For information about the Luther/Bach 500th Anniversary Reformation Tour, click here.
Dad’s getting excited for this trip. He’s put together a list of the cities we’ll visit with some history.
In 13/12 BC a Roman Legion stronghold camp was established here opposite the mouth of where the Main River comes into the Rhine River. The town grew up between the Roman stronghold and the river. It became an important port city on the Rhine because of its central strategic location. In 1436 John Gutenberg develops movable type printing press, prints Gutenberg Bible. In 1515 Albert of Brandenburg, elector and Archbishop of Magdeburg and Administer of the Diocese of Halberstadt makes a large contribution toward the rebuilding of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in order to gain the agreement of Pope Leo X to his holding more than one Diocese, which was contrary to Church law. Albert borrows 48,000 ducats for this and to secure the Electorate of Mainz, once the episcopal seat of the influential prince-elector. This is Albert’s third simultaneous Church position. Cardinal Albert commissions Johannes Tetzel, Dominican friar and preacher to sell indulgences to help pay his debts.
Thought to be one of the oldest cities in Germany. The city has existed since before Roman times. The City was fortified by the Romans for a stronghold camp in 14 BC. In April 1521, Martin Luther spent just ten days in Worms, but these ten days fundamentally changed the world. The world’s largest memorial to the Reformation is at Lutherplatz the location of the Diet of Worms. Luther, a stubborn monk from Wittenberg, who had spoken out against several parts of the Church that needed to be reformed was summoned by Emperor Charles V to appear before an Imperial Diet with Johannes Eck the assistant of the Archbishop of Trier the spokesman for the emperor representing the Catholic Church asking Luther to recant some of his writing and his beliefs. Eck informed Luther that he was acting like a heretic: “‘Martin,’ said he, ‘there is no one of the heresies which have torn the bosom of the church, which has not derived its origin from the various interpretations of the Scripture. The Bible itself is the arsenal whence each innovator has drawn his deceptive arguments. It was with Biblical texts that Pelagius and Arius maintained their doctrines. Arius, for instance, found the negation of the eternity of the Word—an eternity which you admit, in this verse of the New Testament—Joseph knew not his wife till she had brought forth her first-born son; and he said, in the same way that you say, that this passage enchained him. When the fathers of the council of Constance condemned this proposition of Jan Hus—The church of Jesus Christ is only the community of the elect, they condemned an error; for the church, like a good mother, embraces within her arms all who bear the name of Christian, all who are called to enjoy the celestial beatitude.’ Luther responded saying the famous words “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, God help me. Amen.” The spot where Luther said this is marked by a plaque on the ground. Luther was dismissed, and not arrested because he had a letter of safe conduct (Schutzbrief) which guaranteed him 21 days of safe travel through the land. He headed home to Wittenberg during the night of April 26. The Emperor Charles V presented the final draft of the Edict of Worms on May 25, declaring Luther an outlaw, banning his literature, and requiring his arrest: “We want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic.” It also made it a crime for anyone in Germany to give Luther food or shelter. It permitted anyone to kill Luther without legal consequence.
The Romans built a stronghold camp here in 10 BC. Conrad II started construction on Speyer Cathedral in 1030. Speyer was the seat of the Imperial Chamber of Justice between 1526 and 1689 when the French burned the town down. In 1526 at the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire the Diet’s Ambiguous Edict resulted in a temporary suspension of the Edit of Worms and aided the expansion of Protestantism by letting princes establish religion in their territory. These results were repudiated in the Diet of Speyer in 1529. Some members of the Diet were supporters of the Reformation (five princes including the elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise and the landgrave of Hesse, Philip of Hess plus 14 Imperial cities), they constituted the so-call Protestation- a protest against the decision of the majority (hence the Protestants). The location of the Imperial Chamber which was burned down is now the Hotel Domhof and beer garden, a 2-minute walk from Speyer Cathedral. Speyer Cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage site is a basilica with four towers and two domes was founded by Conrad II in 1030, was the largest church in the world when it was built and was remodeled at the end of the 11th century. It is one of the most important Romanesque monuments from the time of the Holy Roman Empire. The cathedral was the burial place of eight German emperors and kings as well as several bishops in its crypts and tombs over a period of almost 300 years.
In the 5th century BC a Celtic fortress was built on Heilgenbeger or “Mountain of Saints.” In 40 AD the Romans built a stronghold camp on the location. The Romans also built a wooden bridge based on stone pillars across the Neckar River. A former residence of the Electorate of the Palatinate, Heidelberg is the location of Heidelberg University, one of Germany’s oldest and among its most reputable universities, where in 1509 Melanchthon enters at age 13, where in 1518 at the lecture hall of the Augustinians at Heidelberg University the Heidelberg Disputation was held. The “Luthertafel” is the plaque on the University grounds in the location where once stood the Augustinian monastery. Heidelberg has a romantic and picturesque cityscape, because of ruins of Heidelberg Castle and the baroque style Old Town with its famous Martplatz (market square) and the famous Stone Bridge over the Neckar River.
Upper Middle Rhine Cruise
The Rhine River has been for over two millennia one of the main routes between southern and northern Europe. The Upper Middle Rhine Valley part of the Rhine River has an incredible wealth of castles-crested cliffs and palaces overlooking sun-drenched terraced vineyard slopes, romantic small towns and winegrowing villages with half-timbered houses on both sides of the river. The Upper Middle Rhine Valley is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Europe’s biggest tourist attractions which are best discovered by boat.
