Humanist, Reformer, “Teacher of Germany” (Praeceptor Germaniae), Foreign Minister of the Reformation, Father of Ecumenism—these are just some of the titles given to Philipp Melanchthon throughout history. He worked alongside Martin Luther as a professor at the Wittenberg university and became his most important companion. You can learn about Melanchthon as a scholar and as a person at the Melanchthon House.
The Melanchthon House as an exhibit
Melanchthon lived here with his family, students and many house guests from 1539 until his death. Here, he created the majority of his written works and conducted lighthearted poetry competitions with his students. However, he also suffered from sleeping problems and nightmares here.
There is no other place where visitors can be closer to Melanchthon than here in his house which has not been significantly altered for centuries. This is why the house itself is the most important exhibit in the exhibition. Visitors can get a feel for the daily life of Melanchthon and his family through the illustrations and everyday objects.
The exhibition buildings are home to manuscripts, prints, paintings and busts which give visitors an insight into Melanchthon’s work and impact. Discover an original wage slip for the professor and the first history of the town of Wittenberg that Melanchthon wrote by hand as well as his works, including the important “Confessio Augustana” (Augsburg Confession) that dates back to 1530. One of the most important exhibits is a larger than life-sized portrait of Melanchthon by Lucas Cranach the Younger.
Our youngest visitors can also go on a journey of discovery with a cast-iron key. It opens chests and cupboards containing hidden games and secret media stations that have been specially designed for children. Magdalena, Melanchthon’s ten-year-old daughter, guides all our visitors—not just the children—through the exhibition with pictures and audio information to explain the complicated history of the Reformation and give information on the life and work that took place in the Melanchthon House.
Melanchthon's herb garden
Melanchthon's herb garden
Herb garden with spring water fountain
Seating Are by the historic town wall
Philipp Melanchthon had many interests. He researched ancient literature and gave lectures on theology, but he was also interested in natural history. Melanchthon saw nature as God’s creation.
Melanchthon's Medicinal Plants
Melanchthon had extensive knowledge of medicinal plants and used these to cure his friends and family.
In the 16th century, Melanchthon’s garden served as a kitchen and herb garden where goats were also known to graze. A new herb garden was planted behind the Melanchthon House in 2016. It is filled with raised beds, and the plants are ordered according to symptoms—fully in the spirit of its first owner. There are plants for colds and fevers, heart stimulants, digestive aids and healing plants for gynecological conditions.
Melanchthon’s herb garden is particularly worth a visit during the warm summer months. However, the garden is not just filled with herbs, there are also fruit trees that provide shade in the summer—perfect for relaxing! Refreshing Wittenberg spring water trickles from a water fountain, the same as it has since 1556.
Melanchthon House, 19th century
The Melanchthon House is an architectural jewel. The Renaissance building with the prominent gable is one of the most beautiful houses in Wittenberg. The construction work took place from 1536 to 1539 and it was built as a gift from the Saxon Elector to his successful professor. The building has hardly changed since then, and visitors can still experience the rooms where Melanchthon studied, ate and rested. The house was renovated in 2013 and expanded with a modern building.
Timeline of the house's architectual history and usage
From the moment he arrived in Wittenberg in 1518, Philipp Melanchthon lived in a modest half-timbered house on the property at today’s Collegienstrasse 60—first as a bachelor and then with his wife from 1520 onwards.
John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, knew that he had to offer one of the most important professors at the university a prestigious residence in order to keep him in the town and at the university. In 1535, the Elector commissioned a new, prestigious house and contributed 500 guilders to the building work, a further 250 guilders was donated by the university.
The work began in 1536 and the house was finally finished three years later. The builder remains unknown to this day and used, what was at the time, a modern architectural form language based on Italian models. Similar round arch gables and portals were constructed in Dresden, Halle and Torgau before, or at the same time, as those on the Melanchthon House.
In 1556, the house was connected to the old Jungfernröhrwasser, a system of wooden pipelines that brought a fresh water supply to the town. The same system also supplied the Luther House with water.
The house continued as a residence for professors after the death of Melanchthon and was later used by tradesmen. None of its occupants made significant structural changes throughout the centuries.
In 1620, the gateway was purchased and rooms were built above it on the side facing the street. At the turn of the 18th century, the stairwell was relocated to its present position. As the Melanchthon House has been so excellently preserved, it can be described as the “most authentic” Reformation memorial in Wittenberg.
The Prussian State purchased the Melanchthon House in 1845 and, in 1898/1899, redecorated the study and death chamber in the original style.
The Melanchthon House became a museum of local history in 1954 and then a Melanchthon memorial in 1967.
The Melanchthon House gained UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996.
The Luther Memorials Foundation renovated this historical building from 2011 to 2013 and commissioned an extension to be built on the adjacent plot to house modern facilities such as heating, sanitation, ticket office and coat check as well as exhibition rooms. This was done to free the Reformer's residence of these functions and to fulfill the needs of a modern museum.
In 2016, the newly designed Melanchthon garden was opened. With its large number of medicinal plants, it allows visitors to experience up close Philipp Melanchthon’s botanical interest and his studies into the medicinal benefits of plants and herbs.
2014: Fritz Hoeger Prize (silver)