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Interesting history lives on at Wittenberg church
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Just a few miles south of Antigo is the only Wittenberg in the United States.  There are college buildings across the country and a Wittenberg University in Ohio, but there are no other states that have a community by that name.

The local Wittenberg has an interesting history and an unusual connection with the Wittenberg in Germany, the town where Martin Luther lived for all of his adult life.  

First, the interesting details about the history of Wittenberg, Wis. beginning with its founder, E.J. Homme.  

Evan Johnson Homme was born in 1843 in Telemark, Norway.  His family came to the United States when he was 11 years old and settled in Dane County, Wis..  Two years later, they moved to Minnesota where all the Homme children attended elementary and high school.  After several years of college, Evan Homme decided to go to St. Louis where he studied at Concordia Seminary to become a pastor.  In 1867, Rev. Homme received a call from the Norwegian Synod to come to a church in Winchester, Wis. where he served for 14 years.  

During that time, the Norwegian Synod expressed an interest in establishing a home for orphans and old folks.  Rev. Homme volunteered to do this if he would be allowed to select the site himself.  The synod agreed and Rev. Homme took the railroad to the end of the line at Tigerton and then set out on foot through the wilderness to the north, seeking a suitable location for the home.

A spot was located between Cintonville and Wausau where a new section of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore, and Western Railroad was planning to lay track. They had even thought of a name for the new station, Carbonero.  But Homme persuaded the railroad to let him choose the name instead.  He chose Wittenberg, in honor of the German city which gave the world Martin Luther.  

Once the wilderness site was chosen, Homme made plans for the village and the orphanage as well as a home for old people.  The town was established quickly with 40 families arriving in the first six years.  In 1884 Rev. Homme also built an Indian Mission School which was later run by the government.  

To provide for the many orphans as well as work experience for them, they farmed 150 acres. He dammed up the Embarrass River in 1892 to build a mill.  A printing business was started as well, distributing thousands of weekly papers to all the states and even internationally.  From these many enterprises, the orphans could go out into the world knowing they had useful skills and could make a living for themselves.

The State Historical Marker at Wittenberg includes the following about Rev. Homme:

He ran a farm, published three newspapers, operated four schools, raised and sold garden seeds and sold a patent medicine of his own called Wittenberg Drops. 

He was an energetic, hard-working and determined man who died at the age of 59 and is buried at the cemetery of the Lutheran Church he started in his beloved Wittenberg.

Now, about the other Wittenberg, known today as Lutherstadt Wittenberg to distinguish it from other German communities of that name.

 The name means white mountain, but it is more like a little hill on the Elbe River, founded in the 1200s.  This European city has 50,000 people today, unlike othe local village of Wittenberg which now has around 1,000 inhabitants.

In 1502 when the ruler Frederick the Wise decided to establish Wittenberg University, it was the start to making his little Wittenberg famous worldwide.  He invited a monk named Martin Luther to come to teach at his new school.  Later, he also invited Philip Melanchthon to join the faculty and these two men became friends that shared the same desire to serve God faithfully and get to know the Bible better.  

In fact, as part of his effort to discuss changes he felt were necessary in the church of the day, on Oct. 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted 95 statements or theses to the community bulletin board — the door of the Castle Church.  

The main topic of concern was the sale of indulgences which people could buy to have their sins forgiven.  The Pope needed money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  Luther could not find anywhere in the Bible where it said you needed to buy forgiveness of sins.  He read that forgiveness was a free gift of God to all who ask for it.  All of this would have passed quietly into history if it were not for Gutenberg’s recent invention of the printing press.  So the 95 theses were copied and widely distributed throughout the area.

In the events that followed, this Wittenberg became recognized worldwide as the home of Dr. Martin Luther who wanted to reform the church.

The two Wittenbergs are tied together by more than just a name.

There is a painting above the Castle Church’s door where the 95 Theses were posted that shows Luther holding a Bible and Melanchthon holding the Augsburg Confession.  Both are kneeling beneath the cross of Jesus with a city in the distance.  This exact same scene is depicted, not in a painting, but in a stained glass window at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Witttenberg. The only differences noted are that one has the city of Jerusalem, with rounded rooftops in the distance, and the other shows Lutherstadt Wittenberg with its tower of the Castle Church and twin spires of the city church where Luther preached over 2,000 times.  

The Wittenberg, Germany painting was certainly the model for the Wittenberg, Wisconsin stained glass window. Unfortunately, their pastor, Rev. Larson, reports that the church can find no record of their window, and it is unknown if there are other churches in the U. S. with the same window. There is a date in the stained glass of 1938 and that the window was donated by the Meisner family.

So there is a bit of a mystery to solve here.  Who thought of making a stained glass window in the entryway of a Lutheran Church in Wittenber that is modeled after the painting above the famous 95 Theses door in Wittenberg, Germany?

The tale of two Wittenbergs becomes the tale of two interesting works of art, each so far from each other on different continents.


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The stained glass window at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wittenberg includes the same scene as its more famous counterpart, the painting above the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Interesting history lives on at Wittenberg church
space
Just a few miles south of Antigo is the only Wittenberg in the United States.  There are college buildings across the country and a Wittenberg University in Ohio, but there are no other states that have a community by that name.

