Translated by Katharina Gustavs
Wittenbergis Luther's Wittenbergin three distinct ways: The Wittenbergof the late Middle Ages provides the conditions for Luther's work, the Wittenbergof the Reformation era is shaped by Luther himself, and the Wittenberg of the post-Reformation period is formed by Luther's followers.
A fortress of Wittenberg is mentioned for the first time in 1180. It belongs to the Ascanians, who call people from the Rhineland and the Netherlands to settle there around 1159/60. Situated next to the fortress, this settlement grows into a town, receiving its charter in 1293. The charter also includes permission for fortifications. Soon a town wall is erected.
The townspeople continue to gain in strength and about 1280 they begin the construction of a town church, the so-called St. Mary's Church. Well before 1300 the Gothic choir with its two aisles is completed. A keystone in the nave shows Christ giving a blessing. In the middle of the fourteenth century a mighty construction is begun on the west side, including two towers. In 1439 the finished hall church with its nave and two aisles running between the choir and the west end is consecrated. Thus the town church takes on the shape it has maintained to the present day.
At the end of the fourteenth century a big sandstone relief depicting Christ as judge of the world is erected in the cemetery next to the church. It instills into the people of Wittenberg the typical late-medieval demand: Prepare yourself for the final judgment through”good works“so that you may lessen your punishment. Masses read in memoriam of the deceased are also regarded as highly effective. For this reason the town church is equipped with side altars. About 1368 a chapel of Corpus Christi is founded, to be located on the south side of the church. Due to the increasing number of masses to be read by the hired priests, sermons are on the decline. In order to correct this situation, the town council creates the office of a municipal preacher (Pr¨adikant), filled and paid for by the town council itself.