PRONI - Document of the month: The Luther Commemoration 1883

Date published: 01 November 2017

To mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation on 30th October, PRONI’s Document of the Month is an original programme with hymns used at the Luther Commemoration on 10th to 12th November 1883. The programme relates to a series of public events held at the Metropolitan Hall Dublin to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Martin Luther’s birth.

The programme can be found in the Johnston of Ballykilbeg Papers (PRONI Reference D880/7/3).  It includes two of the thirty-six hymns that Luther composed from 1524 to 1543.  In 1524, Luther was reported to compose ‘Out of the depths I cry to Thee’, and after his death on 18th February 1546, citizens of Wittenberg, Germany gathered around his coffin to sing this hymn.  The first line of a hymn he composed in 1529, ‘A safe stronghold our God is still’ is carved on Luther’s Monument at Wittenberg.  Several other pamphlets and tracts collected by William Johnston MP, on various religious subjects including the Protestant Reformation, can be found in this archive.

PRONI’s Glynn Kelso, said: “The commemorative programme really highlights the legacy of Martin Luther’s influence on religious music as well as the rich and diverse content of PRONI’s archives. I came across the document during the curation of PRONI’s forthcoming exhibition ‘From the Medieval to the Modern: Reformation, Transformation and Continuity’, which will showcase archives and fine books from the PRONI and Libraries NI collections, dating from the medieval period through to the late 19th century.

“This is a collaborative project between PRONI and Libraries NI and will be launched at PRONI on 30th November.  The 500th anniversary of Reformation has provided an opportunity for PRONI and Libraries NI to build on existing partnership work and showcase early archives and books together.  This exhibition centres on the documents themselves, each offering their own distinct perspectives, enabling us to explore the reformation period and its legacy.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. PRONI is at 2 Titanic Boulevard, Titanic Quarter, Belfast.  For details on opening hours, see nidirect or call 028 90 534800. 
  2. PRONI and Libraries NI exhibition, ‘From the Medieval to the Modern: Reformation, Transformation and Continuity will be available to view at PRONI from 30th November to 15th December 2017.  The exhibition will tour libraries from December 2017.  To find out more about the exhibition and where it will be in the forthcoming months, follow PRONI on Facebook
  3. Martin Luther (10th November 1483 – 18th February 1546) was a German priest, composer, and a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation.   Luther initiated the Reformation on 31st October 1517, when he wrote to his bishop, Albrecht von Brandenburg, in protest against several teachings and practices of the Roman Catholic Church. He enclosed in his letter a copy of his "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences", which came to be known as the Ninety-Five Theses
  4. For media enquiries please contact the DfC Press Office on 028 90 823 510 or mail For out of hours please contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number on 07623 974383 and your call will be returned.

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