St. Mary's Church, the parish church in which Luther often preached, was built in the 13th century, but has been much altered since Luther's time. The reformers Martin Luther and Johannes Bugenhagen preached there and the building also saw the first celebration of the mass in German rather than Latin and the first ever distribution of the bread and wine to the congregation - it is thus considered the mother church of the Protestant Reformation.

The first mention of the church dates to 1187. Originally a wooden church, in 1280 the present chancel and the chancel's south aisle were built. Between 1412 and 1439 the nave was replaced by the present three-aisle structure and the two towers built, originally crowned by stone pyramids. In 1522, in the wake of the iconoclasm begun by Andreas Bodenstein, almost the whole interior decoration was demolished and removed, leaving the still-surviving High Medieval Judensau on the exterior of the south wall. On his return to Wittenberg from the Wartburg, Luther preached his famous invocavit sermons in the Stadtkirche. In 1547, during the Schmalkaldic War, the towers' stone pyramids were removed to make platforms for cannon. Despite the war, an altarpiece by Lucas Cranach the Elder was unveiled in the church. In 1556 the platforms were replaced by the surviving octagonal caps, a clock and a clock-keeper's dwelling. This was followed by an extension of the east end and the overlying 'Ordinandenstube'. In 1811 the interior of the church was redesigned to a Neo-Gothic scheme by Carlo Ignazio Pozzi. The church was fully restored in 1928 and 1980-1983.

Since 1996 it has been a World Heritage Site together with other Luther Memorials in Eisleben and Wittenberg.

St. Mary's Church contains a painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, representing the Last Supper (with the faces of Luther and other reformers), Baptism and Confession, also a font by Hermann Vischer the Elder (1457). In addition, there are numerous historic paintings in the church.

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Details

Founded: 13th century
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Habsburg Dynasty (Germany)

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Myeongcheol Oh (3 months ago)
One of the famous painting places by Lucas Cranach the Elder who Martin Luther’s close friend.
Neil Cadwallader (5 months ago)
A good spot to stop by.
On A Cloud (15 months ago)
The presence of history is almost palpable in this place. Beautiful architecture and a must-see in Wittenberg. Everyone focuses on the Castle Church but this is a true gem. Sadly I was not here during the Christmas market.
Frank Koine (2 years ago)
Love it. Lots of history and spirit. A spiritual pilgrimage every Christian should make if you can afford to.
André Scultori (3 years ago)
Luther placed his 95 Thesis in the All Saint's Church, but it was here that he preached and spread them. Its atmosphere is evident when you go in.
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Porta Nigra

The Porta Nigra (Latin for black gate) is the largest Roman city gate north of the Alps. It is designated as part of the Roman Monuments, Cathedral of St. Peter and Church of Our Lady in Trier UNESCO World Heritage Site. The name Porta Nigra originated in the Middle Ages due to the darkened colour of its stone; the original Roman name has not been preserved. Locals commonly refer to the Porta Nigra simply as Porta.

The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 AD. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

In the early Middle Ages the Roman city gates were no longer used for their original function and their stones were taken and reused for other buildings. Also iron and lead braces were broken out of the walls of the Porta Nigra for reuse. Traces of this destruction are still clearly visible on the north side of the gate.

After 1028, the Greek monk Simeon lived as a hermit in the ruins of the Porta Nigra. After his death (1035) and sanctification, the Simeonstift monastery was built next to the Porta Nigra to honor him. Saving it from further destruction, the Porta Nigra was transformed into a church: The inner court of the gate was roofed and intermediate ceilings were inserted. The two middle storeys of the former gate were converted into church naves: the upper storey being for the monks and the lower storey for the general public. The ground floor with the large gates was sealed, and a large outside staircase was constructed alongside the south side (the town side) of the gate, up to the lower storey of the church. A small staircase led further up to the upper storey. The church rooms were accessible through former windows of the western tower of the Porta Nigra that were enlarged to become entrance doors (still visible today). The top floor of the western tower was used as church tower, the eastern tower was leveled, and an apse added at its east side. An additional gate - the much smaller Simeon Gate - was built adjacent to the East side of the Porta Nigra and served as a city gate in medieval times.

In 1802 Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the church in the Porta Nigra and the monastery beside it, along with the vast majority of Trier"s numerous churches and monasteries. On his visit to Trier in 1804, Napoleon ordered that the Porta Nigra be converted back to its Roman form. Only the apse was kept; but the eastern tower was not rebuilt to its original height. Local legend has it that Napoleon originally wanted to completely tear down the church, but locals convinced him that the church had actually been a Gaulish festival hall before being turned into a church. Another version of the story is that they told him about its Roman origins, persuading him to convert the gate back to its original form.

In 1986 the Porta Nigra was designated a World Heritage Site, along with other Roman monuments in Trier and its surroundings. The modern appearance of the Porta Nigra goes back almost unchanged to the reconstruction ordered by Napoleon. At the south side of the Porta Nigra, remains of Roman columns line the last 100 m of the street leading to the gate. Positioned where they had stood in Roman times, they give a slight impression of the aspect of the original Roman street that was lined with colonnades. The Porta Nigra, including the upper floors, is open to visitors.