Our last day was spent in Mainz. We visited the amazing St. Stephan's Church, for which the very persistent priest, Klaus Mayer, convinced Marc Chagall to create windows. Here is a link to details about the long conversation and the even longer production of these amazing windows. It is a very worthwhile article from the NY Times and not too long. I recommend it!
St. Stephan's occupies a high point in the city of Mainz. As we walked downhill to the old city center, our guide explained the political power of Mainz in the mid-1400s. Especially that of the Archbishop Dietrich, who through graft and strong arm, was actually the bishop over two bishoprics. This was the political and social climate that surrounded the development of the Gutenberg Bible. Look below for a link to read a short essay about it...)
We next toured the Cathedral of Mainz (aka Mainz Dom) to take in a bit more of the particulars regarding Catholicism in the 1400s and early 1500s, the time from Gutenberg to Luther.
Gutenberg's moveable type changed the world in much the same way as inventing the wheel must have. Which is to say, it changed everything! Prior to moveable type, anything that was committed to paper or vellum was done so through the laborious process of hand written copying by scribes. This meant that no two copies of anything were ever really the same. Little errors would continue to be perpetuated and the change of an accent mark or an "o" looking like an "a" could entirely change the meaning of a word. Had it not been for the printing press, it is doubtful that Luther's writings would have caused such a stir and so the Reformation would have proceeded very differently, if at all.
One of the highlights of visiting Mainz is going to the Gutenberg Museum to see the process explained and demonstrated. Following the demonstration, visitors are taken into the "Treasure Vault" to see the copies of the original Gutenberg Bible that they own. About 180 were printed, being completed in 1455, and 49 are known to still exist either in part or the whole. Prior to leaving on this trip, I read several books to shed light on printing and the Reformation. One was Gutenberg's Apprentice, which helped set the stage for the value of the printing press to the Reformation and another was Brand Luther, which made clear how extraordinary the man was as an author and the extent to which the Reformation depended on his writing and publishing those works. Follow this link to read a brief piece about Mainz and the time of Gutenberg.
Here's the group of pilgrims, after our farewell dinner and before we all disappeared back to our rooms to pack.
No, not THAT kind of play! I mean we kicked back and enjoyed a day without any deeper content than enjoying one another and this amazing part of God's world! YAY! Even our daily thought focus was in tune with the agenda of enjoyment, bidding us to stay in the moment and enjoy all the day would bring our way. The question up for our consideration was, "How is God opening you to all that surrounds you, all the people you meet, everything you experience today?"
One of the bonuses of the cruise was meeting up with Pastor Kristin Swenson, who served at First Lutheran in Eau Claire until she returned to active duty as an Air Force chaplain. She is stationed at Ramstein Air Base about 80 miles southwest of Frankfurt. It was great to have her join us and to see her again! She wanted to be sure that I brought back greetings to her friends in Eau Claire. So, "Hi from Pastor Kristin!"
Following our cruise, we kicked back on the bus for a ride to dinner. Well, dinner and a wine tasting! We visited a typical grape grower and wine producer near Darmstadt (a suburb of Frankfurt) and enjoyed samples of five of his favorite wines. Then we were served plates brimming with sausages and cheese and hard boiled eggs and lettuce and tomato and the loveliest dark bread and butter! Yum! Unlike the wine tastings I have attended elsewhere, wine flowed freely during dinner. And the prices for purchasing wine to bring with us was very economical - the most expensive one on the list was €8!
A wonderfully relaxing day, well spent with fellow sojourners and the finest scenery around!
Many, if not most, of you reading this blog know that Martin Luther, the founding father of the Reformation, was branded an outlaw by the Pope and was kidnapped for his own safety and sequestered at The Wartburg Castle for 10 months. During this time he was disguised as Knight George and also was able to translate the New Testament from Greek into German. While it was not the first German Bible, it was the first translated from the original language (Greek) and therefore did not repeat translation errors that were abundant in prior versions. One of the other significant things about this translation is that Luther actually coined many new phrases and words in German and is therefore responsible for helping develop the modern German language. The most amazing thing about his feat was that Luther did this translation in 10 weeks!
