Wittenberg Movement

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The Wittenberg Movement , with its religious reforms and iconoclasm, was an important turning point in the Reformation between the Reichstag in Worms (1521) and the German Peasants' War .

Origin of the religious reforms

While Martin Luther after the Diet of Worms in imperial ban on the Wartburg was staying, there was in Wittenberg efforts to far-reaching reforms, the practical consequences of Luther's manifestos of 1520 were. This was true of Mass , the celibacy of priests, and monastic vows . In May 1521 Bartholomäus married Bernhardi . Many other priests followed suit. Luther welcomed this development, as he had expressly stated in his nobility writing that the commandment of the priests to be celibate violated the Scriptures ( 1 Tim 3,2  LUT ; 4,3 LUT ).

It was different with monk vows. Andreas Bodenstein and Philipp Melanchthon had declared that vows that could not be kept were not of an obligation. Martin Luther saw a difference between celibacy and monastic vows and struggled to find the right justification for leaving the monastery. After Luther's brother Gabriel Zwilling had preached violently against the vows in October 1521, 15 of 40 Augustinians left the monastery.

In November 1521, Luther's De votis monasticis… iudicium was written . In it he found the solution to the question of vows in freedom of the gospel. He stated that a vow that violates evangelical freedom is null and void if it has been taken on the condition that the religious status is necessary to find justice and salvation. These can only be obtained through faith in Christ, not through trust in one's own work of the vow. Vows can only be made subject to the freedom to give up monastic life, otherwise the vows would be human-set conditions for the salvation given by God.

Changes were also made to the order of the divine service in Wittenberg . At the beginning of December 1521, Luther stayed anonymously in Wittenberg. He agreed to these reforms and returned to the Wartburg calmly.

Andreas Bodenstein Karlstadt and Justus Jonas the Elder celebrated the Lord's Supper at Christmas 1521 with over 2,000 believers . This was the first evangelical service. The Latin language was replaced by the German, and Karlstadt celebrated without liturgical robes. At the same time, private masses were abolished in Wittenberg, confession was declared unnecessary and the fasting commandments were also viewed as superfluous.

Luther's appearance and the invocavit sermons

The city council and the Lutheran-minded university teachers initially agreed with the movement and summarized the ritual innovations in January 1522 in the Wittenberg reform order. It was also stipulated that the church and monastery property should be converted into common property. For these goods the common caste was introduced, from which the social welfare for the poor and weak should be met.

On January 20, the imperial regiment requested the Saxon Elector Friedrich the Wise to restore the old conditions. On February 7th, the Bishop of Meissen announced a visitation trip during Lent. The city council and several members of the university no longer agreed with the reforms. This intensified when the Zwickau prophets caused unrest with their sermons in the city of Wittenberg. In their sermons they invoked immediate possession of the spirit and gave it greater importance than the scriptures.

In February 1522 there was an iconoclasm in Wittenberg . The situation threatened to get out of hand. Thereupon the city council, in which moderate forces like Lucas Cranach now had a majority, appointed Martin Luther von der Wartburg . He wrote a famous letter to the perplexed elector (who advised against Luther interfering because he wanted to protect him) and drove to Wittenberg on his own. The only one who could turn this situation around was the reformer himself. As of March 9, 1522 Luther preached at the beginning of Lent (Sunday Invocavit ) with freshly cut tonsured in the town church every day on the subject of the abolition of the Mass, the introduction of the marriage of priests, the abolition of the fasting rules, by putting away the images and the Lord's Supper in both shapes. These sermons have become famous as invokavit sermons . He recognized these reforms as justified and as the fruit of his own thoughts, but he criticized the implementation of the reforms. In carrying out such reforms, consideration must be given to the weak who are still attached to the traditional. The believers are not yet prepared for the reforms. The core of the argument is the comparison of the situation in Wittenberg with an infant who does not get heavy food straight away, but first milk, then porridge, etc. Luther managed to restore the old order in Wittenberg through the daily sermon.

It was not until 1526 that his own German measurement order, which largely followed the Roman model, was officially introduced in Wittenberg. He had previously removed the idea of ​​sacrifice from the Latin Mass (1523) by removing the offertory prayers and reducing the mass canon to the words of institution . At the same time the Lord's Supper was introduced in both forms.


  • Illustrated history of the early German bourgeois revolution ; Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1974
  • Martin Luther, Cities - Places - Stations. An art-historical documentation ; Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang, 1983.
  • Rolf Decot : A Brief History of the Reformation in Germany. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 2005, ISBN 3-451-28613-0 .
  • Georg Buchwald and Karl Stockmeyer: The history of the German church and ecclesiastical art through the centuries . Leipzig: Herrmann; Cologne: Wartenburg, 1924
  • Nicolaus Müller: The Wittenberg Movement 1521 and 1522 ; 1911

Web link

First invokavit sermon as pdf

Individual evidence

  1. Letter from Martin Luther (egh.) To Elector Friedrich von Sachsen, in which he comforts him about the Wittenberg unrest and reports his imminent arrival, Thuringia State Archive - Main State Archive Weimar , Ernestinisches Gesamtarchiv, ThHStAW, EGA, Reg. N 140, 1r-v [ 1]