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Vista de la ciudad de Wittenberg

Wittenberg, the city of Luther and the Kilometer of the Reformation

Wittenberg, the city of Luther and the Kilometer of the Reformation

Vista de la ciudad de Wittenberg ,

Wittenberg, the city where Luther started the Reformation is only half an hour by train from Berlin.

Today we want to tell you about an out-of-town excursion in addition to our usual Berlin tours, one that visitors to the German capital with a few extra days shouldn’t miss.

Only 30 minutes by train from Berlin is the beautiful town of Wittenberg Lutherstadt, the cradle of Protestantism and spared from the bombs of World War II.

Germany is not just Nazism or the Cold War, but its history is also made up of other important events that have shaped the course of us Europeans and beyond to this day.

One of these is certainly the schism of Catholicism. It began with the Reformation of Protestantism at the exact moment when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses for change to the wooden door of the Wittenberg church in 1517.

Vista de la ciudad de Wittenberg


Our cooperative Vive Berlin Tours is the only one in Berlin that organises discovery tours of Wittenberg, the city of Luther.

Wittenberg is a small town on the River Elbe founded in 1180 and made famous by the Lutheran revolt. It rose from a small village to new importance thanks to Frederick III of Saxony who established his residence there and founded the small Duchy of Saxony-Wittenberg.

In the 16th century came the turning point with the foundation of the historic Leucorea University in which illustrious names such as Luther himself (professor of theology), Melanchthon (professor of Greek) and Giordano Bruno taught.

Its historical importance led to an agreement among the Allies during World War II to spare it from the bombs, making it one of the little gems to visit during a stay in Berlin.

This small town is home to a street just one kilometre long that contains more history than one can imagine. This is in fact the distance from Luther House to the Castle Church on whose north gate Luther nailed his famous theses and where he is buried today.

In this street, which has two sections, Collegienstrasse and Schlosstrasse, joined by the Marktplatz or Market Square, in addition to the buildings mentioned above, we also find the house of Philip Melanchthon, Luther’s right-hand man; the Leucorea University, where both were professors; St. Mary’s Church, the cradle of Protestantism, where Luther officiated and where he married his wife Catherine of Bora; and the house of the Cranach painters, father and son, great artists of the time.

It is difficult to fit more history and culture into one kilometre.


Life in Wittenberg revolves around the Collegienstrasse-Schlosstrasse axis, a pedestrian street lined with shops, restaurants and cafés that give it a very cosy atmosphere.

At the intersection of the two streets is the Marktplatz, or Market Square, with the Town Hall and statues of its two illustrious citizens Luther and Melanchthon.
Throughout the city centre, plaques on the facades of buildings bear the names and activities of personalities who have lived in Wittenberg, all connected to the prestigious University.

At the beginning of Collegienstrasse, coming from the station, is Luther House, a former Augustinian convent where the promoter of the Reformation lived for 35 years with his wife, Catherine of Bora, a former nun, whom he married in June 1525.

The house is now the most important museum of Lutheranism, housing, among other treasures, the first Bible translated into German. It also houses a remarkable collection of paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder.

Two hundred metres further along the same street is the former home of Philip Melanchthon, considered the father of German education. He was Luther’s closest collaborator, but always sought reconciliation with the Catholics. So much so that, after Luther’s death, his thinking was considered heretical by the most intransigent Lutherans.

A little further on, on the same pavement, is the seat of the University, founded in 1502 by Elector Frederick III of Saxony, known as the Wise, protector of Luther and Melanchthon. Wittenberg was one of the great university cities of the Renaissance. In 1817, it was merged with the University of Halle and since then, its building has housed foundations, research and conference facilities. It is no longer the university it once was, but it still leaves its mark on the city.


St Mary’s Church, the city church or Stadtkirche, is the cradle of Protestantism. It is where Luther preached, where he married Catherine of Bora and where the first Protestant pastor, Johannes Bugenhagen, officiated and whose house is nearby.

This church is located behind the Town Hall, next to the Jewish Street, which in Luther’s time was the ‘Jewish Pig Street’, due to the militant anti-Judaism that the initiator of the Reformation adopted in the last years of his life. On the south façade is an offensive relief against Jews, depicting them as pigs, wearing the typical Jewish hat of the Lutheran era.

On the corner of the Marktplatz, in the direction of the Castle Church, is the home of Cranach, Lucas Cranach senior and junior, two of the most important painters of the German Renaissance. Cranach the Elder was a friend of Luther, helped him spread the Bible in German and is the author of the High Altarpiece of St. Mary’s Church.

The Church of All Saints or Castle Church (Schlosskirche), on whose north door Luther nailed the 95 theses, closes the Reformation kilometre route. It was built in 1509 by Frederick the Wise, next to his castle.

Inside the church are the tombs of Luther, Melanchthon and Frederick himself.

Once the tour is over, we recommend a stop at the Brauhaus Wittenberg brewery. It is located on Marktplatz, opposite the town hall. The building dates back to 1470. In the early 16th century it housed a tavern, the Schwarze Adler (Black Eagle), frequented by Luther. Today, you can enjoy traditional Saxon dishes and beer brewed on site – what a trip would be without a sip of German craft beer?


Luther was an Augustinian friar. Born in Eisleben, also in Saxony, he was a professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg. There he began his reflections against the sale of indulgences, which Pope Leo X promoted to build St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.

Indulgences allowed those who bought them to erase sins that remained after confession and could send the soul to purgatory.

Luther was outraged by this practice, which was absent from Scripture, because the rich were more likely to buy pardons than the poor, and because the poor spent their meagre money on buying indulgences rather than on charity for the needy.

Luther’s reflections, set out in the 95 theses nailed to the north door of the Wittenberg Castle Church, also had to do with a return to the sacred texts of the Bible, which do not, for example, speak of the papacy, the celibacy of priests or indulgences, but of justification by faith.

According to Luther, man is saved by his faith and not by his personal merits. For him, what is transcendent is not only faith, but also God’s grace and sacred texts.

Luther’s appearance not only meant a religious change, but also a political, cultural and linguistic one: his decision to translate the Bible into German laid the foundations of modern German.

On the way back, almost at the station to catch the train to Berlin, we find the Luthereiche, or Luther Oak. Here, near the old Elster gate, Luther burnt Pope Leo X’s bull Exsurge Domine, which threatened him with excommunication if he did not renounce his ideas.

It was the point of no return for Protestantism and is the place where we say goodbye to a place as steeped in history as Wittenberg.


From Berlin by RE and ICE trains or with one of our private tours in Berlin.


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