Cranachs Altar in Wittenberg surrounded by tourists. Source: Luther 2017/Norbert Neetz

Martin Luther 1517 – 2017

Martin Luther ignited the Reformation in 1517, when he posted his 95 theses in Wittenberg. This year, Lutherans celebrate the 500-year anniversary around the globe with numerous exhibitions, conferences, books and other festive commemorations. Four exhibitions in Germany set the tone

In 1517 Martin Luther posted 95 theses concerning the market for Indulgencies inviting his students to take part in a lofty academic debate in Wittenberg. However, as he also posted his list of bullet points to the Archbishop of Mainz, whose income depended upon the sale of indulgences, his act came to cause the seismic shift, which we refer to as the Reformation. This year, multiple celebrations – conferences, lectures, publications, exhibitions, and festive services – will be rolled out to commemorate the beginning of the Reformation and its aftermath. For medievalists, some important exhibitions and recent publications are worthy of note. The main events are four exhibitions in Germany, of which one has already opened its doors. Below, they are listed in cronological order

Medievalists travelling to Germany this year might profit from checking out the full programme. Minor exhibitions and events are really worth taking the time to seek out if you are in the neighborhood. Seethe agenda posted at Welcome to Luther Country and the news and events posted on the official website: Luther 1517

The Luther Effect. Protestantism – 500 Years in the World

Der Luther Effekt 2017 CoverOn the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation the German Historical Museum in Berlin is presenting the exhibition “The Luther Effect. 500 Years of the Reformation” in the Martin-Gropius-Bau. It spans the time from the Reformation to the present day. With an unflinching view beyond German and European borders the exhibition examines the global effects of Protestantism.

This exhibition focuses on the question of the “Luther effect”: What impact and consequences did the Reformation have and what role did the historical person Martin Luther play in this? Possible answers can be found in the individual themes of the exhibition. They deal with the historical transformations of the image of Luther, the international effect of Lutheranism as demonstrated in selected examples as well as the social and cultural ramifications of Protestantism. Special focus is on the way in which the reformation played out in Sweden, USA, Korea, and Tanzania.

The exhibition is accompanied by a catalogue, which is also available in English: The Luther Effect. Protestantism – 500 Years in the World.

Deutsches Historisches Museum
Niederkirchnerstraße 7, Berlin
12.04.2017 – 05.11.2017

Luther and the Germans

Luther und die Deutschen CoverAfter several years of conflicted negotiations, ending in the excommunication of Martin Luther in 1520, he was ordered to appear before the Diet of Worms in 1521, where he refused to recant. The following day he narrowly escaped being caught when friends helped him to escape to Wartburg Castle. Here he spent the next year disguised as Junker Jörgen while busying himself with the translation of the New Testament from Greek to German.

This year Wartburg Castle hosts the National Special Exhibition “Luther and the Germans”. The exhibition shows how the Reformation influenced the course of German history from 1517 – 2017, how Luther became embedded in the memory of the German people, how different generations viewed, used and misused him, how the reformer’s image changed in modern times, and how different powers were able to exploit his work and impact for their ends.

The exhibition shows numerous priceless treasures and tells the story of the earliest manuscripts; the translation and printing of the Bible of Luther; the political context and Martin Luther’s attitude towards Catholics, Jews, and Muslims; the veneration of family life as a cornerstone of Lutheran theology; the importance of the new social institution, the vicarage; the educational programme, and the poetic and artistic heritage. Special importance is attached to the role of Wartburg and its history as a medieval castle and later national monument. Finally, the exhibition aims to shed light on the impact of the teaching of Martin Luther in present day Germany.

Auf der Wartburg 1
99817 Eisenach
04.05.2017 – 05.11.2017

Luther! 95 Treasures – 95 People

Catalogue Luther! 95 coverWhen Martin Luther came to Wittenberg in 1508 to teach at the University, he naturally moved into the Augusteum, which housed the Augustinian order, to which he belonged. Later – after the Reformation was launched – the 16th century University College was donated to him as his future home for himself and his growing family plus the numerous students and guests, who flocked to live with and learn from the teachings of the great man.

The Luther House in Wittenberg thus became the place, where the Reformer lived and worked for over 35 years. The house with the Luther Room, the authentic location for his Table Discussions, is now the largest Reformation history museum in the world. The front building of the Luther House, the Collegium Augusteum, is one of the best-preserved 16th century university buildings in Germany, and serves as the venue for the national special exhibition “Luther! 95 Treasures – 95 People” in 2017. The Augusteum’s 1,200 square meters (13,000 square feet) of floor space – including the impressive library and Ducal Hall – presents some of Luther’s personal belongings as well as authentic objects from the Reformation and its history.

The first part of the exhibition focuses on the main event commemorated by this anniversary: Luther’s posting of his theses on October 31, 1517. The exhibition traces young Luther’s steps to his reformational breakthrough, drawing attention to the historical and personal moments that paved the way for this profoundly historical intervention. Exhibits include a contemporary poster print of Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses and the handwritten letter Luther wrote to his clergy superior Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg on October 31, 1517.

The second part of the National Special Exhibition features 95 individuals with their respective, existential relationships to Martin Luther and his work. The exhibition introduces personalities from the 16th to the 21st centuries that were influenced by Martin Luther in one way or another – not only from within Germany, but around the world. The “95 People”  invite and encourage us to consider the reformer from our own perspective.

The catalogue is published in both German and English

The Augusteum in Lutherstadt Wittenberg
Collegienstraße 54
06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg
13.05.2017 – 05.11.2017

The Popes and the Unity of the Latin World

Die Päpste 2017 CoverMartin Luther famously characterised the Pope in Rome as the Great Babylonian Whore, while the Pope paid him the compliment of declaring him a heretic liable to be burned on a bonfire by anyone, who might lay his hands on him.

During the planning process of the events and exhibitions in 2017 a group of Catholics got together and began to plan an exhibition showcasing the history from point of view of the adversaries. This Exhibition about The Popes and the Unity of the Latin World will open in May and promises to showcase numerous very high profiled loans from the Vatican as well as other museums. Precious manuscripts, paintings, sculptures, symbolic material culture will definitely complement the other reformation exhibitions. Some of these loans are absolute unique and have never left the Vatican before. The exhibition will tell the history of the Papacy but also the Reformation as it was seen from Rome. It does not seem as if the priceless document, which the Pope signed in 1521 excommunicating Martin Luther will be on show. But lots of other fascinating treasures from the Middle Ages will be exhibited.

The exhibition has been accompanied by several high profile academic symposia and the proceedings are currently being published in four volumes

The Popes and the Unity of the Latin World
Museum Weltkulturen D5
68159 Mannheim
21.05.2017 – 31.10.2017



Cranach’s Altar in Wittenberg surrounded by tourists. Source: Luther 2017© EPD-Norbert Neetz