Castle Church in Wittenberg (Lutherstadt Wittenberg) on the River Elbe (Schlosskirche, auch Kirche der Reformation)
The Castle Church (Schlosskirche) or the All Saints Church (Allerheiligenkirche) was built by Conrad Pflüger (Konrad Pflüger) in the Late Gothic style between 1490 and 1509. The Church was opened to parishioners in 1511. According to a legend, Christian theologian Martin Luther (1483–1546) posted his Ninety-five Theses challenging the practice of selling indulgences and the Pope’s ability to absolve sins on the doors of the church on October 31, 1517. The Theses opened the era of Reformation and the All Saints Church became the first Lutheran church in the world. The church is the burial site for Martin Luther, his associate Philipp Melanchthon (1497–1560), and Frederick III the Wise, Elector of Saxony (1463–1525).
Peter visited the Church on October 3/14, 1712, on his way from Berlin to Carlsbad. According to his Travel Journal, on that day the Tsar dined in Wittenberg “where Martin Luther lies buried”. After the lunch, the Tsar “visited the Kirche where he is buried”, acquainted himself with Luther’s library, “saw his shot glass or drinking glass which he used for drinking, looked around his room, and left an inscription regarding the inkwell that Luther supposedly threw at the devil which read: “The ink is fresh and this is all nonsense.”
Interestingly, the famous ink stain was apparently shown to Peter when in Wittenberg. But, if really true, the inkwell incident should have occurred in the Wartburg Castle in Eisenach, Thuringia where Luther was hiding out from the papists between December 1521 and March 1522 and where he worked to translate the Bible into German. When taken to Luther’s room in the castle, tourists are still told the story about an ink stain that appears on the wall from time to time. However, Peter never visited Wartburg.
In Wittenberg, the Tsar saw the fortress, “drank to health, and fired cannons there”, and then he headed to Leipzig where he arrived the same day.
His next visit to Wittenberg was on November 15/26–16/27, 1712, on his way from Teplitz (modern Teplice in the Czech Republic) to Berlin. The Tsar revisited the church where Luther rests, visited local physicians where he “watched anatomies”, and spent overnight in the town.
In 1760, during the Seven Years’ War (1756–1763), Wittenberg occupied by the Prussian troops came under fire by the Austrian Army. The church was totally destroyed and it was restored ten years later. In 1885–1892, the church underwent restoration which transformed it into a non-Gothic building and the castle tower was turned into an 88-meters high church bell tower. The All Saints Church is on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage List.
The present bronze “Theses Door” which weighs nearly one thousand kilos was donated to the church by Frederick William IV, King of Prussia, in 1858. The door bears the text that laid the foundation for the Reformation.
The church was completely renovated to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The opening ceremony of the renovated church took place in October 2016.