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Lutherstadt Wittenberg is situated at an altitude of 68 m on the river Elbe in eastern Sachsen-Anhalt. Wittenberg was first mentioned as Burgwardium in a document of around 1180. In 1293 it was chartered as a town by Duke Albrecht II of Saxe-Wittenberg. When the Dukes obtained the status of Electors in 1356, Wittenberg as their residence developed into an important trading place. In 1422, the ruling family, the Askanians, became extinct and was succeeded by the house of Wettin (see chart of the Wettin dynasty). During the reign of Elector Friedrich III (called 'der Weise', 'the Prudent') (14631525) Wittenberg's influence grew steadily. The university of Wittenberg was founded in 1502. Its most famous professors certainly were the reformers Martin Luther (15081512 professor of theology) and Philipp Melanchthon (1518). Luther's first german translation of the Bible was published in Wittenberg in 1534. In 1547, Wittenberg ceased to be the residence of the electors, but the town and the university maintained their prominence despite severe damages during the Thirty Years' War (16181648), the Nordic War (1706/1707) and the Seven Years' War (1760). In 1815, Wittenberg became part of Prussia (province Saxony). In 1938, the name of the town was officially changed to 'Lutherstadt Wittenberg'. The places associated with the lives of Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon in Wittenberg and Eisleben were listed as a World Cultural Heritage by the UNESCO in 1996 (see also list of other UNESCO heritage sites).
The Marktplatz (market square) [top picture] is the central square of Wittenberg.
The monument for Martin Luther [top picture, foreground centre] in the square was created in 18171821.
It was sculptured by Gottfried Schadow, the canopy was created by Karl Friedrich Schinkel. It was the first monument for a commoner in Germany and became the
archetype of many later monuments that were set up for the reformer.
The monument for Philipp Melanchthon [not visible on the picture] was created in 1860 by Friedrich Drake.
The Town Hall [top picture, left] in Renaissance style was completed in 1535 and replaced an earlier half-timbered construction. It sfa magnificent portal was added in 1537. Since 2000, the old town hall is not used any more for the city's administration but is still used for official receptions.
The skyline of the eastern front of the square is dominated by the towers of
The so-called Lutherhaus (or Lutherhalle) [bottom left picture] was the monastery of the Augustinian Eremites. and was built between 1504 and 1507. Luther lived in one of the monks' cubicles. He stayed on living here also when the monastery was dissolved in 1522, and in 1532 received the whole building as a gift of the Elector. From 1564 until 1816 it was used by the university of Wittenberg. The building obtained its persent Neo-Gothic shape after renovations in 1873, led by the architect Friedrich August Stühler. Since 1883, the Lutherhalle houses the world's largest museum on the history of the Reformation.
The Schlosskirche Allerheiligen (palace church of All Saints) [bottom right picture]
was built as part of the ducal palace by Friedrich the Prudent in 14901511.
It was once famous for its pieces of arts and the duke's unique collection of reliquiaries. From 1507 it s was also in use as the university chapel.
It is believed (although not fully proven) that on 31 October 1517 Martin Luther posted his famous 95 theses at the wooden gate of the church,
which by tradition was used as the black board of the university. This event marked the beginning of the Reformation period.
A large fire in 1760 destroyed most parts of the church including the famous gate. By order of King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia,
the church was rebuilt with an imposing new church tower in 1892 as a 'monument for the Reformation'. Since then, the new gate of the church,
now cast in bronze, permanently displays Luther's 95 theses. The church houses the tombs of 27 members of the Askanian family, which had been
transferred here in 1883. More famous than these are of course the tombs of Martin Luther (d.1546) and Philipp Melanchthon (d.1560).
Further treasures of the church are
the epitaph for Elector Friedrich the Prudent, cast in bronze by Peter Vischer the Younger in 1527,
the epitaph for his brother and successor, Elector Johann 'the Firm', cast by Vischer's brother Hans in 1533,
and the alabaster statues of Friedrich the Prudent and Johann the Firm, dating from 1537.