The citizens of Altenburg turned to Martin Luther as early as 1522 when they asked to have a German pastor. Luther sent them his confidant Wenceslas Linck, who was also married by Luther in Altenburg in 1523 in one of the first clerical marriages ever. Luther came to Altenburg a total of 16 times, often to visit George Spalatin or merely to pass through on his way to Leipzig, Zeitz, or Coburg. In 1518 he met papal envoy Karl von Miltiz, who was bringing the pope's coveted Golden Rose to the electors, and who also tried (in vain) to persuade the monk to remain silent. Luther's wife, Katharina von Bora, owned an estate in nearby Zölsdorf, and his great-grandson also died in Altenburg in 1677, and is still buried at the city's Church of the Brethren (Brüderkirche). Of particular interest, however, is the vividness with which the Reformation and its practical implementation at original locations can be experienced in Altenburg.
When George Spalatin came to Altenburg in 1525 at Luther's request, he left behind the power and influence he had had in Saxon politics. His intension was to put the Reformation's ideas into practice in Altenburg. According to Luther's instructions, and expressed in today's words, Spalatin first began as a pastor and then became one of the first superintendents of the Altenburg 'pilot project'. The Reformation left little unchanged in the daily life of the city. The monasteries were dismantled, which often resulted in years of struggle. The hospitals, schools, and relief for the poor all had to be reorganised. Influence and landed property had to be reallocated between the interests of the city, the church, and the electors. The quality of ecclesiastical care was rigorously assessed and improved through the introduction of visitations. Spalatin documented these processes during the 20 years he was involved and maintained regular correspondence with Luther, who often sought personal help from his good friend and confidant. Altenburg now thinks of itself as having been a 'case study' with regards to how the Reformation was actually established.