Like many settlements, Marburg developed at the crossroads of two important early medieval highways: the trade route linking Cologne and Prague and the trade route from the North Sea to the Alps and on to Italy, at the crossing point of the Lahn River. Marburg is an unspoiled spire dominated Gothic/Renaissance city on a hill. Philipp of Hesse who greatly aided the Lutheran Reformation established Philipp University of Marburg in a former Dominican Monastery in 1527, after the Diet of Speyer’s Ambiguous Edict in 1526. This University was the second oldest Protestant University in Germany. The first Protestant University lasted from 1526 to 1530 in Liegnitz in Silesia. Philipp University’s Department of Protestant Theology was a great training place for Lutheran pastor until 1607 when the Calvinist took over and the Lutherans had to migrate to Giessen. The University was located across from the University Church close to the Lahn River. In 1529 the Marburg Landgrafen Palace castle was the scene of the famous Colloquy of Marburg between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, Swiss Reformer from Zurich. Philipp of Hesse and other Protestant princes and Imperial cities wanted to attempt to unify Protestant states in a political alliance to have a united Protestant group in opposition to the Romanists by developing a unified Protestant theology. Luther and Zwingli ended in agreement on all fourteen of fifteen points; the exception was the point about the theology of the Lord’s Supper, the bodily presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper different on the significance of the words spoken by Jesus at the Last Supper, “This is my body which is for you” and This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). This was a major event in the Reformation, Luther maintained that by Sacramental Union, the consecrated bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper were united to the true body and blood of Christ for all communicants to eat and drink; whereas, Zwingli considered bread and wine only symbols of the body and blood of Christ.
Despite the disagreements on the Eucharist, the Marburg Colloquy paved the way for the signing in 1530 of the Augsburg Confession, and for the formation of the Schmalkalldic League the following year by leading Protestant nobles such as John of Saxony, Philip of Hesse, and George, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach. The Swiss cities, however, did not sign these agreements
Erfurt is an old Germanic settlement. Erfurt was first mentioned in 742 under the name of “Erphesfurt”. It was an important trading town during the Middle Ages near a ford across the Gera River. It was establish as one of three Catholic episcopal seats in central Germany in 742. Martin Luther entered the University of Erfurt in the spring of 1501 where Luther first studied the “seven liberal arts”, then theology discovering his passion for Bible studies and religion, graduating with a Masters from the university’s faculty of philosophy in the spring of 1505. His father Hans wanted his oldest son to study jurisprudence to be lawyer, so he entered Erfurt Law School in May 1505. But a dramatic personal incident brought about a radical change in Luther’s life. Close to Erfurt on July 2, 1505 in a severe thunderstorm Luther was struck down by lightning, becoming terrified he prayed to St. Anne making a vow to become a monk. On July 17, 1505 Luther entered the very strict Black Cloister of the local Augustinian Hermits. The black monk’s outer coat gave them their name. Luther lived in what is now Lutherhalle, his dwelling place at the 13th century Augustinian Monastery. Luther was ordained as a priest in the spring of 1507 at St. Mary’s Cathedral where he celebrated his first mass on May 2, 1507, in the presence of his father, other relatives, and many friends. Luther continued his studies in 1507. Luther was sent to Wittenberg in 1508 to teach moral philosophy. He returned to Erfurt in 1509. November 1510 he was sent on foot to Rome. He returned to Erfurt in 1511. Shortly after his return to Germany he was sent back to Wittenberg. Even after Luther had left Erfurt, he often returned to preach to enthusiastic crowds, in the university church of St. Michael’s. Erfurt sights include St. Mary’s Cathedral, the Augustinian Monastery, the famous 650 year old Kraemer Tradesman’s Bridge, which is supporting a variety of small shops and houses which are still inhabited and the Church of St Severus, a five-naved early Gothic hall church, was a collegiate church for the regular canons of St Augustine during the 12th century. St. Severus is located next to St. Mary’s Cathedral; the two churches are Erfurt’s most famous landmarks.
Erfurt had a long family history with the Bach musical family. Three of sons of Johannes Hans Bach (1550-1626), the “Music Player of Wechmar”, were in Erfurt in the early 17th century: Johannes Bach (1604-1673), Christoph Bach (1613-1661) and Heinrich Bach (1615-1692) were town pipers and council musicians and Johannes Bach became the organist at the Prediger Church in 1636. His son Johann Aegidius Bach (1645-1713) later was the organist at the Kaufmann Church and the Church of St. Michael. Heinrich Bach went to Arnstadt, and Christoph Bach, J.S. Bach’s grandfather had three sons in Erfurt: Georg Christoph Bach (1642-1697),Johann Christoph Bach (1645-1693) and Johann Ambrosius Bach (1645-1695), the father of J.S. Bach. He married Elisabeth Lämmerhirt in 1668 in the Kaufmann Church. She was the sister to the mother of the Weimer organist Johann Gottfried Walther, J.S. Bach’s cousin who would later befriend Bach.
Mansfeld was the city of Martin Luther’s childhood and where Luther’s parents’ home is located. Today’s district “Mansfeld – Luther City” consists of the formerly independent cities of Leimbach and Mansfeld. Mansfeld was first mentioned in a document in 973 and was chartered in 1400. The development of Mansfeld was influenced by copper and silver smelting, the capital of the county and center of copper mining in the region. Martin Luther’s father, Hans Luder, worked in mining and smelting. In 1483/84, Hans Luder moved with his family to Mansfeld, into rented accommodation on Stufenberg 2 (today Spangenberggasse 2) street. The family’s first years in Mansfeld were a period of deprivation. By 1491 Hans Luder had advanced to become a leaseholder in copper mines and the owner of a smelter. Because of his diligent work as a miner and smelter and his great frugality, Hans Luder was able to buy the house opposite the Golden Ring, now Lutherstrasse 26. The old house was demolished in 1805, because it was dilapidated. When the city center was renovated in 2003, excavations were made at Luther’s family home. Hundreds of finds, for example a cooking pot, a tap and a mug, bear witness to the life of the Luther family. Since 2008, the building belongs to the city. After the end of the building work, the findings will be permanently exhibited in Mansfeld, under the title “Luther’s lost property”.
