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Mini-Luthers on Wittenberg market square cause offense to some

September 8, 2010

TRIER, Germany

Eight hundred colorful miniature figures of the 16th-century Protestant Reformer Martin Luther on display on the central market square of Wittenberg, where he lived and worked, are causing offense.

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 criticized 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.”

The culture representative of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the umbrella organization for Germany’s Protestants, told the epd news agency, “I understand his criticism but I find the reaction humorless.”

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 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 Sept. 12.

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