I was sitting in 10th grade European History class when two worlds collided. The topic was the Protestant Reformation and we’d just finished watching a film strip about it. (Yes, youngsters, a film strip, not a video or DVD. Perhaps such a thing has been featured on Antiques Roadshow.) The closing credits rolled and the background music was the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” – one I knew well from the Lutheran Church we attended. But I was hearing it at school!
And so, that is similar to our trip to the Luther Sites a month ago. Certainly we were seeing things that had great significance for Germany, the church and the world, but it was also significant for me personally as I have been a lifelong member of the Lutheran Church and still ascribe to its tenets and theology. We piled into a charter bus with about 40 friends and headed to Eastern Germany on a trip sponsored by the chapel and organized by my dear husband.
Although I might like to forget about it (and I don’t have any photo documentation) I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a pretty significant event in the trip: a 3 hour stau (traffic jam) that we encountered on the Autobahn. For those who have aspired to drive on a highway with no speed limit, be aware that charter buses in fact do have a speed limit (and it is not what Google Maps uses to calculate travel time) and coming to a complete stop for several hours pretty much negates any gain from driving at high speeds. That being said, we arrived at the Hostel shortly after 2am and we were indebted to Dr. Kolb who waited up and let us in after the hostel management locked the doors at 11pm.
The sun was up way too soon and after an ample breakfast, we headed toward the city of Wittenburg and our first stop: The Castle Church.
Once again we were quite thankful to Dr. Kolb, one of Jeremy’s professors at Concordia Seminary, who had agreed to meet up with us and be part of the weekend tour. Although a group tour of the Castle Church had been arranged, the original tour guide was ill so Dr. Kolb stepped in and showed us around.
The most notable feature are these doors, the place where young Martin Luther nailed papers containing 95 statements for debate. These statements were rather critical of the Catholic Church, and it all went downhill or uphill from there, depending on how you look at it.
The interior of the church has been rebuilt but is still impressive.
There are many images of Luther both in the church and around the town. We should have kept a tally. During the travel months worship is held in English every Saturday evening. Jeremy volunteered to do one of the Scripture readings. I’m sure that will make many other Lutheran pastors green with envy!
We stopped in another church in Wittenburg, Stadtkirche St. Marien, and while it was impressive, I didn’t get many good photos as the lighting was dim and flash was prohibited. I thought this depiction of the infant Jesus as Lobster was pretty funny! Maybe it was his Halloween costume? Or a way to hide from King Herod?
After lunch we visited Luther Haus, where Martin, his wife Katie, their brood of children, and various Seminary students spent their days.
That Katie was the quintessential Proverbs 31 woman! She ran the household, managed the finances, and even brewed beer. This statue shows her as she usually was – a woman on the go.
The children got their own special tour with the sweetest tour guide. She was so enthusiastic and patient. She would say, “Would you like to see Martin Luther’s robe? It is his actual robe! We will go see it now!”
Of course we saw a few more images of Luther. These were painted by Lucas Cranach. Katie wasn’t fond of her portrait but Cranach wouldn’t change it.
This is polymer Luther. I was hoping they had them for sale in the gift shop, but it was just leftover from a promotion where little Luther statues were put all over the city.
A recent addition to the exhibits was discovered less than 10 years ago. A gardener was working and found a brick in one of the flowerbeds. Personnel at the Luther Haus realized that an entire section of Luther’s House – the kitchen, WC, and beer and wine cellar – was beneath. It was excavated and made into a display. These diaoramas depicted life in Luther’s day.
Sunday we travelled to the city of Eisenach. This city has not one but two claims to fame – Luther spent his childhood here (though probably not exactly in this house but a house like it),
and also Johann Sebastian Bach. We did not tour the Luther Haus and looked briefly at the Bach House. A special demonstration of various period instruments was happening. The music was quite beautiful, and apparently the speaker was witty and entertaining. It was all in German but most in the audience chuckled periodically.
Our last stop on the tour was the Wartburg Castle. Luther spent a few months in confinement here and used his time to translate the Bible into German. The castle has some historic rooms (such as Luther’s study, complete with ink stain on the wall where he threw his inkwell at the devil) and some more “modern” (such as the Women’s room covered in mosaics from the 1800′s.) The tour guide was delightful – she referred to the Wartburg as “our castle” and was very patient to answer all of our questions.
And so our brief tour of Luther sites came to an end. We didn’t get to see Worms, but perhaps we will get to declare “Here I stand!” another time.
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