Touring The Wartburg, although Luther does get mentioned, is really more about St. Elizabeth. At age 14 Elizabeth became the wife of Louis IV of Thuringia (the area where the castle is) and was widowed at 20. She herself died at the tender age of 24, but not before she had had three children, devoted her life to the care of the sick and impoverished and was said to have worked several miracles. The most well known of these is the Miracle of the Roses. While on her way to feed the poor with a basket full of bread, she ran into her husband and his hunting party. Because there were rumors in the kingdom that she was squandering their treasure, her husband ask what she was carrying. (He had always been supportive of her charitable work.) She showed him the basket and it was full of white and red roses. She was canonized a saint very quickly after her death and continues to be the patron saint of many hospitals in both the US and all over the world.
Our thought focus for today: Wartburg Castle represents a worst-of-all-worlds story (Luther's kidnapping and forced exile) and a best-of-all-worlds story (Elizabeth of Thuringia) -- consolation and desolation are often deeply connected. How is God present for you in joy and abundance? In pain and fear?
My thoughts today were about how good and bad "stuff" is almost always part of the SAME story. Elizabeth was married at 14 and widowed at 20 and dead at 24, yet she cared for many and improved the plight of the sick and the poor. Martin Luther was an outlaw and at risk of losing his life, yet he guided a revolution of theology, thought, politics and social order that made the world a better place. God is ever present in the midst of good and bad and we often cannot tell which an event truly is without prayer and thoughtful reflection!
We met for the short bus ride to St. Thomas Church, where we joined both the local folks of the congregation and many visitors for the 9:30 service. The service included both a baptism and Holy Communion. The music for the service was supplied both by the Boys Choir and the amazing organ! The music was transcendent. The vast size of the worship space, the acoustics and the quality of the voices and musicians combined to create a sense of the holy in a profound way! (I'm sure the sermon was good too, but who could understand it in German!)
I continued to think about our thought questions from yesterday and how formative music, especially what I call big organ music and well-done choir music, is for me. Singing in at least one choir all the time from grade one all the way through college really has helped shape my sense of who I am. Having grown up in a church with an incredible organ and very skilled musicians to play it has deeply shaped my sense of worship. Somehow, for me, the majestic and awe-inspiring volume - size and sound - of worshiping in a enormous sanctuary with music to match is one of the most powerful ways that I encounter God.
After worship we boarded the bus for our drive to Weimar and Buchenwald. We had very little time in Weirmer, because the worship service was especially long with the baptism and Holy Communion. Even so, I suspect that many of us were already "down the road" mentally and thus not too attentive to the sites and sounds of Weimar. Buchenwald was edging into our consciousness well before we arrived at its gate.
Our thoughts for the day were brought together with the following, "Today we will experience a story of terror and tragedy, and together we will focus on the practices of confession, forgiveness and amendment of life. How do stories of human tragedy affect you? How does confession, absolution and amendment of life shape you and the ways you live?"
We were led on our experience of the Work Camp Buchenwald by a very special guide. She was articulate and clearly very intelligent. Sophia would likely be successful at whatever she put her mind to. Yet, this wonderful young woman, whose name means wisdom, has chosen to guide people through this dreadful place of death and terror. When asked why, her answer was articulate and clear: because she felt called to show the effect of "doing nothing" or "going along with the majority" instead of doing what was right. Her vocation (my word, not hers) was to encourage people to address the injustice and oppression that they live with by doing something, even a small thing, rather than doing nothing. It was as if she had been with us when Dick read the focus thoughts for the day! Confession and absolution and amendment of life...
I have been to Buchenwald twice before. Once in October and once in late November. Both days were blustery and cloudy and cold. Today was beautiful and sunny. I wondered what the memorial near the camp gate on the parade grounds would be like on such a day. You see, the memorial is metal and kept at a constant 98-99º. Human body temperature. It was so clearly warm to the touch when I had visited before, a powerful witness to the life that was snuffed out there and the insistence of life to continue. I was surprised at how profoundly moving the warmth of the metal still was. I took no photo this time, but here one from a prior visit.
