Luther Visualized 10 – Return to Wittenberg

Luther’s Return to Wittenberg

Anonymous, Witenburg, watercolor, 1537, from Das Reisealbum des Pfalzgrafen Ottheinrich

The city of Wittenburg is viewed from the south, with the Elbe River in the foreground. On the far left is the palace suburb outside the Coswig Gate. Prominent on the left, in the city itself, is the Electoral Castle or Palace, of which the famous Castle Church was a part. To the east, along the south wall, you can see the Dragon Head Turret at the Elbe Gate. Prominent in the center of the city is the Parish Church of St. Mary, where Martin Luther preached more than 2000 sermons. The University of Würzburg identifies the large building to the east of St. Mary’s as the town hall, but it was inaccurately located by the artist. (It was west of St. Mary’s.) Proceeding east from there, the two notable buildings are the so-called Old Frederickian College of the University of Wittenberg (built in 1503) and the Luther House, respectively.

Upon Luther’s return from the Wartburg in 1522, he preached a series of eight consecutive sermons in the Parish Church, starting on March 9, Invocavit Sunday or the First Sunday in Lent, in order to rectify the prevailing unrest and the spirit of extreme reform. They remain some of his finest sermons, and showcase Luther’s biblical, balanced, and level-headed approach to reform.

In November 1536 Count Palatine Otto Henry departed from Neuberg with a retinue of about 50 persons. Threatened with bankruptcy, he traveled to Krakow to collect on his Polish grandmother Hedwig’s dowry, which had never been paid. Succeeding in his purpose, he began his return trip on January 17, 1537, and took a circuitous route home. He is documented as being in Wittenberg on February 11-12, during which time an anonymous artist in his retinue sketched the city, as he had done with all the other rest stops. The sketch was later made into an ink drawing and finished with watercolors and coating paints. (The mountains were added for effect.) It is the earliest known representation of Wittenberg in humanity’s possession today.

Sources
“Die Reise des Pfalzgrafen Ottheinrich 1536/1537” (University of Würzburg Library)

John W. Doberstein and Helmut T. Lehmann, eds., Luther’s Works, trans. A. Steimle, rev. (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1959), 51:67ff

You can also view the more detailed 1744 woodcut by Johann Wilhelm Bossögel, Accurate Depiction of the Highly Distinguished City of Wittenberg in AD 1611, the Famous Home of Electoral Saxony, the Mother and Propagatrix of the Restored Light of the Saving Faith. Here is a guide to the lettering:

A. The Electoral Castle or Palace
B. The Castle Church
C. The Town Hall
D. The Parish Church of St. Mary
E. New Frederickian College (university building completed in 1511)
F. Old Frederickian College (university building built in 1503)
G. Philipp Melanchthon’s House
H. Augusteum or Augustan College (university building completed c. 1571)
I. Augustinian Cloister or Dr. Luther’s House
K. The Elster Gate
L. The Cemetery
M. The Chapel on the Churchyard
N. The Elbe Gate
O. The Dragon Head Turret
P. The Gray Cloister (Franciscan monastery)
Q. Jurists’ College
R. The Town Mill
S. The Ramparts and Ditches
T. The Castle or Palace Gate, or Coswig Gate
V. The Suburbs

About redbrickparsonage
Red Brick Parsonage is operated by a confessional Lutheran pastor serving in the South of the U.S.A.

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