Luther Travel

Journey Together: The Life and Times of Martin Luther

Luther and „his“ Reformation: a turning point in history

It was the 31 october 1517 that Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses to the door of All Saints‘ Church in Wittenberg – the hour of birth of the Reformation.

Luther denied the concept that freedom from the punishment of God for a sinful life could be purchased with money. By refusing to revoke his idea, he was excommunicated by the Pope and condemned as unprotected by law by the Emperor. Luther had to hide for a while. But Luther had powerful friends –  the electoral prince of Saxony, Frederick the Wise, arranged a fake kidnapping and Luther lived for the following year disguised as Squire George („Junker Jörg“). He used this time to translate the New Testament from ancient Greek into German.

Luther never wanted to divide the church. He only wanted to reform the Roman Catholic system. But the genie was out of the bottle already …

Lutherdenkmal Eisleben
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The Life and Achievement of Martin Luther

Martin Luther - a farmer´s son

Luther´s father was a social climber – diligent, persistent and tough. It has been a long time since his ancestor, the knight Wigand von Lüder was the ruler in Hessian Großenlüder. Hans Luther had to leave his Thuringian village Möhra if he did not want to remain a farmer until his death. He was interested in the prospering mining and went with his family to Mansfeld. The mining of copper promised wealth and success. It was an exhausting trip, Hans Luther´s wife was in full pregnancy.

Luther drops his studies in law and becomes a monk

Luther went on to study the law in Erfurt. This means a lot of grammar, rhetoric, dialectic, arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy -and the complete body of work by Aristoteles.

A thunderstorm changed all future plans. Or rather his father´s plans. On his way back from Mansfeld to Erfurt a massive thunderstorm surrounds him with the fear of death. He prays to stay alive. „Help me, St. Anne Help me! And I will become a monk.“ Luther survived the thunderstorm and kept his promise – much to the annoyance of his father.

On 17 July 1505 Martin Luther joined the Augustinian Hermit Monastery in Erfurt. Due to his fast advancement he became a deacon in February 1507 and a priest in April the same year.

Repentance became his main topic – repentance out of love and not out of fear. He began to study theology in Wittenberg and gained a doctorate in theology here. Wittenberg was the place where Luther perfected his idea: The Grace of God is a gift and not for sale, nor enforceable.

He now clearly understood the pompously and superficial rituals of the church. There was no path for him back.

God´s Grace ist not for sale: Luther and his 95 theses

Sale of indulgences was a huge business in the early 16th century. Notorious Johann Tetzels perfected it into an industry, even the souls of the dead can be freed with cash. Bureaucratic written down in an official letter of indulgence.

Luther critizices this „business“ by writing his famous 95 theses. On October 31 in 1517, Luther nails his 95 Theses to the door of the castle church of Wittenberg. The public debate takes place …

Vatican vs. Luther

Luther´s scandalous behaviour is reported to the Vatican. And Tetzel starts his counterattack. Things get complicated.

In June of 1518 Luther is summoned to Rome. He is accused of heresy. Luther realizes the danger and asks for a hearing on German ground by refering to his bad health. Elector Frederick the Wise of Saxony supports him, now and later.

In Augsburg Luther refuses to revoke his theses. This means he is guilty in the Court´s view. Frederick the Wise helps him again by preventing Luther´s extradition. Martin Luther escapes from Augsburg.

It´s a little breather for him, when Emperor Maximilan I. dies. By not repeating his theses, the trial takes a break.

Provoked by catholic theologian Johannes Eck, Luther joins the „Leipzig Disputation“ and risks his neck with reckless talk.

Things get dangerous. Johannes Eck compares him with the heretic Jan Hus, burned only 100 years before.

Luther: declared to be an outlaw
Reformation and Peasants War
The private life of Martin Luther
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Martin Luther: the places of living and work


This is where Martin Luther was born on 10 November 1483 and it is also the place where died 62 years later on 18 February 1546. Since 1946 Eisleben proudly calls itself ‘Lutherstadt Eisleben’.

