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Our Journey Through the German Reformation

Posted by on Nov 3, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Our Journey Through the German Reformation


Due to the geography of the events in history and our travel accommodations, we were unable to visit each city in order of historical accuracy. For ease of reading, I will put the sequence of events and cities in their correct historical chronological order.

We visited the city of Eislaben, this is where Luther had his start, here he was born. Some say his father was a farmer, some say he was a copper miner, perhaps he was both. We saw his home, walked through the home, and walked around the city where he lived as a small child.

Here we are standing in front of the home where Luther was born.  We were able to walk through and see, it was staged with furniture to look like it would have when he was born.






















We visited the city of Eisenach, a beautiful little city that boasts of history, music and culture. This city was Johann Sebastian Bach’s hometown. The Cathedral we toured, St. George, had 4 generations of Bach’s playing organ music and where Bach was baptized as an infant into the Catholic Church. This city once was surrounded by a beautiful brick city wall, which is mostly still intact, with watchtowers. Outside the gate, we saw where seven generations of Bach’s are buried there in the cemetery. This city, Eisenach, is the city where Luther came to study Latin as a young man. Two hundred years after Luther came here to Latin school, young Bach would study and read the writings and teachings of Luther. Bach was greatly influenced by his predecessor, Luther, and became a Protestant believer in faith alone in Christ alone as a result of Luther’s writings and teachings. His music would also be influenced by this change. We visited the Bach house and were able to witness instruments he invented and even had a mini concert performed by a young man on these very old organs. We walked through this German city and thought about the young Luther walking these same streets. Like many churches we visited on this tour through Germany, St. George church is a Protestant church today. We happened to be visiting during choir practice, that was a bonus! Luther’s reformation made a huge impact on all of Germany.


Organ in the Bach House.  This was an original organ.  The inscription is in Latin.










St. George Church






This door here in the front is the home where Bach was born.








At the very top of the mountain overlooking the city, stands the majestic Wartburg Castle.

We traveled to Erfurt, a lovely city with a lot of hustle and bustle of tourists. This village has a nice little river running through it with lovely little bridges. We learned that this was a wealthy town, due to the indigo blue dye that was produced here. This blue dye was expensive and rare and was shipped all over Europe from here. Luther came here to study law, and as a young man he graduated second in his class and in a record amount of time. His father was proud and his professors were impressed. Upon his return from visiting his family, he was caught in a storm. A lightning bolt struck near him, scaring him, and he called on Saint Anne. St. Anne was the saint in which he was taught as a Catholic that he could call on in times of fear and need. There were many saints that were called on in times of need, and Jesus was twenty-third on that list. The Catholic people rely on praying to the saints and calling on them for help and assistance. Saint Anne was a favored saint because she was the mother of Mary, grandmother to Jesus. Martin called on Saint Anne when the lightning bolt scared him, and he made a promise he would join the monestary and dedicate his life to the church if she would help him. Being a faithful man and loyal to his promises, he returned to Erfurt to join the monestary there, against his fathers wishes that he be a successful business man and continue his education in law. We toured the monestary, we walked the same court that Luther walked, we sat in the same room he sat, we sat in the chapel and stared at the beautiful stained glass that was placed here in 1310. Martin would have spent many hours of his life looking at this glass window. We toured the Catholic Cathedral up on the hill, St. Mary’s, which is where he was ordained to be a priest, and is one of the only Catholic Churches that were a part of Luther’s life that remains Catholic today, most have turned Protestant. Luther lived in this city as a law student and also as a monk until he moved to Wittenburg and before his big conversion. We also walked by the school where Luther studied law.






The Monastery where Luther served as a monk.  This was the stained glass in the chapel.






