hidden europe 52

Lutherstadt Torgau

by hidden europe

Picture above: The market square in Torgau, Saxony, with the Rathaus (town hall) on the far side (photo © hidden europe).


The renaming of towns to honour an individual is commonplace. Nizhny Novgorod became Gorky, in honour of the Russian writer Maxim Gorki who was born there. The town later switched back to its original name. In eastern Germany, towns have been prefixed in honour of a notable citizen. We have Lutherstadt Wittenberg. Why not Lutherstadt Torgau?

Torgau-born Frederick III, Elector of Saxony, nominally remained Roman Catholic up to his death in 1525. But in the final years of his life, he defended Luther’s right to contest the authority of the Church. His measured approach in tumultuous times earned him the title Friedrich der Weise (Frederick the Wise). Frederick was succeeded by his younger brother, Johann, who served as Elector of Saxony until his death in 1532. From his base in Torgau, Johann gave much more explicit backing to the Wittenberg reformers.

Under Johann’s watch, the Lutheran Church was acclaimed as the State Church in the Electorate of Saxony — the first jurisdiction to accord such status to a confession which quickly developed into one of Europe’s major religions. The first church ever designed on Lutheran principles is within the Elector’s residence at Hartenfels Castle in Torgau. It was dedicated in 1544, with Martin Luther himself presiding at the ceremony.

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