Though we did not come during Germany’s famous Christmas markets, Germany is a great place to visit any time of year. After a good night’s sleep in Berlin following a full day of sites and experiences, our group of 28 travelers crossed the Elbe River and headed to the historic town of Wittenberg.
Wittenberg is one of the smaller towns located on the river Elbe and was the launching point for the Protestant Reformation. Martin Luther lived and taught in the city for 36 years.
Other reformers left their mark on this city, as well. Unlike many other historic German cities during World War II, Wittenberg’s city center was spared destruction. It felt like stepping back in time!
We began our two-and-a-half hour guided tour through the old town and had the best time. We missed the tourist high season and had much of the town to ourselves.
It was a crisp 60-degree day without a cloud in the sky as we strolled along a romantic road comprised of ancient cobblestone streets. The painted shops and traditional German architecture were worth visiting.
Our first stop was the Lutherhaus (Luther House) not far from the main square. When the University of Wittenberg opened in 1503, the Augustine monks were given land to build a monastery. In 1507, after being ordained as a priest, Martin Luther lived in the monastery until in 1521, when he was forced to hide in Wartburg Castle to preserve his life and continue his work.
In 1524, after Luther had returned to Wittenberg, the abandoned monastery was given to him as his home. He lived there until his death in 1546. The Lutherhaus is now the world’s largest Protestant Reformation museum. On display are Luther’s pulpit, his monk’s habit, his Bible, and many priceless papers, manuscripts, and pamphlets.
One of the side entrances to the Lutherhaus contains a portico containing two stone seats which was a gift from Katie Luther to her husband Martin. Above one seat carved into the stone is a likeness of Martin Luther and above the other seat is the Luther rose.
The living quarters of Martin and Katie Luther have been beautifully preserved. The rustic wooden table, chairs in the window where they would catch up on the day’s events, and massive black iron heater. Such rich history!
Martin Luther’s Tomb
Four days after Luther’s death in Eisleben, he was buried in front of the pulpit in the Castle Church. Next to Martin Luther’s grave is the resting place of his friend and fellow reformer, Philipp Melanchthon.
He is laid to rest under a low stone marker right under beautiful stained glass windows. As I taught our group who sat in the pews, the sun shone through the stained glass and cast beautiful colors on the floor around his marker.
St. Mary’s Church (Stadtkirche)
St. Mary’s Church is often considered the mother church of the Reformation for hosting the first German mass and the first ever distribution of the bread and wine to the congregation. From here, Martin Luther preached his eight famous ‘Invocavit Sermons” in the church.
We enjoyed lunch in nearby restaurants since we had enough time and strolled to the historic Castle Church. Construction of the Castle Church was completed in 1525 by Frederick the Wise. The church is most famous as the site where Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses.
In 1760, the church was destroyed by a fire resulting from an attack during the Seven Years’ War. The wooden doors on which Luther had posted the Theses were destroyed in the fire. In 1858, King Frederick Wilhelm IV of Prussia replaced them with commemorative bronze doors weighing 2,200 pounds each.
Displayed above the doors is a painting depicting Martin Luther holding a German Bible and Melanchthon holding the Augsburg Confession. Both are kneeling at the cross.
We concluded our walking tour passed the town hall and city centre, then enjoyed a good time exploring the town on our own.
The Old Latin School
During our afternoon free time, several of us visited the Old Latin School, which was built in 1564 as the city school for boys. It is managed by the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg as a non-profit organization in partnership with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.
The Old Latin School sits directly adjacent to St. Mary’s Church (Stadkirche) where Martin Luther and other reformers preached a life-changing message of grace alone, faith alone, through Christ alone. Stemming from the new approach to education being taught by the Wittenberg reformers, the Old Latin School. The church and school were truly central birthplaces of the Reformation.
Special Ministry Connection
By the grace of God, I have a special ministry connection to the Old Latin School. Through WordRus ministries in Eurasia, several of my Bible studies have been translated into Ukrainian. As only God can orchestrate, the Old Latin School is currently housing many Ukrainian refugees. During our afternoon break, several in our group walked over to the school to meet Netalyia, who not only runs the school but is a Ukrainian refugee herself.
A Cambridge-educated teacher, she is proficient in English and has been a huge blessing for the refugees as she helps them with their required paperwork and begins the process of teaching them English.
We met her 11-year-old son and 8-8year-old daughter and are amazed at their positive, gentleness after escaping the war that rages in their homeland right now. We had a chance to leave them a financial blessing and pray with them for God to continue blessing their work.
It’s a Good Idea to Visit Wittenberg
Although there are no fairytale castles here like the Neuschwanstein Castle, being in the epicenter of the Protestant Reformation is a thrill of a lifetime. This is a great spot to enjoy rich history and beautiful historic sites within walking distance! This is one of the most charming small towns and hidden gems that I have ever visited.
If you are traveling here, it is an easy road trip or day trip with an early start and train ticket from many locations. I highly recommend adding it to your Germany itinerary to step back into the Middle Ages. We had a great time!
And even though we were here in September, it would be a lovely trip during the sunny days of the summer months. If you prefer medieval towns to bigger cities, don’t miss out on Wittenberg on your next Germany trip.