Halle holds a special place in the history of the Reformation: not only did Cardinal Albrecht take up his future residence at Moritzburg Palace in Halle in 1541, but it was also here that a dispute broke out about the sale of indulgences. Albrecht – the Archbishop of Magdeburg and Mainz, administrator of the Halberstadt diocese and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire – had an opponent: Martin Luther, who criticised the practice of selling indulgences to absolve people of their sins and so became Albrecht’s greatest rival. Because of the persistent struggle between Luther and Albrecht, the city of Halle can be described as the ‘cradle of the Reformation’. In 1541 Cardinal Albrecht gave up on the city. Luther, meanwhile, went on to give three sermons at the market church in Halle between 1545 and 1546.
Halle is the ‘city of Handel’. The famous composer George Frideric Handel was born and baptised in Halle in 1685 and learnt to play the organ there, before going forth into the world. Halle’s history goes back much further than that of course – the city is more than 1,200 years old and is home to over 230,000 people today. Thankfully, the historical city centre suffered little damage during the Second World War and many buildings were preserved. The city’s various museums are also well worth a visit.
The Marktkirche is a late-Gothic hall church. It was built in the 16th century, replacing the Church of St. Gertrude and Church of St. Mary but keeping their paired towers. Justus Jonas introduced the Reformation here in 1541. Samuel Scheidt, Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach worked as composers and organists at the church.
Martin Luther held sermons here on 5 August 1545 and on 6 and 26 January 1546. On display in a tower room are Luther’s original death mask, a cast of his hands and also the pulpit dating from Luther’s time.
From 1520 Cardinal Albrecht had the Dominican monastery church from around 1300 extended to serve as the collegiate church for his residence. Now a cathedral it has many outstanding sculptural features that attest to its once opulent Renaissance decoration – these include a striking arched gable, pulpit and 17 monumental pillar statues. After the Reformation, the cathedral served the ruling nobility as a court and palace church, during which time early baroque elements were added. From 1688 the Protestant congregation, which had expanded through the influx of religious refugees from the Palatinate, used the cathedral for its services.
Next to the cathedral is the New Palace, originally conceived by Cardinal Albrecht as a Catholic university, and built between 1531 and 1539 in the Renaissance style.
Archbishop Ernst of Saxony laid the foundation stone for Moritzburg Palace in 1484, and moved into the new residence with his entourage in May 1503. By this point, the building was largely complete except for the palace chapel. Under Archbishop Ernst’s successor, Cardinal Albrecht, Moritzburg Palace was afforded prestigious furnishings with rich wooden panelling, magnificent tiled stoves, lavish carpets, murals and exquisite paintings by the great artists of the day, such as Cranach, Grünewald and Dürer.
The outer parts of this late-Gothic palace were refurbished and converted into modern museum rooms in 2008, restoring access to the north and west wings. The Saxony-Anhalt Museum of Art mounts various temporary exhibitions here in addition to its permanent exhibition focusing on 20th and 21st century art, which includes Hermann Gerlinger’s comprehensive collection of works by the Brücke artists and paintings from Lyonel Feininger’s Halle Cycle.
With four talers and 16 groschen in the collection box, theologian August Hermann Francke set about founding a ‘school city’ in 1698. Its era-defining reforms reflected Lutheran ideas and were taken across Europe as far as India and North America by Francke’s students. Up to 3,000 people lived and worked at the ‘school city’ in its heyday, and it was heralded by Francke’s contemporaries as the ‘New Jerusalem’. The Francke Foundations are still a vibrant promoter of education today, with museums, schools and institutes. The impressive ensemble is on UNESCO’s Tentative List of properties considered for World Heritage nomination. It includes the Historical Orphanage, Europe’s longest half-timbered building, the oldest civic museum room and an early modern library with stage-set shelving.