THE CASTLE CHURCH
„The Elector John Frederick `the Magnanimous´ (born 1503, reigning 1532 - 1547, died 1554) was not only a Renaissance Duke, but in particular also a true and faithful follower of Martin Luther, deeply religious and a supporter of the Reformation.“
(O. Thulin). He gave order to the architect Nickel Grohmann to build a castle chapel for the electoral court.
This church is only marked in the total building by its portal showing scenes of the passion. There we can see six angels holding the torture instruments. In the right base is an angel with the money bag of Judas, in the left one another angel with a sword is holding up the ear that Saint Peter cut off Malchus. Above the portal a relief depicts Christ´s burial. A stonemason´s sign refers to the sculptor Simon Schröter of Torgau.
The castle church in Torgau is the first Protestant church building in Germany, erected in accordance with Luther´s own ideas. He himself consecrated it in a festive service on October 5. 1544. The sermon on Luke 14, 1-11, is still well-known. Here Luther describes the true nature and meaning of a Protestant church service: „Nothing else should happen inside that the dear Lord Himself talks to us through His Holy Word and we in turn talk to Him through prayer and songs of praise.“
The choir sang a hymn specially composed for this occasion by Johann Walter, a motet for seven voices in Latin words on psalm 119: „Happy those who live without fault, walking in the law of the Lord“. In this song the Elector is called „Defensor veri dogmatis“(defender of the true Christian belief) whereas Luther and Melanchthon are referred to as „Nostrae lumina terrae“ (lights and saviours of our earth). In one of his table talks Luther praised the building saying „Salomo didn´t build a more beautiful temple anywhere than Torgau has.“
The interior of the church is almost as it had been originally: A hall-like room, no apse, two galleries, a fan vault. The church was restored in 1983/84.
The pulpit of sandstone (made in Simon Schröter´s studio) rises in the middle of the longitudinal wall. Its location shows clearly the central position of the sermon in Protestant services. On the pulpit we see three biblical stories of special important for the Reformation:
Middle: The 12-year-old Jesus in the temple among debating scholars who try to interpret the Holy Scriptures. Jesus is pointing to a word there, just as the Reformation sees the Bible as the only source and strict standard for both the Church and the Christians. „Solo scriptura“ – only the Holy Scriptures.
Left: Jesus and the adulteress – the most offensive example of the tensions between condemnation by law and forgiveness of guilt by Christ. God decides for life and against the death of the sinner. „Sola gratia“ – only by grace.
Right: Jesus drives the shopkeepers and money-changers out of the temple. This symbolizes that constant renewal of the church is needed – „Ecclesia semper reformanda“. „Sola fide“ – only from belief, only by placing trust in the word of the Lord.And above everything :“Solus Christus“ – Christ alone.
The altar (a copy, made in 1956, due to damage in World War II) is – according to Luhter‘s statements – a simple, free-standing table resembling early Christian traditions. It is carried by four angels. Around the altar the congregation gathers together for Lord’s Supper.
The organ from Peter Vier`s studio in Friesenheim/Black Forest was inaugurated on October 2, 1994. Following the style of the castle, it resembles Renaissance in appearance, equipment and sound.
The opposite gallery shows the coats of arms of Elector John George l. (1585, 1611 – 1656) and his wife. – A large bronze plaque, cast in the Hilger Foundry at Freiberg in 1545, reminds us of the dedication of this church. The Latin inscript praises Elector John Frederick, whose portray can be seen at the top of the plaque, with his sons to the left and right and a portray of Martin Luther at the bottom.
Later, in the time after Reformation, the castle church served different purposes:
After 1736, under the reign of Elector Frederick August ll, son and successor of August the Strong, it was used for Catholic service.
From 1771 to 1812 it was the chapel of the prison and workhouse in the castle. From the time of the Vienna Congress in 1815 up to 1912 it served as the church of the Prussian garrison. Between 1919 and 1926 it was used as great hall of the lady teacher´s college in the castle. Finally, since 1932, it has been used for service by the Protestant congregation of Torgau.