Luther House Wittenberg
The Luther House was the main place where the Reformer lived and worked for over 35 years. Originally built as an Augustinian monastery, Martin Luther called it home from 1508 - first as a monk and then later with his family. This was where he made his “reformatory discovery,” gave lectures to students from across Europe and penned his writings that changed the world.
Today, the Luther House is the largest museum for the history of the Reformation worldwide. It was opened in 1883. The Luther Room is still largely in its original condition and many visitors from across the world are transported back to the time of Luther.
Exhibition: Martin Luther. Life - Work - Impact
Model of the town of Wittenberg
This authentic site where Luther lived and worked always had a special appeal for visitors. The Reformer’s famous “Table Talks” took place in the Luther Room and Luther’s family, guests and friends dined together in the refectory. He conceived his groundbreaking reforms in his study, located in an annex whose foundations, including Luther’s latrine, were only uncovered in 2004.
The Luther Room is the historic location of Luther’s “Table Talks”
The “Martin Luther. Life—Work—Impact”-exhibition is displayed throughout the other rooms of the Luther House and includes unique exhibits from Luther’s life. It describes his daily life and the importance of Martin Luther and his works throughout history.
Here, you can get close to the pulpit from the town church, which Luther used to speak to the citizens of Wittenberg, or to the painting of “The Ten Commandments” by Lucas Cranach the Elder. The original “public box,” a type of welfare fund for supporting the needs and the impetus for social change during the Reformation period, is also on display as well as Luther’s bible, numerous valuable manuscripts and prints, and paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder and Lucas Cranach the Younger.
The biography walk on the first floor and second floor gives an overview of Luther’s life. Luther’s time in Wittenberg from 1508 up to his death in 1546 is the focus of this walk that leads visitors through all the important rooms in the house.
Katharina as a medium-scale entrepreneur
The ground floor gives an overview of the Luther family’s daily life. Numerous written sources give an exact description of the Reformer’s household that was run as a medium-sized business by his wife, Katharina von Bora. The rent for room and board from the students living at the house was also an important source of income.
Katharina also had an agricultural smallholding and allotment to guarantee the food supply for the household. Eight model scenes are on display where visitors can see, and hear, what life was like in Luther’s home. They bring to life the everyday life of the Luther family in the house, farm and garden.
The extensive collection on the pictorial reception of Luther from 1546 to 1983 is exhibited on the third floor. This includes large and small paintings of Luther, Luther brushes, Luther medals, commemorative sheets and satirical graphics, Luther on cups and tins, Luther chairs, Luther on posters and in films. It is an exciting journey through the centuries on the trail of Martin Luther.
Luther’s world-famous latrine
Fragments of the building to the south of the house expose the historical layers of the Luther House. In the summer of 2004, work was taking place in the garden when a stone wall was found. This was part of the entirely preserved basement of the annex, which today is known as the place of the “Tower Experience” and therefore as the place of the Lutheran reformatory discovery. This annex became famous all over the world, as it is the place where Luther’s toilet is located. The foundations exposed are outdoors and can be visited all year round.
History of the house
View of the town of Wittenberg with the Luther House on the right, Sebastian Adam, 1545
Northern facade of the Luther House, lithography by Eduard Dietrich, 1826–1829
Northern facade of the Luther House, 1917
Black Monastery, Building behind the Augusteum, Luther Hall and Luther House: The different names speak of over 500 years of architectural history and use of the Luther House in Wittenberg.
Timeline of the house’s architectural history and usage
The construction work for the Augustinian monastery began in 1503/1504 and the main building is now a large part of the Luther House that you can see today. It was named the “Black Monastery” because of the color of the robes worn by the monks.
Luther lived here as a monk from 1508. When the monastery was closed during the Reformation, Luther stayed on and lived there alone until, in 1525, his wife and family moved in.
In 1532, the ownership of the house was transferred to Luther. The house was subject to extensive conversions and extensions due to its use as the Luther family home.
After Luther’s death in 1546, the university took over the building and converted it into a residence for the recipients of scholarships from the electors.
The side wings and front building were built in the mid-1580s. The front building faces the street and was named the “Augusteum” in remembrance of the patron of the university, August I of Saxony.
In 1844, Friedrich August Stüler was commissioned to restore the house. His plans were for a radical renovation over the course of forty years.
A Lutheran school used parts of the ground floor from 1834 to 1937.
In 1883, some of the rooms on the second floor, including the Luther Room, were opened as a public museum detailing the history of the Reformation.
Successively larger parts of the house were used for the museum from 1911.
The jubilee celebrations for Luther took place in 1983 and the “Luther Hall” museum was given a basic renovation for its 100-year anniversary.
The Luther House gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996.
The most recent renovations took place in 2001 and 2002 and the Luther House was expanded with the construction of a modern entrance building (Architects: Pitz & Hoh, Berlin). The building is a respectful addition to the World Heritage Site, but also a conscious addition to history through its use of a modern architectural form language.
When the house was renovated and the permanent exhibition moved, it was renamed “Luther House” instead of the confusing “Luther Hall” as it had been known before.
At 500 years old, the Luther House is still a real testament to Martin Luther the person and to his work.
2004: Saxony-Anhalt State Prize for Architecture