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Luther 2017

Follow in the footsteps of Luther with Ringhotels

On 31 October 2017, we remembered – for the 500th time - the day on which it was recorded that Martin Luther posted the 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg church castle. In the course of the Luther 2017 celebrations, marking the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation, numerous events and exhibitions have taken place throughout Germany – all within easy reach from a Ringhotel.

When, in the autumn of 1517, Martin Luther published his 95 theses opposing the granting of indulgences by the church, he could not have known that his remonstrations would give birth to a mighty protest movement.

By means of the so-called Letters of Indulgence, the church invoked people to ‘buy’ themselves deliverance from their sins. The money raised in this way was used to finance the building of St Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, amongst other things.

The sale of Indulgences and the widespread purchasing of religious offices were but two of many serious grievances, which drove Luther to strive for reformation of the church. The posting of the 95 theses is today considered the beginning of the Reformation – an event which has had an impact not only on German but also on world history.

Luther Memorials in Eisleben and Wittenberg

Born on 10 November 1483 in Eisleben, Martin Luther was the eighth of nine children born to alderman and mine-owner, Hans Luder, and his wife Margarete. He spent most of his life in Wittenberg, however, where he worked as a professor of theology.

During a visit to his hometown to participate in settlement talks, he died on 23 January 1543. The cities of Eisleben and Wittenberg, whose Luther Memorials received UNESCO world cultural heritage status in 1996, have thus both used the moniker of ‘Luther City’ for more than 60 years now.

The houses in which Luther was born and died are located in the Luther City of Eisleben, which is within easy distance of the Ringhotel Mutiger Ritter in Bad Koesen as well as the Ringhotel Weisser Hirsch in Wernigerode.

Both houses are well preserved and not only exemplify the works of Luther, but as small museums they also provide an interesting impression of his civic life.

In the Luther city of Wittenberg, the centrally located Ringhotel Schwarzer Baer garni proudly claims the honour of having formerly hosted Luther as a guest. The city is also home to the Luther House, where the Reformer spent 35 years of his life. Originally built as an Augustine monastery in 1504, it became Luther’s main residence and place of work from 1508.

Here the Reformer once lectured students from all around Europe and wrote works which changed the world. Luther House has been a public museum since 1883 and is today the world’s largest museum of the history of the reformation.

From 13 May to 5 November 2017, Luther House will host a major exhibition about the life, work and times of Luther. Also worth a visit are the city church where Luther preached for 30 years and the castle church, where he is buried. A pleasant town along the river Elbe, Wittenberg is easily reached from the nearby Ringhotel Zum Stein in Oranienbaum-Woerlitz.

From Protest to Reformation

After publishing his theses, which he delivered to his religious superiors on 31 October 1517, with covering letters, Luther was required to appear before the Augsburg Parliament to justify his actions.

Under interrogation by the Roman legate, Cajotan, Luther refused to rescind his theses. Discussions around the question of Luther took place from 12 to 14 October in the city palace of the Fuggers; however, he stayed in the Carmelite convent, which is today St. Anne’s Church. A small plaque still commemorates his stay there. The Ringhotel Alpenhof in Augsburg is an ideal base from which to explore the magnificent old town, with its multitude of old congressional buildings. Luther managed to avoid the threat of arrest by fleeing under the cover of darkness and returning to Wittenberg. In his 1520 essay, “On the Freedom of a Christian”, he depicted the unbreakable bond between Love and Faith. It was during this period that he also met Philipp Melanchton, shortly before his appointment to the University of Wittenberg, and thus gained an important friend, pupil and ally in the struggle to re-interpret the Gospels.

However, soon afterwards Luther, whose very ideas were challenging the power of the Church as well as those church dignatories, whose own power derived from it, was summoned to a hearing at the Diet of Worms.

He was guaranteed safe passage by Kaiser Karl V., who was known for his strict adherence to the Faith. Speaking in Worms in 1521, Luther defended his writings and famously refused to retract them with the words “Here I stand. I cannot do anything else. May God help me. Amen“. Whether these words were actually spoken remains controversial, as does the alleged posting of his theses on the Church doors in Wittenberg. The former Imperial Cities of Worms and Speyer are still magnificent today and remain popular destinations for guests staying at the Ringhotel Winzerhof in Rauenberg..

Translation of the Bible at Wartburg Castle

Luther was allowed to leave Worms, as promised, with his imperial escort. However, just a few days later in May 1521, the so-called Worms Concorde issued an imperial banning order against him and his teachings were outlawed. The Elector of Saxony, who was sympathetic to Luther, gave him protection by secretly offering him shelter in Wartburg Castle. It was here that Luther – writing incognito as “Squire Joerg“ – translated the entire Bible from the original Greek into German in just eleven weeks. This was a truly momentous event. In one fell swoop Luther made God’s word directly accessible to the common man; until then interpretation and communication of the Bible had been the exclusive perogative of the Church. At the same time he introduced numerous phrases and idioms into the German language, many of which are still in common use today – like “baptism of fire“,  “lay down the law“, “pangs of conscience“, “to be in the dark“, and “to be a closed book“.

