6 Reformation Museums in Europe for Your Next Religious Trip

6 Reformation Museums in Europe for Your Next Religious Trip

Several museums in Europe chronicle the people and dramatic events associated with the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s.

Several museums in Europe chronicle the people and dramatic events associated with the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s.

The following will enhance any religious tour itinerary:

International Museum of the Reformation

Geneva, Switzerland

Reformation Museum

International Museum of the Reformation, Geneva

Located next to St. Peter’s Cathedral, this state-of-the-art museum, which opened in 2005, traces the Protestant Reformation that was started by Martin Luther in 1517 and heavily influenced by John Calvin in Geneva. Set in an 18th century mansion in Geneva’s Old Town, it documents the movement through artifacts, artwork, films and audio-visual exhibits. Besides learning about events in the 1500s, visitors can see a slide show of great 19th century Protestants, films about critical moments in the 20th century (such as ambiguous relationships between Protestantism and dictatorships) and a kaleidoscope of 21st century church services from around the world. (www.musee-reforme.ch)

John Knox House

Edinburgh, Scotland

The historic house and museum chronicles the life and times of John Knox, the 16th century Protestant reformer associated with Presbyterianism. It’s believed that Knox, sometimes called the Martin Luther of Scotland and noted for preaching Calvinist theology, died in the house in 1572. The John Knox House, the only surviving medieval building in Edinburgh, is owned by the Church of Scotland and operated by the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Its three floors showcase medieval craftsmanship, including a frescoed ceiling in the Oak Room. A professional storyteller is available to take groups on a one-hour tour and bring the dramatic events that surround the building to life. Also visit St. Giles Cathedral, where Knox served as minister; it’s considered by many the mother church of Presbyterianism. (www.scottishstorytellingcentre.co.uk)

The Luther House

Wittenberg, Germany

The Luther House

The Luther Death House, Eisleben

This former Augustinian monastery is today called the Luther House and boasts the world’s largest Reformation museum. It was the center of Luther’s activity for more than 35 years. He lived there as a monk upon his arrival in Wittenberg in 1508 and later lived there with his family. Luther’s living room has his original desk and 500-year-old period furnishings. The room was often a location for exchanges with his students, conversations that appear in the book Table Talks (1531). Other must-sees include the Ten Commandments painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, a Lutheran Bible from 1534, a letter of indulgence and Luther’s monk’s habit. (www.martinluther.de/en/luther-house-wittenberg.html)

Martin Luther House Museums

Eisleben, Germany

Visitors to Eisleben, 125 miles southwest of Berlin, can see the Martin Luther Birth House and Martin Luther Death House, both UNESCO World Heritage sites. The “Father of the Reformation” was born in Eisleben in 1483 and died there in 1546. Displayed in the birth house, established in 1693 as the first memorial museum in Germany, visitors see books and artworks from Luther’s time, such as a Bible with color woodcuts that was printed in Nuremburg the year he was born. The exterior Baroque portal bears a portrait of Luther. (www.visit-luther.com)

The Luther Death House just unveiled an addition that provides more space for exhibitions relating to Luther and the Reformation. Its most famous rooms are Luther’s bedroom and the room in which he died. This year’s special exhibition, Luther’s Last Journey, focuses on his final days in Eisleben and his journey to Heaven. On display is the pall (heavy cloth) that was draped over Luther’s coffin nearly 500 years ago. (www.martinluther.de/en/luthers-death-house.html)

John Calvin Museum

Noyon, France

Calvin Museum

Calvin Museum

This museum is located on the original site of the French reformer’s birth house, which was reconstructed according to early drawings after being destroyed in World War I bombings. Visitors will see Reformation-era propaganda posters, early editions of Calvin’s works and contemporary paintings of Reformation events. The leader of the Protestant Reformation in Geneva, Calvin was born in 1509 in Noyon, once an important ecclesiastical center in Northern France.

−By Randy Mink