Mini Luthers to stand in Wittenberg market square

August 23, 2010

TRIER, Germany

Eight hundred colorful miniature figures of the 16th-century Protestant Reformer Martin Luther will soon be on display on the central market square of Wittenberg where he lived and worked.

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

“My installation aims to make it possible once again to understand and experience the unqualified relevance and significance of the person of Martin Luther,” Hörl said in advance of the opening of the installation on Aug. 14.

Luther is said to have nailed his 95 theses protesting against corruption in the Roman Catholic Church on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517. Within a month his theses had been reprinted in Nuremberg, Leipzig and Basel.

Scholars point to the invention of the printing press as being key in enabling Luther’s writing to be distributed through Germany and beyond.

The Luther figures, which are approximately 39 inches in height, are based on an 1821 statue of Luther that normally stands on the Wittenberg market but is currently being restored.

“My installations in public spaces, in which a model is multiplied, may be compared, in their artistic idea and intention, with printing,” said Hörl, who has previously set up mass installations in Nuremberg and at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

“It is only through the production of multiple copies that a text, a picture, a phenomenon becomes visible, becomes accessible to a wider public,” he said.

Hörl said he wanted to stress Luther’s role “as a translator who, in his day, could not have been effective without the invention of printing.

“When his translation of the New Testament from Latin into German was published in 1522, 3,000 copies were sold in that year, and over 200,000 within 15 years.”

The installation, which lasts until Sept. 12, is titled “Martin Luther: Here I Stand,” after a statement attributed to Luther in 1521 in the city of Worms, Germany, when he was called upon to defend himself before Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor.

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