In Shakespeare's tragedy "Hamlet", Hamlet and his good friend, Horatio, studied together at the university in Wittenberg. For some theater directors, the fact that the Danish prince, a Catholic, was attending a Protestant university with its "new" ideas is an important key to Hamlet's soul-searching.
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Known as the Birthplace of the Reformation, Luther played the most important roles of his life on the stage of Wittenberg: monk, student, professor, priest, husband, father, author and reformer. It was here that he sparked the Reformation with his 95 Theses and it was here that the Great Reformer was buried.
According to legend, Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the Castle Church door and, with that act, sparked the Reformation. While the original wooden door no longer stands, a massive bronze memorial door marks the spot that changed the course of history. Martin Luther's grave can be found inside the church.
There is also another important church in Wittenberg: The 'Mother Church of the Reformation' is the oldest building in town. Here, Martin Luther preached, was married (1525) and baptized his six children. On Christmas Day 1521, the first Protestant service was held and Communion was observed. The altarpiece, created by Lucas Cranach the Elder, was mounted in 1547 and represents an important shift in Christian art and mentality.
The former Augustinian monastery was Luther's home and is now a Reformation museum, called the Luther House. Luther's Living Room is a real highlight; full of atmosphere, it has his original desk and 500-year-old period furnishings. Other must-sees include the Ten Commandments painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, a Lutheran Bible from 1534 and a letter of indulgence.
Although famously known as the 'Cradle of the Lutheran Reformation', the town has much to offer in addition to Reformation history. The main street is called the Cultural Mile, a reminder that 500 years ago the university was an intellectual powerhouse in Europe, attracting inventors, philosophers and many others.
The Cranach Courtyards (‘Cranach Höfe’) commemorate the painter Lucas Cranach, who spent around 45 years of his life in Wittenberg. As well as a busy art studio, Cranach owned a farm, a printing company (he printed copies of Luther's New Testament in German) and a pharmacy.
After comprehensive restoration and extension work, Melanchthon's House was reopened in February 2013. Since then, a new building has been opened on the adjacent site. The new permanent exhibition in this building is titled: “Philipp Melanchthon: Life – Work – Impact” and deals with the living conditions and everyday life of Melanchthon and his family. It further shows manuscripts, printings and busts which tell the meaning of Melanchthon for the Reformation and the development of Protestantism.