Thursday, 15 June 2017

Philip I and the Reformation in Hesse (Germany)

The Landgraviate of Hesse was a principality of the Holy Roman Empire. Under the rule of Landgrave Philip I of Hesse it became one of the earliest and most powerful Protestant principalities. 

Philip I was born in 1504 and in 1518 he became Landgrave of Hesse. Until 1523 he expelled Lutheran preachers from his territory, but already in 1524 he started to support Luther's ideas and became a spearhead of the Reformation. After the Peasants' War he sought talks with the peasants and suppressed the most of the pilloried injustices. After the Synod of Homberg he officially introduced the Reformation to the Landgraviate. In consequence the monasteries were dissolved and their capital benefited the care of the poor and invalid. In 1527 he founded the University of Marburg, the first Lutheran university in the World. In 1529 he was a part of the Protestation at Speyer and in 1531 he became a leader of the Schmalkaldic League. A second marriage in 1540 led to many difficulties with his allies. After the Schmalkaldic War he was imprisoned and when he returned to Hesse he mainly looked after the administration of his principality. Philip I died in 1567. 

After his death the Landgraviate of Hesse was divided between his four sons from his first marriage and never regained its former importance.

Special Postmark showing
Philip I

Marburg Castle was built in the 11th century. It was the first residence of Landgraviate of Hesse and is especially known for the Marburg Colloquy held there in 1529.
More about the Marburg Colloquy will follow in July.


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

The Electors of Saxony - From Protection to Protestation (Germany)

Elector Frederick III of Saxony was born in 1463 as oldest son of Elector Ernest of Saxony. In 1486 he became Elector of Saxony and soon he was able to become financially independent. In 1502 he founded the University of Wittenberg. The political aim of the Elector was the strengthening of the territorial princes and the weakening of Emperor and Pope. Thus he became one of the most important supporters of Martin Luther's reformatory ideas, which confronted the excesses of the papacy. His persistence and repulsion against military conflicts later earned him the name Frederick the Wise. In 1519 he rejected the imperial dignity and supported the election of Charles V. With his death in 1525 the last resistance against a war with the peasants died.

Special Postmark showing Frederick III's Epitaph
 at the Castle Church in Wittenberg

Although Frederick the Wise is especially known for his support of Martin Luther, he was deeply held in Catholicism and established the third largest relic collection of its time at the Castle Church in Wittenberg. He also had little personal contact with Luther. But in his deathbed accepted the communion in Lutheran form.

UNESCO World Heritage 
Hartenfels Castle was the residence of the Electors of Saxony and the place where Frederick was born. It is the most important castle in Germany in the style of the Early Renaissance. In 1544 the first newly built Protestant church in the World was consecrated by Martin Luther at Hartenfels Castle.

On the UNESCO Tentative List

After Frederick III's death his brother, Johann the Steadfast, became the new Elector of Saxony. Just like his brother he supported Martin Luther, but unlike him he supported also Luther's religious ideas and became a close friend of the reformer. In 1527 he became the bishop of the newly founded Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony, in 1529 he was a part of the Protestation at Speyer and in 1531 he became one of the leaders of the Schmalkaldic League. Johann the Steadfest died in 1532.

This is not a postcard, but a picture from the Internet.

Elector John Frederick I of Saxony, also known as Johann the Magnanimous, became the successor of his father. Like him he was one of the leaders of the Schmalkaldic League, but after his defeat in the Schmalkaldic War in 1547 he was imprisoned and lost the electoral dignity. In 1552 he was released from captivity and became Duke of Saxony. John Frederick I died in 1554.

This is not a postcard, but a picture from the Internet.

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Castles of the Reformation (Germany)

Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott,
ein gute Wehr und Waffen.
Er hilft uns frei aus aller Not,
die uns jetzt hat betroffen.
Der alt böse Feind
mit Ernst er’s jetzt meint,
groß Macht und viel List
sein grausam Rüstung ist,
auf Erd ist nicht seinsgleichen.

Starting this post about the Reformation with the first stanza of Martin Luther's famous hymn Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God), as it is perfect for today's theme: Castles of the Reformation.