Martin, together with his eight siblings, spent their childhood and youth in the mining town. His parents gave them a rather strict education. His mother was very superstitious, his father more practical, and a man of consequent thought. In spring 1488, Martin Luther began to attend the school in Mansfeld, which was situated next to the church of St. George. There, he learned to read, to write, to count, to sing, as well as the foundations of Latin. The children had to present flawless recitations of pieces from the Latin Bible, as well as the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the ten-commandments, and the creed. It is not known whether Martin Luther was a good or a bad student, but it can be assumed that he was very diligent, because he was afraid of the rod that always loomed over the pupils’ heads, ready to strike when the minutest mistake was made. In the spring of 1497, at the age of 13, Martin Luther left Mansfeld to go to school in Magdeburg. Memorials to Martin Luther are his family home, Luther’s school, the Luther memorial (Luther fountain), which was erected in 1913, and the former city school (rectorate), which was given the honorary name “Luther school” in 1893. The church of St. George is another important site. The current church was built between 1497 and 1518. The “Luther picture” (1540) is worth seeing.
First mentioned in 997 as a market called Islebia, and in 1180 as a town. The counts of Mansfeld governed the area until the 18th century. Martin Luther’s father Hans was a miner like many of the citizens of Eisleben. The Luther’s were living in Eisleben when Martin was born on November 10, 1483. He was baptized as a Catholic the next day, November 11 on the feast day of St. Martin of Tours at St. Peter and Paul Church. The remains of the original baptismal font whose Latin inscription reads, “Rudera baptistierii, quo tinctus est b. Martinus Lutherus 1483,” can still be seen inside the church. At St. Anne Church in 1516 as the district’s vicar, Luther consecrated a monastery. Over the years Luther visited the Eisleben multiple times and held Reformation sermons at her churches. He again travelled to Eisleben in 1546, in order to resolve a conflict involving the Barons of Mansfeld. He gave his last four sermons in St. Andrew’s Church – on a pulpit that can still be seen today. ”Come to me, all of you who weary, and I will give you rest,” Luther’s last sermon. He finished with words: “I am able to say many more things about this text, but I feel very weak and sick today. I hope I can do it later.” The following Thursday he died on February 18, 1546. His last statement was “Know that no one can have indulged in the Holy Writers sufficiently, unless he has governed churches for years, with prophets, such as Elijah and Elisha, John the Baptist, Christ and the apostles. Do not assail this divine Aeneid: nay, rather revere the ground that it treads. We are beggars: this is true.” The Rudolf Simmering’s Luther Monument of 1883 offers a reminder of Eisleben’s best-known citizen.
Legend has it that, on July 2, 1505, Martin Luther got caught on horseback in a terrible thunderstorm in one of Stotternheim’s fields; a bolt of lighting struck near him knocking him to the ground, afraid for his life Luther cried out into the wind “St. Anna, help me! I will become a monk!” True to his word, Luther left Law School joining the Augustinian Cloister in Erfurt on July 17, 1505 and became a monk. Luther told his friends who attended a farewell supper. “This day you see me, and then not ever again.“ Stotternheim’s Luther Stone marks the spot of this historical event, without which Luther may never have become the reformer who changed the world!
This well preserved 11th century medieval town is situated on the southern side of the Thuringian forest at the Schmalkalde River, the area at the time of the Reformation belonged to the kingdom of Hesse. The city was a focal point of the German and European history during the 16th century. Its ruler, Philip of Hesse, was one of the first Protestant sovereigns and an enemy of Emperor Charles V. He recognized the Reformation of the church and the faith by Martin Luther not only as a transformative event in the empire, but understood the eminence of these changes for the whole of Europe. After the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 and the renewal of the Edict of Worms, Philip belonged to the rulers who recognized the necessity of a protective alliance of all Protestants against the emperor. Due to these Protestant rulers, the Schmalkaldic League was founded in 1530. For fifteen years the League was able to exist without opposition, because Charles was busy fighting wars with France and the Ottoman Empire. They rarely provoked Charles directly, but confiscated Church land, expelled bishops and Catholic princes, and helped spread Lutheranism throughout northern Germany. Seven conferences of the League were held in the city at the Town Hall. The historic Town Hall is the crowning jewel of this quaint little town; comprising three different buildings, the oldest part of the Town Hall dates back to 1419. The foyer makes town history all the more tangible, featuring each member of the Schmalkaldic League’s coat-of-arms, as well as a bust of Martin Luther. The meeting in 1537 made history as the “most glorious Princes’ day”. Assembled were 16 princes, six counts, envoys of the emperor, of the pope and of the French and Danish kings, representatives of 28 free and Hanseatic cities, as well as 42 Protestant theologians, led by Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon According to the commission of John Frederick, the Elector of Saxony, Martin Luther presented articles of faith, which were issued in the Book of Concord of the Lutheran church as the Schmalkaldic Articles. They are still used during the ordination of all Lutheran Protestant ministers worldwide. Luther wrote these articles with his heart’s blood. They are often called his “private creed”. The city church of St. George in the center of Schmalkalden is one of the most beautiful late Gothic hall churches of Thuringia. The first Protestant minister was already installed in 1525, by Landgrave Philip of Hesse, the co-founder of the Schmalkaldic League (1530). During the League conference of 1537, Martin Luther the most popular theologians of the time preached there. The former permeants chamber above the sacristy, which is called “Luther’s chamber” today, is the place where the Reformer is said to have warmed himself up for morning services during his stay in February 1537. Today, the room houses a small church museum.