In the autumn of 1483 Luther’s father arrived in Eisleben with his pregnant wife. As a farmer’s son who was not eligible to an inheritance, Hans Luder had been forced to leave Möhra in order to start a new life. Hans Luder intended to work in a mine as copper and silver had been mined in Eisenach since the beginning of the 13th century. When the Luders’ second son was born on 10 November 1483, they called him Martin as it was St. Martin’s Day. In the early summer of 1484 the family moved on to Mansfeld probably due to Hans Luder’s failure at taking up work as a miner. In Mansfeld, however, Hans Luder succeeded in getting work in a mine and they settled there.

Throughout his life Martin Luther kept returning to his place of birth, Eisleben. On 13 November 1516 he inaugurated the new choir of St. Anne’s Church, which was under construction at the time, and the Earl Albrecht of Mansfeld-Hinterort was a friend of his.

During the Peasants‘ War, in April 1525, Luther sped to help the Earls of Mansfeld. His influence should be used to prevent the miners to join the revolt. His writing titled ‘Exhortation to Peace on the twelve Articles of the Peasantry in Swabia’ dates back to this time. Those in power as well as the peasants are called to reconciliation: ‘… that an authority is evil and unjust does not justify forming gangs nor revolt.’

It is probable that Luther visited Eisleben frequently in the following years even though only his stay there from 28 January 1546 until his death on 18 February 1564 is vouched for. Following the pleas of the Earls of Mansfeld, he set off on 23 January in order to mediate in an inheritance dispute. He was accompanied by both of his sons. On the way he fell ill. Nevertheless, Luther took part in 90-minute negotiations every day about the dispute. On 16 February an agreement is reached and a contract is drawn up the following day. In addition, Luther preaches four times during these days in Eisleben, his last sermon on 14 February was interrupted due to his weakness. ‘I am too weak, this will have to be it.’ He appears to be aware of his nearing end: ‘When I am back home in Wittenberg, I will soon lie down in my coffin and provide the maggots with a meal of a plump doctor.’ In the morning of 17 February Luther is pessimistic: ‘I was born and baptised here in Eisleben. What, if I was meant to stay here?’ During the night his state gets worse and doctors are called. Unfortunately, they cannot help him and Luther passes away just before 3 am.

On 20 February his remains were taken to Wittenberg. The dignified procession was later described in the ‘Eislebischen Anzeigen’ of 1813 as follows: ‘In front of the corpse were the Prince Elector’s men and the two young Earls of Mansfeld on horseback, all in all about 65 horses. Following the remains was the widow of the deceased, her daughter with several matrons on a carriage, then Luther’s three sons, brothers, relatives, and citizens … People from the villages came running, men, women and children, displaying signs of serious sorrow.’

St. Andrew’s Church: It was here that Luther held his final sermon and where is remains were displayed. After the fire of 1489, the main parts of today’s church was built. The most important part of St. Andrew’s is the Luther Pulpit, where Luther stood when giving his last four sermons.

St. Anne’s Church: The choir was inaugurated by Martin Luther on 13 November 1516. Originally St. Anne’s was part of the Augustinian monastery, which Luther was in charge of as district vicar.

Augustinian Monastery: This monastery was only used for a short time. It was built in 1515 as an annex to St. Anne’s Church, in 1520 an Augustinian convent was held in the building and in 1522, shortly after, it was dissolved again.

Luther Memorial: The statue that was unveiled in 1883 shows Luther burning the Bull threatening him with the ban. The pedestal depicts the victory of the Reformation in allegorical images: Luther translating the New Testament in Wartburg Castle, Luther surrounded by his family and during his dispute with Dr. Eck.

Luther’s Birthplace: The house where Martin Luther was born never belonged to the family. It was inhabited by the family at the time of the birth, but a few weeks later the family moved on to Mansfeld. The original building burnt down during a fire in 1689. A new building – a so called memorial building – was erected in the same location on former Lange Gasse, today’s Lutherstrasse in 1693, but with differing size and room distribution. In 2007 a permanent exhibition about the life of the Luther family – ‘This is where I come from – martin Luther and Eisleben’ – was opened in the building.

