Martin Luther felt duty bound to Eisleben and to mediate the disagreements that had existed between the Counts of Mansfeld for years. His first trip to Eisleben in October 1545 yielded no results and so the negotiations were to be continued in the following year. Luther set out from Wittenberg on January 23, 1546. This was his final journey.
The Reformer's Final Hours
“Luther’s Final Journey” tells of the Reformer’s last trip and his final days in Eisleben. It was on this difficult journey that Luther suffered a heart attack. Despite being weakened and with visibly diminished health, he still managed to fulfill his duties as an arbiter and give four sermons and ordain two priests.
Luther’s final hours were documented for the elector in great detail by his confidante, Justus Jonas. The report by Paul Luther, who was present at his father’s death, is particularly impressive. The painter Lukas Furtenagel completed a portrait of the deceased during the night of his death. These documents are preserved and are displayed as part of our collection.
Luther and Death
The exhibition uses numerous exhibits to show how Luther dealt with death and dying. What did Luther experience as a mourner? How did he handle his role as comforter and minister? What role did death play in Luther’s theology and how did it influence the culture of death of his time?
Doctors, carers for the terminally ill and theologians, who deal with death and dying in our time, discuss this existential question of the finite nature of life.
The Death Rooms
The most important rooms in the museum are the so-called “Death Rooms” which include Luther’s bedchamber and the death chamber. They were converted into a memorial in the late 19th century and furnished in the style of the 16th century by Friedrich Wilhelm Wanderer. The museum was reconfigured in 2013 and the items and furniture restored so that it can be experienced as Wanderer intended.
The death chamber is home to the main exhibit: the original pall that covered Luther’s coffin in 1546.
Plans for the Death House before the Renovation, 1863
Design Drawings for the Redesign, 1863
Out of all the Luther memorials, the Death House is possibly the most unusual. This is due to the confusion in the 18th century that led to the naming of an “old,” a “new,” a “real” and “false” Death House. The historic building on the Andreaskirchplatz, today’s museum, has been the place of remembrance of Luther’s death since the 19th century. The house was renovated in 2013 and expanded with a modern extension.
Timeline of House's History and Usage
Martin Luther died in Eisleben on February 18, 1546. Soon after, many pilgrims came to visit death chamber. Luther’s death bed, whose wood was said to do wondrous things for toothache, was destroyed by theologists from Halle in 1707 in an attempt to end the miracle worship. The Death House then faded into history.
During the search for Luther’s Death House in the 18th century, it was confused with a second house belonging to the same owner. This is why the museum on the Andreaskirchplatz became a place of remembrance instead of the actual Death House. The house in which Luther really died was opposite the market in Eisleben and was demolished in 1570.
The historical building on the Andreaskirchplatz dates back to the Lutheran era which has been confirmed through research conducted on its structure. The roof timbering was built in around 1514. Other parts of the building, including the facade and room layout, have been altered over the course of centuries.
The Prussian treasury purchased the building in 1863. The future Emperor William I donated 6,000 marks from his personal funds to create a memorial in “Luther’s Death House.”
In the 30 years that followed, the house took on its current appearance. From 1863 to 1865, Friedrich August Ritter carried out neo-Gothic alterations to the Biedermeier facade and altered the room layout to how it was during Luther’s final visit to Eisleben.
In a second stage of the work, in 1893/1894, Friedrich Wilhelm Wanderer, an art professor from Nuremberg, designed the interiors of the rooms named in the reports of Luther's death.
The Luther Memorials Foundation has kept this house as the memorial site for Luther’s death in recognition of this tradition.
Luther’s Death House became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.
After the renovation of the historic building and the expansion with a new museum building, the ensemble was reopened to visitors in 2013.
2013: Saxony-Anhalt State Prize for Architecture
2014: Fritz Höger Prize (Gold)
2015: Hannes Meyer Prize, Association of German Architects
2015: Acknowledgment in the Deutscher Ziegelpreis
2016: Nike prize for Atmosphere, Association of German Architects