(Admission price is for the entire day; you can leave for lunch and return.)
Luther’s House was formerly the Augustinian monastery where Luther also lived when he came permanently to Wittenberg as a monk, a priest, and a teacher in 1515. After the monastery was officially closed, a portion of the large facility was used as student housing for those attending Wittenberg University and for visitors to Wittenberg. Many people were traveling long distances to meet Martin Luther and spend time around his table. The Luther family also lived in a portion of this building and called it home. This included the garden where Katie Luther grew vegetables and raised animals to supply food for them and their guests. The book The Table Talk of Martin Luther is a collection of anecdotes and conversations shared around the table at Luther’s home. First published just twenty years after Luther died by a friend, it is a wonderful glimpse into the everyday life of a larger-than-life historical figure. Here is an excerpt:
The multitude of books, said Luther, is much to be lamented; no measure nor end is held in writing; every one will write books; some out of ambition to purchase praise thereby, and to raise them names; others for the sake of lucre and gain, and by that means further much evil. Therefore the Bible, by so many comments and books, will be buried and obscured, so that the Text will be nothing regarded. I could wish that all my books were buried nine ells deep in the ground, for evil example’s sake, in that every one will imitate me with writing many books, thereby to purchase praise. But Christ died not for the sake of our ambition and vain-glory, but he died only to the end that his name might be sanctified. (Table Talk, Of Luther’s Complaint of the Multitude of Books)
After touring Luther’s House, choose an activity from the list below. If you haven’t finished before lunch, return to Luther’s House after eating to complete your activity.
Lucas Cranach the Elder painted the piece Ten Commandments. Carefully examine the ten scenes depicted by Cranach.
Luther is depicted in these portraits at different ages and stages of his life. Review the portraits and compare them to the timeline of Reformation events.
Visitors may continue a self-guided exploration of Luther’s House or choose to structure the afternoon exploration with one or more of the following activities: A Day in the Life of the Luther Family activity, Luther House Scavenger Hunt, or Portraits of Luther project.
Choose five to ten objects or a particular room or garden within Luther’s House. Write an essay or a fictional short story incorporating your chosen objects or location. What might a typical day in the Luther household look and sound like?
Locate the following objects. If possible, take a photo of the object and write a caption for the photo in your journal. Include your thoughts about what function this object had in Luther’s life.Find the following items at Luther’s House:
Return to the third floor of Luther’s House to view the Luther Portrait Gallery.
Return to Marienkirche for Further exploration and reflection
In 1526, Martin Luther introduced a most novel idea: the German Mass. It was his desire to provide the opportunity for the German people to participate in worship in their own language. He did not abolish the Latin Mass and certainly supported its continued use. He similarly desired that people could also know and use Greek or Hebrew in worship and desired that children be taught a variety of languages in school. (Philip Melanchthon certainly influenced this understanding.) For Luther, it was always about the Word of God communicated to the people in order to bring the comforting news of their salvation in Jesus Christ. Luther wrote:
The Order is for the simple and for the young folk who must daily be exercised in the Scripture and God’s Word, to the end that they may become conversant with Scripture and expert in its use, ready and skilful in giving an answer for their faith, and able in time to teach others and aid in the advancement of the kingdom of Christ.
(Luther, The German Mass and Order of Divine Service, http://www.projectwittenberg.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/germnmass-order.txt)
“Church” as we know it today is very different than what it was for Luther and the German people of his time. Luther indicates that a typical Sunday would have three services, with only the servants seeming not to have reason to be at all of them:
On Holy Days and Sundays we would have the usual Epistle and Gospel to continue, and have three sermons. About 5 a.m. or 6 a.m., some Psalms should be sung, as for Mattins; then a sermon on the Epistle for the day, chiefly for the sake of servants that they also may be provided for and may hear the Word of God, if they are not able to be present at other sermons. After that, an antiphon with Te Deum or Benedictus alternately, with Our Father, Collect, and Benedicamus Domino. At Mass, about 8 a.m. or 9 a.m., there should be a sermon on the Gospel, as found according to the season. In the afternoon, at Vespers, before Magnificat, sermons in regular course. . . . Hereby we provide that the layman has preaching and teaching enough: but, if a man wants more, he may find it on other days.
(Luther, The German Mass and Order of Divine Service; http://www.projectwittenberg.org/pub/resources/text/wittenberg/luther/germnmass-order.txt)
But in many ways, church today has also remained the same—not only from Luther’s time but for centuries prior to Luther. Here is the general order of the church service that Luther outlined in his German Mass, and that was based on the historic Latin Mass. What was the “new” element that Luther introduced? The use of German for the benefit of the worshipers!
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