Common Chest of the City of Wittenberg, c.1520
Luther Memorials Foundition of Saxony-Anhalt
The Common Chest of the City of Wittenberg was the opposite of the indulgence chest. Instead of removing money from the community, it was the focal point of the municipal welfare system. Luther's new theology broke the tie between doing good works and going to heaven. With less incentive for individuals to give to the poor, the community had to step in.
In 1521, this chest was placed in a highly visible position in Wittenberg's church. It held vauable objects and money. At first the money came from the sale of Catholic Church property, both land and treasure. As those sources dried up; individual philanthropy had to be reestablished. The money had many uses. It funded schools, churches, and health care. Anyone who wanted could borrow money from the common chest. Such a loan enabled Luther to buy a property in 1532.