Motherland of the Reformation

Motherland of the Reformation

The final schism

Luther’s stay in Leipzig in June 1519 had far-reaching effects. Breaking the silence imposed on him after his interrogation at the Diet of Augsburg, Luther took part in the Leipzig Disputation at Pleissenburg Castle. On its site stands now the New Town Hall, the tower of which can be traced back to the original castle building. In the disputation with Johann Eck, Luther formulated the differences between his own views and the doctrine of the Catholic Church, which led to the final schism. A year later, the Pope issued the bull of excommunication. Duke George the Bearded, who had previously been open towards reform, now also turned against Luther and suppressed aspirations of Reformation in the Duchy of Saxony.

Friends and foes

There is documentary evidence that Martin Luther visited Leipzig seven times. He had many supporters in the city and his theses were first printed in Leipzig. But after the Leipzig Disputation he had to fear for his life since Leipzig belonged to the territories of Duke George who had turned against him to preserve the unity of the church. When in Leipzig, Luther was a frequent guest at the Thüringer Hof, the oldest restaurant in Leipzig, and visitors can follow his traces today. Heinrich Stromer von Auerbach, founder of the world-famous Auerbachs Keller, also was a friend of Luther’s, which is commemorated by the restaurant’s “Luther Room”. Among the exhibits of the Museum of City History in the Old Town Hall are the Luther Goblet, a gift of the King of Sweden, and the ring of Luther’s wife Katharina, engraved with the date of their wedding.

Late return

When Henry the Pious became Duke of Saxony after the death of his brother George the Bearded, the Reformation could also be introduced in the Duchy of Saxony. Thus, in 1539 Luther returned to the chapel of Pleissenburg Castle to preach at the introduction of the Reformation in Leipzig. A day later, he preached in St Thomas Church in front of a large congregation, an event that is commemorated by a plaque and the “Luther window”. Luther’s last visit to Leipzig was a year before his death for the consecration of St Paul’s Church as the first Protestant church at a German university. St Paul’s survived all the chaos of war, but was demolished in 1968 at the behest of the GDR authorities. It has been replaced by the Paulinum, which serves as university church and auditorium and copies the shape of its predecessor in a modern style.