Martin Luther and the Reformation Anniversary

It sounded like a confession when Luther said in 1513: “The University of Erfurt is the mother to whom I owe everything.” Granted its charter in 1379, Erfurt University is the oldest in modern-day Germany. When Luther came to Erfurt in 1501 to study, the population had swelled to 19,000 inhabitants. Thanks to its many churches and abbeys the city became known as the Thuringian Rome. Luther spent ten years of his life here.

Erfurt is also called Martin Luther’s spiritual home. He lived and worked in Erfurt from 1501 to 1511. As a student at Erfurt's famous university between 1501 and 1505, Luther first studied the “seven liberal arts”, then theology and, at his father’s wish, jurisprudence. But a dramatic personal incident brought about a radical change in Luther’s life: terrified by a dreadful storm close to the city, during which he was struck by lightning, he took monastic vows and entered the Augustinian Monastery on 17 July 1505. In April 1507, Martin Luther was ordained as priest in Erfurt Cathedral.

On 31 October 1517 Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg to protest against the selling of indulgences. This paved the way for the Reformation and changed the Church, Germany and the world. A deciding factor in the success of the Reformation was the invention of the printing press by Gutenberg a few decades prior, as it opened up new channels of communication. The Reformation influenced and changed all areas of life, not just in the Church and in theology but also in art and music, language and education, the state and law, trade and society, and marriage and family.

Ten years after nailing the theses to the Castle Church, Martin Luther recalled the “destruction of the indulgences” while sitting amongst friends. The importance and impact of the Reformation has been remembered on this day ever since. Today, the onus is on us to keep the wider religious meaning in mind. The anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 will be celebrated not only by Erfurt but also by a worldwide community reaching from Tierra del Fuego to Finland and from South Korea to North America.

Luther Places in Erfurt

The Routes to Luther in Erfurt lead to the Augustinian monastery, to the Collegium Maius (the main building of the old university) and to the Georgenburse, Martin Luther’s student lodgings. In the oldest parish church in Erfurt, St Michael’s Church, the first Protestant sermon was held in 1520. Today the church is regarded as one of the most important sites of the Reformation thanks to Luther’s sermon and the work of the Erfurt reformer Johannes Lang.

The 19th century town hall contains seven paintings depicting scenes from Luther’s life. The wooden template used for Luther’s bronze epitaph can be found in St Andrew’s Church. The sculptor of the large statue of the great reformer in front of the Merchant’s Church embellished it with reliefs of Luther’s time in Erfurt. The granite pedestal bears the inscription: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” (Psalm 118, 17).

More interesting places connected with Luther

Guided Tours - Through Erfurt in Luther's Footsteps

Martin Luther in Erfurt

Discover reminders of Martin Luther’s time in Erfurt, such as the Augustinian Monastery, the cathedral and the many churches in which he preached. On your route through the town you will see all places connected with Luther. We would be delighted to organise such a tour for you.

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