As the last largely preserved structure of the former University of Wittenberg, the structure that housed the former Collegium Augusteum is a unique testimony to the place in which Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon taught. Established in 1565 in the former Augustinian Cloisters and residence of Martin Luther, the college also represents one of only three college buildings still in existence that date from the 16th century. It served not only to accommodate and educate holders of scholarships provided by the sovereign family, but also to commemorate Martin Luther; the structure was of exceptional importance to the spread of Reformation doctrine.
The Collegium Augusteum is located on Collegienstraße, at the eastern edge of the mediaeval city centre, and is grouped around an inner courtyard. The front and side building (today known as the ‘Augusteum’) are designed as a two-winged complex. With the Luther House World Heritage Site, they form an ensemble of buildings in the rearward portion of the property that constitutes an architectural and spiritual unit.
An outstanding feature are the two large halls in the front building: on the ground floor of the former library hall and in the 1st storey of what is known as the ‘Princes’ Hall’ – formerly a site for university ceremonies, designed with life-size likenesses of the electors of Saxony, Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon created in the Cranach workshop. With the portraits of Luther and Melanchthon, the Princes’ Hall was recognised as a memorial site for the Reformation. Wittenberg students and professors gathered here to commemorate the great reformers in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Leucorea, the University of Wittenberg, was founded in 1502. Collegiate halls, residential buildings and classroom buildings were built just a year later: Collegium Fridericianum in the southeast of the city with the so-called ‘Old College’ (1503-1507) and the so called ‘New College’ (1509-1513), as well as the Law College (from 1519) in the north of the city. The university expanded again in the second half of the 16th century: in 1564, Elector August donated a new college for the accommodation and education of holders of scholarships provided by the sovereign family. At the elector’s request, it was established as the Collegium Augusteum in the former Augustinian Cloisters and Luther’s residence, Luther House.
The Collegium Augusteum was part of the University of Wittenberg until 1816. After the closure of the university, the seminary converted it into a place of instruction for Protestant theologians. To this day, it thus reflects the well-preserved architectural structure of the mediaeval university building that played a prominent role in the spread of Reformation doctrine.
Since 2015, the Augusteum has been in use as a museum for special exhibitions, museum education and events to promote cultural education. Recently installed fixtures have been removed to permit an experience of the spaces’ historic structures. The new entrance hall along the property wall to the east now joins the Museum of the History of the Reformation in Luther House with the exhibition areas in the front and side buildings of the former Collegium Augusteum.
As the sole substantially surviving remnant of the University of Wittenberg, the Collegium Augusteum provides an exceptional material witness to one of the key foundations of the Reformation – education: no university, no Reformation. The structure is also one of only three college structures surviving from the 16th century in Germany. This makes it also a testimony of national significance from the standpoint of architecture, social history and the history of education.
The Collegium Augusteum served not only to accommodate and educate holders of scholarships provided by the sovereign family, but also to commemorate Martin Luther; the structure was of exceptional importance to the spread of Reformation doctrine. Its nearly 200 years of continued use as a Protestant seminary, and its still-ongoing use as a clearinghouse for historical-cultural education, highlight its importance as a continuously thriving site for the tradition of the Protestant denomination.