Torgau, established before the 10th century and for a time part of the Holy Roman Empire, has been  spoken of as the spiritual center of the German Reformation, and is the place where US and Soviet (Ukranian) soldiers met on April 25, 1945 at the Torgau bridge for an official handshake.

The sixteenth century winds of religious reformation blew over Torgau, a town only 27 miles from Wittenberg, as they did over the rest of Europe. Andreas Karlstadt, Luther’s contemporary  is credited with performing the first “reformed” communion service in which communicants were allowed to take both bread and wine on their own, saying the words of institution in German rather than Latin, and rejecting confession as a prerequisite for communion. Karlstadt alleged large-scale corruption in the church during his stay in Rome, and wrote a series of 151 theses in September 16, 1516 – not to be confused with Luther’s 95 theses posted in 1517 against indulgences.

Remember, when we visited Prague, we spoke about Jan Hus who was burned alive in 1415 for suggesting the validity of communion using both bread and wine.

In 1519, Martin Luther performed the first “Lutheran” baptism at Nikolai-Kirche, a church built in 1225, shown below.   In 1523, citizens of Torgau cleared churches of paintings and statues of saints and closed all cloisters,, a practice supported by Karlstadt, the Chancellor of Wittenberg University who awarded Luther his doctorate nine years earlier.  Later, Luther consecrated the chapel of the Hartenfels castle on October 5, 1544 which represented Protestant ideals for a worship space.

Both theologians were excommunicated by Rome in 1521.

Katharina (nee. Von Bora) Luther, fleeing Wittenberg to avoid the Plague,  was involved in an accident at the gates of Torgau and, three months later, died there on December 20, 1552. She is buried in St. Mary’s Church, apart from her husband only in death.  Her dying words were recorded as: “I will stick to Christ as a burr to cloth.”

Finally and perhaps of greater importance for Lutherans, two foundational confessional documents, the Torgauer Artikel – a draft of the Augsburg Confession composed by Luther, Melanchthon, Bugenhagen and Jonas in 1530 – and the Lutheran Formula of Concord were completed in 1576, both in Torgau.


Today, one enters the Hartenfels castle courtyard through an archway to view the Town Hall, two spiral stairways and the entrance to the castle chapel, the first Protestant church to be built according to German Reformation style. This church has remained almost unchanged until today and has served as a model for other Protestant churches in Germany. .

Just above the entrance to the church is the spiral staircase unsupported by a central pillar, giving from the top a fine view over the town square. The stairs is an example of German Renaissance architecture and had been restored in the early 90’s .


This is the actual spot where Soviet and US forces shook hands. The bridge shown in the black and white photos is off to the right.

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This monument erected just across the street from the entrance to the castle shows the American flag at the top left front and right rear.


This is the entrance to the castle which brings one…



here to the town square and the spiral stairs. Below is the Castle church, the first built reflecting Reformation ideas about worship space.


This pulpit was designed by Lucas Cranach the Elder, a Renaissance painter whose painting is seen also in Wittenberg.



A corner of the Torgau Town Hall.


Base of the spiral staircase.


Looking down the center of the staircase, showing no central column.


A walk along one of the streets in the old town. It was very hot this day.


I found The Nikolai-Kirche, built in 1225 and the oldest church in Torgau, where Luther had performed the first Protestant Baptism in 1519.

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Not far away was the house where Katharina Luther was nursed for her last days following her tragic accident in 1552.


Katharina Luther was burried in St. Mary’s Church.


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