Although the Imperial forces were victorious over the Protestant forces of the Schmalkaldic League, crushing the heretics for the Pope in Rome, the ideas of Martin Luther had spread over the Empire such that they could not be suppressed with physical force. However, on 15 May 1548 Charles V, feeling at the height of his power, dictated the Augsburg Interim to prepare the reintegration of the Protestants into the Catholic Church. The edict provoked another revolt by the Protestant princes in 1552, this time led by Elector Maurice of Saxony and backed by King Henry II of France; Charles V had to flee from the superior Lutheran forces and to cancel the Interim with the Peace of Passau, whereby John Frederick I of Saxony and Philip I of Hesse were released. An official settlement acknowledging the Protestant religion arrived three years later in the form of the Peace of Augsburg. The next year Charles V voluntarily abdicated in favor of his brother Ferdinand I.
A village about half way between Schmalkalden and Eisenach which is the Luder family’s ancestral home. Martin’s father Hans Luder was born here in 1459. Hans’s father was a farmer. While Hans Luder left Möhra after getting married, his brother “Hans the Younger”, who had inherited their parents’ farm, stayed in the village. Descendants of Luther’s family still live in Möhra. Martin Luther himself is said to have visited the village in 1521 and preached to the people under a lime tree in German a basswood tree in English. The Luther statue dominates the village square at the center of the village commemorating this sermon. On the evening of May 4, 1521 Luther was headed to Möhra to spend the night with relatives when he was “kidnapped” by five masked riders who appeared as armed highwaymen in the forest outside of village and taken to the security of the Wartburg Castle. The “kidnapping” had been the idea of Luther’s prince the elector Frederick III of Saxony, whom Luther would never meet.
One of the best preserved medieval castles in Germany, Wartburg Castle was founded in 1067and looms over the city of Eisenach. At the bidding of Frederick III (the Wise), Elector of Saxony, Martin Luther was “kidnapped” on his way from Eisenach to Möhra in the forest outside of Möhra on May 4, 1521 and the “kidnappers” took Luther to Wartburg Castle. Luther spent 300 days in the security of the Wartburg Castle in 1521-22; during this period he rested, took walks in the forest, and produced the first translation the New Testament from Greek into the German language. Luther later remembered one occasion, while looking for strawberries in the forest around Wartburg Castle, in a sermon, “I saved alive a poor little hare, which I picked up, all trembling from its pursuers. After keeping it in my sleeve for some time, I set it down, and the creature was running off to secure its liberty; when the dogs getting scent of it, run up, broke its leg, and then pitilessly killed it. The dogs were the Pope and Satan, destroying the souls that I seek to save, as I sought to save the poor little hare.” One of the best known Luther legends has been spun around his residency here: while in his study, the Protestant reformer supposedly threw an inkpot at the Devil. Well into the nineteenth century, the Wartburg Castle’s legendary ink-spot was proudly displayed and also restored several times. Of the experience, Luther said “I fought the Devil with ink.” Finally, tired of being in isolation for ten months, when the town council of Wittenberg asked him to return in early March of 1522 Luther left Wartburg Castle returning secretly to Wittenberg on March 6 in order to resume his place in the leadership of the movement for a Reformed Church. The Wartburg Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can reach the castle by riding a bus or walking along the Lutherweg or “Luther Way,” a leisurely hike that takes you along the same path traveled by Luther from Eisenach to the Wartburg Castle. At the castle there are the Palas (Great Hall), Elisabeth Hallway, and the Luther Room; museums containing mainly Reformation artifacts such as paintings, sculptures, weapons, furniture and tapestries. In the Luther Room or “Lutherstube”, the room where Luther did the translating, a portrait hangs on the wall of Luther disguised as “Junker Jörg” or “Knight George” by Lucas Cranach. While none of the furnishings in the “Lutherstube” are original, the stove and desk approximate what Luther’s room would have looked like during his stay. Behind the stove is the hole going through to the bare masonry which is associated with the legend of Luther throwing his inkpot at the devil.
The history of Eisenach is linked with the Wartburg Castle, which was built according to legend in 1067. There were at least three settlements below the castle that merged to a common city in the second half of the 12th century. This town, Eisenach, was first mentioned in 1180. Martin Luther’s connection to Eisenach can be traced back to his mother, Margarete; a native of Eisenach. As Luther said, “Almost all of my relatives live in Eisenach, and I’m known to them there and…well respected; no other city knowns me better.“ In 1498 she sent Martin, age 15, to stay with relatives and attend the Latin school in her beloved hometown. For three years, he lived in the house of the Cotta family – today’s Luther House – and earned his room and board as a street singer. Luther also sang as a choirboy in St. George’s Church and would later preach there several times. St. George’s Church is also where the famous composer Johann Sebastian Bach was baptized and the Gothic baptism stone still stands. The Latin School was the preparatory school for Luther prior to his enrollment into the University of Erfurt in 1501. On the way back to Wittenberg from the Diet of Worms Luther spent two nights in Eisenach where he preached on May 3, 1521 although he was ordered not to preach in his safe conduct promise. The next day he continued his journey back to Wittenberg. Eisenach is dominated by its most distinctive landmark: the Wartburg Castle, which rests on a slope over the city. Eisenach and its castle are inseparably linked to Luther life. Today, the Luther Monument on the Karlsplatz commemorates the renowned Protestant reformer and his ties to Eisenach.