From the monestary, Luther moved to Wittenburg to be a professor of theology. He was an accomplished Catholic and was climbing the ladder successfully. Through his study in Wittenburg, he was wrestling with the traditions of the church and the burden of his sin. He was questioning his faith in the church, and even upon his visit to Rome, he was left empty and searching. God was doing a work in Luther at this point. God was giving this man a glimpse of the Truth and reality of the falsity of the Catholic doctrines, teachings, practices and worship. God was at work in Luther. God was challenging him, teaching him, growing him and preparing him for a great work. Luther complied the ninety-five points of error and innocently and casually walked the mile from his home and nailed the document to the door of the Castle church. This was not disrespectful, this was not contentious, this was actually a common way of debate. The document was taken off the door, read, passed around among professors and colleagues, and would be a source of debate for more than five hundred years. This caused great alarm in the church, the people were reading his writings and lives were being changed. People, for the first time in over a thousand years, were being challenged on their traditions. The Pope even responded personally to Luther by letter. Luther responded to the letter by standing under an oak tree and burning the letter. This made a statement, a bold statement, that even the Pope could not and would not be able to change Luther’s mind. We stood under the oak tree, which has now been replaced by another oak tree in the same location, and we thought about that very place in the world, where such a commitment to the Scriptures was made. One of the most moving moments of the trip for me personally was the church we visited in Wittenburg. Between Luther’s house and the Castle Church, there is a church called St. Mary’s. This is the church building where Luther preached for many years while he was living in Wittenberg. It was just a few yards from the Castle Church where Luther had nailed the opposing document to the door. This church was also just down the road from Wittenberg University where he was a professor. This very church is the church that would have held the very first Protestant service in over 1100 years. This was also the first church built to be Protestant, most churches had before been a Catholic church. This building would have hosted the first service that wasn’t Catholic and full of weeping, candles, relics, indulgences and Latin murmurings that hardly anyone could understand. This very building held a rejoicing people. Rejoicing, singing, preaching God’s Word in German for all listeners to learn and understand, and giving to the Lord their offerings out of an abundant heart. Our history as a Protestant church in America started here. The reformation brought us many of the great Biblical practices we still celebrate today, and it all started here, in Wittenberg. The very walls that echoed our voices also echoed the voices of those redeemed people 500 years ago. After the Old Testament prophets, there was a time of silence, then John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus’ arrival. After 1100 years of spiritual darkness, Luther was a catalyst to bring us the Truth and Light once again.



This was under the Luther Oak where Luther burned the Papal Bull.












The Castle Door in Wittenburg where the 95 Thesis was nailed.






It was here in Wittenburg that Luther lived most of his life. He received a letter from a nun where he learned that because of his teachings, several of them desired to escape. He felt responsible and therefor arranged their escape inside fish barrels from a delivery man to the convent. He found all the women husbands so they would have care and protection, but one of the nuns, Katharina, was more difficult to help. She insisted on marrying one of the reformers, and Martin took on that task himself. Martin said this of his marriage, “his marriage would please his father, rile the pope, cause the angels to laugh and the devils to weep.” He and Katie had a beautiful marriage, and he loved and respected her. He called her, “the Morning Star of Wittenburg.” She was a wonderful wife and mother, she hosted and fed many people in their home on a daily basis. An escaped nun married to a former monk, both redeemed by their faith in Christ alone for the remission of their sins. Both saved from a religion of works and traditions that had left them confused, empty and burdened. Their marriage became an example of love and a model for pastoral families for many generations to come.



This was the door to the home where Luther, Katharina and their children lived in Wittenburg.  The bench seats we are sitting on at the door were a gift Katie gave to Luther.







This brought us to Worms, where Luther stood before the council and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Many important men would travel here to Worms to confront Luther and demand him to recant. This was the famous speech where Luther stated,

“Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.”

After the trial, perhaps through his great strength the Lord granted him to stand firm, he told his friends that if he had a thousand heads, he would have them all lopped off before he would abandon the gospel.

After the Diet, Luther was excommunicated and his life was in great danger. Frederick the Wise arranged for his kidnapping and safe hiding in the abandoned Wartburg Castle. This castle was the one we toured in Eisenach, three historical events took place inside the walls and towers of this nearly 1000 year old castle. It was the home of St. Elisabeth, a Hungarian princess who was sent to the castle by her parents to marry her arranged husband. They married when she was 14 and together they had several children. Her husband died young while on a crusade and tragically she also died at age 24 and was sainted years later. The castle fell into abandonment and disrepair for 250 years. The walls were partially awakened again in 1521 when Martin Luther was sent here by Frederick the Wise for hiding after he was excommunicated at the Diet of Worms, refusing to recant all of his writings against the Catholic Church. He hid here in one of the very rooms of this castle and that is where he translated the New Testament into German for the common people here to read. He stayed confined here, he took on a alias name, and grew out his hair and beard. He eventually left the castle, his hiding spot, and returned to his previous profession as professor of theology at Wittenburg University. In the 1800’s the castle was restored. We walked through the castle and saw some of the most beautiful art and mosaics and it was very castle-ish. The castle sits high upon the mountain overlooking the city and we hiked up to the top on a very steep, cobblestone path. The view from the top of the tower can’t even be described with pictures. Germany is so beautiful, and to have a birds-eye drone view was truly a wonderful experience. We also climbed to a specific location inside the tower and saw a hole in the center with a nearly 20 foot drop to a dungeon. This dungeon held a prisoner named Fritz Erbe. This man was here in prison nearly a decade after Luther’s stay. Erbe was in the dungeon for refusing to baptize his young children. The baptisms were directly related to tax laws and therefor any unbaptized member of society could not be taxed, so the pressure was heavy on Erbe. He refused to go against his conscience and was first placed in a lower tower dungeon cell. He had an audience of listeners from his tower cell and was moved up to the castle tower where no one could be influenced by his voice. He spent over 13 years in the tower dungeons until his death. It was quite an amazing experience to be in these very places where these events took place!





