The County of Mansfeld was Martin Luther’s homeland. He spent the formative years of his childhood and adolescence in the town of Mansfeld between 1484 and 1497. This is where his parents, Hans and Margarethe, lived, as did his brother Jakob. The modern-day estate provides a comprehensive impression of a city shaped by the mining industry and of the affluent milieu of Luther’s childhood. Even after Martin Luther’s departure from Mansfeld, his biography and work offer numerous linkages to the house and to the city in which he grew up.
Together with the farm buildings that are no longer standing, the estate, which has been rebuilt and extended on multiple occasions originally comprised a four-sided courtyard that was supplemented by a garden. Portions of a stable building on the eastern side of the farm are still preserved. A common vault demonstrates that this residence forms the western one-third of the front building that once belonged to the Luther family.
The location and size of Luther’s Parental Home are testimony to the high social standing of its owner. The rich archaeological finds discovered during excavation from 2002-2004 – marking the beginning of the new research area of ‘Luther archaeology’ – on the grounds of the now-missing intermediate piece of the front building also speak of the family’s solid economical standing. The items found stem from the everyday life of the family in the years around 1500-1520.
The beginnings of copper slate mining in the Mansfelder Land region date back at least to the end of the 12th century. Whereas the focus of mining operations originally comprised the areas around Hettstedt and Eisleben, renewed growth in the mining industry brought with it the addition of the region around the city of Mansfeld as well. In the course of this upturn, after a shorter stay in Eisleben, Luther’s father and his family relocated to Mansfeld in 1484 as well. There he acquired several metallurgical plants, known as ‘Herrenfeuer’, leased by the counts of Mansfeld. He prospered in his capacity as lessee of the plants. Luther lived with his parents, his three brothers and four sisters, his paternal grandmother and the servants on the property of which portions still exist today.
Despite some structural modifications, the historical value of Luther’s Parental Home was apparent even in 1840, and the building was listed as a monument. A memorial site for Martin Luther was set up in the top floor of the building from 1885-1887. By 2014, Luther’s Parental Home had been painstakingly repaired and extended through the addition of a modern new building. In the museum operated by the Luther Memorials Foundation of Saxony-Anhalt, the Luther memorials are continued with a permanent exhibition devoted to Luther’s home in Mansfeld and the everyday life of the Luther family in Mansfeld.
In his writings and speeches, Luther often reflected back on his childhood years in Mansfeld. Luther’s thinking remained characterised by his origins. Discoveries and findings in the Parental Home in Mansfeld provide an impressive illustration of the economic and social setting in which Luther grew up. The family’s prosperity was the basis for Hans Luder’s ability to finance the best possible education for his son, an education that in turn provided the basis for Luther’s further biographical development. Consequently, the Parental Home forms a key material document of the life and surroundings that lent Luther’s biography the characteristics specific to it.
It was in this house that Luther spent 13 years of his childhood and adolescence; accordingly, the Parental Home in Mansfeld represents a central station of his life, one that played a key role in shaping him in his biographical development. This formed the basis for the staging of the house as a memorial site beginning in 1885-1886. Luther’s childhood home thus bears witness not only to the formation but also to the continuity and individual expression of the reception of the Reformation in the Mansfelder Land mining region. The institution of a deaconry on the ground floor of the house also occurred in commemoration of Martin Luther, out of a desire to provide a living continuation of his work in this authentically Luther-related location.
This makes Mansfeld an important Reformation site, offering numerous points of contact to Luther’s work and biography.