The All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg is renowned and popularly known as Schlosskirche – Castle Church. It was the first chapel dedicating ‘All Saints’ at the new residence of Ascanian Duke Rudolf I of Saxe-Wittenberg from 1340. On the 6th of May 1346, it was consecrated and the Duke subordinated his foundation to the immediate jurisdiction of the Holy See. Now, the Schlosskirche serves as a place of worship, houses the town’s historical archives, and is home to the Riemer-Museum and a youth hostel.
The Schlossirche was designed by Conrad Pflüger. He was one of the leading architects and master builders of the late Gothic period in Germany. During the 1490s’ period, Conrad was the highest artistic authority in Albertine Saxony. He also happened to be city architect to Görlitz, ‘Werkmeister’ (Chief of Works) to the Dukes of Saxony. On the 17th of January 1503, the church became part of Prince Frederick III’s Residenzschloss – electoral castle and was called ‘Schloss Wittenberg’. Tilman Riemenschneider, Jacopo de’Barbari and Albrecht Dürer contributed with extensive furnishings during the construction of the castle and the church.
From the year 1490 to 1511, the church was constructed in the Late Gothic style. This was during the ‘House of Wettin’ Prince Frederick III – the Wise, elector of Saxony from 1486 had the former Ascanian fortress rebuilt. The All Saints’ Church is popular with multiple names like ‘Castle Church’, ‘Schlosskirche’ and ‘Reformation Memorial Church’. It is a Lutheran Church in Wittenberg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany.
In the year 1517, Martin Luther posted ‘the 95 Theses’ on the Church’s door. It was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. 375 years after Martin Luther’s posting, during the late 18th Century, the church was restored as a memorial site from 1883 and re-inaugurated on the 31st of October 1892.
In the year 1996, the Schlosskirche was inscribed on the ‘UNESCO World Heritage List’ along with other sites in Wittenberg and Eisleben associated with Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon for its religious significance and testimony to the lasting global effects of Reformation.
Elector Frederick II established the University of Wittenberg (Leucorea) in 1502. In the year 1507, he received the confirmation by the Papal legate Raymond Peraudi. The Schlosskirche was incorporated to serve as a chapel to the university. Soon, it evolved into an important worship and academic centre. The renowned reformist Philipp Melanchthon made his famous inaugural speech at the Schlosskirche. Students were also awarded doctorates at the church. Notable epitaphs have been preserved since then till date.
In the year 1525, Frederick III – the Wise died. He was buried in the Schlosskirche. Soon after the Lutheran rite was implemented. In the year 1546, Martin Luther was also buried near the pulpit, 2.4 metres below the floor of the nave. 14 years later in 1560, Philipp Melanchthon was also buried at the church. Interestingly, full-sized statues flank the nave with main figures of the Reformation – Nicolaus von Amsdorf, Caspar Cruciger, Johann Brenz, Urbanus Rhegius, Justus Jonas, Georg Spalatin, Johannes Bugenhagen, Philip Melanchthon and Martin Luther.
In the year 1858 after Wittenberg was incorporated into the Prussian Province of Saxony, King Frederick William IV ordered commemorative bronze doors to be mounted onto the jambs, replacing the original wooden ones. Martin Luther’s Theses were inscribed on the doors in their original Latin form. An amazing 1,000 kg (2,200 pounds) weighing doors with ornaments designed by Friedrich Drake became the ‘Objekt der Anziehungskraft’.
375 years after Martin Luther’s birth, the new doors were commemorated on the 10th of November 1858 at a formal ceremony. A tympanum crucifixion painting that portrays Martin Luther on the left with his German Bible translation, and Philipp Melanchthon on the right, with the 1530 Augsburg Confession, the main confession of faith in the Lutheran Church, which was formed by Luther and Melanchthon, is the highlight above the doors. The doors are the most photographed by residents and tourists in Europe.
Prussian architect Friedrich Adler led the extensive restoration of the Schlosskirche on the fourth centenary of Martin Luther’s birth in 1883. A neo-Gothic style was adapted by disciple Paul Ferdinand Groth under Friedrich Adler’s supervision. The interior was redesigned to have the rib vault ceiling and pilasters along with matronea and the apse.
Photographer: Eva-Maria Kühne-Wehrmann