Martin Luther (1483-1546) was a German ex-monk, scholar and reformer who is credited with sparking the Protestant Reformation. After he posted his 95 Theses on a church door in Wittenberg in 1517, Reformation ideas spread rapidly from Germany to most of Europe. Each year, thousands of Protestant pilgrims and history buffs follow the "Luther Trail" across Germany, bringing history to life by seeing the very places where Luther lived and died, preached and wrote. Several tour companies now feature Luther Tours, but it is also very easy to design your own Luther heritage tour or just check out a couple Luther sites during your German vacation. Listed below are the major stops on the Luther Trail in alphabetical order by location.
- Augsburg (1518, 1530)
In 1518 at St. Anne's Church, Luther met with Cardinal Cajetan, who demanded that Luther submit to the pope. In 1530, Protestants presented the Augsburg Confession at an Imperial Diet. In the town hall, the Peace of Augsburg was signed in 1555, temporarily ending the Wars of Religion in Germany.
- Coburg (1530)
Luther, an outlaw of the Holy Roman Empire, remained in Coburg Fortress under the protection of Elector John the Steadfast while Melanchthon attended the Diet of Augsburg in his stead.
- Erfurt (1501-11)
In the quaint medieval town of Erfurt, Luther attended university and later (1505) entered the Augustinian monastery after being frightened during a storm. He was ordained priest at Erfurt's cathedral in 1507.
- Eisenach (1498-1500)
Here Luther attends parish school as a young man, staying with relatives. The main attraction is the Lutherhaus, where he stayed. Many years later, he returned to Eisenach to lead the Reformation after a stay at the nearby Wartburg Castle (see below).
- Eisleben (1483, 1546)
Luther was born here in 1483 and died here in 1546. Sites of interest include Luther's birth house, death house (with his death mask), the churches where Luther was baptized and preached his last sermon, and the Luther Monument.
- Mansfeld (1484-97)
Luther spent his early childhood in Mansfeld, near his birth city of Eisleben. He later moved to Eisenach. Sights include Luther's house and a castle.
- Marburg (1529)
In 1529, Luther met with Zwingli at the Marburg Colloquy to attempt to unite Lutherans and Zwinglians. The two reformers agreed on 14 of 15 doctrinal points, but could not agree on the interpretation of the Lord's Supper.
- Wartburg Castle (1521-22)
His life in danger after the Diet of Worms, Luther hid out at the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach under the assumed identity of Knight George. He spent most of his time here translating the New Testament into German, which was completed in 1523. Later he reappeared in Eisenach and continued to lead the Reformation.
- Wittenberg (1512-21, 1522-45)
This city is of such importance in Luther's life that its official name is Lutherstadt-Wittenberg (Luther City Wittenberg). Here Luther famously posted his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door in 1517, sparking the Reformation. Sites here include the famous door and Luther and Melanchthon's tombs in the Castle Church, Luther's house and museum, Melanchthon's house, and statues of Luther and Melanchton.
- Worms (1521)
In 1521, Luther appeared before the Holy Roman Emperor at the Imperial Diet of Worms and refused to recant his beliefs. It is here that Luther uttered the famous words, "Here I stand, I can do no other." Though the building where this occurred no longer stands, a plaque marks the spot and there is a grand Luther memorial nearby.
Below is an illustrated index of the 13 Luther Trail profiled on Sacred Destinations so far. For photo credits, please see corresponding articles.
Luther HouseEisenach, GermanyThis is where Martin Luther lived as a schoolboy with the Cotta family from 1498 to 1501. The half-timbered house preserves the two rooms used by Luther and displays Reformation artifacts.
AndreaskircheEisleben, GermanyMartin Luther preached his last sermons in this Gothic hall church on the main square. The pulpit is preserved in its original place, the altarpiece is a fine example of late Gothic art.
Luther MonumentEisleben, GermanyA large, Romantic-era statue of Martin Luther in the middle of Eisleben's main square. The four sides of the base are adorned with bas-relief scenes of his life.
Luther's Death HouseEisleben, GermanyHere Martin Luther spent the last weeks of his life after falling ill during a brief trip to his hometown. Luther's death mask and the gilded Communion cup he used as pastor are among the displays.
St. Peter and Paul ChurchEisleben, GermanyHere Martin Luther was baptized on November 11, 1483. The church contains two fine Gothic altarpieces.
AugustinerklosterErfurt, GermanyThe main stop on the Luther Trail in Erfurt is this Augustinian monastery where Luther lived as a monk during his turbulent, formative years in 1505-11.
ThomaskircheLeipzig, GermanyThis 13th-century church has hosted several important Germans over the years, most notably Bach and Luther.
Wartburg CastleEisenach, GermanyThis imposing castle, a symbol of German identity and a World Heritage Site, is where Luther lived in hiding as Knight George. Here he threw an inkpot at the devil and translated the Bible into German.
Castle ChurchWittenberg, GermanyOn the door of this church in 1517, Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses against the sale of indulgences - and launched the Reformation. The church contains the tombs of Luther, Melanchthon and Frederick the Wise.
City ChurchWittenberg, GermanyIn this twin-towered Gothic church, Luther preached the Reformation, was married (1525) and baptized his six children. Inside, Cranach's huge Reformation Altar includes scenes of Christ and Luther.
Luther House and MuseumWittenberg, GermanyThe house where Luther and his family lived is well-preserved and full of Reformation relics, including Luther's desk, his pulpit, and first editions of his books.
HeylshofgartenWorms, GermanyThe Imperial Palace where Luther stood his ground and was declared an outlaw in 1521 was destroyed in 1689. The site is occupied by the Heylshofgarten, where a plaque commemorates the great Reformation event.
Luther MonumentWorms, GermanyErected in 1868 and funded by Lutherans around the world, this is the largest Reformation monument ever built. Situated in a purpose-built park, it includes statues of Luther, his contemporaries and his forerunners.