Day Four

Today’s correspondent from Germany is Vanessa.

The pilgrims spent today in the city of Erfurt, named by St Boniface who established it bishopric in 742. The name means “ford over the muddy river”. The river Gera branches a great deal within the city, so it is sometimes called “Little Venice”. One of the most famous sights is the Merchants’ Bridge, where the river is crossed by a row of medieval houses, still inhabited today.

An inhabited bridge

As the UK went to the polls, we began today’s walking tour by an imposing statue of Luther over the words (in German) of Ps 118: v7: “I shall not die but live and proclaim the works of the Lord”.

The great man

With that in mind we proceeded to the day’s highlight – the visit to the Augustinian Monastery where Luther spent his first years as a monk. I felt a little ambivalent (as a keen supporter of a monastic community) about the prospect of an insight into the life which Luther later rejected. However, it was moving to see a reconstruction of Luther’s cell in one which he would certainly have used.

Luther’s cell

The church had towering stained glass windows at its west end. Remarkably, they were 700 years old (with some restoration). The central panel showed the Nativity and the Virgin Mary was dressed in brown! She could not have been shown in blue in Erfurt, a city whose wealth came originally from trading in woad. Brown signified her humility.

Beautiful glass

Our mid-morning devotion was held in the Chapter House. Pope Benedict VI met Lutheran church leaders here. As we worshipped we stood on the same tiled floor as Luther before us. It was pointed out to us that it was here in his monastic life that Luther discovered the truth that the love and grace of God are freely given to us and to be lived by us.

The Chapter House

Nearby, a crypt area commemorates the cellar in which 267 people died while trying to shelter from a World War Two bombing raid. Only a small girl and a dog survived. In the corner was a votive stand in front of a Cross of Nails given by Coventry Cathedral.

Nails that are links to Coventry and the cross

A free afternoon provided a chance to visit the Old Synagogue dating from around 1100, and converted into a store room after the pogrom of 1349. It now houses medieval manuscripts and a treasury of remarkable silverware and jewellery, the most memorable being an elaborate early 14th century Jewish wedding ring.

O God,
You pour out your love upon us freely,
help us to meet all the changes and challenges on our life’s pilgrimage
in the strength of your abundant grace,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.