June 12, 2015
Luther and a Time Warp
Big day when you can visit the beginnings of Protestantism and the German nation in one day. We arrived in Lutherstadt-Wittenburg before 10 and even found a free parking spot.
Wittenberg is where Luther started the Catholic-Protestant rumble in 1517. The famous church door upon which the 95 theses were posted is no more. In fact, the church itself is closed for remodeling with the 500th anniversary of the event in 2017. Scaffolding is everywhere. Also everywhere were preparations for a big street fair this weekend. We managed to navigate through chaotic streets and reach statues of Luther and his sidekick Melanchthon.
We circled the St. Mary’s Church where Luther served as Pastor after announcing his break with the Catholic Church. It is also where he married his ex-nun wife and baptized his six kids. It was remarkable to stand in front of the pulpit where Luther thundered against the established order. The entire scene was quietly moving. The few paintings were magnificent. Luther as the disciple John in the Lucas Crananch painting of the Last Supper was great. I enjoyed the reverse panel of the altar piece where students would etch their exam grades on a painting of Hell. The oldest graffiti I saw was 1546.
We went to the Lutherhaus that was attached to the Augustian monastery which became the Wittenburg college. Both Luther and Melancthon were given houses by the college and the Elector Frederick of Saxony. Frederick was Luther’s patron and protector against the power of the Pope. His lodging is rather huge for a professor but then he frequently had 40 or so guests at dinner. I liked the room that has been almost been left untouched. The humble table that he shared with his family seemed most like him. The graffiti left by the Russian Peter the Great was worth memorializing.
The Luther collection and displays were extensive and great. The English explanations were appreciated but one could spend days in there. The building is also undergoing restoration in preparation of the 2017 jubilee. We finally left and wandered a few doors down to Luther’s brilliant colleague and protégé Philip Melancthon. Some argue that he was the behind the scenes brain behind the lightning rod-like Luther. We enjoyed his house more then Luther’s. It was more homey and modest. I also enjoyed that good wine in moderation and a good but fully alive woman make it easier to be a good Christian. I am paraphrasing to some degree. My Greek is a bit rusty. When Melancthon died, the college needed four lecturers to replace him.
We had a nice lunch at an organic – bio cafe before hitting the road. The two hour drive stretched into 2 and 1/2 hours with freeway repairs. We were grateful to reach Quidlenberg a little after 3. The town is virtually unknown to American tourists but not to Germams. My guide book says that the little town is what Disney would have made Germany to be. It was cute but fully alive. The town is a time warp that only needs people in costume to complete the magical setting
The pictures do a better job of describing it than my words. We wandered up the hill to old fortress church where the first German King Henry was crowned in 936. He began the 2nd German Empire or Reich that would last until 1918. Hitler was fascinated with the place. He took over the church and removed any Christian elements and used it for SS celebrations and rituals. It was not returned for Christian purposes until long after the Third Reich was dead and buried.
The castle was the center of the original town and connected to craftsmen quarter immediately next to the fortress. The rest of the town clustered around the merchant quarter. Eventually the towns were united into one when they built a wall around the entire city. The entire old city is recognized by UNESCO as the best example of a European medieval town. The original building are largely intact and wonderful.
We just wandered around and took pictures. Eventually we went to a restaurant where we enjoyed the bustling activity along with the pork, potatoes and a great cabbage salad and even a little beer.