October 31, 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the day Martin Luther nailed the 95 theses on the door of Castle Church in Wittenburg. It was not a defiant moment, necessarily, but what it lead to was the Protestant Reformation and years of religious wars. More importantly, however, it lead to the Bible being translated into the modern language of the day where anyone could have access to the scriptures (not just the clergy). It was exciting for us to see some of the important sites of Martin Luther in Germany this March.
We chose to visit three major cities (which had multiple sites): Eisenach, Erfurt and Wittenburg.
We used Rick Steve’s 2017 Germany guide, which includes a section on Lutherland and all of these sites. He also filmed a new special to commemorate the anniversary. (He has an older version that can be viewed on YouTube, and the DVD can be purchased on his website.)
After spending some time in Bavaria, we headed to Erfurt. Before going to Erfurt for the evening, we stopped in Eisenach to visit Wartburg Castle. After spending the night in Erfurt and seeing some sites in the morning, we spent the afternoon in Wittenburg and then headed to Berlin for the evening.
In Eisenach, we saw Wartburg Castle, where Martin Luther was held in hiding when he was viewed as a heretic by the Catholic Church. It was here that he translated the New Testament from Greek into the common language of the day: German. He did this in 10 weeks. What’s available to see is the entire castle, and the small room where he stayed and did the translation.
Practicalities: They were redoing the parking lot while we were there so we had to park half a mile away and walk up to the steps. The steps to the top were a lot and we saw a lot of people really struggling. Be prepared for quite the hike. Also, specify to the attendant that you want to see the museum or have a tour. We just wanted to see the museum, but ended up paying for a tour (that was only in German). We sat through an hour-long tour that we couldn’t understand, because we didn’t specify. Make sure to check out the gift shop where you’ll find all sorts of Martin loot, including energy drinks and him as Lego man.
The town itself is very busy and untoursity. There were students and people riding bikes, having drinks at the park, and eating ice cream with their kids. It felt very casual, and the Medieval buildings were amazing. It’s definitely worth staying here.
We visited the Augustinerkloster (where Martin lived in as a monk) and the museum where you can read about Bible translation, see the cell Martin lived in and learn about what they did during those times. It was a very well done museum, and can easily be seen in an hour. This museum gave a lot of background for Martin’s involvement in the church, and scripture study and how it lead him to his disagreements with how things were being done.
We also visited the Erfurt Cathedral, which is where Martin was ordained in 1507. It was an enormous cathedral filled with artifacts. A short walk up from here is a citadel with a beautiful view of the city.
Practicalities: It was super difficult to find hours or information on the Augustinerkloster and museum. The church is free to see, but the museum costs 3.50 euro a person. Our guidebook was incorrect, and so we missed the museum in the evening and had to go back in the morning. We also had to be lead through the museum because its normally locked. The cathedral was easy to get in and out, and it’s free.
There were a lot of sites here, and we didn’t see them all. Many of the sites here have actually been destroyed, but rebuilt. For example, Castle Church (where he nailed the theses) has been redone. The door isn’t the actual door, so just keep that in mind. It’s still the same site, so you get the idea. The church was closed when we visited, so we didn’t get to see the outside. We learned that finding information online for any of these sites was extremely difficult, so we just showed up and sometimes we got screwed.
Luther House was a fantastic three-floored museum with lots of artifacts and some of the remainders of the house. This is where you learn about his family, his wife, read his quotes, what he did in his day-to-day life and see artifacts like a 1533 handwritten version of “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” in German. This was my favorite Luther sites because of the quality of historic information I learned. I also saw the room where “Table Talks” happened. Table Talks are when he met with his students, and the students took notes when he talked about all sorts of topics.
Practicalities: The city is undergoing a lot of construction, so keep that in mind. Also, Google lead us to the wrong place for Castle Church. We had to figure that one out on our own. There are lots of signs everywhere for the museums and Luther sites, so it’s not that difficult to find.
All in all, I would say I enjoyed seeing the many sites dedicated to the reformer. I learned a lot, and am glad I got to go this year during the anniversary.