Pieces of Our Past
July 11, 2014
Artifact: Souvenir Sheet Commemorating Martin Luther
Size: 4.25 x 3.25 inches
Date: October 18, 1983
Significance: Issued by the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR), commonly referred to as East Germany, this souvenir sheet (Scott #2378) commemorates the life of Martin Luther, especially his translation of the Bible into German. The stamp was issued the year of the 500th anniversary of his birth. Luther’s translation was revolutionary; for the first time the Bible was available to the common man. No longer was God’s Word understandable only to the clergy and the few who knew Latin, but then everyone in the Holy Roman Empire could either read the Holy Scriptures or hear it read aloud. The stamp on the right of the souvenir sheet has Luther’s initials. The image on the left appears to be the title page of the 1541 edition of Luther’s Bible based on the words in the center, but the woodcut does not match the one done by Lucas Cranach, the Younger. Instead ten coats of arms surround the wording.
Reformation Stamps: As the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 draws ever closer, more and more items will be introduced to honor the occasion. Postage stamps have commonly been used in recent times to celebrate the Reformation. A few years ago CHI received a collection of stamps commemorating Martin Luther and the Reformation from Ruth Webster. The collection contains over 50 different stamps and first day covers commemorating various events in the life of Martin Luther and other reformers. The stamps in this collection were issued by 12 different countries and range in date from 1933 to 1983. There is a wide variety of imagery from portraits of Luther, reformers and other significant people to buildings and events important to the Reformation.
Interesting Stamps in the Collection
Issued: April 28, 1951
Image: John Calvin and Martin Luther
Observance: 375th anniversary of the Reformation in the Saar region
Comments: Saar was a protectorate of France from 1947 to 1956.
Issued: July 30, 1958
Image: Carlos I, King of Spain (Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor)
Observance: 400th anniversary of the death of Charles V
Comments: Charles V convened the Diet of Worms in 1521 and summoned Martin Luther to recant the “heresies” in his writings.
East Germany #877
Issued: November 23, 1966
Image: Bailiwick at the Wartburg (Luther House)
Observance: 900th anniversary of the laying of the foundation of the castle in 1067
Comments: Martin Luther lived here for nearly a year following the Edict of Worms, which declared him a heretic and outlaw. During his stay Luther translated the New Testament into the German language.
East Germany #1386
Issued: July 4, 1972
Image: Margarete Luther, mother of Martin Luther
Observance: 500th anniversary of the birth of Lucas Cranach, the Elder
Comments: Cranach, a good friend of Martin Luther’s, painted many portraits of Luther, his family and other reformers. Cranach’s work includes this image of Luther’s mother, which he painted in 1527.
Issued: July 12, 1979
Image: Moses receiving the Ten Commandments
Observance: 450th anniversary of Martin Luther’s Catechism
Issued: April 18, 1983
Image: Portrait of Martin Luther
Observance: 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther
Copyright © 2014 Concordia Historical Institute
804 Seminary Pl.
Saint Louis MO 63105-3014
Department of Archives and History of
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Last updated: Friday, July 11, 2014