The local Wittenberg has an interesting history and an unusual connection with the Wittenberg in Germany, the town where Martin Luther lived for all of his adult life.  

First, the interesting details about the history of Wittenberg, Wis. beginning with its founder, E.J. Homme.  

Evan Johnson Homme was born in 1843 in Telemark, Norway.  His family came to the United States when he was 11 years old and settled in Dane County, Wis..  Two years later, they moved to Minnesota where all the Homme children attended elementary and high school.  After several years of college, Evan Homme decided to go to St. Louis where he studied at Concordia Seminary to become a pastor.  In 1867, Rev. Homme received a call from the Norwegian Synod to come to a church in Winchester, Wis. where he served for 14 years.  

During that time, the Norwegian Synod expressed an interest in establishing a home for orphans and old folks.  Rev. Homme volunteered to do this if he would be allowed to select the site himself.  The synod agreed and Rev. Homme took the railroad to the end of the line at Tigerton and then set out on foot through the wilderness to the north, seeking a suitable location for the home.

A spot was located between Cintonville and Wausau where a new section of the Milwaukee, Lake Shore, and Western Railroad was planning to lay track. They had even thought of a name for the new station, Carbonero.  But Homme persuaded the railroad to let him choose the name instead.  He chose Wittenberg, in honor of the German city which gave the world Martin Luther.  

Once the wilderness site was chosen, Homme made plans for the village and the orphanage as well as a home for old people.  The town was established quickly with 40 families arriving in the first six years.  In 1884 Rev. Homme also built an Indian Mission School which was later run by the government.  

To provide for the many orphans as well as work experience for them, they farmed 150 acres. He dammed up the Embarrass River in 1892 to build a mill.  A printing business was started as well, distributing thousands of weekly papers to all the states and even internationally.  From these many enterprises, the orphans could go out into the world knowing they had useful skills and could make a living for themselves.

The State Historical Marker at Wittenberg includes the following about Rev. Homme:

He ran a farm, published three newspapers, operated four schools, raised and sold garden seeds and sold a patent medicine of his own called Wittenberg Drops. 

He was an energetic, hard-working and determined man who died at the age of 59 and is buried at the cemetery of the Lutheran Church he started in his beloved Wittenberg.

Now, about the other Wittenberg, known today as Lutherstadt Wittenberg to distinguish it from other German communities of that name.

 The name means white mountain, but it is more like a little hill on the Elbe River, founded in the 1200s.  This European city has 50,000 people today, unlike othe local village of Wittenberg which now has around 1,000 inhabitants.

In 1502 when the ruler Frederick the Wise decided to establish Wittenberg University, it was the start to making his little Wittenberg famous worldwide.  He invited a monk named Martin Luther to come to teach at his new school.  Later, he also invited Philip Melanchthon to join the faculty and these two men became friends that shared the same desire to serve God faithfully and get to know the Bible better.  

In fact, as part of his effort to discuss changes he felt were necessary in the church of the day, on Oct. 31, 1517 Martin Luther posted 95 statements or theses to the community bulletin board — the door of the Castle Church.  

The main topic of concern was the sale of indulgences which people could buy to have their sins forgiven.  The Pope needed money to build St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.  Luther could not find anywhere in the Bible where it said you needed to buy forgiveness of sins.  He read that forgiveness was a free gift of God to all who ask for it.  All of this would have passed quietly into history if it were not for Gutenberg’s recent invention of the printing press.  So the 95 theses were copied and widely distributed throughout the area.

In the events that followed, this Wittenberg became recognized worldwide as the home of Dr. Martin Luther who wanted to reform the church.

The two Wittenbergs are tied together by more than just a name.

There is a painting above the Castle Church’s door where the 95 Theses were posted that shows Luther holding a Bible and Melanchthon holding the Augsburg Confession.  Both are kneeling beneath the cross of Jesus with a city in the distance.  This exact same scene is depicted, not in a painting, but in a stained glass window at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Witttenberg. The only differences noted are that one has the city of Jerusalem, with rounded rooftops in the distance, and the other shows Lutherstadt Wittenberg with its tower of the Castle Church and twin spires of the city church where Luther preached over 2,000 times.  

The Wittenberg, Germany painting was certainly the model for the Wittenberg, Wisconsin stained glass window. Unfortunately, their pastor, Rev. Larson, reports that the church can find no record of their window, and it is unknown if there are other churches in the U. S. with the same window. There is a date in the stained glass of 1938 and that the window was donated by the Meisner family.

So there is a bit of a mystery to solve here.  Who thought of making a stained glass window in the entryway of a Lutheran Church in Wittenber that is modeled after the painting above the famous 95 Theses door in Wittenberg, Germany?

The tale of two Wittenbergs becomes the tale of two interesting works of art, each so far from each other on different continents.


space

The stained glass window at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Wittenberg includes the same scene as its more famous counterpart, the painting above the door of The Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.
2017
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Phone: 715-623-4191
Fax: 715-623-4193
Mail to: Fred Berner
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