Wartburg Castle near Eisenach, which is practically on the doorstep of the Ringhotel Lutherhotel Eisenacher Hof, thus became famous as Luther’s sanctuary. The Cavalier prison he occupied - known as the „Lutherstube“- became a shrine for pilgrims and can still be viewed today. As a testament to his influence, Wartburg Castle is hosting a special exhibition until 8th January 2017 called “Luther and the German Language“. From 4th May 2017 a new exhibition, “Luther and the Germans“, will be dedicated to the main leitmotifs of the Reformation and will demonstrate how every major period of German history has adopted its own image and interpretation of Luther

Thanks to its central location this Ringhotel is an ideal place from which to climb the steep path up to Wartburg Castle as well as to explore the old town, with its well-known sights, the Bach Museum, the Georgenkirche and the Lutherhaus Museum. The hotel’s unofficial moniker of “Luther Hotel” is well-founded. The “Lutherstube“ can accommodate upto 170 guests for its mediaeval banquets, which are an evocative reminder of the life and times of the great Reformer,  replete with music, jugglers, hundreds of candles, straw bedecked floors, meat served on metre long spits, historical dancing and after-dinner speeches.

The Marburg Discussions on Religion

During the 1520s the body of thought relating to the Reformation continued to spread. Its description as Protestantism, came directly from the word, “protestation“, a formal objection to the Imperial Law, delivered by 19 evangelical principalities and cities at the second Congress of Speyer in April 1529. Their argument was aimed squarely against the edicts of the “orthodox“ majority and proclaimed that “every man should be able to stand before, and be accountable to, God“.

In the autumn of 1529 Luther, who had been active in Wittenberg since 1522, was invited by the Landgrave Philipp to Marburg Castle to particpate in the so-called Marburg Discussions on Religion with the Swiss Reformer Ulrich Zwingli. While they were not able to overcome some of their fundamental disagreements during their meal, they did document the common tenets of the two branches of the Reformation in the Marburg Articles. These religious discussions and the earlier foundation of the oldest protestant university in the world in 1527 reaffirmed the significance of Marburg and Landgrave Philipp in the history of the Reformation. There will be numerous events commemorating the Reformation during “The Year of Luther“ – including an exhibition “Martin Luther and Education“.

Numerous Places to stay in Germany

In additon to his activities in Wittenberg, Martin Luther travelled extensively and many towns still bear witness to his visits. One of these is Neustadt an der Orla, where Ringhotel Schlossberg is housed within a collection of the town’s heritage buildings and combines  contemporary design with an historical ambience. It was here that Luther stood before the Augustine-Hermit Monastery and preached in the local St Johannis Church. The Luther House Museum, situated on the market square, is one of the most beautiful civic buildings in Thuringia, dating back to the Renaissance. During Luther’s time in Neustadt it was reputedly a private residence

At the Augsburg Congress in 1530, Martin Luther’s followers wanted to establish their protestant beliefs firmly within Imperial Law. In order to facilitate this Melanchthon drafted the “Confessio Augustana“ a Commitment to Protestant Faith, which was granted a tolerance by Kaiser Karl V. Due to his banning order, Luther himself was not permitted to particpate in the Congress. Instead he sought refuge from his persecutors at Veste Coburg Castle, from where he gave Melanchthon’s  opus his blessing. The impressive and beautifully preserved Veste Coburg with its Lutheran Chapel can be easily accessed from either Ringhotel Stadt Coburg or Ringhotel Schloss Hohenstein in Coburg/Ahorn.

The Reformation – unthinkable without the printing press

Luther’s works took place during the transformation of European societies from the Middle Ages to the Modern Era. The The profound economic and social structural changes also led directly to political and religious conflicts. The invention of the printing press was a towering innovation, without which the rapid spread of this new Faith would have been unthinkable. By publishing pamphlets, treatises and essays, which, thanks to the invention of mechanical reproduction, could reach a wide audience, Luther became one of the first to benefit from the development of public communication and awareness in the early modern era. His translation of the Bible alone led to 22 authorised versions being published within a three year period and thus finding a wide audience very rapidly.

It was Nuremberg that quickly became the symbol for this media revolution. The city on the Pegnitz was not only the first German city to embrace the Reformation, but was also one of the most important media hubs of the time, thanks to its numerous printing machines and publishing houses. Nuremberg is planning a series of events and exhibitions to celebrate the anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, all of which can be enjoyed by staying at Ringhotel Loew’s Merkur in Nuremburg itself, or at Ringhotel Reubel in Nürnberg-Zirndorf. The toy manufacturer, Playmobil, which is based in Zirndorf is even offering a special Luther figurine to commemorate  the anniversary.

Despite the compromises agreed in Augsburg, armed conflict took place in 1546/47 – three years after Luther’s death - between Catholics and Protestants, who had organised themselves under the auspices of the Schmalkaldic League. The Augsburg Religious Peace Accord of 1555 brought the conflict to an end and signalled the start of one of the longest periods of peace, which was rudely interrupted only in 1618 with the outbreak of the Thirty Years War. And thus the Reformation period came to a temporary end, with the unintended consequence of cementing the split in religious faith permanently across the Empire.

„If good works are to be, then the man who makes them must also be good, for where there is nothing good inside, then nothing good comes out“

Martin Luther, German theologian and reformer (1483 – 1546)

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