The central personality of the Reformation was Martin Luther (1483–1546) who had set it off with the publication of his 95 theses in the year 1517. Even though this event remains to this day of worldwide importance, Luther himself resided for most of his life in a very narrowly defined territory of central Germany. Born in the county of Mansfeld, he studied in Erfurt which at the time belonged to the territory of the bishopric of Mainz. From 1511, he lived in Wittenberg in the duchy and electorate of Saxony. The only major journey of his life, a visit to Rome, he undertook in 1510/11 or 1511/12.
Bavaria and its territories of Altbayern, Franconia and Swabia remained for Luther a place of little relevance. Even though during 1530, he stayed for half a year or so in Upper Franconia at the Veste Coburg (Coburg Fortress), at the time Coburg belonged to Saxony. Beyond these visits, he only spent some considerable time in Augsburg during the imperial diet of 1518. In other Bavarian locations, he only stopped very briefly during his travels, for example in Nuremberg or Würzburg. He never entered the duchy of Bavaria after 1518, since it had become a stronghold of his Catholic enemies and he would have been imprisoned immediately.
Here, Luther’s most important theological writings from the early period of the Reformation are displayed together with some original manuscripts, illustrated pamphlets and several important paintings from the workshop of Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553). Luther’s attitude towards the Jews is illustrated by means of two of his written works.
Next to the theses of 1517, in particular the three fundamental texts of 1520 are of the highest importance. Therein, Luther set out the key points of his doctrine of grace and doctrine of justification, which can be described briefly as “sola fide”, “sola gratia”, “sola scriptura” and “solus Christus”. The faithful find salvation and redemption solely through their faith (“fides”) and through divine grace (“gratia”), only dispensed by Christ. Faith, however, is defined simply by how it is proclaimed in Holy Scripture (“scriptura”) as the “Word of God”.