In Luther’s Footsteps: 500 Years Later

By on October 24, 2017
In Luther’s Footsteps: 500 Years Later

By Sandra Glahn –

A renewal of soul and body can result from engaging, rather than disconnecting from, our history. Ancient pilgrims agreed, exploring sacred spaces to experience transformation. As the five-hundredth anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation approaches (October 31, 2017), I journeyed to five German cities, each considered significant via their association with Martin Luther:

Eisleben

Ironically, the town served as the setting for both the birth and death of Luther, though he spent little time there. At the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, the tower bell still dings and baptismal waters bless, just as on the day of Luther’s baptism. Saint Andrew’s Church stands as sternly today as when the 62-year-old reformer delivered his final sermon. Gothic cathedrals display their brilliance: vaulted ceilings, pointed arches, sunlight streaming through stained glass, and a sweeping upward of my soul.

Eisleben

St. Ann’s Church

EISLEBEN: In the city of Luther’s birth and death, his family owned copper mines. And miners who could not read attended St. Anne’s Church there. A countess commissioned 39 stone tablets with Old Testament Bible stories so they could “read” the Bible for themselves. And today visitors can still “read” them. 

Eisenach

After peering at the half-timbered architecture and exploring the exhibits at Luther’s childhood home, Lutherhaus, I moseyed into St. George’s Church. Music erupted, as in the days when Luther sang in the boys’ choir. Later, ascending the hilltop fortress of Wartburg Castle, I sensed the safety Luther found while sequestered here and working tirelessly to translate the New Testament into German.

Wartburg Castle

Wartburg Castle

NEAR EISENACH: When Luther’s life was in danger, he hid out as “Junker Jorge” in Wartburg Castle, which housed Elizabeth of Hungary in an earlier century. It took only eleven weeks for “Squire George” to translate the entire New Testament from Greek to German.

Erfurt

I bit into a bratwurst from Faustfood. Spicy mustard burst in my mouth. Juice dripped down my chin. Sehr gut! Then I traipsed through the Stotternheim district, which bears a stone memorial of the day Luther got caught in a violent thunderstorm and vowed to become a monk. Tracing further, I travelled to St. Augustine’s Monastery and entered Luther’s cell, where the prayers of a man wrestling with God still echo. (I lodged overnight in this now-Protestant monastery, as well.)

Erfurt

City of Erfurt

ERFURT: Martin Luther, a brilliant student, earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees in the picturesque city of Erfurt. But to his father’s horror, he dropped out of law school to keep his promise to St. Anne that he would become a monk.

Torgau

I strolled the banks of the Elbe and sampled medieval fare at Herr Käthe (named for Luther’s wife, Katie). I studied relics of the Reformation at the Hartenfels Castle and its Castle Church, the first Protestant church in Europe. In Torgau I discovered the unifying ethos of the Reformation still exists, especially at the Roots and Wings exhibit where I joined others in scribing a verse for the handwritten Bible project.

Torgau

Torgau

TORGAU: Torgau is a beautiful city and one of the best kept secrets of the Protestant Reformation. In addition to its gorgeous Hartenfels Castle on the Elbe River (pictured) and many sites relevant to Luther studies, it has a memorial to American and Soviet troops commemorating Elbe Day, April 25, 1945. On this date, the two armies’ troops met at the Elbe, effectively cutting Germany in two and crippling it.

Wittenberg

The Church of St Mary’s still towers over the city center. In this parish church, the tenacious theologian preached, was married, and baptized his children. I saw the nearby Cranach House, home office of Lucas Cranach the Elder, who painted, printed, and published exquisite works, including Luther’s German Bible complete with woodcut pictures. This interweaving of art and theology, and availing them to the masses, culminated in the alleged nailing of Luther’s 95 Theses to the door at All Saints Church.

In Luther’s Footsteps: 500 Years Later

All Saints Church – Wittenberg, Germany

Martin Luther wrote some thirty-seven hymns. His most well known is “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” Today these words are inscribed in German around the base of the dome on Wittenberg’s Castle church, All Saints’, where Luther is said to have nailed is 95 theses 500 years ago this October 31.

Vielen Danke, Deutschland! for preserving the old while creating new sacred places of pilgrimage.

You can find more about my trip and the story of Martin Luther here.

 

Dr. Sandra Glahn is Associate Professor in Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). Dr. Glahn is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books, including the Coffee Cup Bible Study series. https://twitter.com/sandraglahnhttp://www.linkedin.com/in/sglahn.

 

About Sandra Glahn

Dr. Sandra Glahn is Associate Professor in Media Arts and Worship at Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS), where she is also editor-in-chief of DTS Magazine. She received her master's in theology from DTS and her PhD in Aesthetic Studies from the University of Texas/ Dallas. Dr. Glahn is the author or coauthor of more than twenty books, including the Coffee Cup Bible Study series. https://twitter.com/sandraglahn, http://www.linkedin.com/in/sglahn.

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In Luther’s Footsteps: 500 Years Later