Luther’s Death Place: The sign on the building at 7 Andreaskirchplatz reads: ‘In this house Dr Martin Luther died on 18 February 1546’. Most probably this is not true and the chateau (at 56 Markt) was the place where Luther died. The building that is called his death place was built after the town fire in 1498 and used to be the house of the town clerk. Since 1994 it serves as a museum. The room that was considered Luther’s death chamber for centuries is on the top floor.

Peter-Paul’s Church: In 1483 this church still was a building site, it was finished thirty years later. When Luther was baptised here a day after his birth on 11 November 1483, St Martin’s Day, only the chapel in the tower that had been completed in 1474 was available. It is said that the baptismal font was made using the remainders of the one which Luther was baptised at.


Luther’s father came from Möhra, his family had owned a farm there for several generations. As he was not the youngest and therefore not entitled to an inheritance, Luther’s father moved to Eisleben after his marriage to Margarethe Lindemann.

Most probably martin Luther frequently visited his relative, especially his grandmother in Möhra when he was attending school in the nearby town of Eisenach. His visit to Möhra on 4 May 1521 was documented. On this day he preached in the square next to the chapel. He described his origin with these words: ‘I am the son of a farmer, my father, grandfather, forefather were proper farmers.’

In 1861 a Luther memorial was erected in the square outside the church. It was initiated by Ludwig Bechstein, a collector of fairy-tales and legends, and created by court sculptor Ferdinand Müller. The reliefs on the pedestal tell us about significant events from Martin Luther’s life: posting the Theses on the church door in Wittenberg, the faked kidnaping through Frederick the Wise and his stay in Wartburg Castle as ‘Junker Jörg’. The open Bible in Luther’s hand proclaims on the left-hand page: ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.’ On the right-hand page words by Ludwig Bechstein are cited: ‘A memorial was endowed by you, Luther, and you engraved the holy tidings clearly and deeply into the marble plaques of history: That truth is eternal, that the Lord annuls all deception that is poisoning the world.’ As the idea for putting up the memorial was developed on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of Luther’s death in 1846, the pedestal bears the inscription: ‘To our Luther in his ancestors’ place 1846’.

Luther’s Ancestral House: The building seen today was – probably after a fire – erected in 1618 on the foundation walls of the house which Luther’s father was born in.


Erfurt’s old town is still one of the most intact medieval cities in Germany who survived World War II with very little damage. The perfect destination to travel back in time to experience the atmosphere of the early sixteenth century.

Tourist attractions are the Krämerbrücke (Merchants‘ bridge), the Erfurt Cathedral, the St Severus’s Church (Severikirche) and Petersburg Citadel.

In April or May 1501 Luther came to Erfurt, the university in this town was considered one of the most significant in the German-speaking area. He stayed at George’s Burse, a ‘Burse’ was shared student accommodation in the late Middle Ages, a little like today’s student halls, but with much stricter rules. Luther had to suffer various coarse student rituals, e.g. he had to wear a cap with donkey’s ears as a symbol of the ‘nonsense’ that was to be overcome by studying. At first Luther studied at the so called ‘artists’ faculty’ with its seven free arts (Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic, Arithmetic, Geometry, Music and Astronomy). Every student had to do this basic course and among other things Luther became familiar with the teachings of Aristotle. In 1505 Luther passed the examination and was allowed to call himself ‘magister artium’. Following his father’s wishes he continued his studies at the faculty of law, i.e. until 2 July 1505 when he was surprised by a heavy thunder storm near Stotternheim on his way back from his parents’ to Erfurt. This experience was to change everything: scared to death Luther pleaded to Saint Anna and Mother Mary: ‘Help me, Holy Anna, and I will become a monk!’ He kept this promise and on 17 July 1505 he entered the Monastery of the Augustinians-Hermits in Erfurt against his father’s will. Here he kept the strict rules of the order so thoroughly that he was ordained as deacon as early as 1507 and became a priest soon after. On 2 may 1507 he held his first Mass at the monastery’s church and became reconciled with his father that same day.

Augustinian Monastery: Martin Luther lived at this place as a monk from 1505 to 1511 and started his career as a priest here. The permanent exhibition ‘Bible – Monastery – Luther’ in the former dormitory informs about this period in Luther’s life. The display shows how Augustinian hermits lived and you can also visit Luther’s cell.

