Germany, which is located in Central Europe, is deeply connected to the history of the Reformation. Its most prominent figure is undoubtedly Martin Luther. Especially from Central Germany, where Martin Luther actively spread the word throughout his lifetime, took off the movement, and the Reformed Church reached ever more people. Germany has been irrevocably shaped by the Reformation and it continues to influence the society, politics and culture.

Region Thuringia

Thuringia is situated in Central Germany and has been a showplace of many historically important events and movements. Today’s capital Erfurt invites tourists to stroll along the beautiful old town and to learn more about Luther’s time at the University of Erfurt. Reinhardsbrunn is situated in the Thuringian forest and is part of the Luther Trail. Many other sites invite to experience and discover different aspects of the Reformation.

Region Saxony-Anhalt

Saxony-Anhalt is neighboring Thuringia and yet another valuable and historically important area where the Reformation took place. With both the birth and death house of Martin Luther located in the federal state, it exemplifies the immeasurable value of this region.Tourists can experience the towns’ vibrant and lively old cities that are not only related to Martin Luther but also to other important personalities and historical events.

Destination Germany - A Journey through the night

Destination Germany - A Journey through the night

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Reformation in Germany

Central Germany is known as the core region of the reformation, the so-called ‘Land of Luther’ and the main setting for the Peasant War. The region is closely connected to the House of Wettin. The powerful dynasty ruled over the vast territories of today’s Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia around 1500.

In 1517, the Saxony electorate stepped onto the world stage as protector of the beginning Reformation. Main actor Martin Luther (1483-1546) was born in Eisleben and raised in Mansfeld, both in the area of Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt. He studied at the University of Erfurt from 1501 until 1505. Luther referred to the university, which was one of the most renowned universities in the country at that time, as his ‘truly nourishing mother’ (Alma Mater), to which he owes everything. Erfurt, which was known as one of the major cities for humanism, was at the top of the European intellectual life.

The struggle for theological direction of the Reformation started out in Erfurt. Luther believed that humans could only reach redemption through faith in a forgiving God and not through help by the churches (letter of indulgence) or good deeds (Werkgerechtigkeit). One can only lead a just life through Jesus Christ (solus Christus), the Holy Script (sola scriptura), mercy (sola gratia), and faith (sola fide).

The nailing of the 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg castle church on October 31, 1517, which is nowadays known as the starting point of the Reformation, led Elector Friedrich the Wise to become the protector of Luther, who had been working as a professor at the University of Wittenberg since 1512.

The powerful dynasties of Central Germany, with the Ernestinian electorate Saxony at its top, took on the new religious denomination between 1525 and the mid-1600s. They favoured the from Luther authorized appointment of supreme bishops and the establishment of the regional churches and used it for their early advances into statehood. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 stated under the rule of Cuius regio, eius religio (Owner of the Land, Owner of the Religion) that the territorial sovereign can choose the religion for his subjects. Supported by unrest such as the Pfaffenstürmen on monasteries and churches, the Reformation took on speed and turned central Germany into the protestant cultural sphere of Central and Northern Europe.

Luther did not intend for the far-reaching consequences his initial idea had brought with it. Radicalized groups requested social consequences and found strong support for their ideas and requests. Luther’s colleague from Wittenberg, Prof. Andreas Bodenstein (nicknamed Karlstadt) attempted to spread his ideas as a pastor in Orlamünde (south of Jena) in 1523-24. Luther was not pleased and supported his eventual banishment. Thomas Müntzer, a theologist from Stolberg (Harz region), belonged to the Wittenberger group of Reformers since 1517 and acted as a preacher in Zwickau (1520/21) and Allstedt (1523/24,) based on Luther’s recommendation. Shortly after, Müntzer began to deviate from Luther’s theological ideas and began to intertwine his teachings with personal experience that put the Holy Ghost on the centre stage.

Up until the 20th Century, Protestantism dominated most parts of Central Germany with often times more than 90% amongst the population. The protestant faith was closely interlinked with the worldly power through the Staatskirchenwesen (State-Church System).

The November Revolution of 1918 marked an important break with the ending of the monarchies. Independent regional churches with regional bishops evolved. These were the predecessors of today’s three main regional churches: the Protestant Church of Central Germany (Magdeburg/Erfurt), the Protestant-Lutheran Regional Church of Saxony (Dresden), and the Protestant Regional Church of Anhalt (Dessau- Roßlau). There are some other smaller communities of protestant faith. The anti-clerical dictatorships during the ‘Era of the Extreme’, the Third Reich and the GDR, led to a clear minority of today’s protestant communities.