1523 – Thomas Müntzer. Servant of God
The Allstedt palace was one of the locations most frequently visited by the Holy Roman Emperors and Kings during the 10th and 11th centuries. In subsequent periods, the palace came into the possession of the Landgraves of Thuringia, the Counts of Mansfeld, the House of Querfurt and, in 1496, of the Elector Friedrich of Saxony.
Between the 17th and the 20th centuries, Allstedt was variously used by a variety of Saxon dukes as a hunting lodge and dowager residence. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe also sojourned here on a number of occasions and wrote parts of his drama “Iphigeneia in Tauris” in this location. It was however the preacher, mystic and social revolutionary Thomas Müntzer who played a predominant role in the history of Allstedt.
On 27 May 1525, Thomas Müntzer was hanged outside the gates of Mühlhausen in the presence of the reigning duke. Over many generations, he was considered as a heretic and rebel and it was not until the 19th century that the social revolutionary aspects of his theology were discovered. Müntzer as a revolutionary and leader of peasants provided an idealised identity for the GDR. Many are familiar with his name, but no convincing portrait of him has survived, meaning that no-one knows what he looks like. A Dutch graphic artist produced an engraving of him in 1609, but was this his real appearance? How do you imagine what Thomas Müntzer looked like?
When Müntzer was appointed as pastor of the municipal parish church St John in Allstedt in 1523 aged 33, he immediately began implementing his own concepts of a “true” Christian community – and reformed church services: he was the first reformer to hold a service spoken entirely in the German language.
Here in Allstedt, Müntzer attempted to gain the Saxon elector and his family as partners in alliance. On 13 July 1524 in the still existing Hofstube [courtly hall], he preached a sermon in the presence of the Elector Johann and his son Johann Friedrich which would go down in German history as the “Sermon before the Princes”. Müntzer urged the Christian electors to fight against the “wicked heathens”. If they refused to help, they would forfeit their power to the Christian people.
Other Reformers were however also fighting for the favour of the influential imperial princes: Martin Luther warned them of the “rebellious spirit”, the “Satan” of Allstedt. This had an effect: following an interrogation in the Castle of Weimar, the Allstedt federation fell apart and Müntzer fled from the town overnight.
Müntzer’s liturgy was not abolished in Allstedt until decades after his death: from this point onwards, he was either considered a villain or no longer mentioned. Around 1700, Gottfried Arnold, preacher at the Allstedt Dowager’s Palace, dedicated himself to the impact made by Müntzer, as the reformer had never been totally forgotten in Allstedt!
His image was used as a motif on emergency currency in 1921; in 1935, a drama was enacted to commemorate the millenary of Allstedt and the Müntzer Festival was established in 1953. The same year, an initial site of commemoration for Müntzer was opened in the tower of the ruins of the St Wigbert church.
The Thomas Müntzer commemoration site was opened in the castle in 1975 on the occasion of the 450th anniversary of the Peasants’ Revolt. In 1989 shortly before the end of the GDR, this exhibition was completely reorganised. Parts of the presentation can still be viewed as evidence of the appropriation of history in the new permanent collection entitled “1523 – Thomas Müntzer. A Servant of God” in Castle Allstedt. With its presentation of the reformer Thomas Müntzer the castle and fortress in Allstedt provide an authentic location relevant to the history of the Reformation of supra-regional significance!
The Thomas Müntzer Route was created in November 2015 to enable you to follow in the footsteps of the Reformer and visit the locations where he lived and worked. At the “Brennglas Allstedt” [magnifying glass, Allstedt], you can also relive the complex events during the Reformation relevant to the disputed theologist – on request with the aid of a guide.
Thomas Müntzer is however not the only reason to visit Allstedt. The castle is worth a visit in its own right: the stucco ceilings and castle chapel are exemplary of the Central German Baroque style. Come and marvel at the unique Late Gothic castle kitchen featuring one of the largest chimneys in castle buildings across Europe.
Also discover the exquisite ornate cast iron collection displaying the consummate artistry and technical knowledge of the iron foundry Mägdesprung.