Erfurt Cathedral: Luther was ordained as a priest in this cathedral and in 1509 he gave his first theological lecture.

Luther Memorial: The six-metre high memorial created by Professor Fritz Schaper of Berlin was unveiled solemnly in the green in Erfurt in 1889. The location had been selected carefully: in 1522 he had mediated in a denominational conflict with a sermon held in the neighbouring church called Kaufmannskirche.

The Reformer holds an open Bible in his hands. In contrast to other Luther memorials, his facial expression is less militant, it is tender and dreamy. Possibly to point to the fact that Luther’s time in Erfurt was a period of learning for him. The pedestal shows three scenes from the life of the Reformer: Luther as a university student at the University of Erfurt, his admission to the Augustinian Monastery as well as his reception at the university on 6 April 1521 when he had become famous. At the front there is a citation from the Bible: ‘I will not die, but live, and tell of the works of the Lord.’

Old University Erfurt: The Collegium Maius in Michaelisstrasse is the main building of the Old University in Erfurt, which was founded in 1379 and existed until 1816. It was here that Martin Luther matriculated in 1501 at the age of 17 as ‘Martinus Ludher ex Mansfeldt’. In 1816 the Old University was closed by the Prussians, the Collegium Maius is currently used by the Evangelical Church of Central Germany. St. Michael’s Church, where Luther preached in 1522, is just opposite.

St. Michael’s Church: This church is one of the oldest in Erfurt and was built from 1278 to 1290 on the foundations of a patrician’s house. The lower floors of the Late Romanesque tower still reflect this. After the foundation of the University of Erfurt in the neighbourhood with its main building, the Collegium Maius, St. Michael’s became a university church in 1392.

Martin Luther regularly attended Mass at St. Michael’s during his studies from 1501 to 1505. Later on this church played a major part during the Reformation: in 1521 the first Protestant service ever to be held in Erfurt took place in this church.

On 21 October 1522 Luther himself preached at St. Michael’s. ‘A sermon held at St. Michael’s’ was the title of this sermon.

St. Michael’s houses the oldest bell in Erfurt called ‘Katharina’.

The oldest known Luther memorial: In Erfurt’s St. Andrew’s Church (at 14 Andreasstrasse) the wooden model of the later original bronze memorial plate is kept. (This memorial plate was made in Erfurt but never reached Wittenberg, its destination. It remained in Jena after the confusions of the Schmalkaldic War.) In a way this wooden maquette is the oldest existing Luther memorial.

The model is made from lime wood and its relief depicts Luther and the coat of arms with the Luther Rose. It is based on a wood carving by Lucas Cranach dating back to 1546.

Ruin of the Barfüßerkirche (Franciscan church): Near the green you will find the ruin of the Barfüßerkirche. Luther preached here on 11 October 1529 on his return journey from the Marburg Colloquy. The ruin of this church is considered to be a prime example of German mendicant order architecture and is home to the oldest glass paintings in Erfurt. In addition, you can see significant stone sculptures such as the memorial plate of Cinna von Vargula (deceased in 1370), the epitaph of Margareta von Myla (deceased in 1494), the Färber Altarpiece dating back to around 1420 as well as a double-winged altarpiece called Marienkrönungsaltar that dates back to 1446.

Collegium Marianum (Mainzerhofstrasse): The faculty of law was situated here, which Luther attended for a short period only due his experience during a thunder storm and entering a monastery in the summer of 1505. Luther also held his famous negotiations with one of his university lecturers, the scholastic scholar Jodocus Trufetter (who rejected Luther’s theories), in this building. A memorial plate was put up as a reminder.

Exhibition in the Municipal Museum: ‘Great years – on the threshold of the Reformation’ is the title of the permanent exhibition in Erfurt’s municipal museum (Johannesstrasse 169). The exhibition provides insights into the social conditions of the time when Luther came to Erfurt as a student – a time of upheavals – and what influence they had on him.