Being born in Eisenach on March 21, 1685 more than 200 years later than Luther’s birth, Johann Sebastian Bach grew up in the shadow of Luther’s influence in his composition of Protestant music. The Bach Museum is the birth house of the famous composer. Bach studied music at school, from his father and uncle in Eisenach. Both of Bach’s parents died when he was 9 years old in 1694 and 1695. He finished school and had turning 10 years old in June of 1695 when he left Eisenach to go live his oldest brother in Ohrdruf. He received much of his valuable musical training from this brother. At age 14 he was sent to St. Michael’s School in Lunenberg.
First mentioned in documents in 786, no specifically noteworthy historical events took place here except to its connection to the Bach musical family. It is unclear exactly when and how the Bach family came to Wechmar. During the Schmalkaldic War part of the Bach family might have moved from the area to Hungary to get away from the fighting. In 1561 a man named Hans Bach is mentioned as a member of the Wechmar community town guard. To get this position he would have to have been in the community for some time. Veit Bach the great great grandfather of Johann Sebastian Bach was a baker in Hungary and a Lutheran. Prior to the Counter Reformation, Veit Bach fled Hungary and Protestant persecution to Wechmar in Thuringia, where he worked as a baker and miller. He was an amateur musician who played a stringed instrument (cittern) to pass the time at the mill. Johann’s great grandfather Johannes Hans Bach (1580-1626) was a musician in Wechmar and the surrounding area. Musical training was for the most part within the Bach family group, by fathers, brothers, uncles or more distant relations. The Bach family gained a preeminent position in the musical life of Thuringia. Johannes Hans Bach and Anna Schmieden were married in Wechmar. Anna Schmieden was the daughter of an inn keeper and they took over her father’s property, J.S. Bach’s grandfather Christoph Bach was the second son of Johannes Hans Bach and Anna Schmieden was born in Wechmar on April 19, 1613. The third generation after Veit moved away from Wechmar to play music in the other towns in the region. There was a continual reappearance of musical talent in the family over several generations, but only a few family members achieved extraordinary musical success.
Coburg was first mentioned in a monastic document dated 1056, which marked the transfer of ownership to the archbishop-elector of Cologne. There was a settlement at the site that predates it called Trufalistat. The origin of the name Coburg is unclear; the first element may be kuh, which would give a literal meaning of “cow borough”. “Coburg” initially referred to a property centered on the hill where Veste Coburg was later built. Its oldest remains date to the 12th or 13th century. In 1248, the castle came into possession of the House of Henneberg and in 1353 it passed to the House of Wettin with the marriage of Friedrich III with Katherina von Henneberg and was initially regarded by them as a Saxon outpost within Franconia. “Exceedingly charming” is how Martin Luther described the Bavarian town of Coburg, an old quarter full of lanes, towers and churches, and not one but four castles. In 1530, Martin Luther remained in the security of Coburg while the elector, John of Saxony (the Steadfast), travelled to the Diet of Augsburg with the Protestant reformers Philipp Melanchthon and Justus Jonas. Luther could not leave the Electorate of Saxony because Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, had placed him under the imperial ban. During his nearly six months of confinement to the Veste Coburg, Luther continued to work on his translation of the Bible and wrote sermons as well as numerous briefs and other texts. Luther also preached at the St. Moritz Church in the medieval city.
The Veste Coburg sits regally above the city. Also known as the “Franconian Crown”, the Veste is among the largest and best-preserved castles in Germany. The architecture of the former residence was mainly influenced by the dukes of Saxony-Coburg and Gotha dukedom. Coburg’s picturesque city center allows visitors to travel back in time and witness the city’s history. In addition to the residences of the dukes of Saxony-Coburg, visitors can discover burghers’ houses from the Middle Ages and impressive Renaissance and Baroque buildings.
First documented in 1015 in the chronicles of Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg as ‘urbs Libzi’, and endowed with city and market privileges in 1165 by Otto the Rich. There are records of commercial fishing operations on the river Pleisse in Leipzig dating back to 1305, when the Margrave Dietrich the Younger granted the fishing rights to the church and convent of St. Thomas. The Leipzig Trade Fair, started in the Middle Ages, became an event of international importance and is the oldest remaining trade fair in the world. After the first disputation (debate) in Heidelberg in April 1518, a second debate was arranged by Karlstadt, an older colleague of Luther’s, and Johannes Eck, a theology professor from Ingolstadt. In summer 1519, the public debate started with a church service in St. Thomas Church on June 27, 1519. The so-called “Leipzig Disputation” took place in the Pleissenburg Castle, now the location of the New Town Hall, with Wittenberg’s Protestant reformers; Luther, Melanchthon, and Andreas Bodenstein (known as Karlstadt) were confronted by Johannes Eck, a defender of Catholic doctrine and a highly respected Dominican friar. In the course of the disputation, the Protestant reformers boldest assertion in the debate was that Matthew 16:18 does not confer on popes the exclusive right to interpret scripture casting doubt on the doctrinal authority of the Pope, nor Church Councils were infallible. Luther refused to withdraw his theses on the sale of indulgences. Luther’s visit led to the Reformation’s success in Leipzig. The first Lutheran sermons were already being held here in 1522. When the Reformation was introduced to the city by Henry the Pious at Pentecost in 1539 Luther preached in the chapel of the Pleissenburg Castle and held a celebratory speech in St. Thomas’ Church accompanied by a performance of St. Thomas Boys Choir. The Protestant reformer is remembered with a stained-glass window and a memorial plaque in the church. Luther’s last visit to Leipzig was August 1545 when he attended the evangelical consecration of the University Church. Writings by Luther, Katharina von Bora’s wedding ring, and many other objects can be seen in the old town hall. Leipzig’s historic city center reveals the influence of its great cultural tradition and the importance of its trade fair. Leipzig is home to one of Germany’s oldest universities.
