Shortly after the start of the new millennium, the Lutheran World Federation already began to consider what their contribution to the 500-year Reformation Jubilee in 2017 might be. It quickly became clear that instead of the division between churches, their “unity in reconciled diversity” would stand as the thematic center. The quote attributed to Martin Luther, “if the world collapsed tomorrow, I would still plant an apple tree today” led to the idea of planting trees: 500 trees for 500 years of the Reformation.
And so the idea of a “Luthergarten” in Wittenberg came about. Different tree species symbolize the diversity of Christian churches. The one garden in which the trees grow stands for their common bond. As the trees grow, the garden continually changes shape. Likewise, the inspiration of the Reformation should keep going all around the world. The Luthergarten as an international, ecumenical, and living monument points to the jubilee year of 2017 and beyond.
The Council of the City of Wittenberg made public land available for the tree plantings at the Andreasbreite (1st location), at the New Town Hall (2nd location), and at the Luther House (3rd location). The city additionally is responsible for the long-term maintenance and care of the Luthergarten.
Renowned landscape architect Dr. Andreas Kipar designed the basic concept of the one garden in three locations in Wittenberg. The Luther Rose emblem set into the ground at the first location (“Andreasbreite”) forms the center of the garden. There the first five trees were planted, which stand for five Christian World Communions (Anglicans, Reformed, Methodists, Catholics, and Orthodox). The tree for the Lutheran World Federation stands at the entrance to the Luther Rose.
Altogether, 35 different species of trees from various continents around the world were planted in the Luthergarten. Of note is the decision to use the linden tree, a species with great symbolism. Traditionally, linden trees were planted in the village square in many villages throughout Germany and Europe. The village community gathered in the shade of the linden tree.
Visitors to the Luthergarten may also experience a sense of belonging to a global village community when they are surrounded by the linden trees of the five large church communions. In addition, linden trees line paths in all three locations of the Luthergarten.