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Luther Statue

Researched by Paul L. Willems, DMLC class of 1964

The imposing bronze statue of Martin Luther erected on the campus of Martin Luther College begins its story with another similar statue on the campus of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary (WLS) in Mequon, Wisconsin.

To help celebrate the 130th Anniversary of WLS in 1993, a statue of Martin Luther was chosen to witness the seminary’s unwavering commitment, under God, to the Reformation’s theological foundation of Sola Gratia (grace alone), Sola Scriptura (Scriptures alone) and Sola Fide (faith alone). The Board of Control of the Seminary appointed an eight-member committee to gather private gifts and execute an appropriate statue of Dr. Luther. The committee in turn engaged the Conrad Schmitt Studios of New Berlin WI to take charge of the construction of the statue. A hexagonal pedestal three feet tall was to be the base of a six-foot statue, and on the sides of the base were to be six bronze plaques with quotations from Luther’s writings reflecting his theology. (See "130th WLS Anniversary" folder.) The Schmitt Studios began with exhaustive research into various images of Martin Luther. A charcoal sketch of the reformer was made and artisans then sculptured an 18-inch clay model. Sight adjustments were made to Luther's pose and clothing. After a full-size model was made, the statue was cast in a single pour at the Pante Studio in Ortisei, Italy. (See Conrad Schmitt Studios, Inc., webpage.)

When the statue was erected, the original hexagonal pedestal was replaced with a five-sided pedestal. It was faced with “Absolute Black” granite slabs inscribed with the statue’s identification, seals, and quotations of Luther. The cost was approximately $75,000, much of which was donated by WLS alumni over a period of several years. The statue was dedicated on November 1, 1992, in conjunction with a Reformation festival service in the seminary auditorium. (Source: Correspondence with Professor John Hartwig)

In 1994 the Northwestern College Board of Control resolved to commission two bronze statues of Martin Luther, approximately seven feet tall, and to design a base for each. President John Braun selected a pose of an image taken from a triptych painting on display at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Weimer, Germany. It was painted by Lucas Cranach the Elder and completed by his son in 1555 (Source: Professor David Gosdeck, MLC Library Director).

The estate of Dr. Heinz Bluhm (NWC 1928) provided money for the Luther statue on the campus of Northwestern College.

The statue on the campus of Martin Luther College is a gift from the Board of Control of Northwestern College from non-budgetary funds under its control. (Source: Book of Reports and Memorials for the Fifty-Third Biennial Convention of the WELS, page 16 and correspondence from John A. Braun, NWC President) A sketch of the statue was included in the correspondence.

The Watertown campus statue was dedicated at the Northwestern College Alumni Society’s meeting on May 16, 1995, an important date because Northwestern College was founded on May 16, 1865. Professor Jerome Plitzuweit was the speaker. That campus is now home to Luther Preparatory School.

The New Ulm campus statue was placed at the end of the campus mall near the north entrance to the new administration/science building (the Link) without dedication or ceremony on August 10, 1995, just before the opening of the amalgamated Martin Luther College. (Source: The New Ulm Journal, August 11, 1995)

These three statues are similar in their appearance and represent both the tie between the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod and the Bible-based theological foundations of Dr. Martin Luther, as well as the tie among three of the four training schools of the WELS: Luther Preparatory School; Martin Luther College, the WELS College of Ministry, and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary.

The inscriptions on the pedestal of the statue on the campus of Martin Luther College read as follows:

Side #1

Martin Luther

NOW WE KNOW HOW WE ARE TO DIE,
WHENCE WE ARE TO GO. ALSO HOW
WE MAY ESCAPE DEATH AND THE
DEVIL, WHO HAS REDEEMED US, AND
HOW WE ARE TO GET THESE GREAT
TREASURES. THESE THINGS WE
LEARN ONLY FROM THIS BOOK OF
HOLY SCRIPTURES.

Side #2

THEREFORE HE WHO WOULD CORRECTLY
AND PROFITABLY READ SCRIPTURE
SHOULD SEE TO IT THEAT HE FINDS
LIFE ETERNAL WITHOUT FAIL.

Side #3

FROM 1865 TO 1995 NORTHWESTERN
COLLEGE IN WATERTOWN, WISCONSIN,
PROVIDED UNDERGRADUATE TRAINING
FOR YOUNG MEN WHO DESIRED TO
SERVE CHRIST AS PASTORS IN HIS
CHURCH. BEGINNING IN 1995 THE
WISCONSIN EV. LUTHERAN SYNOD
MOVED THE UNDERGRADUATE TRAINING
OF PASTORS TO MARTIN LUTHER
COLLEGE IN NEW ULM, MINNESOTA.

Side #4

A GIFT FROM THE NORTHWESTERN
COLLEGE BOARD OF CONTROL TO
MARTIN LUTHER COLLEGE

Side #5

LET US EVER KEEP THIS IN MIND,
WE SHALL HAVE A HARD TIME
PRESERVING THE GOSPEL WITHOUT
THE LANGUAGES. THE LANGUAGES
ARE A SHEATH IN WHICH THIS
SWORD OF THE SPIRIT IS CONTAINED.
THEY ARE THE CASE IN WHICH WE
CARRY THIS JEWEL.