When Johannes Bugenhagen, Wittenberg’s first Protestant parish parson, took up residence in the property at the northeast corner of the church square in close proximity to the Town Church of St. Mary, the house that bears his name became the earliest Protestant parsonage still standing today. Alongside Luther and Melanchthon, Bugenhagen is considered as the ‘third reformer’; even his contemporaries held him in particularly high esteem.
The ensemble of buildings is divided into a northern part on the corner of Jüdengasse, a southern part adjoining this, a middle house section and an east wing extending far into the courtyard. Adjoining the ensemble to the east is a spacious courtyard area with garden, accessible from the church square through the portal to the north of Bugenhagen Hall or through the gate drive that can be reached from Jüdengasse. A feature clearly distinguishable here for the first time, and that would thereafter become characteristic for Protestant parsonages, is the clear functional division of individual parts of the building: The parish parson’s official offices (located in the southern rooms in Bugenhagen House from its very beginnings) are clearly separated from the living and service rooms (which in Bugenhagen House are found in the northern parts of the building). The garden provided a place of rest and recreation for the parson and his family.
For 500 years, until the end of the 20th century, Bugenhagen House served as a parsonage and meeting place for the Protestant town church congregation, and at the same time as the seat of the Superintendency. Continuing its traditional functions and use, today the building still serves as a community and meeting centre for the Protestant town church congregation and their guests. It is used for conferences, training courses and religious or cultural events.
The construction and expansion of Bugenhagen House occurred at a time in which the church square was systematically filled with institutions of the Reformation. The construction activities involved extending priests’ quarters to create ‘family-friendly’ parsonages on the one hand, and the location of schools on the other. Official residences were also established in the immediate vicinity of the church for nearly all of the servants of the church and schools, such as cantors, sextons and schoolmasters. The small-scale plot structure reflective of priests’ accommodations prior to the Reformation remained largely intact and was also incorporated in the widths of the houses built in the mid-16th century along the west side of the church yard.
Construction of the parsonage began not later than 1521-1522. Following extensive construction work, the building shell of the parsonage was painted in 1534. Even thereafter, a variety of installations and renovations were carried out. These related primarily to the structure of the building, and particular to the layout of its rooms. Most recently, there was a restoration campaign mainly launched in order to restore the historic structure in a manner as authentic as possible.
Bugenhagen House is the world’s first surviving Protestant parsonage. It is intimately linked with the biography of Johannes Bugenhagen, who lived and worked here in his capacity as parson of St. Mary's Church. In Protestantism, the parsonage is at least as important as the church building itself. To this day, it is never merely the residence of the pastor but also a place of communication and a locus of pastoral care for the congregation.
In terms of its building structure – and here particularly in its division into public and private living areas – it provides impressive testimony to the social and architectural environment of the Reformation: structurally, it discloses the semi-public character of the parsonage, a feature characteristic for this type of building down to the present.
Bugenhagen House has remained in continuous use as a parish and community centre for 500 years, reflecting a sustained awareness of the significance and role of the structure that spans the centuries.
Protestant Congregation of the Town Church of Wittenberg
Town Church Congregation Office
06886 Lutherstadt Wittenberg