Wartburg Castle is probably the most famous "Castle of the Reformation". Described as the ideal castle and connected with various important events in German history, it was the place where Martin Luther translated the New Testament into German. Since 1999 it is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
More about Luther's time at the Wartburg will follow in July.


Ebernburg Castle was first mentioned in 1338 and was destroyed and rebuilt multiple times in its history. At the beginning of the 16th century Franz von Sickingen (1481 - 1523) was the lord of the castle. He was an early supporters of the Reformation and offered refuge to Martin Luther after the Diet of Worms. Luther refused, but other reformers (e.g. Martin Bucer and Johannes Oekolampad) took the offer and established a thriving theologian's community at the castle. German-language church services and communions were conducted there. The humanist Ulrich von Hutten therefore coined the term Shelter of Justice for Ebernburg Castle.

Between 1886 and 1889 the Hutten Sickingen Memorial was built next to the castle.


The Veste Coburg is one of Germany's largest castles and was never conquered. In 1530 Martin Luther, Philipp Melanchthon and Justus Jonas were on their way to the Diet of Augsburg, but as Luther had been placed under Imperial Ban he had to stay in Coburg. Between the 24th April and the 4th October he lived in the castle. There he wrote more than 100 letters and translated parts of the Old Testament and Aesop's Fables.


Wolfsburg Castle was since 1302 the ancestral seat of the Family of Bartensleben, a family that grew rich by ceral growing, fish farming and timber trade. The family was a vassal to two Dukes and during the Reformation one of them became Protestant while one remained Catholic. Also the family was torn between the two confessions. To avoid escalations the family's head Hans the Rich wrote a treaty on 3rd July 1555 which granted religious freedom for the family's members and their subjects and adjusted the togetherness of the two confessions. The treaty was very progressive and anticipated the Peace of Augsburg in some points.


This post is the first of a series of 5-6 posts about rulers, places and cities which helped the Reformation to thrive. The next posts will follow over the next 1,5 months. So stay tuned!

Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Cranachs - Father and Son Painting the Reformation (Germany)

Lucas Cranach the Elder was born around 1472 in Kronach. His artistic development was promoted very early and he learned the art of drawing from his father. Between 1502 and 1504 he lived in Vienna. In 1505 he was attached to the court of Elector Frederick the Wise, who gave him the winged snake as an emblem in 1508. In 1509 Cranach went to the Netherlands, where he painted Emperor Maximilian and the young Emperor Charles V.

500th birthday of Lucas Cranach the Elder (issued 18-05-1972)
The stamp shows a portrait by Albrecht Dürer.

During his first years in Wittenberg Cranach worked at the Castle, but in 1512 he moved his painter's workshop to the town. Also in 1512 he married Barbara Brengbier and together they had five children. Later he also owned an apothecary shop and a book shop and became a respected and influental person in the town. In 1519 he became a member of Wittenberg's town council for the first time. While living in Wittenberg he became friends with Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon. In the following years Lucas Cranach became the most important painter of the Reformation and one of the most famous painters of the German Renaissance. For example he provided woodcut illustrations for Luther's German translation of the Bible and painted various portraits of the reformers. In 1524 he met Albrecht Dürer in Nuremberg. He remained the court painter of John the Steadfast after Frederick's death in 1525 and of John Frederick I after John's death in 1532. Between 1537 and 1544 he was also multiple times mayor of Wittenberg. After John Frederick I's defeat in the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547 and his following imprisonment, Lucas Cranach followed him to Augsburg and later Innsbruck. In 1552 Lucas Cranach also followed John Frederick I to his new residence in Weimar, where he lived together with one of his daughters and where he also died in 1553.

Lucas Cranach the Elder bought two houses in Wittenberg. The Cranach-Hof at Markt 4 was bought by him in 1512. There he run his famous painter's workshop and print shop. It is also considered to be the birth house of Lucas Cranach the Younger. It seeks for the inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


Lucas Cranach the Younger was born in 1515 as second child of Lucas Cranach the Elder and Barbara Brengbier. Together with his older brother Hans he learned the art of drawing at their father's painter's workshop. In 1537 he assumed the workshop of his father and in 1544 he also got his houses in Wittenberg. Like his father he became a member of the town council and also worked as mayor. Lucas Cranach the Younger died in 1586. The style of his paintings can be so similar to those of his father that there have been some difficulties in attribution of their works.

