Day 1: Departure from the USA
Faith is that which brings the Holy Spirit through the merits of Christ (Martin Luther).
Our journey begins with an overnight flight to Berlin, Germany.
Day 2: Juterbog & Wittenberg
As soon as a coin in the coffer rings/the soul from purgatory springs (attributed to indulgence salesman Johann Tetzel who was purportedly trying to raise money for the ongoing reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica. In fact the money went towards helping the Archbishop of Mainz, under whose authority Tetzel was operating, to pay off the debts incurred in securing the agreement of the Pope to his acquisition of the Archbishopric. It is believed that Martin Luther was inspired to write his 95 Theses, in part, due to Tetzel’s actions during this period of time).
En route to Wittenberg, which is of such importance in Luther’s life that its official name is Lutherstadt-Wittenberg (Luther City Wittenberg), we’ll lunch in Juterbog and visit the Nikolaikirche (St Nicholas’ Church from the 14th century), remarkable for its three fine aisles and well preserved coffer of Johann Tetzel. The town, about 40 miles southwest of Berlin, is surrounded by a medieval wall and is known for the weaving and spinning both of flax and wool. We continue on to Wittenberg for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 3: Wittenberg
Justice is a temporary thing that must at last come to an end; but the conscience is eternal and will never die (Martin Luther).
In this city in 1517, on the doors of All Saints’ Church (also known as the Schlosskirche or “Castle Church,” built 1496–1506) Luther nailed his 95 Theses, sparking the Reformation. The church, including the doors, were seriously damaged by fire in 1760 but were later restored. Our tour will take us to see the Bronze doors (which replaced the wooden doors and which are among the most photographed in Europe) that now bear the Latin text of the 95 Theses, and the restored burial church of the Reformers. We will also visit City Church (a twin-towered Gothic church in which Luther preached during the Reformation, was married (1525) and baptized his six children), Luther’s well-preserved house where he and his family lived (it contains many Reformation relics, including Luther’s desk, his pulpit, and first editions of his books) and the Renaissance mansion of Philip Melanchton (Luther’s right-hand man), now a museum commemorating his life and containing statues of Luther and Melanchton. We will have much to think about as we gather for dinner and enjoy another overnight stay in Wittenberg.
Day 4: Leipzig
Now, here is something one can learn from! (Mozart upon hearing a performance of one of Bach’s motets).
From Wittenberg, we travel to Leipzig where we visit Altes Rathaus, St. Nicholas Church with its undistinguished outward façade but interior soaring Gothic choir and nave (Martin Luther is said to have preached from its ornate 16th-century pulpit), and St. Thomas Church which was originally built as part of a 13th-century monastery and which was heavily restored after World War II. Martin Luther preached here in 1539 heralding the arrival of Protestantism in Leipzig. Bach’s 12 children and the infant Richard Wagner were baptized at St. Thomas Church in the early 17th-century, and both Mozart and Mendelssohn performed here. Bach was choirmaster at this church for 27 years and served in St. Nicholas Church as well. Interesting to note that the remarkable music Bach wrote during his Leipzig years commanded little attention in his lifetime. When he died he was given a simple grave, without a headstone. We will also visit the Bach Museum before enjoying a leisurely dinner and overnight stay.
Day 5: Eisenach & Wartburg Castle
I fought the Devil with ink (Martin Luther of his experience in Wartburg Castle).
This morning we drive up a steep forested slope to one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Germany, Wartburg Castle, which was founded in 1067 and which looms over the city of Eisenach. It was at Wartburg Castle that Martin Luther, disguised as “Knight George,” translated the New Testament into German. At the castle there is a museum containing mainly Reformation artifacts, including paintings, sculptures, weapons, furniture and tapestries, and the Lutherstube, the room where Luther did the translating and upon whose wall hangs a portrait of him disguised as Junker Jörg (Knight George) by Lucas Cranach. While none of the furnishings are original to Luther’s time, the stove and desk approximate what Luther’s room would have looked like during his 10-month stay, and behind the stove is a hole going through to the bare masonry which is associated with the legend that Luther threw his inkpot at the devil. Eisenach was home to Martin Luther as a child, and it was also the birthplace of Johann Sebastian Bach. We will visit the Bachhaus, the first worldwide museum to be dedicated to the life and work of Johann Sebastian Bach, and also visit the Lutherhaus, one of the oldest and most picturesque half-timbered buildings remaining in Eisenach and now a museum featuring multimedia exhibits relating Luther’s teachings. We will also explore the Marktplatz with the Georgenkirche (the Church of St. George) where Bach was baptized and where the Gothic baptismal stone still stands. After a full day, we return to Leipzig for dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 6: Halle & Eisleben
Come to me, all of you who weary, and I will give you rest (Luther’s last sermon in St. Andrew’s Church. He finished with the 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.).
Our journey today takes us to Halle, whose early history is connected with the harvesting of salt (since the Bronze Age). In 1508, Luther received his appointment in philosophy in Halle, and the city is also the birthplace of George Friderich Handel. Our tour of this enchanting city includes Händel House, built in 1558 and now a museum housing a collection of historic musical instruments and an exhibition about the composer’s life. (To celebrate the composer, Halle stages an annual Handel festival every June.) We will also visit the Markt Kirche (Market Church) and the 300 year-old “Francke Foundation,” a center of Lutheran Pietism, which included an orphanage, school and Bible society. We continue on to the small city of Eisleben, where Martin Luther was born and died. Here we’ll visit the Church of St. Peter and Paul (also known as the Taufkirche or “baptism church”), where Luther was baptized on November 11, 1483. 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. We’ll also see the very pulpit from which Luther preached his last sermon in St. Andrew’s Church. Our day ends in Berlin where we will enjoy dinner and an overnight stay.
Day 7: Berlin
Therefore, it is clear and certain that this faith alone justifies us… Nothing of this article can be yielded or surrendered, even though heaven and earth and everything else falls (Martin Luther).
Berlin will do much to help us understand the notion of Zeitgeist, a wonderful German term referring to the general cultural, intellectual, spiritual, and/or political climate or mood of a city or even a nation. Today we tour the recently reunited city (after WWII, the victorious powers divided the city into sectors analogous to the occupation zones into which Germany was divided; the sectors of the Western Allies formed West Berlin, while the Soviet sector formed East Berlin). We will see the eastern sector with its famous Unter den Linden Strasse, (an iconic boulevard of linden trees which formerly led directly to the city palace of the Prussian monarchs), the Russian War Memorial, and the Brandenburg Gate (a former monumental entry to Unter den Linden and only remaining gate of a series through which Berlin was once entered). We will also see what remains of “the wall,” and “Checkpoint Charley” as we pass into the western sector to experience Kurfurstendamm Strasse, home to some of Berlin’s most luxurious stores. At its eastern end we will see Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church, and lastly, we will visit the Olympic Stadium, on a site originally intended for the aborted 1916 Summer Olympics but finally built for the 1936 Summer Olympics. The afternoon will provide ample opportunity to walk, shop and further explore the distinctive character of this unforgettable city before gathering for a memorable farewell dinner and another overnight stay.
Day 8: Depart for Home
We will let the wonder of all we have seen and heard settle over us; then like other pilgrims of other times, go back to our lives with renewed faith and readiness.
We leave our hotel and head for the airport to return to the U.S.
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