Martin Luther was born in Eisleben on 10 November 1483. The citizens of the city cultivated the memory of their greatest son very early on: a memorial building was built there already in the late 17th century.
Though it essentially dates from the second half of the 15th century, Luther’s Birthplace has been renovated several times. Following a fire in the city in 1689, the structure was rebuilt as a plastered half-timbered building. Above the front door is a large relief with a portrait of the reformer, the Luther Rose and the inscription: ‘Gottes Wort und Luthers Lehr vergehen nun und nimmermehr. Anno 1483 ist D. Martinus Luther in diesem Haus gebohren und zu S. P(etri) und P(auli) getauft.’ [‘God’s Word and Luther’s teaching will never pass away. D. Martinus Luther was born in this house in the year 1483 and was baptised in the Church of St Peter and St Paul.’]
From 2005 through 2007, the building was extensively renovated and expanded and thus became a museum for the memorial and information needs of a now-international public.
Martin Luther was born in Petri District, in a late mediaeval, half-timbered house located on the modern-day Lutherstraße. The house was in private hands for the next 200 years following the family’s departure. Already in 1583, a memorial plaque was put in place at Luther’s Birthplace that shows a full-figure likeness of Luther that has been preserved to this day. The building was destroyed to a large extent in a fire in the city in 1689. The City of Eisleben purchased the land and built a Luther Memorial there. When it opened in 1693, Luther’s Birthplace housed a charity school for needy children that had been established in honour or Luther; the school remained in operation until the 20th century.
Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III [Frederick William III] ordered the state acquisition of Luther’s Birthplace in 1817. Renovations carried out at the king’s request underscored the character of Luther’s Birthplace as a museum.
Luther’s Birthplace was extensively refurbished between 2005 and 2007; the structure was expanded through addition of a new building connecting the Birthplace and the charity school, along with a visitors’ centre on the opposite street corner. The newly formed ensemble has since received five architectural awards, advancing to become the most prize-winning building in Saxony-Anhalt.
Immediately following the severe damage done to the original Birthplace in a fire in 1689, the present building was erected over the archaeologically still-discernible remains of the previous structure in 1693. The archaeological survey of the land parcel and predecessor structure produced valuable findings with respect to the social and economic environment in which Luther had grown up.
The Birthplace contains a host of architectural features that are associated with or that commemorate Luther. These features make the structure a vivid monument to the reformer’s bourgeois lifestyle and a witness to the social and spiritual basis of the historical events contemporary to his life. The building was completely refurbished in 1866 by Friedrich August Stüler to restore the structure to the appearance it had in 1693. Luther’s Birthplace thus combines the atmospheres of history and historicism in a single place.
The house in which Luther came into the world is linked with a key fact of his biography. Since the 16th century, the house has been a venue of active commemoration of the reformer, and hence one of the earliest museum memorials ever.