Luther's Birth Place

How Martin Luther's birthplace became one of the earliest Luther museums

By State Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt

State Chancellery and Ministry of Culture of Sachsen-Anhalt

Luther birthplace (late 17th century) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

Martin Luther was born in Eisleben on November 10, 1483. Very early on, the people of Eisleben cultivated the memory of the town's most important son in the house where he was born: as early as the end of the 17th century, a public museum for Luther pilgrims was built there. This makes the house the oldest memorial in the German-speaking world dedicated to a person.However, the late medieval half-timbered house was largely destroyed in a town fire in 1689. Subsequent renovation work gave the house, rebuilt as a Luther memorial, its present appearance. Since 2007, the historic building has been complemented by a modern new building and a visitor center.

Birthplace ensemble (2005) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The birthplace ensemble in a section of a city model of Eisleben after 1560.

Just one year after Martin Luther's birth in 1483, the Luder family moved to Mansfeld. There the mining conditions were better for the father, the miner Hans Luder.

Mallets and irons (around 1500) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

At the beginning of the 16th century, mining represented the most difficult, but also the most innovative part of the overall economy.

Figures of Nappian and Neuke (around 1500) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The working conditions were harsh, which is represented by the figures of Nappian and Neuke. It is the first plastic representation of the work in the mine in Central Europe.

Coat of arms of the Luder family (1893) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The Luder family coat of arms: Luther remained closely associated with them through the further development of the family coat of arms. Originally the Luder family had a coat of arms with two roses and half a crossbow. From this the Luther rose developed after 1517.

Luther rose (around 1517) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The Luther rose, originated from the Luder family coat of arms.

School for the poor (late 17th century) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

Luther always emphasized the importance of a solid elementary education and worked to ensure that girls as well as children from poorer backgrounds also had access. Thus, beginning in 1693, a school was operated in Luther's birthplace, which was open to all those who could not afford the school fees for the municipal school. Increasing numbers of students soon led to the construction of a new school building, thanks in part to donations and financial support from King Frederick William III of Prussia.

Birthplace Eisleben (2007) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

For Martin Luther, baptism was the most important event of his life, which he associated with Eisleben. View of the permanent exhibition in the birthplace.

Baptismal font (around 1518) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

A successor to Martin Luther's baptismal font.

Retable (around 1500) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The altar reredos from Eisleben's St. Spiritus Hospital was created around the time of Luther's birth. At that time, the wings were opened only on the high feasts.

Room photos birthplace Eisleben, Luther's living room (2007) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The permanent exhibition in the birthplace has taken on the task of staging the Luders' home with replicas. Visitors thus get an impression of how the family lived. The room layout of the hallway, heated parlor and unheated bedchamber follows the patterns of the time of Luther's birth.

Room photos birthplace Eisleben (1558 / 1563) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

Luther dealt with the issue of burial places and pleaded for a relocation of cemeteries to the gates of the city: "A burial should be a quiet fine place, [...], yes almost a holy place and there along the walls one could have such devotional pictures and paintings painted." Thus, epitaphs were placed under Schwibbögen by wealthy citizens. In the 19th century, most of the tombs were filled in and the remaining epitaphs from the 16th century were placed in Luther's birthplace.

Philipp Melanchthon (1693) by Christoph Ernst RotheOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The decoration of the "Schöner Saal" can be seen as the first step on the way to the museumization of the house. The walls are adorned with twelve life-size full-length portraits by the painter Christoph Ernst Rothe, including this one of Philipp Melanchthon.

Schöner Saal (beautiful hall) (before 2007) by Christoph Ernst RotheOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The beautiful hall: its decoration can be understood as the first step on the way to the museumization of the house. On display is the figure of a swan decorated with silver leaves made of lime wood. The walls are decorated with twelve life-size portraits by the painter Christoph Ernst Rothe.

Swan (symbol for Luther) (16th century) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The swan was a symbol of Luther, especially in the 16th to 18th centuries. According to legend, when the Czech reformer Jan Hus was burned as a heretic in 1415, he declared, "Today you burn a goose (from Czech husa for goose), but after me comes a swan, you can't burn it." Luther learned of this story and related the prophecy to himself.

Nuremberg Bible (1483) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

Luther was not the first to translate the Bible into German. This edition from 1483 appears particularly splendid. It is the second part of the Bible from the Proverbs of Solomon to Revelation.

Luther blesses the children (1817) by according to Carl Salomon WarmwoodOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The structural design of the birthplace was aimed at a multiple use of the house: the school for the poor was to honor Luther by taking up one of his concerns with the education of children. The large hall on the upper floor provided the setting for the ceremonial presentation of alms to the city poor, which took place every Sunday. In 1817, Carl Salomon Warmholz illustrated this multifunctionality by having a well-bodied Luther in the hall of 1693 distribute mild gifts to the needy children.

Martin Luther (1528) by Lucas Cranach the ElderOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

Bucher Epitaph (1558) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

Epitaph for the city bailiff Wolf Bucher. It shows the Passion and Resurrection of Christ in many individual scenes.

Brown glazed Jug (16th century) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The brown glazed roller jug comes from the building where Martin Luther died on February 18, 1546.

Gargoyle (16th century) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

This gargoyle in the shape of a dragon comes from Seeburg Castle on the 'Süßer See'. The ornate work of gilded sheet copper reflects the high level of metalworking craftsmanship in the county of Mansfeld.

Antependium (15th century) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The decoration of the churches also included antependia as a covering for the altars. Special textiles were used for them, here applications on woolen cloth.

Feuerlein Epitaph (1563) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

Epitaph for Georg Feuerlein. The subject here is the resurrection. Among those present are also the reformers. In the background, the St. Andrew's Church, the town graveyard and Seeburg Castle on the shores of the 'Süßer See' can be seen.

Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon (1617) by unknownOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The furnishings of the birthplace before the town fire of 1689 included this double portrait of Luther and Melanchthon as a Schwarzlot painting on glass.

Medal with Martin Luther and the swan (1617) by Christian MalerOriginal Source: Stiftung Luthergedenkstätten in Sachsen-Anhalt

The museum's collection also includes this commemorative silver medal. It shows the swan of the reformer.

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