Town and Parish Church of St. Mary’s of Lutherstadt Wittenberg

Tuesday, 1 August 2017 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, House of the Month, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  6 minutes

Stadtkirche Wittenberg © M_H.DE/cc-by-sa-4.0

Stadtkirche Wittenberg © M_H.DE/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Stadt- und Pfarrkirche St. Marien zu Wittenberg (Town and Parish Church of St. Mary’s) is the civic church of the German town of Lutherstadt Wittenberg. The reformers Martin Luther and Johannes Bugenhagen preached there and the building also saw the first celebration of the mass in German rather than Latin and the first ever distribution of the bread and wine to the congregation – it is thus considered the mother-church of the Protestant Reformation. Since 1996 it has been a World Heritage Site – it, the Castle Church of All Saints (Schlosskirche), the Lutherhaus, the Melanchthonhaus and the surrounding Dessau-Wörlitz Garden Realm form the world’s densest concentration of World Heritage Sites in one area.

The first mention of the Pfarrkirche St.-Marien dates to 1187. Originally a wooden church in the Diocese of Brandenburg, in 1280 the present chancel and the chancel’s south aisle were built. Between 1412 and 1439 the nave was replaced by the present three-aisle structure and the two towers built, originally crowned by stone pyramids. In 1522, in the wake of the iconoclasm begun by Andreas Bodenstein, almost the whole interior decoration was demolished and removed. On his return to Wittenberg from the Wartburg, Luther preached his famous invocavit sermons in the Stadtkirche. In 1547, during the Schmalkaldic War, the towers’ stone pyramids were removed to make platforms for cannon. Despite the war, an altarpiece by Lucas Cranach the Elder was unveiled in the church. In 1556 the platforms were replaced by the surviving octagonal caps, a clock and a clock-keeper’s dwelling. This was followed by an extension of the east end and the overlying “Ordinandenstube”. In 1811 the interior of the church was redesigned to a Neo-Gothic scheme by Carlo Ignazio Pozzi. The church was fully restored in 1928 and 1980-1983.

Stadtkirche Wittenberg © M_H.DE/cc-by-sa-4.0 © W. Bulach/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Runner1928/cc-by-sa-4.0 Market Square and Stadtkirche Wittenberg © dr. avishai teicher/cc-by-sa-4.0 Luther monument on Market Square © Runner1928/cc-by-sa-4.0 © W. Bulach/cc-by-sa-4.0 "Judensau" relief © Torsten Schleese Ground relief plate beneath the "Judensau" relief © Torsten Schleese
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Market Square and Stadtkirche Wittenberg © dr. avishai teicher/cc-by-sa-4.0
The organ of the town church was built in 1983 by the organ builder Sauer. Parts of the previous organs were used. The large mid-section of the prospectus was taken from the organ of 1811, and some of the organ’s registers of 1928 were also reused. The instrument has 53 registers on three manuals and a pedal.

The facade of the church has a “Judensau” from 1305. It portrays a rabbi who looks under the sow’s tail, and other Jews drinking from its teats. An inscription reads “Rabini Shem hamphoras,” gibberish which presumably bastardizes “shem ha-meforasch” (a secret name of God; see Shemhamphorasch). The sculpture is one of the last remaining examples in Germany of “medieval Jew baiting.” In 1988, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Kristallnacht, debate sprung up about the monument, which resulted in the addition of a sculpture recognizing that during the Holocaust six million Jews were murdered “under the sign of the cross“. In Vom Schem Hamphoras (1543), Luther comments on the “Judensau” sculpture at Wittenberg, echoing the antisemitism of the image and locating the Talmud in the sow’s bowels:

Here on our church in Wittenberg a sow is sculpted in stone. Young pigs and Jews lie suckling under her. Behind the sow a rabbi is bent over the sow, lifting up her right leg, holding her tail high and looking intensely under her tail and into her Talmud, as though he were reading something acute or extraordinary, which is certainly where they get their Shemhamphoras.

Read more on stadtkirchengemeinde-wittenberg.de, luther2017.de – Stadtkirche Wittenberg, lutherstadt-wittenberg.de – Stadtkirche Wittenberg, The Guardian, 31 October 2017: Wittenberg in the spotlight: Luther rules, 500 years after Reformation, Times of Israel, 17 January 2020: Ugly anti-Semitic remnant at center of German court battle, DW, 4 February 2020: Germany: Court rules anti-Semitic art can remain on church facade, The Guardian, 4 February 2020: German court rules antisemitic carving can stay on church wall, Reuters, 4 February 2020: German court rules medieval anti-Semitic sculpture can stay on church, NPR, 8 February 2020: A German Jew Vows To Fight On To Remove Anti-Semitic Sculpture After Court Defeat, DW, 14 June 2022: Antisemitic sculpture can stay on church: German high court, CNN, 15 June 2022: Anti-Semitic church carving can stay, Germany’s top appeal court rules and Wikipedia Stadtkirche Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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