In December 1722 Johann Sebastian Bach left Koethen and was appointed Cantor of the Thomasschule at St. Thomas’ Church where he had been the “third choice,” as well as Director of Music for the four principal churches in Leipzig. Johann Sebastian Bach would make his mark during his twenty-seven years, while spend that twenty-seven years fight with the town council, the principals of the school, the university. Culmination of this dispute was the so called “fight of the prefects”. Bach spent much of the 1720’s composing cantatas. Bach composed the Kyrie and Gloria of the Mass in B minor and the “St. Matthew Passion” one of the most famous musical pieces among many considerable works. In March 1729, he took over the directorship of the Collegium Musicum, a secular performance ensemble that had been started in 1701 by his old friend, the composer Georg Philipp Telemann. In 1747 Bach was invited to perform for King Frederick the Great in Berlin and Potsdam. For the king he later composed the “Musical Scarification”. The Art of Fugue was written before Bach’s death at age 65 on July 28, 1750. About a third of Bach’s Library of Theological books consisted of Martin Luther’s works and commentaries of them, 21 thick folio volumes. Luther’s influence can be detected everywhere in Bach’s life and work.
The St. Thomas Boys Choir of Leipzig where the boys’ choir has been performing for 800 years represents the city’s musical legacy to the present day.
Wittenberg was first mentioned in 1180 as a small village founded by Flemish colonists under the rule of the House of Ascania. In 1260 this village became the residence of the dukes of Saxe-Wittenberg, and in 1293 the settlement was granted its town charter as a free-standing town. Wittenberg developed into an important trade center during the following several centuries, because of its central location. When the local branch of the Ascanians died out in 1422, control of Saxe-Wittenberg passed to the House of Wettin. The town became an important regional political and cultural center at the end of the 15th Century, when Frederick III “the Wise”, the Elector of Saxony from 1486 to 1525, made his residence in Wittenberg. Several parts of boundaries of the town were extended soon afterward. The second bridge over the Elbe River was built from 1486 through 1490 and the Castle Church or the Schlosskirche was erected from 1496 through 1506. The Elector’s palace was rebuilt at the same time. In 1502 Elector Frederick founded the University of Wittenberg, which attracted some important thinkers, such as Martin Luther—a professor of theology beginning in 1508—and Philipp Melanchthon —a professor of Greek starting in 1518.
The city at the river Elbe was where Martin Luther lived much of his academic and monastic life. In 1508, Johann von Staupitz, the first dean of the newly founded University, who knew Luther from Erfurt, sent for him to come to teach theology in 1508. Martin Luther lived as a monk in the so-called Black Monastery at the eastern periphery of the city. He returned to Erfurt in 1509 and then back to Wittenberg in 1511 after his visit to Rome in 1510. In 1512 after graduating as a doctor of theology at Wittenberg University, he became professor for Bible studies and succeeded von Staupitz as chair of theology at the University. In 1514, he was also appointed as a preacher in Wittenberg’s City Church. It was the main place of his work and where he transitioned from monk to preacher.
The Castle Church, Wittenberg became the place of origin of the Reformation when Luther published his 95 theses on October 31, 1517 against the papal selling of indulgences as a poster for a debate campaign on the Church door and the theology professor Martin Luther developed into the protagonist of a movement with major historical implications. After the Heidelberg Disputation, the Church court in Augsburg in 1518, and the Leipzig Disputation in 1519; on June 15 1520, the pope warned Luther with a papal bull that he risked excommunication unless he recanted 41 sentences drawn from his writings, including the 95 Theses within 60 days. Luther burned the Papal Bull (“Exurge Domine”) along with the book of church law and many other books by his enemies on December 10, 1520 in Wittenberg where the Luther Oak (Luthereiche) stands today. Luther would not recant and was excommunicated by Pope Leo X on January 3, 1521. The enforcement of the ban on the 95 Theses fell to the secular authorities. Luther was ordered to appear before the Diet of Worms, leaving Wittenberg which he did arriving in Worms on April 16, 1521. Luther secretly returned to Wittenberg on March 6, 1522.
Martin Luther married Katharina von Bora one of 12 nuns he had helped escape from the Nimbschen Cistercian convent in April 1523, when he arranged for them to be smuggled out in herring barrels. On 13 June 1525, the couple was engaged with Johannes Bugenhagen, Justus Jonas, Johannes Apel, Philipp Melanchthon and Lucas Cranach the Elder and his wife as witnesses. On the evening of the same day, the couple was married by Bugenhagen. The ceremonial walk to the church and the wedding banquet were left out, and were made up two weeks later on June 27. Luther and his wife moved into a former monastery, “The Black Cloister,” a wedding present from the new elector John the Steadfast (1525–32). They embarked on what appeared to have been a happy and successful marriage, though money was often short. The Lutherhalle or Lutherhaus now serves as a museum.
The Melanchthon House, home to Philipp Melanchthon, one of Luther’s collaborators and a spiritual leader of the Reformation. After seeing where they lived, we’ll then pay a visit to where these religious pioneers were laid to rest, the Castle Church. Next, enter the town church where we’ll see an altar designed by Lucas Cranach, a Renaissance artist and friend to Luther. Wittenberg’s most famous square meters are most likely those of the portal of the Castle Church.
Wittenberg has an abundance or impressive Renaissance buildings, which were built during the city’s heydays in the 16th century, when the city was the capital of the district of the Saxonian Elector. Under the Elector Frederick the Wise, who protected and supported Luther, Wittenberg became one of the spiritual and cultural centers of Europe.
