By now everyone knows the four big cities that are automatically associated with Martin Luther and the Reformation: Wittenberg, Eisleben, Erfurt and Eisenach. With all their history and connection to both, man and movement, each of these cities is vital to any cultural group tour organized to follow in the footsteps of the famous reformer. Those four cities would also nearly make up a basic group tour, allowing guests to learn about and experience the Reformation in a compressed manner within a short time span. All the basics will be covered and a general overview provided.
But there are many more Luther-related cities and sights to be found all over Germany that could give your tour an edge, making it stand out from those of other tour operators.
Being on move on Luthers traces in Germany
That is why we have put together a little round trip through Germany – from North to South – with mainly suggestions on how to add to your cultural group tour. All of the cities have a documented connection to Martin Luther and the Reformation, but also offer so much more to include during your day excursion or stopover between locations. Your guests will not be disappointed.
We hope you enjoy the round trip, keep our fingers crossed for inspiration to strike and have you decide to join in the celebrations of this unique jubilee.
DIt is our recommendation as starting point for your round trip because it offers a great many possibilities on how to get there (car, train, plane). After a sightseeing tour, best done by coach, continue to the national exhibition “The Luther Effect” at Martin-Gropius-Bau. It is a special exhibition, displayed in 2017 only, and focuses on the worldwide impact of the Reformation within the past five centuries.
The city of Magdeburg is located at about a two-hour drive from Wittenberg. Luther lived there for a short period of time as a pupil and returned not until 1524, preaching at St Johannes Church as well as the church of the Augustinian monastery. Extend your stay by also visiting the art museum “Kloster Unser Lieben Frauen”, the museum of city history (“Kulturhistorisches Museum”), taking a boat trip on the Elbe River or visiting the Elbauenpark, a brilliantly designed nature and recreational park.
This would be an ideal visit when changing hotel locations, e.g. to Leipzig. Torgau is being mainly associated with Katharina von Bora, a refugee after her escape from the monastery and later wife to Martin Luther. After his death she returned to Torgau with her children, trying to evade the plague, but dying shortly after. Katharina was buried in Torgau, her Death House being transformed into a museum. Furthermore, we recommend a stop at Hartenfels Castle, whose church was consecrated by Luther in 1544.
In 1519 Luther engaged in a trial of strength with his opponent during the Leipzig disputation. It concluded in a tie but ultimately resulted in his excommunication. Martin Luther returned to Leipzig in 1539, giving a sermon at Thomas Church. Some additional visits we recommend would be to the Bach Museum, the Mendelssohn House, the GRASSI museums or the monument of the Battle of Leipzig.
After a one-hour drive from Leipzig you will be reaching Halle. After his death Luther’s body was transported back to Wittenberg and they stopped for the night in Halle, laying him in state inside Market Church. Today, visitors have the chance to see his death mask as well as the pulpit where he used to preach from to the congregation. Other city highlights would be the Moritzburg Foundation (the art museum of Saxony-Anhalt), the Francke Foundation, the Händel House for music lovers or the Halloren chocolate manufactory for chocoholics.
There is no documented connection between the Saxon capital, located at the Elbe River, and Martin Luther. But you will find the largest Protestant domed structure in all of Europe here: the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady). Right in front of it you will find a monument of the reformer. In addition, the Green Vault is displaying his signet ring and drinking cup (unless on loan to special exhibitions).
Continuing our round trip to Thuringia...
… and of towards your next hotel location, e.g. Erfurt or Eisenach. Both are suited well for visits to the surrounding area.
Thomas Müntzer, reformer and leader of peasants, was executed here in 1525 after losing the Peasant´s War. His beliefs soon changed towards a more violent approach in freeing the people, though he started out as a dedicated supporter of Martin Luther. Stop by St Mary´s Church, the second largest hall church of Thuringia and Müntzers place of activity, and visit his memorial site. If you are interested in the topic, continue to Bad Frankenhausen where you will find a panoramic image covering the Peasant´s War.
Luther was present in 1542, 1544 and 1545, giving important sermons in order to further spread the Reformation movement. Upon your visit we recommend the abbey church and library, the cathedral as well as St Michael´s Church with an original print of Luther´s 95 propositions.
Altenburg gained in importance during the Reformation because of Georg Spalatin, one of the chief supporters and companions of Martin Luther. He is also being referred to as the navigator of the Reformation. Thanks to his incessant commitment to the cause, he managed to implement the ideas and beliefs of the Reformation in Altenburg, but was also smoothing the path towards the local rulers.
In 1531 the romantic town of half-timbered houses became a focal point in European history. Lutheran cities and rulers came together in order to form an alliance against the emperor. Not only Luther but also many of his allies preached in front of the rulers inside the late Gothic hall church St George´s. If you visit the exhibition at Renaissance Château Wilhelmsburg you will receive much more information about the event as well as the Reformation.
The next stage of the round trip will lead you to Bavaria:
During his time as an outlaw Luther hid at Veste Coburg Castle for a few months in 1530. At the same time his companion and close friend Philipp Melanchthon championed the Lutheran Creed, the Augsburg Confession, at the diet of Augsburg. Visit the castle and you will get to see Luther´s living quarters during your guided tour.
In 1524 the church renewed Luther´s excommunication in Nuremberg. Not long after though, the city was the first of the free imperial cities tom implement the Reformation and its beliefs – a victory for the reformer. When staying in Nuremberg your options are varied, so here are only a few interesting visits: the Fortress Nuremberg, the German National Museum or the Memorium Nuremberg Trials and the Nazi Party Rallye Grounds.
In 1518 Luther lived in the local Carmelite monastery after being ordered to defend his propositions and retract them, denying the latter. Also do not miss out on the town hall with the golden hall, the Perlach tower or the Fuggerei (the oldest existing social housing complex) during your stay.
Our round trip is drawing to and end and is taking you to Baden-Wuerttemberg on the last stage:
Between 1526 and 1529 Speyer was host to several important diets which allowed to further spread the Reformation movement. The city is also famous for its cathedral, seeing as it is the largest Romanesque church worldwide.
Heidelberg was the first city for Luther to preach after the placarding of the 95 propositions. Be sure to include a visit to famous Heidelberg Castle, take a boat trip on the Neckar River or visit one of the many museums, e.g. the German Apothecary Museum.
Worms is one of the oldest cities in Germany. In April 1521 it witnessed Martin Luther defending his propositions during the Diet of Worms, one of his biggest opponents being emperor Karl V. The world’s largest Reformation memorial reminds visitors of this historic event and should not be missed. In addition to that, feel free to include one of the following suggestions: Cathedral St Peter, Liebfrauenkloster (monastery) and Liebfraumilch, various Jewish museums or the Nibelungen museum.
Frankfurt / Main
The last city on our round trip is Frankfurt on the Main. Before your departure we suggest to at least book a tour at the cathedral, which used to be the coronation church for German emperors for several centuries.
We look forward to organising a tailor-made group tour on the topic of Martin Luther and the Reformation for you. Please do not hesitate to contact us! Safe travels!
Castle "Schloss Hartenfels" in Torgau © AugustusTours
Memorial of Martin Luther © Christoph Münch
Castle "Wilhelmsburg" in Schmalkalden © Alexander Michel Thüringer Tourismus GmbH
View to Nuremberg © AugustusTours
View to Heidelberg © Heidelberg Marketing GmbH