WITTENBERG, Germany — A 360 degree panorama exhibit puts on display what the town might have looked like in 1517, marking five centuries since the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
A 15x75 meter circular work constructed a short distance away from the main street in the city made famous by Martin Luther, artist Yadegar Asisi painted the town complete with characters from that time period. Martin Luther appears several times in the panorama along with other Reformation-era figures, Elector Frederick the Wise, the painter Lucas Cranach, Luther's colleague Philip Melanchton, and Luther's wife, Katharine von Bora.
Thousands have taken part in the panoramic experience and as visitors walk through the building accompanying music by film composer Eric Babak and sound effects reflecting the era emanate from speakers. Situated in the center of the panorama is an observatory deck where visitors can take it all in.
Camilo Seifert, a self-described "Saxon Lutheran" and the general manager of the W360 panorama, described it in an interview with The Christian Post last week as a "singular experience" that is "a dive into another epoch."
The Wittenberg panorama will be open for pilgrims and other visitors through Oct. 31, 2021.
Here's a sneak peek inside the panoramic experience.
Seen here is one of the depictions of Martin Luther with a document in his hand as he argues with someone.
Luther was sent to Wittenberg from Erfurt by Johann von Staupitz, an Augustinian cleric and theologian who supervised Luther during his 20s while he was a monk. Luther taught theology in Wittenberg and frequently preached in St. Mary's Church. It is widely held that on Oct. 31, 1517, Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of Castle Church, which among other things, objected to the practice of selling papal indulgences. That is what Luther's friend Melanchton recalled, according to historic accounts. That date is the same day as when Luther penned a letter articulating his concerns to the Archbishop of Mainz. Many have argued that this event set in motion developments that would give birth to the modern world.
The Protestant Reformer is arguably most famous for the recovery of the doctrine of justification — that the Christian is saved by grace through faith in God alone and not through any of his or her works.
In the hall just outside the panorama an exhibit explains: "The impact of the Reformation and others was felt deep in the daily lives of ordinary people. Of paramount importance for Luther was the belief in Jesus Christ and His resurrection. Through this belief alone and less through pious deeds, every person could find a direct path to God."
This is Asisi's depiction of the main square in Wittenberg. In the distance one sees St. Mary's Church where Martin Luther, once an Augustinian monk, frequently preached and married Katherine von Bora, who was once a nun, in 1525. The Tudor style architecture seen here characterizes many cities in Germany to this day.
Asisi, the Austrian-born artist who was raised in the Saxony region of Germany, has been creating the biggest panoramas in the world since 2003.
This particular medium brings together photography and painting. The artist used digital image processing to do this and the panoramas offer a "three-dimensional effect of a 1 to 1 simulation," and can be viewed as a "hyper-realistic artistic space," according to nearby exhibits.
All Saints Church, also known as Castle Church, is perhaps the most famous place in Wittenberg. This is where Luther is said to have posted his 95 theses to the church doors, launching the Protestant Reformation.
Author Eric Metaxas notes in his biography Martin Luther: The Man Who Rediscovered God and Changed the World, that he did not actually nail the theses but used paste. The storyline many have in their imaginations of Luther bravely hammering something to a church door was not how it happened. If he indeed posted the theses, which were written in Latin so only the highly educated could read it, he thought he was effectively tacking them to the local bulletin board to generate discussion.
"For me, the significance of Martin Luther's legacy is his demand for self-determination," Asisi explains in an exhibit outside the panorama.
"Knowing where we come from is necessary to pursue our paths into our own future. With this work I would like to approach a period in time — although seeming to be far distant — nevertheless exhibits so many parallels in our present day."
Wittenberg near the end of October is usually "cold and wet," an exhibit inside the W360 panorama explains.
Even so, in 1517 its streets would have been filled with merchants, townsmen, farmers, and other travelers. Many who were traveling to the city were coming to see Elector Frederick the Wise's collection of relics of saints from throughout Europe, which were located in Castle Church.
Trouble was brewing at this time as Johannes Tetzel was known for selling indulgences in the region and Wittenberg residents would purchase these and show them to Luther, something that greatly disturbed him and a subject he preached against.