Reformation and Exile. Emden and Its Religious Refugees in the 16th Century

Posted 29 May 2017

To overview

The special exhibition Reformation and Exile – Emden and Its Religious Refugees in the 16th Century opened on Sunday, May 14, in the Johannes a Lasco Library and the Ostfriesisches Landesmuseum Emden (East Frisian State Museum Emden).

“This joint exhibition is occasioned by the anniversary of the beginning of the Reformation 500 years ago, being the largest of its kind in North‐West Germany,” explains the academic director of the Johannes a Lasco Library Foundation, Dr. Jan Marius J. Lange van Ravenswaay. Until November 5, 2017, the exhibition will deal with the changes taking place in the seaport town against the background of the arrival of numerous religious refugees.

A large number of exhibits direct the visitors’ attention to individual fates of people who came to Emden for religious reasons, and also of native inhabitants who had to cope with an altering town. By means of an audio guide system, various persons – men, women, and children – get a chance to speak of their experiences, memories and impressions. “They are natives of Emden and immigrants coming from all parts of Europe, who all show and make it clear to the visitors how varied life in this East Frisian seaport was at that time,” says Lange van Ravenswaay.

“Emden was a place of refuge for religious exiles from many regions and territories of the Holy German Empire and of Europe, and thus a melting pot,” stresses the director of the Ostfriesisches Landesmuseum Emden, Dr. Wolfgang Jahn. By the end of the 16th century, several thousand of these exiles lived in the town. “Not only did they put their stamp on the town with regard to confessional aspects, but they also made it one of the largest towns within the Empire,” he further adds. “The religious refugees helped the Reformation, which in Emden was initiated and shaped by the citizens, on its road to success, and they gave an important impetus to the economic upturn and prosperity of the town,” says the academic curator of the exhibition in the Ostfriesisches Landesmuseum Emden, Matthias Pausch. Emden was not only a place where reformational and other new ideas were discussed, but also a place where most ships landed, which, besides material wares, also transported intellectual goods. Emden was considered the largest seaport of Europe at that time.

The two exhibition sites
The exhibition in the Ostfriesisches Landesmuseum Emden, housed in the old town hall at the Delft, focuses on the significant changes in the life of the town’s community brought about by the arrival of the religious exiles. This is shown, on the one hand, in the evolution of the settlement and development of the town, documented by historical maps and plans as well as by archaeological finds, and also, on the other hand, in an emerging change in how the inhabitants of Emden perceived and viewed the world.

The exhibition in the Johannes a Lasco Library presents the development of the Reformation in East Frisia by means of individual biographies, bearing a direct link with the exhibits on display. “Part of the rooms of the library, which incorporates the ruins of the former Great Church of Emden, were reconstructed to look like they used to be in the period before the Reformation and still for a considerable time afterwards,” explains Klaas‐Dieter Voß, the academic curator of the exhibition in the Johannes a Lasco Library. Thus, a rood screen, a high altar, and a rood form part of the exhibition.

Exhibition sites: Johannes a Lasco Bibliothek, Kirchstraße 22, 26721 Emden
Ostfriesisches Landesmuseum Emden, Rathaus am Delft, Brückstraße 1, 26725 Emden
Duration: Mai 14 – November 5, 2017
opening hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.


14 May 2017

5 November 2017

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