One of the most beautiful town houses in the City of Wittenberg was commissioned by John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, for Philipp Melanchthon in 1536. By doing so, the Elector hoped to retain him as a professor at his university. The stately house offered sufficient space for Melanchthon and his family, as well as for his students. He lived here until his death in 1560.
Today, you can literally follow in the footsteps of one of the most important figures of the Reformation in Wittenberg in the historic Melanchthon House, because the house has undergone hardly any changes over the centuries since. In the historic building and in the new museum structure opened in 2013, you have the chance to explore the life and works of the reformer in a largely barrier-free tour.
Since 2016, medicinal herbs have once again been growing in the herb garden behind Melanchthon’s house – entirely in keeping with the tradition of this noted scholar and herbalist.
Humanist, reformer, Praeceptor Germaniae (‘Germany's teacher’), ‘Foreign Minister of the Reformation’ and ‘Father of ecumenism’ – Philipp Melanchthon has been given all these titles over the years. Like Martin Luther, he served as a professor at the University of Wittenberg, and became Luther’s most important companion. In the Melanchthon House, you will be able to get to know Melanchthon both as a scholar and a person.
He lived here with his family, students and many guests from 1539 until his death. This is where he composed most of his treatises and conducted lively poetry competitions with his students; it is also where he suffered insomnia and nightmares.
There is no other place where you can get closer to Melanchthon than in his home, a structure that has undergone no significant modifications ever since. That is why the house itself is the most important exhibit in this exhibition. Illustrations and replicas of everyday objects help you to gain an impression of the life surroundings and everyday life of Melanchthon and his family.
Largely unchanged for centuries, the Melanchthon House is itself the most important exhibit in this exhibition.
Manuscripts, prints, paintings and busts in the exhibition building offer insight into Melanchthon’s work and impact. An original payslip from the professor and the first history of the City of Wittenberg set down in writing by Melanchthon can be discovered here, alongside works and letters from his contemporaries, including the important manuscript ‘Confessio Augustana’, the Augsburg Confession of 1530. One of the most important exhibits is a larger-than-life portrait of Melanchthon by Lucas Cranach the Younger.
The youngest visitors will be given an opportunity to go on a tour of discovery with a cast-iron key. This key opens chests and cupboards with hidden games and concealed media stations designed especially for children. Magdalena, Melanchthon’s ten-year-old daughter, guides visitors through the exhibition with words and images, telling the complicated history of the Reformation and providing information on living and working conditions in the Melanchthon House – and not just for children.
Philipp Melanchthon was a man of many interests. He researched the literature of the ancient world and gave lectures on technology, yet he was also closely involved in the study of nature. For Melanchthon, nature was part of God’s orderly creation.
He obtained tremendous knowledge of medicinal herbs, and used this in treating illnesses in his family and amongst his friends.
Melanchthon was convinced that every herb had its own healing properties.
In the 16th century, Melanchthon’s garden was used for fruit and vegetables, as well as herbs, and goats also grazed there. In 2016, a herb garden was once again planted behind the Melanchthon House. With its raised beds and clear organisation according to symptoms, this garden is very much in keeping with the precepts of its first owner: among the plants at home in this garden are herbs for treating colds, fevers and heart maladies, herbs to aid digestion and herbs for gynaecological ailments.
Melanchthon’s garden is a particularly inviting destination in the warm months. In addition to medicinal herbs, the garden is also home to fruit trees and conifers that offer shade in which to relax during the summer months. And a small fountain provides refreshing Wittenberg tap water (Röhrwasser) – as it has been doing since 1556.
The Melanchthon House is an architectural treasure. With its striking gable, the Renaissance structure is considered among the most beautiful in the City of Wittenberg.
It was built in 1539 as a gift from the Elector of Saxony to his successful professor. The building has undergone hardly any modifications in the centuries since. As a result, it is still possible today to experience the place in which Melanchthon studied, ate and slept.
In 2013, the house was repaired and extended through the addition of a modern new building.