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L.I.S.A. Redaktion | 04/30/2014 | 2217 Views | Movies by the Gerda Henkel Foundation |

News from the Celestial Treasure Trove -
Everyday Life and Piety on the Eve of Reformation (Germany)

The Exhibition | Episode 3

The exhibition “Umsonst ist der Tod! Alltag und Frömmigkeit am Vorabend der Reformation” (Death is for free! Everyday life and piety on the eve of the Reformation) in Mühlhausen, Thuringia, represented the highlight of several years’ research work by church historian Dr Hartmut Kühne. Dr Kühne spent almost three years researching into testimonials to everyday piety in the late Middle Ages in central Germany. These demonstrate that in the decades before the Reformation belief and the church were in full flower. It is still the case that in general the opposite is asserted and a deep-rooted social crisis considered the reason for the Reformation. The exhibitors’ concept and the numerous rare exhibits presented to the public on September 28, 2013 tell a different story.



Audio stream of the video

The Research Project
The decades leading up to the dawn of the German Reformation have long been considered a time of crisis characterized by clerical misuse of power, ecclesial disorder and general social unrest. However, insights provided by newly conducted research paint it in a new light as a culturally fruitful period, in which a rigorous yet relatively peaceful ‘churching’ of the whole society did not serve to eliminate great religious diversity. Until now, central Germany in particular, the motherland of the Reformation, has rarely been the subject of research on this period: on the one hand because of the Protestant nature of the region, which led to the disappearance of many old forms of piety, and on the other because of the ideological dominance of the Third Reich and East Germany, which for over half a century undermined the realization of research on the region’s past religious culture and thus by and large eliminated the people’s awareness of this period of their own history.

A research project initiated by Thomas T. Müller, Head of the Association of Mühlhausen Museums, aims to rediscover the religious environment that prevailed here in the Late Middle Ages, a period which has largely fallen into obscurity in the region itself, by means of a representative stocktake of relics and artefacts relating to everyday religious conditions prior to the Reformation that have been found in central Germany and their subsequent context-based documentation. The project interprets the phenomenon of pre-Reformation piety as a reality that permeated all areas of social life during the period. Over the course of the project, Dr. Hartmut Kühne conducts extensive research among the inventories, catalogues and collections from small and mid-sized museums in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The focus here is not on creating a conventional register of museum-based collections, but instead pinpointing the function of objects in specific real-life contexts and illuminating their religious significance.

The project is part of the research collaboration between major art-history museums in Magdeburg, Leipzig and Mühlhausen, the Institute of Saxon History and Folklore, the Luther Memorials Foundation in Saxony-Anhalt and the Thuringian Historical Commission. This project formed the basis of an academic congress in 2011 as well as an exhibition cycle planned for 2013 and 2014 in the Mühlhausen Museums, the Culture Historical Museum Magdeburg and the Municipal History Museum in Leipzig and perhaps in the smaller exhibition space in Luther’s final residence in Eisleben.

More information on the project can be found in a former video on

Project leadership

Thomas T. Müller
Dr. Hartmut Kühne



Academic Project Manager
Thomas T. Müller

Film Project Manager
Dr. Hartmut Kühne

Editorial Team
Susanne Decker

Camera Technicians
Jens Olaf Herz

Editing Technicians
Martin Pogac
Klaus Hernitschek
Project Assistants / Actors
Prof. Dr. Enno Bünz
Ulrike Dura
Jens Olaf Herz
Dr. Hartmut Kühne
Dr. Johannes Mötsch
Thomas T. Müller
Doris Mundus
Dr. Christian Philipsen
Prof. Dr. Matthias Puhle
Dr. Volker Rodekamp
Dr. Ulrike Theißen
Film Extras
Dr. Thomas Bauer
Beate Götte
Thomas Groll
Martin Günther
Dr. Matthias Hüls
Prof. Dr. em. Bernd Moeller
Dr. Peter Pieper
Dr. Michael Scholl
Thomas Spata
Dr. Falk Walther
Falk Schulze

Overall Planning Teams
Gisela Graichen und Peter Prestel

All episodes
The Zerbst Corpus Christi Procession
Episode 1
Luther was not the first one!
Episode 2
The Exhibition
Episode 3

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