Luther's Birthplace

Martin Luther was born in Eisleben on 10 November 1483, and the citizens of Eisleben began cultivating the memory of their greatest son in his birthplace very early on: already in the late 17th century, a public museum was set up for Luther pilgrims, making this house the oldest memorial to a single person anywhere in the German-speaking world.

Today, an exhibition in the historic structure and a modern building show how the future reformer grew up and how close the ties were between him, his parents and the region. That is because Martin Luther was always very conscious of his roots.

ADdress

Luther's Birthplace
Lutherstraße 15
06295 Lutherstadt Eisleben

Exhibition
This is where I am from – Martin Luther and Eisleben

 

Luther’s parents moved from Möhra, in Thuringia, to Mansfelder Land because mining activities here offered Luther's father an opportunity to improve his position in his occupation and in society. Eisleben served as a temporary stopping point for the young family, before they continued on to Mansfeld a few months after Martin Luther was born.

The exhibition follows the path of the Luther family, with approx. 250 exhibits detailing the origin of the future reformer, the mining activities of his father, the piety and spirituality of the Middle Ages and Luther’s baptism. This baptism, which was the most important event for Luther during his time in Eisleben, is commemorated by a baptismal font from the 16th century from Luther’s baptismal church.

For Martin Luther, his baptism was the most important event of his life that he associated with Eisleben.

The long tradition of mining in the region is illustrated by two stone corbels crafted around 1290. These depict two people, Nappian and Neucke, working in a mine. Legend has it that they were the first two miners in Mansfelder Land.

The gravestone inscriptions in the Eisleben town cemetery are of a particularly artistic quality. The imagery is indicative of the people’s piety both before and after the Reformation, and depicts not only those who died and their families, but also scenes from the Bible with portraits of the City of Eisleben and its surrounding area. Luther also appears in some of the scenes.

In the historical building, the exhibition provides a vivid picture of domestic culture in the time around 1500. Wooden furniture and tile ovens offer an impression of how the family might have lived. They were produced according to historical models using the techniques of the time.

Hundreds of years of Luther remembrance in this location are focused on the ‘Schöne Saal’, or ‘beautiful hall’, which has served to commemorate Martin Luther since the Baroque period. It is furnished with twelve life-size portraits, as well as a sculpture of a swan whose form is unlike any other – a symbol of Martin Luther.

History of the house

 

Even in the 17th century, the house in which Martin Luther was born in 1483 drew visitors and Luther pilgrims to Eisleben.

In 1689, the late mediaeval, half-timbered house was destroyed by a fire in the city. The house took on its current appearance as a result of the renovation work that followed the fire.

Since 2007, the historic building has been supplemented by a modern new structure and a visitor centre.

Chronicle of the building’s history and use

In 1483, Martin Luther is born in Petri District, in a late mediaeval, half-timbered house located on the modern-day Lutherstraße.

The house is in private hands for the next 200 years following the family’s departure.

Already in 1583, a memorial plaque is put in place at Luther’s Birthplace that shows a full-figure likeness of Luther that has been preserved to this day.

The building is destroyed to a large extent in a fire in the city in 1689. The City of Eisleben purchases the land and uses it to build a Luther Memorial that remains down to this day.

When it opens in 1693, Luther’s Birthplace houses a charity school for needy children that was established in honour or Luther; the school remained in operation until the 20th century. In the building's upper story, the ‘Schöne Saal’, or ‘beautiful hall’, is created and furnished with portraits of Luther and Melanchthon, as well as of the Electors of Saxony. This public gallery transforms Luther’s Birthplace into one of the first history museums in the German-speaking world. Its maintenance was financed solely by donations and by sporadic funding from the city treasury.

In 1817, Prussian King Frederick William III orders the state acquisition of Luther’s Birthplace. The building is renovated, and the entire house becomes a museum. The King sponsors the Luther Charity School, which is established in the direct vicinity of Luther’s Birthplace.

In 1996, UNESCO designates Luther’s Birthplace as a World Cultural Heritage site.

Luther’s Birthplace is extensively refurbished between 2005 and 2007; the structure is expanded through the addition of a new building connecting the Birthplace and the Charity School, along with a visitors’ centre on the opposite street corner (design: Springer Architekten, Berlin). The ensemble of buildings has since been the recipient of numerous awards.

  • 2007: Architecture Prize of the State of Saxony-Anhalt
  • 2008: Commendation within the framework of the Deutsche Städtebaupreis [German Urban Development Prize]
  • 2009: Honoured by the Deutsches Architekturmuseum [German Architecture Museum] as one of the 24 best structures in Germany
  • 2009: ‘Hannes-Meyer-Preis’ (Association of German Architects for the State of Saxony-Anhalt)
  • 2010: ‘Nike’ for the best construction of space (Association of German Architects)
 
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