Apart from Martin Luther, other eminent figures also left their traces behind in the city, for example the scholars Philipp Melanchthon and Johannes Bugenhagen, as well as the painter Lucas Cranach. Their houses and monument can be found along the so-called “historical mile” of the Schlossstrasse and the Collegienstrasse.
Under the influence of the Protestant thinkers, the Leucorea University of Wittenberg, developed into one of the most renowned universities of Europe, making the city known all over the world? Until far beyond the 16th century, Wittenberg maintained an eminent role in the church, in science and culture. Since 1938, it is officially a Luther City; since 1996, the historical ensemble of the Castle Church, the City Church, the Luther House and the Melanchthon House are UNESCO world heritage sites.
Halle’s early history from the Bronze Age was connected with the harvesting of salt. Market Church of Our Lady, built to defend against the spread of reformation sympathies, was the very spot where Justus Jonas officially introduced the Reformation into Halle with his Good Friday sermon in 1541. As it is known, Martin Luther’s traces in Central Germany lead to Eisenach, where the Reformer was born and where he died, and to Wittenberg, his main place of work. However, with regards to the consequences of his actions for church politics, one might say that Halle was the “cradle of the Reformation”. From 1514 to 1541, Luther’s greatest rival, Cardinal Albert of Brandenburg, Archbishop of Magdeburg and Mainz and highest-ranking clerical dignitary after the Pope in the Holy Roman Empire, resided at Moritzburg Palace in Halle. The Cardinal loved magnificent art and representative buildings and financed them to a large extent with the income from the selling of indulgences. Amongst other reasons, it was this excessive lifestyle that inspired Luther to write a letter to the Cardinal on October 31st, 1517, into which he included the famous 95 thesis. Luther’s strong condemnation of the selling of indulgences by the church was therefore pointed directly against Halle. The further conflict between Martin Luther and Cardinal Albrecht shook the very foundations of the Roman curia. In 1541, under the pressure of the Reformation movement, the Cardinal finally had to leave Halle, his town of residence. Between 1545 and 1546 Luther preached three times in the Market Church in Halle, staying with his friend Justus Jonas during Christmas. The late-Gothic pulpit and the memorial on the outer wall between the “watchman’s towers” bear witness to Luther’s fiery sermons at the Market Church. After his death in Eisleben in 1546, Luther’s body was laid out for one night in Halle during its transfer to Wittenberg. Here, the death mask and the cast of his hands were taken. They can now be viewed in a crypt of the Market Church “Unser Lieben Frauen” (Our Dear Lady). The Market Church has Germany’s oldest and probably largest Protestant church library. The “Marienbibliothek” houses several Luther bibles with handwritten notes from the Reformer.
On December 15, 1713 Johann Sebastian Bach performed in Halle. At the time he was working at the court in Weimar. He was successful and he was appointed to be organist replacing Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow. On February 19th 1714 however he turned down the offer and never gave a reason for turning it down. In 1716 Bach examined the organ in the Liebfrauenkirche, the Church of Our Lady in Halle, which was built by Christoph Cuntzius.
In 1804 Martin Stephan attends the University of Halle.
One of the oldest towns in Brandenburg; in the Middle Ages it developed into an important trade center. To this day, several medieval buildings such as churches, former monasteries, the late Gothic town hall, the renowned town gates and the residence of the Abbot of Zinna Monastery bear witness to the town’s former wealth. The shenanigans involving an enormous money box in the town’s church transformed not only Jüterbog, but the whole of Europe. They provided the impetus for Luther’s theses against the trade in indulgences. In order to finance St. Peter’s Cathedral in Rome and to secure his career, Archbishop Albert of Brandenburg sent the talented indulgence preacher and Dominican friar Johann Tetzel to Jüterbog. “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory into heaven springs,” Johann Tetzel declared so boldly that word soon reached neighboring Wittenberg. To this day the “Tetzel box” in St. Nicholas’ Church in Jüterbog bears witness to the activities of this preacher of indulgence. Tetzel is said to have used it to collect the money paid by the faithful for the redemption of their souls. When more and more Christians journeyed from Wittenberg to Jüterbog to buy letters of indulgence, an incensed Luther wrote his famous theses condemning the practice. Two years later Zwichan prophet Thomas Müntzer, who would go on to lead the peasants’ revolt, preached in Jüterbog. The monks of the town’s Franciscan monastery, vehemently opposed to Luther’s ideas, argued with him, calling him a “Lutheran,” a term of abuse at the time. The monastery’s museum brings the events of the Reformation in Jüterbog to life with remarkable exhibits; original letters of indulgence from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
The original Slavic town of Berlin was on the eastern bank of the Spree River, approximately where the Nikolaiviertel now stands. The first German settlers probably reached the area in the 11th or 12th centuries. They founded a second town, called Cölln, on the island in the Spree River now known as the Spreeinsel or Museum Island. In the 12th century the area came under German rule as part of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, founded by Albert the Bear in 1157. It was under the Margraves of Brandenburg (who ruled from the town of Brandenburg an der Havel), that Old Berlin and Cölln received their first town charters in the 13th century. The year 1237 was later taken as the year of founding. The Reformation was slow to arrive in Berlin. Eventually, though, the wave of reform reached Brandenburg, leaving Elector Joachim II (ruled 1535-71) no choice but to subscribe to Protestantism on 1 November 1539, the court celebrated the first Lutheran-style service in the Nikolaikirche in Spandau. The event is still celebrated as an official holiday in Brandenburg, the German state that surrounds Berlin, although not in the city state of Berlin itself. Berlin prospered for the ensuing decades until drawn into the Thirty Years’ War (1618-48), a conflict between Catholics and Protestants that left Europe’s soil drenched with the blood of millions. Elector Georg Wilhelm (ruled 1620-40) tried to maintain a policy of neutrality, only to see his territory repeatedly pillaged and plundered by both sides. By the time the war ended, Berlin lay largely in shambles, broke, ruined and decimated by starvation, murder and disease
Johann Seabstian Bach visited Berlin several times in his life. It started in 1718 during the time he was working for the Sovereign Leopold of Koethen, when he ordered a cembalo. He ordered it personally at the Berlin work shop of Michael Mietke. In 1719 he travelled to Berlin to picked it up. In 1741 he visited again. His finally visit to Berlin was in 1747 to perform as a guest performer for King Fredrick the Great at his court and various other organ concerts.