500th birthday of Lucas Cranach the Younger (issued 01-10-2015)

Detail of the stamp

Begun by the father and finished by the son, the Reformation's Altar at the Town and Parish Church of St Mary's in Wittenberg is said to be one of the most important pieces of art of the Reformation. It arose in close cooperation between the artists and the reformers and was erected in 1547/48.


Over the last months I was able to buy various postcards and stamps of Lucas Cranach the Elder's paintings.

Adam and Eve from the
Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum in Braunschweig

Venus and Cupid from the Picture Gallery in Berlin

Venus with Cupid from the
Lower Saxony State Museum in Hanover

The Golden Age from the Alte Pinakothek in Munich

The Last Judgement (detail) from the Picture Gallery in Berlin

500th birthday of Lucas Cranach the Elder (issued 04-07-1972)
?
Portrait of Margaretha Luther, Luther's mother, from the Wartburg-Stiftung

A nymph at a Fountain from the Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig
A Princess raped by St Chrysostomos from the Wartburg-Stiftung

Unfortunately I was not able to find so many cards about Lucas Cranach the Younger, in fact I only found one.

Caritas from the Kunsthalle Hamburg

Friday, 31 March 2017

Philip Melanchthon, the Praeceptor Germaniae (Germany)

Philip Melanchthon was a reformer and close friend of Martin Luther. He is said to have been the intellectual leader of the Lutheran Reformation and is known as Praeceptor Germaniae (Teacher of Germany), as he was an influential designer of educational systems.



Philip Schwartzerdt was born in Bretten on 16th February 1497 as oldest child of the superintendent of the princely armoury and the mayor's daughter. His grandfather organised an extensive education for the boy with teachings in Latin and frequent discussions with perambulating scholars. In 1508 his father and grandfather died in quick succession.

The Melanchthonhaus in Bretten was built on the site of his birth house.
It houses a museum

After their death Philip and one of his brothers moved to Pforzheim. Their he went to a prestigious Latin School and also started to learn Greek. The famous humanist and scholar Johann Reuchlin became his patron and also gave Philip the humanistic name Melanchthon, a Grecization of his name Schwartzerdt.

Left column second picture from the top: Johann Reuchlin Memorial
In October 1509 Philip Melanchthon moved to the University of Heidelberg. Due to his previous knowledge the studies were not a problem and in June 1511 he made his baccalaureus artium.


Afterwards he went to the University of Tübingen where he studied the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy) and also devoted himself to Latin, Greek and Hebrew. In 1514 the magister degree was conferred to Melanchthon. In Tübingen he also worked for the first time as tutor and also released his first own publications. In 1518 he heard Martin Luther during the Heidelberg Disputation and decided to go to Wittenberg.

500 years University of Tübingen (issued 16-08-1977)

In 1518 Frederick the Wise donated a professorship for Greek language at the University of Wittenberg and after Johann Reuchlin refused, the honour was accorded to Philip Melanchthon. With his inaugural speech he impressed the audience which also included Martin Luther. Hereafter Melanchthon became a very popular professor and with the collaboration of Luther and Melanchthon the University of Wittenberg became one of the most important universities in Europe. He acquired the baccalaureus biblicus in 1519 and was afterwards allowed to deliver theological lectures. In 1520 Melanchthon was unwantedly married, but soon came to appreciate his new life. In 1530 he wrote the Confessio Augustana. Despite offers from other universities Melanchthon stayed in Wittenberg until his death and in 1536 Elector John Frederick I sponsored a house befitting the rank of the professor and his family. In 1560 Philip Melanchthon died in Wittenberg.

The Melanchthonhaus in Wittenberg houses a museum and
is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Religious Art in Olomouc (Czech Republic)

The Diocese of Olomouc was first mentioned in 1063 and back then covered the area of whole Moravia. The monasteries in the diocese became centres of art, culture and education in the following centuries. In 1777 the diocese was elevated to an archdiocese. In Czechoslovakia the seat of the archbishop remained vacant, but in 1989 a new archbishop was consecrated.

