The Reformation and Luther City of Torgau

Torgau was the political centre of the Reformation.

Indeed, Wittenberg is said to be the mother of the Reformation, and Torgau is described as the midwife. The middle classes in Torgau benefited from the city’s status as the seat of the Electors, enjoying lively trade and a well-developed economy. Martin Luther first preached in Torgau in 1521. The people of Torgau celebrated his courageous appearance in Worms and supported him throughout his life. His teachings fell on fertile ground here. Evidence suggests that Martin Luther visited Torgau around 60 times.

Katharina von Bora and eleven other nuns escaped Nimbschen Monastery on Easter Eve 1523 with the help of Leonhard Koppe, a councillor and merchant from Torgau. After a short stay in Torgau, nine of them arrived in Wittenberg. The city was not only Katharina’s first stop in her life outside the monastery; it was also the place where she died. While escaping the plague in Wittenberg, she had an accident on her way to Torgau and died on 20 December. She was laid to rest at St. Mary’s Church in Torgau. The only memorial dedicated to the wife of the great reformer can be found in the house were she died on Katharinenstrasse 11.

The first Protestant hymn book was published in 1524; it was written by the Torgau-born cantor Johann Walter in close collaboration with Luther. Traditional Protestant church music can still be enjoyed in Torgau at sophisticated concerts. Protestant Electors founded the League of Torgau in 1526 to defend religious freedom. In 1527, a Protestant visitation order was developed in Torgau under the guidance of Martin Luther. In 1529, Martin Luther personally attended the first school and church visitation in Torgau. Luther, Melanchthon, Jonas and Bugenhagen laid the foundations for the Augsburg Confession by developing the Torgau Articles in the Superintendent’s House in 1530. Elector Johann Frederick the Magnanimous issued a protective edict from his residence in Torgau in 1534, paving the way for the complete edition of the Bible to be printed in Wittenberg. The church at Torgau Castle was consecrated by Martin Luther as the first Protestant church on 5 October 1544. Its architecture still reflects the new foundations of Protestant teachings.

Luther’s eldest son, Johannes, was sent to Torgau’s prestigious School of Latin in 1542. His youngest son, Paul Luther, married Torgau-born Anna von Warbeck.