"More of Melanchthonhaus in Wittenberg"



    The Lutheran Journal, Vol. 67, #2, 1998 - Erwin Weber


In the previous issue of The Lutheran Journal, the history of Melanchthon's house, as well as its physical appearance in the 16th century, was described. This issue will conclude the history of the house from the 16th century and describe the Melanchthonhaus Museum as it appears today.

After the death of Melanchthon in 1560, his younger daughter, Magdalena, who was married to Casper Peucer, Professor of Medicine, and personal friend of the Elector of Saxony, John Frederick, inherited the entire property. When Capar Peucer was captured as a Crypto-Calvanist, spent 12 years in prison, and returned to his home, he no longer felt at home in Wittenberg. He moved to nearby Dessau and rented out the property. After Peucer's death, the children sold the property. After 1700, ownership of the Melanchthon property changed hands frequently until it was sold to the Prussian government in 1844.

In the beginning, the Prussian government did not exactly know what to do with the property. The building was to be used as housing for teachers of the Lutheran School, and the brew house was to be converted to a kindergarten. However, the cost of construction was too high. For this reason, part of the property was to be sold. Instead of a school, the Melanchthonhaus housed teachers from the nearby Luther School. In celebration of the 400th anniversary of Melanchthon's birth, Melanchthon's study was renovated in 1897 and the Scholar's Room in 1901.

After 1945, i.e., during the Communist-Socialist regime of East Germany, the house served as living quarters for teachers. In 1950, the city council decided to renovate the structure and turn it into a museum of local history. Twelve years later, it was decided to dedicate the building to the life and work of Philip Melanchthon. There were changes in the displays for the 500th anniversary of Luther's Birth in 1983 in that Melanchthon was not only honored as a Humanist and Teacher of Germany, but also as theologian. After the fall of the wall in 1989, and the end of the Communist regime in East Germany, funds were made available to renovate the Melanchthonhaus as it appeared during the days of Melanchthon. The renovations were completed in 1997, which marked the 500th anniversary of Melanchthon's birth.

Today, the Museum Melanchthonhaus has three floors. In the basement is a conference room and cloakroom. This first floor has a long hallway with a museum store. A winding staircase leads to the second floor. At the left is Melanchthon's living room which served as his study, and it is the chamber where he died in 1560. There is also a room concentrating on the early history of the Reformation. The room next to it deals with Melanchthon as a humanist. The third floor is dedicated to Melanchthon as a teacher. Next to the Scholar's Room is a room dealing with Melanchthon's death, and his reputation in the 17th century until today. Other rooms on the third floor concentrate on Melanchthon during the time of Luther and following the death of Luther.

The Museum Melanchthonhaus is a fitting memorial to Luther's friend and colleague. Philip Melanchthon was a kind and gentle man; as servant of God and his church; a man of evolution - not revolution, who at an early age felt the horrors of war and sought to avoid them. He was a man of compassion for his fellow man whom he sought to educate by means "Ad fontes! - Go back to the Source! For without knowledge of history, human life is in a way nothing but perpetual childhood, indeed a permanent darkness and blindness."