Martin Luther maintained close contacts with the County of Mansfeld throughout his lifetime. He travelled to Eisleben, the city of his birth, on several occasions in an effort to intervene in the fate of the city. During his last journey, which was intended to reconcile a dispute among the counts, the reformer died there on 18 February 1546.
Today, above the market in Eisleben, there is a museum commemorating the location of Luther’s death. It is part of a group of buildings rebuilt on the south side of St. Andrew’s Church Square following the fire in 1498. The building consists of a two-storey front building, a long side building and a spiral staircase in the angle between the two parts. With its elaborate portal and window design and the large bull’s-eye windows, the house exudes a certain grandeur.
The building has been considered Luther’s Death House since 1726. From 2010 to early 2013, the monument was carefully repaired and extended to create a museum quarter through addition of a modern new structure. For the first time, visitors to the house can now explore all of the rooms of the Death House in a single, continuous tour.
Luther died in Eisleben on February 18, 1546, during his final voyage to the County of Mansfeld. Recent research has confirmed that the Protestant reformer died in the ‘house, which belonged to a certain Dr. Drachstett, opposite the market’. Today, the hotel ‘Graf von Mansfeld’ is located here. Cyriakus Spangenberg’s chronicle of Mansfeld was the source of the subsequent confusion and the mistaken identification of Luther's place of death. He described the death house as a house, ‘which was thereafter long known as the House of Doctor Drachstett, in which Doctor Luther passed away in 1546’. It was still a well-known fact among Spangenberg's contemporaries that the house where Luther had died, which was opposite the market, had once belonged to Philipp Drachstedt. This fact later faded from memory. The passage in Spangenberg’s chronicle was associated with another property, which had long been in the possession of the Drachstedt family. In the middle of the 18th century, the house at Andreaskirchplatz 7 was thus identified as the house in which Luther had died. This building had been in the possession of Philipp Drachstedt’s son Bartholomäus.
The fabric of the house on Andreaskirchplatz essentially dates to Luther’s era. Recent research has shown that the still-extant timbering of the roof was constructed in 1514. Over the years, however, the façade has been altered, and the layout of the rooms has been changed.
The Prussian state purchased the building in 1863. The future Emperor William I donated 6,000 marks from his private funds for the transaction. The house where Luther had supposedly died was to be converted into a memorial. It took on its current appearance in the 30 years that followed. In 1863-1865, Friedrich August Ritter first carried out neo-Gothic alterations to the house’s Biedermeier façade and altered the layout of the rooms to conform to the reports of Luther's last stay in Eisleben. In a second phase, during the years 1893-1894, Nuremberg art professor Friedrich Wilhelm Wanderer designed the interiors of the rooms named in the reports of Luther’s death.
With this tradition in mind, the Luther Memorials Foundation preserves this house as a site for the commemoration of Luther’s death.
Luther’s Death House is the main testimony to the social, economic and spiritual basis of the historic events surrounding the Reformation and commemorations of the Reformation. The Prussian state purchased it in 1862 as a memorial to the reformer. In a conservation effort remarkable for its time, from 1862 to 1868, the house was restored to its mid-16th-century state. In 1894, the rooms were fitted out and furnished in a historicising style – in a manner exemplary of the approach to historic preservation in the late 19th century.
From 1726 down to the present day, the house – likewise intimately associated with the biography of Luther in the collective memory – has served to commemorate Luther’s death; in the second half of the 19th century, it was staged as a memorial.