Although Dresden is a relatively recent Germanic city that followed a previous Slavic settlement. Dresden’s founding and early growth is associated with the eastward expansion of Germanic peoples, mining in the nearby Ore Mountains, and the establishment of the Margraviate of Meissen. Its name etymologically derives from Old Sorbian Drežďany, meaning people of the forest. Dresden later evolved into the capital of Saxony. Although the Lutheran Church of Our Lady is today an internationally recognized symbol of Protestant architecture as well as a famous Dresden landmark, the Reformation initially attracted very few supporters in the city. Luther visited Dresden in 1516 and 1518, one year after nailing his theses to the church door in Wittenberg. He was sent by his order to the Augustinian monastery, where he received a warm welcome but little sympathy for his ideas. This rejection was supported by the resident Dresden duke, who had every Lutheran Bible on his territory confiscated in 1523. Luther’s followers subsequently did take the Reformation to Dresden, as commemorated by the Church of Our Lady, the Luther statue outside the church and the Martin Luther Church in Dresden’s Neustadt district. Frauenkirche was the first church that was built as a Lutheran Church. Octagonal in shape, it represents all the people being gathered around the gifts God gives us in His W, in Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper.
In 1650 St. John’s Church in Dresden formed as a specially chartered Church for Lutherans who fled from Bohemia and Moravia. In 1806 Martin Stephan becomes the pastor of St. John’s Church. In 1836 some Saxon German’s leave from St. John’s Church with Martin Stephan, C.F. W. Walter and others to go to Perry County, Missouri in America to practice confessional Lutheranism freely.
The ‘Florence of the Elbe’, Dresden is an artwork in itself. Beautiful buildings such as the baroque Zwinger Palace, magnificent treasures and world-class museums make this city in the Free State of Saxony a hotspot for cultural tourists from all over the world.
The city of Prague is known as one of the most charming and beautiful cities in the world. Prague dates back to the 9th century with the founding of The Prague Castle around 880 by Prince Borivoj of the Premyslid dynasty. Christianity was brought to the Czech lands by Cyril and Methodius, the “apostles of the Slavs”, and was quickly embraced by some members of the dynasty that ruled Bohemia. The Czech Reformation anticipated the Reformation elsewhere in Europe by a little over 100 years. Luther’s predecessor Jan Hus was born in Husinee, Bohemia in 1369. He became a Catholic priest in Prague in 1400. In 1402 he was appointed rector of the University of Prague and preached at the newly built Bethlehem Chapel in the common language, which was Czech. His preaching was popular, especially among the nobility. About the same time Hus began preaching inside the city demanding for the reformation of the Church. Hus is considered one of the first church reformers. Hus was greatly influenced by the writings of John Wycliffe and translated Trialogus into Czech even though Church authorities banned many of Wycliffe’s works in 1403. Hus attached the Church by denouncing the moral failings of clergy, bishops, and even the papacy. Hus believed that the head of the Church was Jesus Christ rather than the Pope. Hus spoke out against indulgences used by the Pope to raise money for the crusades. He and his followers were excommunicated by the Pope in 1411. Hus’s ideas had become widely accepted in Bohemia and there was broad resentment against the Church hierarchy. Hus was forced to leave Prague in 1412. He spent much of his time in exile writing and translating the Bible into the Bohemian language. In 1414 the Council of Konstanz begins trying to put an end to the papal schism and take up desired reforms of the Church. Hus left Bohemia for the first time in his life expecting he could be going to his death, but he was willing to go to make an end of all dissensions, agreeing to go to Konstanz under the promise of safe conduct. After a month in Konstanz, Hus was imprisoned on November 28. Church officials imprisoned Hus after convincing his safe conduct guarantor that he could not be bound by promises to a heretic. He appeared before the Council of Konstanz on June 5, 1415 for the first time, unwilling to recant and unable to fully defend his stance, he had a second and final hearing on June 8. He was condemned on July 6, 1415 and executed by burning at the stake in Konstanz that same day for his criticisms of the Catholic Church including the selling of indulgences. Before his execution he proclaimed, “Cook this goose (Czech for Hus) now, but in a century there will come a swan (later identified with Martin Luther) you won’t be able to kill.” Following his death, his ashes were thrown into the Rhine River. The anti-papal sentiment in Prague and greater Bohemia would lead to the Bohemian Revolt and the 30 Year War. Prague’s most important Hussite historical monuments are the Jan Hus Monument and the Bethlehem Chapel where he preached.
Many parallels are evident in the lives of Hus and Luther. They were both from poor, peasant families; bold preachers of the Gospel; and popular with members of the nobility. Both condemned the immorality of the clergy and the corrupt practices in the church, and each one worked on translating the Bible into the common language of his homeland while in exile. Most of all, however are both Hus and Luther inspired reform movements that could not be stopped.