Wittenberg's 'mini Luther' statue unrest

By Ecumenical News International
8 Sep 2010

Eight hundred colourful miniature figures of the 16th-century Protestant Reformer Martin Luther on display in the central market square of Wittenberg, where he lived and worked, are causing offence - writes Anli Serfontein from Trier, Germany.

Visitors have been walking around the market place between the black, green, red and blue figures, picking them up and placing them in other parts of the town.

This art show has, however, been heavily criticised by prominent theologians such as Friedrich Schorlemmer from Wittenberg, who played a prominent role in the peaceful protests that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall more than 20 years ago.

Schorlemmer told the Leipziger Volkszeitung, a newspaper in eastern Germany, in August, "This is theological and aesthetic rubbish. Martin Luther cannot be mass produced."

The installation by German artist Ottmar Hörl is part of the Luther Decade celebrations commemorating the period between Luther's arrival in Wittenberg in 1508 and the beginning of the Reformation in 1517.

Schorlemmer called the fact that the figures will later be sold for 250 euros each a "tasteless trade off with plastic figures."

Petra Bahr, the culture representative of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the umbrella organisation for Germany's Protestants, told the epd news agency, "I understand his criticism but I find the reaction humourless."

The chairperson of Wittenberg's Cranach Foundation, Eva Löber, also condemned the installation of the figures. "No one will discover what was Luther's message," she told the Leipziger Volkszeitung, a daily newspaper in the region.

On the other hand the EKD representative for the Luther Decade in Wittenberg, Stephan Dorgerloh, praised the art. "With the installation Martin Luther is also present without a monument and Hörl's modern art leads us, at the same time, in the 21st century," he told the Leipziger Volkszeitung.

The Luther figures, which are each about one metre (39 inches) in height, are based on an 1821 statue of Luther that normally stands on the Wittenberg market but is currently being restored. The installation is on display until 12 September 2010.

[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.]

[Ekk/3]

Keywords: martin luther
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