Wittenberg, officially Lutherstadt
Wittenberg, is a city in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. Situated on the river Elbe, it
has a population of about 50,000. The importance of Wittenberg
historically was due to its seat of the Elector of Saxony, a dignity held by the
dukes of Saxe-Wittenberg and also to its close connection with Martin Luther and
the dawn of the Protestant Reformation; several of its buildings are associated
with the events of this time. Part of the Augustinian monastery in which
Luther dwelt, first as a monk and later as owner with his wife and family, is
preserved and considered to be the world’s premier museum dedicated to
Luther. Various Luther and Melanchthon memorial sites were added to the UNESCO
world heritage list in 1996. History
A settlement was first mentioned in 1180 as a small village founded by Flemish
colonists under the rule of the House of Ascania. In 1260, this village became
the residence of the dukes of Saxe-Wittenberg, and in 1293 the
settlement was granted its town charter as a free-standing town.
Wittenberg developed into an important trade center during the following
several centuries, because of its central location. When the Ascanians
died out, the property of Saxe-Wittenberg passed to the House of
Wettin. This town became an important regional political and cultural center
at the end of the 15th Century, when Frederick III “the Wise”, the Elector of
Saxony, made his residence in Wittenberg. Several parts of boundaries
of the town were extended soon afterward. The second bridge over the
Elbe River was built from 1486 through 1490 and the castle church was erected
from 1496 through 1506. The Elector’s palace was rebuilt the same time.
In 1502, the University of Wittenberg was founded, and it gave a home to some
important thinkers, such as Martin Luther—a professor of theology beginning
in 1508—and Philipp Melanchthon—a professor of Greek starting in 1518.
On 31 October 1517, Luther nailed his 95 theses against the selling of
indulgences at the door of the All Saints’, the Castle Church, marking the
beginning of the Protestant Reformation. The Anabaptist movement also had one of
its earliest homes in Wittenberg, when the Zwickau prophets moved there in late
1521, only to be suppressed by Luther when he returned from the Wartburg in
spring 1522. The Capitulation of Wittenberg is the name given to the
treaty by which John Frederick the Magnanimous was compelled to resign the
electoral dignity and most of his territory to the Albertine branch of the
House of Wettin. In 1760, during the Seven Years’ War,
the Prussian-occupied town was bombarded by the Austrians. It was occupied by the
French in 1806, and refortified in 1813 by command of Napoleon. In 1814, it was
stormed by the Prussian Army under Tauentzien, who received the title of
“von Wittenberg” as a reward. In 1815, Wittenberg became part of Prussia and
was administered within the Province of Saxony. Wittenberg continued to be a
fortress of the third class until the reorganisation of German defences after
the foundation of the new German Empire led to its being dismantled in 1873.
Unlike many other historic German cities during World War II, Wittenberg’s city
centre was spared destruction during the war. The Allies agreed not to bomb
Wittenberg, though there was fighting in the city, with bullet pock-marks visible
on the statues of Luther and Melanchthon at the market square, or so the popular
version of the city’s history goes. In actuality, the Luther statue was not
even present in the city square during much of the war. It was stored at Luther
Brunnen, a roadhouse only a few kilometers north of the city.
Wittenberg’s reputation as a city protected from Allied bombing is also
not historically accurate. On the outskirts of Wittenberg was the Arado
Flugzeugwerke, which produced components of airplanes for the Luftwaffe. This
factory was staffed by Jews, Russians, Poles, political prisoners and even a
few Americans—all prisoners engaging in forced labour. Despite the prisoner
status of its workers, American and British planes bombed the factory near
the end of the war. One thousand prisoner workers were killed. The recent
publication of “…und morgen war Krieg!” by Renate Gruber-Lieblich
attempts to document this tragic bombing of Wittenberg.
At the end of the war, Wittenberg was occupied by Soviet forces and became
part of East Germany in 1949. During the East German period, it was part of Halle
District. By means of the peaceful revolution in 1989, the communist regime
was brought down and the city has been governed democratically since 1990.
=Historical population=The figures are given for the
metropolitan district at the point in time. Up to 1791 the figures are
generally estimated, later figures are from census or local authorities.
from 2012: based on census Places added to Wittenberg
Piesteritz Main sights
Wittenberg is home to numerous historical sites, as well as portraits
and other paintings by Lucas Cranach the Elder and Younger. On the doors of All
Saints’ Church, the Schlosskirche Luther is said to have nailed his 95 theses in
1517. It was seriously damaged by fire in 1760 during a bombardment by the
French during the Seven Years’ War, was practically rebuilt, and was later
restored. The wooden doors, burnt in 1760, were replaced in 1858 by bronze
doors, bearing the Latin text of the theses. Inside the church are the tombs
of Luther and Philipp Melanchthon, and of the electors Frederick the Wise and
John the Constant, and portraits of the reformers by Lucas Cranach the Younger.
