In cooperation with the World Heritage Region Wartburg Hainich
He defied the emperor and the pope, was declared a heretic and, under the protection of Wartburg Castle, wrote a world bestseller that had a major impact on the German language. To mark the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's New Testament, an exciting special exhibition has been prepared at Wartburg Castle that raises many questions and answers even more.
The scratching of the quill across the uneven parchment could be heard deep into the night. While the inhabitants of the city of Eisenach, at the foot of the keep on which Wartburg Castle is perched, had long since gone to bed, the candles were still flickering in a small chamber in the bailiwick. Highly concentrated, Martin Luther worked his way word by word through the Latin and Greek versions of the New Testament - translating, crossing out and rewriting.
The monk did not have many distractions during his work, for he was alone at Wartburg Castle except for a guard and a few servants. The Ludovingians, who had founded the castle 500 years earlier, had died out and the Wettins, who owned it from the 15th century, used it only as a secondary residence. Only a few of his friends knew of his secret whereabouts and for his protection he left his refuge only a few times.
To escape loneliness, Luther threw himself into the mammoth project of translating 680 pages with 140,000 words into German within eleven weeks. Parts of the New Testament already existed in German. But the translations were done verbatim and were incomprehensible to the ordinary reader. Luther wanted to translate the Testament into the German that was spoken on the streets and thus make God's Word accessible to everyone. That the word "translate" is to be understood here in a broad sense is also made clear at the anniversary exhibition "Luther Translates. On the Power of Words.
For Luther not only translated, he interpreted and created strong, new words such as Nächstenliebe, Herzenslust and Ebenbild: meaningful expressions that are still understandable today. But what about other terms and proverbs? How has language changed over time? What power do the words of the past and present have? And how do today's Bible translators manage to "translate" God's Word into our language today? Because just as Luther's Bible influenced the German language back then, the German language influences the Bible today. Because Luther's 500-year-old goal is still valid today: the Bible should be understood.
The exhibition is about words and writing, about the power of language and speech. And it gives guests the opportunity to try their hand at translations themselves and to compare, for example, historical youth language with today's at interactive stations.
It's fun to explore these questions in the setting of Wartburg Castle. Luther's spirit, his genius and his creative power seem almost tangible in the small chamber in the Wartburg's bailiwick - even more so than usual in the exhibition from May to November 2022. For one is not only concerned with the man and his world bestseller, but also with something quite tangible: the German language, which thanks to Luther is the way we know it today.
Here you can read more about the Wartburg.
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