and thereby
launched the Reformation. The historical significance of this act is commemorated by
UNESCO with its designation of Schlosskirche as a World Heritage Site. Burned in the
fire, the original doors were replaced in 1858 with bronze ones that bear the text of the
Theses in Latin. They are protected with iron fencing, and the entrance is further along.
We walked all around the church and castle and enjoyed the grounds and saw the stairs in
back to a hostel. We didn’t visit the Castle, but noted that the restaurant there looked like
an inviting spot. From the back, we had a good view of the roof of the church, one of
those colorful tile roofs that command notice.
Inside, we were astounded by Germanic beauty. Walls of stone with decorative carving
revealed just a touch of inlaid color repeated in the high ceiling and along the carved
balcony railings with inlain family crests. The stained glass was especially beautiful and
curved around the altar and continued throughout the church with less color. The altar of
carved stone was ornate with statuary in lieu of painting on canvas, which must have been
burned in the fire. Alabaster statuary lined the vestibule. The church is an aesthetic
treasure as well as a historic one.
Schlosskirche is open 7 days until 4pm November through April and until 5:00
May through October. Her sharp, black Germanic spire can be seen a few blocks away
down Collegienstrasse, which apparently turns into Friedrichstrasse, the proper address.
We thought it was all one street and had no trouble finding all the Luther sites lined up in a straight line on the same street. There is no admission, except for a pittance for guided tours.
Schlosskirche or Castle Church
Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany
Attraction | "Stadtkirche, a World Heritage Treasure"
The most striking piece of artwork is the altar by Lucas Cranach the Elder, which was on
display, but probably not in its usual place. It was stupendous and bright with bold
colors, but not showcased, moved to the side while some restoration work was being
accomplished. The restoration of the interior was not major and certainly did not deter
the crowd. A church for the stadt, "city,"--translate "commoners"--it has surfaces
that require routine painting and sprucing up. Still, a sense of awe assured a quiet crowd
today, large, but orderly as they circumnavigated the walls in counter-clockwise fashion.
We were surprised at the number of visitors on April 6th, out of season and with an
unexpected snowstorm with biting winds making that walk from the rail station a tad
uncomfortable, but we were glad we hadn’t waited until summer, when the site must be
Near the altar, I tried to imagine the position of that pulpit I had seen at
Lutherhaus, but the structure was a little confusing. Looking back to where the
congregation would have sat, I wondered what kind of idealistic rabble-rousers these
Wittenbergers had been to defy Roman authority and cherish "blasphemous" doctrine
even while its author was being hunted like a common criminal. The congregation here,
as well as their reformer, deserved recognition for their conviction and bravery. (Thanks
to this congregation and others, Luther’s ideas were well-established as the new doctrine
by the time he came out of hiding in Wartburg Castle.)
A separate room off to the left of the altar had more artwork and artifacts, including more
of Cranach’s paintings. We were told not to take pictures, but I couldn’t resist at least
one of the interior and snapped one of the entrance on the way out. Some Scaffolding on
exterior walls announced that this World Heritage treasure would be more beautiful next
time. For today, the greatest story ever told in eastern Germany would reveal its climax
at Schlosskirche, further up Collegienstrasse, where Luther and Melanchthon are buried.
Stadkirche is open seven days from November through April until 4pm and from May
through October until 5pm. Admission is free.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 7, 2003
Stadkirche St. Marien
Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany
West Virginia, United States