St. Mary’s Church, the parish church in which Luther often preached, was built
in the 14th century, but has been much altered since Luther’s time. It contains
a magnificent painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, representing the Last Supper,
Baptism and Confession, also a font by Hermann Vischer the Elder. In addition,
there are numerous historic paintings in the church.
The ancient electoral palace is another of the buildings that suffered severely
in 1760; it now contains archives. Martin Luther’s home, the Lutherhaus,
where he studied and lived both before and after the Reformation, is now a
museum containing many artifacts from his life. Melanchthon’s house and the
house of Lucas Cranach the Elder, mayor of Wittenberg, can also be found here.
Statues of Luther, Melanchthon and Bugenhagen embellish the town. The spot
outside the Elster Gate where Luther publicly burned the papal bull in 1520
is marked by an oak tree. Coat of arms
Wittenberg’s civic coat of arms conveys with its various heraldic elements
something of the town’s history. On 27 June 1293, Wittenberg was granted town
rights by Duke Albrecht II. There then arose a mediaeval town whose highest
governing body was its council. This council, known to have existed as early
as 1317, was given the job of administering the town in its care
through law and legislation, and of handling the town’s revenue. For
documentation, the administration used its own seal. One version of what is
believed to be the town’s oldest town seal, which the council used, and which
dated from the first half of the 14th century, set the pattern with its
elements for various civic coats of arms down to the present day.
The coat of arms symbolizes, with its crenelated wall and the towers within
and each side, a town that was already strongly fortified by 1409. The two
shields in the centre form the coat of arms of the Electorate of Saxony with
the Saxon arms on the right, whose gold and black stripes recall the Ascanian
rulers’ house colours with the Rautenkranz across them symbolizing the
town’s founder Duke Albrecht II since 1262, when it appeared in his arms. The
shield on the left is the Wittenberg district’s arms. In 1356, Emperor
Charles IV bestowed upon the Duke of Saxony-Wittenberg the honour of Elector.
Wittenberg became an Electoral residence. The shield with its crossed
swords stands for the office of “Arch-Marshal of the Holy Roman Empire”
inextricably joined by the Electorate, brought to Wittenberg by Rudolf I. Both
coats of arms continued to be used by the Wettins after the Ascanians died
out. The flowing water at the foot of the shield symbolizes Wittenberg’s
location on the River Elbe. The fish is a salmon, which were once abundant in
the Elbe. The fishermen, like all professions in town, got their own order
in 1422, and the fish found its way onto their coat of arms.
Economy and Infrastructure The City is an important centre of
chemical industry with the SKW Stickstoffwerke Piesteritz GmbH. The
whole area of the industrial park covers more than 220 hectars with more than
1,500 workers. Wittenberg is also the headquarters of the eco-friendly web
search engine Ecosia. Tourism plays a major role. Wittenberg is one of the top
destinations in Saxony-Anhalt. Lutherstadt Wittenberg station is the
main railway station. It connects Wittenberg hourly with Berlin to the
north and Leipzig and Halle to the south. The station is being rebuilt.
Construction should be completed in 2017.
Theatre, culture and education Wittenberg has a long tradition of
cultural events. The City Theatre reached a great importance in GDR times.
Since 1996, the City has staged open-air theatre shows based on the Lutheran
history still alive in many historical places of the ancient town. As
highlights, in 2001 and 2005, Fernando Scarpa became the artistic director of
the “Bühne Wittenberg”, a project for theatre, art and culture in the whole of
Germany which attracts to the city plenty of audience and whose success
achieves European echo. On 2002 and 2003 Stefano Vagnini, Italian composer and
organist created the music for Thesys and Luther Stories. Prince Hamlet is
said to have studied in Wittenberg and it was the supposed home of Dr Faustus.
Wittenberg is seat of the Leucorea which is part of the Martin Luther University
of Halle-Wittenberg, the largest university in Saxony-Anhalt.
International relations Wittenberg is twinned with:
Göttingen, Germany, since 1988 Bretten, Germany, since 1990
Springfield, Ohio, United States, since 1995
Békéscsaba, Hungary, since 1999 Haderslev, Denmark, since 2004
References External links
Municipal website Wittenberg Photo Gallery
Theatre of Wittenberg