Our free day in Leipzig was spent in many various ways. There was shopping and visits to Bach sites, resting and re-packing so that acquisitions would fit, wandering and wondering. We regrouped at 2:30 in the afternoon to get our programs and take our reserved seats at the St. Thomas Church for the inaugural Motet of this school year. Oh my!
Because it was their first motet for the season, the new boys were marched up the aisle to lay sunflowers on Bach's grave. They sang from there briefly, but mostly from the choir loft of the enormous sanctuary. Their clear soprano voices were those of angels. The choir includes older boys as well. The blend of voices and the marvelous musical choices made it a sublime experience.
Unlike a concert, this motet included scripture, a brief sermon and prayers. It was an actual worship service. In addition to the choir, there were a couple guest soloists - an alto and a tenor - and there was a small chamber-size orchestra which was made up of renaissance-style instruments. St. Thomas Church even has two organs - one tuned to the modern pitch and the other tuned to the Renaissance pitch.
All in all, a tremendous afternoon.
In keeping with our program today, our thought-question was based on the saying, "One who sings, prays twice." We were asked to pay attention to how we respond to various music modes and styles and consider how music and sings forms and shapes us personally.
Tomorrow is to be a long and challenging day. After a leisurely dinner outside with new and old friends, we headed back to the hotel.
Not really sure who started it, but we are passing a nasty cold around the group! Slogging around with a stuffy head in damp and dreary weather is no fun at all. So after doing the walking tour of Leipzig with the rest of the group, I went to bed until supper time. It is amazing what a 2 hour nap can do for you!
Leipzig is famous because of Johann Sebastian Bach, of course, who was the choir master and cantor t the St. Thomas Church for 26 years. Another reason that Leipzig is famous is that the Peaceful Revolution, which resulted in the fall of the wall separating east and west Berlin as well as the division between East and West Germany. Yet one more reason that Leipzig is well known is Goethe's inclusion of it in his famous story Faust.
After my two hour recharge, I walked to the Auerbachskeller (Auerbach's Cellar in English) to join the rest of my comrades for dinner. Auerbachskeller is the second oldest restaurant in Leipzig, which is saying a lot as Leipzig is OLD! There is already record of the place in writing from 1438! Goethe ate ad drank there as a student while living in Leipzig and, after being impressed by paintings of Professor Faust drinking with his students and of him riding astride a wine barrel passing through a door, wrote a play based on the common fable about the deal the magician and astrologer Faust made with the devil. It is a fun experience and the food was good.
Not a terribly exciting entry, I am afraid, but sack time is all that will make me better so as to get the most out of the rest of the trip.
Torgau is now a sleepy little town that was once a bustling center of political power and great wealth. We took time to stop here because Katharina von Bora, Martin's dear wife Kate, fled here bringing her two youngest children with her,from Wittenberg some years after Luther died to escape the plague that was ravishing Wittenberg. Unfortunately, Kate was thrown from their wagon on the way and broke her hip. This is a challenging enough injury today among older folks and often marks the beginning of their deterioration in health. For Kate, it was a death sentence, as no surgery or artificial joints were available. So, some two months after she was injured, she died in Torgau.
We visited the church in which she is buried, St. Mary's, with incredible, vast vaulted ceilings, an original Cranach painting, an impressive altar piece and a magnificent pulpit.
Oh, and real, honest-to-goodness bears in the moat outside the courtyard! The bear is the mascot of the Hartenfel family, so it only seemed right that there ought to be some in the moat, right?
After lunch we boarded the bus again and hit the road for Dresden. We had a two hour walking tour, which was nowhere near enough time to take everything in! The reconstructed city center is breathtaking! The entire area was completely destroyed near the end of WWII and has been completely rebuilt since the fall of the wall.
