dr martens will boot Learning about Luther in Worms
Phyllis RoseThis Martin Luther memorial in Worms, Germany, dedicated in 1868 and reportedly the largest Reformation monument in the world, shows Luther in the center surrounded by other famous Reformers.
By Phyllis Rose
In 1517, he nailed his 95 theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany, and in 1521 he defended his theology about salvation through grace alone, not works, at the Diet of Worms. Then all this led to the Reformation.
Now, after two weeks of following Luther footsteps in Germany, I know much more. But why would a Baptist and her Baptist cousin, Judy Thomas, of Monroe, embark on this journey?
Judy friend, Cheryl Beck Hill of Atlanta, Mich., is a Lutheran who had always dreamed of making this pilgrimage. So Judy told her when she was ready we would go with her. This was the year, and my job was to plan the trip.
Judy and I prefer independent travel, so after online research, I put together a plan to purchase a German rail pass and then use Frankfurt and Berlin as base cities from which we would take the train each day to a different Luther town. On our Luther immersion tour, our first visit was to Worms, 75 minutes by train from Frankfurt.
A short walk from the train station found us at the Luther Memorial, dedicated in 1868, where Luther stands surrounded by church reformers such as Jan Hus and John Wycliffe. Luther famous words,
I stand, I cannot do otherwise. God help me. Amen, are inscribed on the monument.
The palace where Luther uttered these words in front of Emperor Charles V was destroyed in 1689, but a plaque in the ground marks the spot behind the Heylshof Art Gallery. In Worms, we also visited St. Peter Cathedral, built in the 11th century, and Europe oldest Jewish cemetery, with graves dating to 1076.
The next day in Erfurt, 2 1/2 hours from Frankfurt, Pope Benedict XVI caused us some trouble. Leaving the train station, we stopped in the Tourist Office for a map and information about the Luther sites.
is not such a good day to do that, the clerk said. pope is in town, and many things are closed. all the days to come to Erfurt! Despite the clerk warning, the only thing closed was the cathedral where Luther was ordained. However, many smaller churches were open with welcome signs flying outside. We went into every one, including St. Michael where Luther had preached.
When we arrived at the Augustinian Monastery where Luther lived as a monk, a crew was tearing down equipment from what appeared to be a concert inside the church. So we wandered around the outside of the monastery.
Luther studied at the University of Erfurt, receiving his master of arts in 1502 and intending to study law. However, a stroke of lightning in a thunderstorm frightened him so much he promised to become a monk, and in 1505 he entered the monastery in Erfurt, being ordained in 1507.
Eventually, we were able to enter the church to see its stained glass windows dating from the 14th century.
Erfurt other attractions included the Kramerbrucke, the Merchants Bridge with half timbered buildings, the only one of its kind north of the Alps; and also Erfurt own Little Venice, the Venedig, a lovely park with canals.
Our first week ended in Eisenach, about two hours from Frankfurt. Exiting the train station, we followed the signs to the Tourist Information office, passing by the Luther Memorial, through the pedestrian shopping area in the old town and arriving in the town square.
Wartburg Castle was our main destination so we needed to find out how to get there. The clerk in the tourist office said it was a 40 minute walk or we could take the bus. She told us where the bus stop was, sold us our tickets and then we had an hour to explore before going to the castle.
Across the town square is the beautiful St. George Church where Luther sang in the boys choir and later preached and where Johann Sebastian Bach was baptized. Then it was on to the castle.
The bus dropped us off at the base of the castle hill. Huffing and puffing up the steep steps to the castle, we arrived just in time for the English tour. We learned about St. Elisabeth and her connection with the castle and the legend of Tannhauser, the basis for Richard Wagner opera of the same name, which is performed in the castle.
But we really wanted to see the room where Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into German the very last thing on the tour. The spartan cell where he completed the translation in about 10 weeks has only one original item, a whale vertebra used as a footstool.
Back in the city center, we visited the Luther House where Luther lived while attending school between 1498 and 1501. Nearby is the Bach House where Johann Sebastian is thought to have been born. A visit to this home includes a demonstration of instruments used in Bach time, such as a portable pipe organ.
A musician explained the instruments in German, but that didn matter because he then played them creating beautiful music that said it all. Throughout the week, Judy, Cheryl and I had felt those little frissons of excitement as we realized that 500 years ago Martin Luther had walked through that doorway, touched this railing and preached from that pulpit.
The excitement would only increase the next week from our base in Berlin as we saw where Luther was born and died and where he started it all the door of the church in Wittenberg.