Religious Worlds

January 27, to Juni 25, 2017

Opening: January 26, 2017, 6.00 pm

Following the arrival of the Reformation in Leipzig in 1539, the Protestant Lutheran faith formed the basis for religious and social coexistence. However, being a thriving city of commerce, people still came to Leipzig from all over Europe and beyond who had a variety of confessions and religions. The city and the Protestant church authorities kept a strict eye on ›unpleasant‹ forms of religious expression. Nevertheless, in around 1700, the extensive religious uniformity was gradually relaxed under Augustus the Strong, Elector of Saxony, partly in support of political and economic interests.


Protestant Lutheran refugees from the Catholic state of Salzburg passing through Leipzig, copper engraving, 1732, Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig

This special exhibition presents the religious situation in Leipzig in Bach’s day from different perspectives. Apart from the predominant Protestant Lutheran Church, there was a Protestant Reformed community in Leipzig from 1701 while a Catholic community was founded there in 1710. They were joined by a Greek Orthodox community in 1743. Moreover, Jewish merchants were permitted to practise their religion during the fairs, albeit with some restrictions. The exhibition also examines the extent to which the Protestant Lutheran Johann Sebastian Bach encountered other confessions. The most precious exhibits include parts from the Missa in B minor, BWV 232 (the Kyrie and Gloria of the subsequent Mass in B minor), which Bach dedicated to the Catholic elector. The many other exhibits, which include documents on the Catholic and Protestant Reformed communities, an encyclopaedia of the Koran compiled in Leipzig, and the description of a secret Jewish wedding, testify to the protracted and difficult process of fostering tolerance for and between different religious worlds.


Chalices, St Thomas’s Church, 1680 (left), Catholic chapel in Pleissenburg Castle, 1738 (right), Ev.-luth. Kirchgemeinde St. Thomas Leipzig, Propstei St. Trinitatis Leipzig, Photographs: Matthias Knoch


The exhibition is supported by: Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien aufgrund eines Beschlusses des Deutschen Bundestages as well as by Packard Humanities Institute, Los Altos/Kalifornien and Stiftung Chorherren St. Thomae, Leipzig.




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