Emden - European City of the Reformation

Commemorating the Reformation through projects and activities

Emden is European City of the Reformation. With this title, the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) has honoured the East Frisian sea port city.

The city of Emden, along with several partners, had applied for this appointment at the CPCE. It is based on a project partnership within the framework of the Reformation Jubilee in 2017 - signed by the Lord Mayor of Emden, Bernd Bornemann, representatives of the Lutheran and the Reformed Evangelical Church communities in Emden, the Mennonite Church Emden, the Johannes a Lasco Library, the Evangelical Reformed Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover.

Together, the intention is to develop a number of activities and projects at local as well as church level in Emden over the coming years in order to remind of the Reformation, at the same time build a bridge to the modern age but also to raise awareness of the renewal of the Church which was set in motion 500 years ago. The cooperation partners focus their attention on making clear that Emden stands in a vibrant and ever evolving tradition.

Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE)

Emden in the 16th century - a cultural and economic heyday

Alongside Geneva and Wittenberg, Emden was counted among the most influential centres of the Reformation. This was due to the importance of the city during the Spanish-Dutch War (1568-1648), as Emden became a safe haven for thousands of religious refugees from the neighbouring Netherlands. The followers of the Reformed Confessions, but also the so-called "Baptists" found shelter and many of them ultimately a new home in Emden.

And so it came to pass that influential Reformers such as Johannes a Lasco, Albert Hardenberg and Menso Alting came to Emden and worked - and made the city temporarily known as the "Geneva of the North". Johannes a Lasco later on lent his name to the library, founded by the Reformed Church in 1559. To this day it is home to a historically-valuable book collection of Reformed Protestantism and religious denomination history of Early Modern History and is a scientific research and conference venue.

At the time Emden experienced not only cultural but also economic prosperity. With the religious refugees many merchants, ship owners and craftsmen had come and became an asset to the city. The population increased from 1,600 to 15,000 and the trade flourished accordingly. The port became one of the most important in Europe along with the city, where in 1576 a Renaissance City Hall was inaugurated.  It symbolised prosperity and was also an expression of bourgeois self-confidence.


Refo500 is an international platform. Here, knowledge, ideas, activities and products in the field of Reformation in the 16th century are joined together and show their relevance today. A great number of partners are working together on this platform to demonstrate the importance of the Reformation to the public and provide an appropriate program.
Involved at Refo500 are Protestant and Catholic organisations, universities, museums, academies, cities, commercial organisations etc.
Emden as “European City of the Reformation“ is present too.