Wittenberg (vĭtˈənbĕrkhˌ) [key], city (1994 pop. 53,374), Saxony-Anhalt, E Germany, on the Elbe River. A city with a noted history, it is today an industrial and mining center and a rail junction. Manufactures include chemicals and fertilizer. First mentioned in the late 12th cent., Wittenberg was (1273–1422) the seat of the Ascanian dukes of Saxe-Wittenberg (see Saxony), who in 1356 became electors of Saxony. In 1423, Saxe-Wittenberg passed to the margraves of Meissen (members of the house of Wettin), who in 1425 were given electoral rank. Elector Frederick III founded (1502) the Univ. of Wittenberg, which became the center of the Protestant Reformation when Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon taught there. In 1517, Luther nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Schlosskirche [castle church], and in 1520 he burned the papal bull against him outside the Elster gate. The first complete Lutheran Bible was printed (1534) at Wittenberg. Primarily the focus of the Lutheran Reformation, 16th-century Wittenberg was also a center of German art. Lucas Cranach, the elder, founded a school of painting there. In 1547 Emperor Charles V captured Wittenberg after the battle of Mühlberg, where Elector John Frederick I of Saxony was captured. By the Capitulation of Wittenberg, in the same year, John Frederick, representing the Ernestine line of the house of Wettin, ceded the electoral dignity and the duchy of Saxony to Maurice, of the collateral Albertine line. The city declined after 1547, when Dresden, residence of the Albertine dukes, replaced it as Saxon capital. In 1815 Wittenberg passed to Prussia, and in 1817 the Univ. of Wittenberg was absorbed by the Univ. of Halle. Among Wittenberg's most notable structures are the Schlosskirche (15th cent.), where Luther and Melanchthon are buried; the town church (14th–15th cent.), where Luther preached; the houses where Luther, Melanchthon, and Lucas Cranach, the elder, lived; and the city hall (16th cent.).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.