Capitulation of Wittenberg

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The Capitulation of Wittenberg (German: Wittenberger Kapitulation) was a treaty in 1547 by which John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony, was compelled to resign the electoral dignity. The Electorate of Saxony and most of his territory, including Wittenberg, passed from the elder, Ernestine line to the cadet branch, the Albertine line of the House of Wettin.

Wittenberg had become the focal point of the Protestant Reformation. On the door of the castle church at Wittenberg in 1517, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses, the opening act of the Reformation. There in 1520 he burned the papal bull condemning him, and in 1534 the first Lutheran Bible was printed there. The Elector was the most important patron of the reforms.

In 1547 Emperor Charles V, with the assistance of the Duke of Alva, captured Wittenberg after the Battle of Mühlberg, where John Frederick I was taken prisoner. Then, the Duke of Alva presided over a court-martial and condemned him to death. To save his life, the Prince-Elector conceded the capitulation of Wittenberg, and, after having been compelled to resign the government of his country in favor of his relative, Maurice of Saxony, his condemnation was commuted to imprisonment for life. Rescued on 1 September 1552, his homeward journey was a triumphal march. He removed the seat of government to Weimar.

Wittenberg declined after 1547, when Dresden, residence of the Albertine dukes, replaced it as the Saxon capital.