George’s Burse: This was the seventeen-year-old Luther’s student accommodation, which he moved into in 1501. George’s Burse, which was first mentioned in writing in 1456, was destroyed to a large extent during the bombings of 1945. The only still remaining building was restored in 1983. Today George’s Burse houses an educational community centre called ‘Georgenburse Erfurt – Studienort der Lutherzeit’ (George’s Burse Erfurt – Place of Study in Luther’s Time), the Evangelical St. George’s Fraternity’s Centre as well as a hostel for pilgrims on the top floor. On the ground floor there is a permanent exhibition dedicated to student life in the Middle Ages.

Luther Stone in Erfurt-Stotternheim: This is where the dramatic turn in Luther’s life took place. Seven kilometres to the north of Erfurt’s city centre a thunder storm surprised Luther on 2 July 1505. It terrified him and was the trigger for his entry into a monastery. In 1917 a memorial stone was unveiled in the location where the event most probably took place, the stone was provided by a citizen of Erfurt and is made from Swedish granite.


From 1498 to 1501, i.e. at the age of 15 to 24, Luther attended St. George’s parish school in Eisenach. He nicknamed this town ‘dear town’ and also ‘parsons’ nest’. With its nearly four thousand inhabitants, Eisenach was then home to over 300 priests and boasted seven monasteries, three churches and several chapels.

Twenty years later Luther returned to Eisenach. At this time he was already under the Papal ban. On his journey to the Diet of Worms he stopped off in Eisenach and preached there on 10 April 1521. On his way back from Worms he once again preached in Eisenach ignoring the local priest’s protests as he was not allowed to preach. On 2 May he gave a sermon to a crowd gathered in St. George’s Church. The fact that he had not denounced his teachings and had been declared an outlaw by Emperor Charles V and therefore was in great danger impressed his audience and they admired his courage.

However, it was the year Martin Luther spent in Wartburg Castle as ‘Junker Jörg’ that made Eisenach famous in connection with Luther. During a faked attack in the evening of 4 May 1521, Prince Elector Frederick the Wise had Luther kidnapped and taken to Wartburg Castle in order to protect him. Under the assumed name of ‘Junker Jörg’ Luther used the solitude to translate the New Testament onto German. This was the beginning of the famous ‘Luther Bible’. Before this there had been some issues of Bibles in German, but they had been based on the ‘Vulgata’, an error-stricken Latin translation of the Bible that had been considered the standard since Late Antiquity. Luther, however, based his translation on Hebrew and Greek original texts. Above all, he managed to adhere to his intention of using comprehensible and at the same time elegant language for his translation. He coined a wealth of phrases and sayings that have become an indelible part of everyday language and culture. Used by everyone, only few realize their origin.

St. George’s Church: Luther sang and attended Mass at this church when he was a student. St. George’s was also the church where he preached on 10 April and 2 May 1521 on his way to and from the Diet of Worms. Damaged during the Peasants’ War in 1525, the church was no longer used until it was renovated in 1560. This renovation gave it a Late Gothic appearance.

Luther Memorial: The bronze statue on a marble pedestal by Adolf von Donndorf was unveiled on 3 May 1895. Three of the four side reliefs show scenes from Luther’s life which are linked to Eisenach (Luther as a student singing; Luther translating the New Testament in Wartburg Castle; Luther hunting as ‘Junker Jörg’). The north side displays Luther’s life motto, the beginning of his best known hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress is Our God’. The figure itself is of Luther looking confident in his cassock and holding a Bible close to his chest.

Luther’s House: This is where Luther lived for some time when he was a student at St. George’s parish school. The impressive timber-framed building will be re-opened in September 2015 after extensive reconstruction work undertaken in view of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

Wartburg Castle: One of Germany’s best known castles and Eisenach’s most famous landmark. Erected in the 11th century by Ludwig the Springer and extended through the centuries, it brings together elements of the Romanesque and Gothic styles as well as of architecture of the 19th century. The most important place linked to Luther is his chamber. In this room he translated the New Testament and the legendary ink mark incident is said to have occurred here, too. Whether it was caused by the devil trying to keep Luther from his work provoking Luther to throw his ink pot at him, or the devil throwing the ink pot at Luther to stop him from translating the Bible, is not clear.


On 31 October 1517, Luther nailed his 95 theses – criticizing the selling of indulgences – at the door of the All Saints‘ (Schlosskirche). That event marks the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.