WITTENBERG, a town of Germany, in the Prussian province of Saxony, situated on the Elbe, 59 m. by rail S.W. of Berlin, on the main line to Halle and at the junction of railways to Falkenberg, Torgau and Rosslau. Pop. (1905) 20,332. The three suburbs which adjoin the town are not older than 1817. Wittenberg is interesting chiefly on account of its close connexion with Luther and the dawn of the Reformation; and several of its buildings are associated with the events of that time. Part of the Augustinian monastery in which Luther dwelt, at first as a monk and in later life as owner with his wife and family, is still preserved, and has been fitted up as a Luther museum. It contains numerous relics of Luther and portraits and other paintings by the Cranachs. The Augusteum, built in 1564- 1583 on the site of the monastery, is now a theological seminary. The Schlosskirche, to the doors of which Luther nailed his famous ninety-five theses in 1517, dates from 1430-1499; it was, however, seriously damaged by fire during the bombardment of 1760, was practically rebuilt, and has since (1885-1892) been restored. The old wooden doors, burnt in 1760, were replaced in 1858 by bronze doors, bearing the Latin text of the theses. In the interior of the church are the tombs of Luther and Melanchthon, and of the electors Frederick the Wise, by Peter Vischer the elder (1527), and John the Constant, by Hans Vischer; also portraits of the reformers by Lucas Cranach the younger.
The parish church, in which Luther often preached, was built in the 14th century, but has been much altCTed since Luther's time. It contains a magnificent painting by Lucas Cranach the elder, representing the Lord's Supper, Baptism and Confession, also a font by Hermann Vischer (1457). The present infantry barracks were at one time occupied by the university of Wittenberg, founded in 1502, but merged in the university of Halle in 1815. Luther was appointed professor of philosophy here in 1508; and the new university rapidly acquired a considerable reputation from its connexion with the early Reformers. In opposition to the strict Lutheran orthodoxy of Jean it represented the more moderate doctrines of Melanchthon. In the Wittenberg Concord (1536) the reformers agreed to a settlement of the eucharistic controversy. Shakespeare makes Hamlet and Horatio study at Wittenberg. The ancient electoral palace is another of the buildings that suffered severely in 1760; it now contains archives. Melanchthon's house and the house of Lucas Cranach the elder (1472-1553), who was burgomaster of Wittenberg, are also pointed out. Statues of Luther (by Schadow), Melanchthon and Bugenhagen embellish the town. The spot, outside the Elster Gate, where Luther publicly burned the papal bull in 1520, is marked by an oak tree. Floriculture, iron-founding, distilling and brewing are carried on. The formerly considerable manufacture of the heavier kinds of cloth has died out.
Wittenberg is mentioned as early as 1180. It was the capital of the little duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg, the rulers of which afterwards became electors of Saxony; and it continued to be a Saxon residence under the Ernestine electors. The Capitulation of Wittenberg (1547) is the name given to the treaty by which John Frederick the Magnanimous was compelled to resign the electoral dignity and most of his territory to the Albertine branch of the Saxon family. In 1760 the town was bombarded by the Austrians. It was occupied by the French in 1806, and refortified in 1813 by command of Napoleon; but hi 1814 it was stormed by the Prussians under Tauentzien, who received the title of " von Wittenberg " as a reward. Wittenberg continued to be a fortress of the third class until the reorganization of the German defences after 'the foundation of the new empire led to its being dismantled in 1873.
See Meynert, Geschicbte der Stadt Wittenberg (Dessau, 1845); Stier, Die Schlosskirche zu Wittenberg (Wittenberg, 1860); Zitzlaff, Die Begrabnissstatten Wittenbergs und ihre Denkmaler (Wittenberg, 1897); and Gurlitt, " Die Lutherstadt Wittenberg," in Muther's Die Kunst (Berlin, 1902).
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)