The Archdiocesan Museum of Olomouc preserves and shows the works of art of the Olomouc Archdiocese. Its collection represent thousand years of Moravian culture and its picture collection is the second largest in the Czech Republic. It was also one of the first museums in the Czech Republic with a lecturing department. In 2015 the Olomouc Premyslid Castle and Archdiocesan Museum got the European Heritage Label.

Official European Heritage Label postcard





Monday, 20 March 2017

Christian Monasteries around the World (Austria, Egypt, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Switzerland)

The Heiligenkreuz Abbey was founded in 1133 and is thus the second oldest continuously occupied Cistercian monastery in the World. Its medieval parts are of exceptional value in terms of architectural history, but it was later also enriched by Baroque additions to interiors and furniture. It currently seeks for the inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The Saint Catherine's Monastery on Sinai was founded between 548 and 568 and is thus the oldest monastery of the Christianity being still in use. According to the legend God appears Moses as Burning Bush at the Mount Horeb near the monastery. Here got Moses also the Tablets of the Law. The area is sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims. Because of its isolated location it is one of the few monasteries that was never destroyed. Since 2002 is the Saint Catherine Area an UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The Abbey of Cluny was founded in 910. It was free from the local authorities and was only subject to the pope. The abbey was the spiritual and administrative centre of one of the largest monastic networks in European history and had an important influence on the Christian world of Western Europe throughout the Middle Ages. During the French Revolution the abbey was mostly destroyed. In 2014 the Abbey of Cluny got the European Heritage Label.


The Mont-Saint-Michel is a Benedictine abbey on a small tidal islet. It is considered to be a Wonder of the West and is a popular tourist attraction. Since 1979 is the Mont-Saint-Michel with its Bay on the UNESCO World Heritage List.



The Abbey of Corvey was founded in 822. It was a Benedictine monastery and imperial abbey. In 1803 it was secularized. The Carolingian Westwork and the Civitas Corvey are since 2014 on the UNESCO World Heritage List.



The Ettal Abbey is a Benedictine abbey and was founded in 1330. Today it is one of the largest Benedictine houses. It is also a popular tourist attraction.


The Abbey of Lorsch was during the Middle Ages one of the most important claustral centres of Central Europe. The Abbey and Altenmünster of Lorsch have been since 1991 an UNESCO World Heritage Site and the "Lorscher Arzneibuch" written in the Abbey is since 2013 a part of the Memory of the World Programme of the UNESCO.

The Gatehouse was built in 774 by Benedictine Monks and is thus regarded the oldest, still standing German building of the post-Roman time.



The Maulbronn Monastery was founded in 1147 by Cistercians. The main building were built between the 12th and 16th century. The Monastery's church was built in Transitional Gothic style and had an influence on the spread of Gothic architecture in northern and central Europe. Today is the Maulbronn Monastery Complex considered the most complete and best-preserved medieval monastic complex north of the Alps. Some parts of Hermann Hesse's novel Beneath the Wheel are set in the Maulbronn Monastery. Since 1993 is the Maulbronn Monastery Complex on the UNESCO World Heritage List.



Reichenau is the largest island on the Lake Constance. In the 8th century a Benedictine monastery was founded on the island, which later had a big spiritual, intellectual and artistic influence in the Middle Ages. Since 2000 is the Monastic Island of Reichenau on the UNESCO World Heritage List.



The Riddagshausen Abbey was founded in 1145 by Cistercian monks and later became an imperial abbey. After the Reformation an abbey school was founded there. Today the abbey is known for its abbey church, the abbey garden, the Cistercian museum, its arboretum and its fish ponds.


Weltenburg Abbey is a Benedictine monastery on the Danube. It is said to be the oldest monastery in Bavaria.


The Ferapontov Monastery is a famous example of a Russian Orthodox monastic complex. Since 2000 is the Ensemble of the Ferapontov Monastery on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The Poblet Monastery is one of the largest Cistercian monasteries in Spain and one of the best-preserved of the Occident. It was founded in 1150 on lands conquered from the Moors. Once it was the royal pantheon of the Kings of the Crown of Aragon. Since 1991 is the Poblet Monastery on the UNESCO World Heritage List.


The Abbey of Saint Gall was once one of the most important monasteries in Europe. It is known for its rich library. The Abbey of Saint Gall is since 1983 on the UNESCO World Heritage List.