Luther Decade 2008 – 2017

Jubiläumsdekade 2017

The Luther Decade designates the 10 years from the starting gun in 2008 until the anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

Tradition has it that Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Schlosskirche (Castle Church) in Wittenberg on 31.10.1517. In doing so, he launched a movement that would fundamentally change the Church and society. 500 years later, in 2017, the Evangelical churches of the world celebrate this event and thank God for his mercy.

Celebrations in the lead-up to the anniversary of the Reformation

Luther 2017 Logo

The Evangelical Church of Germany initiated the Luther Decade on 21.09.2008, 500 years after Luther started teaching at the University of Wittenberg. Over the course of 10 years, significant themes of the Reformation will be the focus of events, exhibitions, and congresses. Every year the decade is dedicated to a selected subject with information on it provided to those interested in Lutherstadt Wittenberg and other participating towns in Germany and around the world. The themes are constructed in such a way that visitors to the events can delve into the Reformation itself and also its significance in modern times.

Theme years in the Luther Decade

2017 l Anniversary of the Reformation

The Luther Decade has become international on the anniversary of the Reformation. The Reformation is to be remembered and discussed throughout Europe, the good and bad sides to it identified, and important staging-posts in the history of the Reformation illuminated. The contents of preceding theme years will recur in numerous events. The German Evangelical Church Day and the World Exhibition on the Reformation in Wittenberg have been highlights of the anniversary. The Path of Staging-Posts across Europe has united towns directly involved in spreading the ideas of the Reformation beyond Germany's borders.

2016 l The Reformation and One World

In the theme year of 2016, visitors were acquainted with the global impact of Luther and the Reformation. Luther's nailing of his theses to the church door had ramifications across the world which can still be felt today. There are now over 400 million Protestants spread throughout the world who influence and shape their environment on a daily basis. But how unified is the Evangelical Church? Where does it stand on globalization and the changes associated with it? Various events in and around Wittenberg were dedicated to this and other subjects.

2015 l The Reformation - Art and the Bible

The 500th anniversary of the birth of the famous Wittenberg painter, Lucas Cranach the Younger, served as an opportunity to assign the theme of Art and the Bible to 2015. The start of the 16th century is not only an important date for the Reformation but also marks the beginning of a new media age. The invention of printing made it possible to make Luther's translation of the Bible accessible even to the less educated classes. The technology of printing was also used by Cranach's art workshop for reproducing woodcuts, images, and flyers which helped to spread the translation of the Bible and the ideas behind the Reformation. The connection between art, the Bible, and the Reformation therefore forms the focus of events in 2015.

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2014 l The Reformation and Politics

Today, there is a separation between Church and State, at least in most parts of the world. This is a direct consequence of the Reformation which split the Church and cast doubt on its pre-eminence. The central question of the 2014 theme year in the Luther Decade was, to what extent faith and the Church influence or should influence politics. Furthermore, the connection between the views of the reformers and the questioning of authority was explored.

2013 | Reformation and Tolerance

The Catholic Church as Martin Luther knew it, did not display much tolerance. However, Luther was convinced of God's mercy and wanted to reflect this conviction in his faith. The aspiration of the Evangelical Church today is to achieve an ecumenical community with no national or confessional borders. How tolerant evangelical faith really is and to what extent the Reformation contributed to freedom of religion and expression, was explored and debated in numerous events.

2012 | The Reformation and Music

The reciprocal influence of music and the Reformation cannot be denied. The new faith was anchored in the conviction that everyone should be able to read and understand the Bible. This was achieved partly through a new musical culture which incorporated congregational singing as part of the church service. More and more songs were written for this purpose in the Reformation years until the present day. Songs which were intended to strengthen faith and encourage people to address the issues raised by their religion. Well-known composers such as Bach, Schütz, Telemann, and Handel contributed to this development.

2011 | The Reformation and Freedom

The notion of freedom is considered to represent the origin of the Reformation. Even Luther himself changed his birth name of Luder and modeled it after the Greek word for freedom. The freedom of the individual is a core concept of the Reformation as only a responsible, free Christian can decide for God of his own free will. But where does freedom start and where does it end? How free is man really? What role does religion play today in promoting freedom? These questions were discussed in various events in the fourth year of the Luther Decade.

2010 | The Reformation and Education

One treasured tenet, if not the most important one of the Reformation, is public access to the Bible for all believers. Every person should have access to the Bible and be able to read and understand it themselves. As a result of this belief, there was a call for education for everybody as many people, especially in the lower classes, were unable to read or write and until then had been dependent on the interpretations of the Church. The 2010 theme year of the Luther Decade was also a commemorative year for Philipp Melanchthon which fitted the theme as he was known primarily as an educational reformer and author of what is still today the most important confessional statement of all evangelical churches, the "Augsburg Confession".

2009 | The Reformation and Confession

The twin focuses for 2009 were based on two different anniversaries. On the one hand, 2009 was the 500th anniversary of the reformer Johannes Calvin. His teachings, writings and thoughts had a major influence on the spread of the Reformation. On the other, it also saw the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the Theological Declaration of Barmen. With this confession, the evangelical confessing synod of Wuppertal-Barmen took a stand against the prevailing national socialist ethos and the Nazi-friendly legalistic Church regime. To this day, the confession contained in the Theological Declaration of Barmen forms a core document in Evangelical teaching.

2008 | Opening of the Luther Decade

The opening year of the Luther Decade was dedicated mainly to the personality of Martin Luther. The focus was on the life and work of the reformer who 500 years previously had come to Lutherstadt Wittenberg to teach at the university, and the effect he has had on modern times.