Martin Luther declared that the buildings in Torgau were more beautiful than any from ancient times, noting that even King Solomon's temple was only made of wood. Today, you can see with your own eyes what the great reformer meant, either on a guided tour or following the Torgau museum trail. The impressive town centre, for example, which dates back to the 16th century, has been miraculously preserved almost entirely in its original condition. Around 500 Renaissance and late-Gothic style buildings form an architectural ensemble of international standing. Hartenfels Palace, the best preserved early Renaissance palace in Germany, and the magnificent town hall that dominates the market square, are the highlights in an impressive historical townscape. The foremost example of Renaissance architecture in Torgau is the Grosser Wendelstein, anopen spiral stairwell attached to the main building of Hartenfels Palace. Built between 1533 and 1536 by Konrad Krebs, the elegant stairway soars upward for two storeys with no additional support. A medallion featuring the first sculpture of Luther is on display by the upper entrance.
The palace chapel, which is housed in one of the wings, was consecrated on 5 October 1544 by Martin Luther. It is widely regarded as the first ever Protestant church, and the first embodiment of the Reformation message in architecture and art.
Torgau was also the birthplace of the Elector of Saxony Frederick the Wise, who, although not a follower of Luther's teachings, secretly brought the outlawed and excommunicated reformer to safety in Wartburg Castle. The council and the people of Torgau celebrated Luther's courageous appearance at the Diet of Worms on his return from Wartburg Castle. Torgau became the political centre of the Reformation. As a result, it is popularly known as the "wet-nurse of the Reformation" whereas Wittenberg assumes the role of the mother.
In 1519, the first ever German-language baptism was held in the Church of St. Nicholas. A year later, the church witnessed the first Protestant sermon in German. In 1526, the Elector of Saxony and the Landgrave of Hesse formed the Alliance of Torgau to defend their territories in the event of a Catholic attack.
In 1530, Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon, Justus Jonas and Johannes Bugenhagen drew up the Torgau Articles as the basis for the Augsburg Confession. Melanchthon accompanied Elector John the Steadfast to the Augsburg Diet. Luther, who was still a declared outlaw under excommunication, stayed back at Coburg Fortress, where he remained under the protection of the Saxony Elector.
Four years later, Elector Fredrick the Magnanimous issued an edict from his Torgau residence urging the complete edition of the Lutheran Bible to be printed in Wittenberg. Frederick succeeded his father Johann as Elector of Saxony in 1532 and converted the electoral residence into a place of great prestige and splendour.
Luthers wife, Katharina von Bora, died in 1552 in Torgau. She is buried in St. Mary's Church. The Katharina Luther memorial in her last home is dedicated to the life and work of this courageous woman.