This is the small room where Luther had amazing views of Eisenach and the mountains, and where he translated the Bible into German.



























This is the hole in which Erbe was placed inside.  This was in the south tower of the castle.








We visited Marburg, Germany. Upon entering the town we could see out of the bus windows that we were in a magical land. There were castles on the mountainsides surrounding us. I think our entire group was pointing and moaning in excitement. As we approached Marburg, there she stood, a beautiful castle on top of the hill. Just under the castle was a cobblestone, ivy-lined path leading up to it. We stopped and had lunch before we climbed the path. After lunch, we used our energy to ascend the hill to the castle. Cameras were busy when we reached the top. The castle, the views, the German town below with its old buildings and cobblestone streets, it was all amazing. I am pretty sure we all were imagining the day, close to five-hundred years ago, when Luther would arrive with his carriage, and be welcomed into the castle. Phillip of Hessen, the grandson of St. Elizabeth, resided here in this castle, the same Elizabeth from the Wartburg Castle. Phillip had also been one to convert to Protestantism and follow the teachings of Luther. This Prince Phillip wanted to hold a meeting with the religious leaders of this reformation to discuss 15 points of beliefs. He invited several of these leaders, including Luther, Zwingli, and Bucer to this very castle for about a week long time of preaching, praying and discussion of theology. We stood in the very chapel where they held the preaching services together. It was a neat experience to be in the very rooms and castle where these men worshipped, prayed and debated the Scriptures. We wouldn’t say we agreed with Luther on the view he held of the Lord’s Supper, as well as some other positions, but we know God used this man to do a mighty work that we still follow today.



This is the Marburg Castle.  Not my photo, but a beautiful one indeed!









This is a painting of the Marburg Debate.







This is the floor of the chapel in the castle where Luther would preach before they would begin the debates.






We visited several more historical places and cities, but these were among the best. It was great to travel to where these events actually happened, where we can stand be give thanks to God for shining the Light into darkness. We can remember that Luther was a sinner, as we all are, and stood in need of Faith alone in Christ alone for the remission of his sin, and we can remember that Luther made many mistakes. We don’t worship Luther and the other reformers, but because of God using them to shine the Light into the darkness, we can also experience freedom in Christ.

During our visit to Rome, I found it was very timely in seeing the spiritual darkness before traveling to see the historic sites where God shined Light back into the world. In all the busy travel planning, it was not intentional on my part to visit Rome first with that in mind. However, Josh and I were extremely sad and burdened when we walked through Vatican City and witnessed for ourselves the lies and emptiness of the catholic religion. We watched people climb on their knees in solomnity the Scala Sancta, with the false hope of having their sins forgiven. Pope Puis X made the proclamation that every step would forgive nine years of sins, and there are twenty-eight steps, so you can do the math. One trip to Rome to pray on those holy steps could assure you for life. Martin Luther had travelled here to do just that, and was still left very empty upon reaching the top. We watched as people walked through St. Peter’s basilica and could confess to a priest or be blessed by a priest. We watched as people dropped their money in the many buckets and trunks, in hopes to purchase indulgences. We watched as many men and women came into the cathedrals, heads covered in black veils, weeping and praying before statues of Mary. I wanted to shake these people, I wanted to shout and break the silence of these dark, idol-infested sanctuaries.  I wanted to announce that Jesus is not dead, we don’t have to weep, we don’t have to parade day after day to do enough, give enough, strive enough. Jesus did it, He paid it all,  we can rejoice in the joy of the risen Savior. We can look to the cross for a moment, be sad for a moment, but then we have to walk with a joyful smile, a huge, life-changing smile, in knowing that Jesus did it all.

This is the Scala Sancta in Rome.  These are the people praying on each step in hopes of forgiveness.  These were the steps that Jesus ascended to his trial with Pontus Pilot before his death.  They were brought here from Jerusalem as a relic.  The Roman Catholic Church is full of superstition and a life of works to earn forgiveness and blessings. They also adhere to the false belief of purgatory and by doing works and giving money they can rescue people from purgatory.  It is a way the Roman Catholics have made billions of dollars to pay for the elaborate cathedrals throughout the centuries.






We stand with Luther, Christ alone, Faith alone, Grace alone, Scriptures alone, to the glory of God alone.


Lat year when we visited Basel, Switzerland, this was engraved on a church wall there that has been converted from Catholic to Protestant.

“Behold the year in which papal darkness was driven away and the sun of life appeared to to thee, oh Basel!”


1 Timothy 2:5-6 “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus, who gave a ransom for all.”

Romans 3:28 “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.”

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