500 Years of the Protestant Reformation

Reformation Day is celebrated by Protestants and is an important religious holiday in German-speaking countries. In Germany and Austria, October 31 marks the beginning of the Protestant Reformation by Martin Luther. The first Sunday in November is celebrated as Reformation Sunday in Switzerland.

Tomorrow, 31 October 2017, marks the 500th anniversary of when, according to tradition, Martin Luther nailed his 95 Thesis in Latin to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg. This launched the reformation of the church. The significance of the anniversary is such that tomorrow is a one-time national holiday in Germany.

How was Reformation Day celebrated in past centuries?

In 1617, the reformation of the church was still in full swing. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) is generally regarded as marking the completion of this process. In 1667 Johann Georg II, Elector of Saxony, proclaimed October 31 to be the official commemoration day for all Protestants.

To mark the 200th year of the Reformation, the cantata Jauchzet dem Herrn alle Welt by Christoph Graupner (1683-1760) sounded in 1717 in Darmstadt (D-DS Mus.ms 425/1, RISM ID no. 450005863). In Hamburg, Johann Mattheson (1681-1764) composed the oratorio Der reformierende Johannes (D-Hs ND VI 129, RISM ID no. 452500996).

Another 100 years later (1817) the cantata Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott was composed by Wilhelm Schneider (D-Dl Mus.4646-E-501, RISM ID no. 211005300).

Favorite songs for this day are either “Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g[e]meinby Martin Luther or “Ist Gott für mich, so trete gleich alles wider mich” by Paul Gerhardt. And of course we cannot forget Luther’s “Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott.”

Martin Luther's name comes up often in the RISM online catalog. There are over 700 entries for him, usually as the author of the text.

There are over 160 entries for Martin Luther as a composer, but the attributions are not always clear.

And around 90 sources await you if you would like to know what compositions were written for the liturgical festival Reformatio Lutheri.

Wilhelm Schneider (1783-1843), Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott. Sächsische Landesbibliothek - Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek (SLUB), Dresden (D-Dl Mus.4646-E-501, RISM ID no. 211005300).




Category: Events

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