We also visited the newly rebuilt church in the city center, where we found Luther standing guard.
Inside was the cross that was originally on the dome, but was melted beyond repair during the bombing.
Eisleben - Luther's birth place and where he died, but where he never lived. Well, almost! His family was living here when he was born, but moved very soon after his birth. The fact that he died here can be chalked up to his reputation, as he was in town to settle a dispute between the Mansfield Counts. Unfortunately, he suffered a heart attack and did not make it back home to his dear Kate. Two of his sons were with him and an entourage of other important folks were there to record all the final details. We visited three churches while in town.
The community of faith at Sts. Peter and Paul Lutheran Church have done a remarkable thing! Because much of the historical quality of the building was destroyed during the time of the divided Germany, they boldly designed a sanctuary, and in particular a baptismal font, that vividly declares Luther's theology of the ministry of the baptized. The baptistry is set into the floor with ripples emanating from it, throughout the sanctuary, up into the windows, even out the door! It is marvelous!
My photograph simply does not do it justice. The effect is incredible.
Another wonderful piece from the sanctuary is the sculpture
of God the Father uphold Jesus while he is on the cross. Again, the photo is not nearly as powerful as the sculpture is in person.
As we visited the third church today, we were asked to remember what stories have shaped us - ourselves, our families, our congregations and communities. When we arrived at Saint Anne's, the reason for the question became clear. It is a marvelous and ancient building that was originally the church for a convent. Martin Luther dedicated it, if I remember correctly. The miners of the area were not literate, of course, and the church contains the Old Testament in stone around the chancel so that these folks could be reminded of their Bible stories. Click on the slide show below to see the stories...
Our journey today was to Halle, Germany, where August Hermann Francke started the Francke Foundation. To say he was ahead of his time is a gross understatement! The man was visionary. He saw the needs of the people of the area and, with the approval of his electoral Duke, began buying up property and building an orphanage and school which charged fees according to the students' families' ability to pay and providing education for them all.
According to their website: "The religious school town, which August Hermann Francke (1663-1728) began in 1698 with an electoral privilege, was quickly considered by contemporaries to be the "New Jerusalem". It was the Pietist piety and the progressive pedagogy which created such an impression then. Francke's facilities consisted of an orphanage, a school system with many branches and scientific institutes. Additionally there were economic enterprises and agricultural lands. Francke succeeded in countering the social problems of his time with a widely admired example of Christian charity."
In connection with our visit to this incredible example of love-in-action, we were asked today to consider the following question: "To what acts of kindness and justice, renewing and reforming is God calling you?" Yet another excellent and thought provoking question to ponder as we journey.
Following our tour of the Francke Foundation, we visited the Market Church (also known as St. Mary's or The Church of Our Lady) to see the Luther Death Mask and spend time in the sanctuary where Luther preached and where he laid in rest over night during his trip back to Wittenberg following his death in Eisleben.
Believe it or not, originally the wax casts of his hands and face were displayed with a stuffed body, sitting up, so people could get an idea of him. I like the way it is displayed now much better!
Our pilgrimage today included stops at the Luther House, which was the dormitory for the monks and given to Luther to be his home once he married Katherina von Bora, and the Melanchton House. Both contain museums about the men who, side by side, drove the Reformation. They were both family men, though Luther much later than Melanchton, and enjoyed having their own homes with children about and wives who ran their households, including having University of Wittenberg students boarding with them.
We were invited by our leaders to, "take some time to sit in the calm of the courtyard of the Luther House" and to there, "consider the courage it took for a monk living" in the monastery "of the little town of Wittenberg to work for the renewal of the church and society. Where are you being called to act with such courage?"
We were on our own for lunch with a special tree planting taking place in the afternoon in the Luther Garden. Luther is often quoted as having said that if the world were ending tomorrow he would still plant a tree. Whether he said it or not, planting a tree is a hopeful thing to do. Wittenberg, as the cradle of the Reformation, has planted a garden of trees to commemorate its 500th anniversary. You can read all about it here: Luthergarten.