Wittenberg on the River Elbe is the town most closely associated with Martin Luther. Even today, the Reformation and Renaissance form a prominent part of its appeal. The old quarter, for example, is nothing less than an open-air museum where you can trace the course of world history. It is just a short stroll from the house where Luther lived in the east of town to the Castle Church, which boasts the famous theses door and the graves of Luther and Philipp Melanchthon. The monuments that you pass along the way include Melanchthon's house, St. Mary's Church with its exceptional Cranach Altar, and the Cranach courtyards.
Wittenberg, which first appeared in records in 1183, was the seat for the House of Ascania and later the Wettin dynasty. It became the electoral seat for Frederick the Wise towards the end of the 15th century. His shrewd policies, the fast-growing university founded in 1502, and, of course, the legacy of Luther, Melanchthon and other major reformers made the small town on the Elbe river the focal point of religious life in Europe. Wittenberg continued to play a key role in church politics, academia and the arts well after that momentous century. In 1938, the name of the town was officially changed to Lutherstadt Wittenberg.
The Reformation memorials in the town of Martin Luther - namely the Castle Church, St. Mary's Church and the Luther and Melanchthon houses - were designated a joint World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1996.
In 2017, it will be 500 years since Luther nailed his theses to the church door. People all around the world are gearing up to celebrate the Reformation anniversary. Preparations are already well underway. The Luther decade officially opened in September 2008 with the slogan: "Luther 2017 - 500 years since the Reformation".
The events, projects and festivities lined up for the coming years represent an excellent opportunity for people to come to Wittenberg, follow in the footsteps of Luther and experience Reformation history at the places where it happened.