Julius Pflug

Exhibition Venues

2017 is a Luther Year!
But have you ever heard of Julius Pflug?

A hitherto little noted treasure of Reformation history lies dormant in the Cathedral and Palace City of Zeitz, which is celebrating its 1050th anniversary in 2017. Not only an original survivingedition of the Theses reveals traces of Martin Luther’s impact but the personal papers of the irenic theologian Julius Pflug (1499-1564) who labored for the unity of the church are also closely tied with the Reformation era.

Julius Pflug was a counselor and diplomat at the court in Dresden and was appointed by Emperor Charles V and the Roman Curia to conduct the negotiations with the Protestants. This earned him a central role in crucial developments of the Reformation era. His vast network of relationships spanning all of Europe placed him in contact with the major and importantnfigures of his day, including Philipp Melanchthon and Erasmus of Rotterdam.


On account of his efforts geared toward reconciliation and mediation he is regarded as a guiding intellect and forerunner of ecumenism, now more relevant than ever. 

The diocese of Naumburg-Zeitz drew attention all over Europe because of the conflict over the episcopate that erupted in 1541-42. The cathedral chapter had appointed Zeitz cathedral canon and collegiate chapter provost Julius Pflug bishop. Elector Johann Friedrich I of Saxony, barred from the negotiations because of his Lutheran beliefs, rashly installed a candidate of his own. Luther personally consecrated Nikolaus von Amsdorf first Protestant bishop in the world in Naumburg Cathedral on January 20, 1542. Two days later, Amsdorf preached his inaugural sermon in the Collegiate Church of Zeitz, the present-day cathedral. This violation of rights occurred at the onset of the Schmalkaldic War during which Emperor Charles V moved against the Protestant imperial princes militarily. Following the emperor’s victory in 1547, Julius Pflug was able to assume his episcopate and move into the then Bishop’s castle.


It not only examines a Catholic figure prominent in Zeitz and Reformation history but also specifically pays tribute to an irenic theologian of the Reformation era for the first time. 

Over the course of his career, this widely educated aristocrat assembled one of the largest, nearly fully surviving personal libraries of the Reformation era. It uniquely reflects the momentous ecclesio-political upheavals and controversies that occurred in Central Germany.


This is why the Combined Cathedral Chapters and the city of Zeitz are presenting a major cultural history exhibition honoring Julius Pflug as part of the Luther year of 2017. 

Exceptional objects from numerous European collections are on display at the authentic sites of Moritzburg Palace Museum in Zeitz, the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul, the Collegiate Chapter Library in the gatehouse, and St. Michael’s Church from the Monday after Pentecost until All Saints’ Days (June 5 to November 1) 2017. The exhibition is intended to elucidate Pflug’s distinct role as a mediator in the turbulent times of the Reformation, while conveying his great significance for ecumenical dialog of the present – and perhaps of the future, too.

Exhibition Venues


Moritzburg Palace Museum is located in the former bishops’ residence, which was converted into a palace for the Dukes of Saxony- Zeitz in the 17th century. The exhibition begins in the galleries on the third floor, which are easily reached by an elevator. Following an introductory film, Julius Pflug’s family background, education and career as well as the momentous conflict over the installation of the Bishop of Naumburg are examined, embedded in key events of imperial and church history. This conflict was linked with Nikolaus von Amsdorf, Martin Luther and Elector Johann Friedrich I, on the one hand, and with Emperor Charles V, King Ferdinand and Duke Moritz of Saxony, on the other. The largest exhibition gallery is devoted to Bishop Pflug’s unceasing efforts to resolve the open points of theological contention through a culture of courteous and irenic dialog in order to preserve Christian unity, which meant everything to him.


Today, the diocese’s former cathedral, seat of a collegiate chapter since 1028, is a living witness to Roman Catholicism in Zeitz and its exceptional decoration conveys key developments in the history of the church’s confessional shifts. The cathedral choir houses the grave and impressive tomb of Bishop Julius Pflug. The prince’s gallery and the vaulted chamber above it with fascinating ceiling frescoes are serving as exhibition galleries where exceptional exhibited objects address piety and liturgy in Bishop Pflug’s day and the radical changes following his death.


Julius Pflug’s enduring legacy is his unique library, preserved to this day as part of the Collegiate Chapter Library in Zeitz. It is not only one of the rare, almost entirely intact personal libraries of the Reformation era in all of Europe but also one of the few surviving collections of books owned by one of the most preeminent theologians and most distinguished European scholars of the 16th century. Among other items, Pflug’s library includes one of the largest contemporaneously assembled collections of editions of Martin Luther’s works.
Pflug’s personal papers include a large number of his letters and manuscripts as well as notes on contemporaneous political and ecclesio-political events. One of these items is the diary kept by Pflug at the Council of Trent in late 1551 and early 1552.
The learned bishop’s study, reconstructed for the exhibition using precious loaned objects and media installations, is a highlight of the exhibition.

© Michael Sander (CC BY-SA 3.0)


First mentioned in 1154, St. Michael’s Church has been the main Protestant parish church in Zeitz since 1539. An original surviving edition of Martin Luther’s Theses from 1517 was discovered in the tower library in 1882 during renovation work. Today, only six copies of this historic document still exist in the world. The church has been extensively restored in recent years. The main altar with the Salvator Mundi by Lucas Cranach the Elder and the Nuns’ Chapel with its fascinating colorful wall paintings dating to around 1517 are exceptional masterpieces.