Day Six

Today’s correspondent from the pilgrimage in Germany is Alison.

A day of sunshine, and dazzling culture, first by coach to Wittenberg and Luther’s house – initially an Augustinian monastery and then a home for Luther and his wife Katherine. Their marriage had a pragmatic beginning. She was one of twelve ex-nuns needing homes and husbands – there was no such thing as an unattached single woman of good character in the Middle Ages. She would only marry Luther, so when she was 26 and he was 42 they were wed. Six children later, 3 boys and 3 girls, Luther was writing to her as “my dear Lord and Master, Katie”. When he died aged 56 his friend and colleague Melaucthan became her legal guardian. Katherine was a good manager and business woman who made her family well off.

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Luther’s house is also the home to the largest Reformation Museum. It was in this house preparing his lecture on Romans that Luther formulated his key doctrine of “Justification by Faith alone.”

In the museum there is an actual Indulgence Chest for collecting the money from the sale of Indulgences (letters granting time off in Purgatory guaranteed by the Pope). The chest was recently restored and when opened contained over €600 – so people still think they can buy Indulgences!

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Around the family table, friends and students gathered with Luther to talk and discuss – and six volumes of the table talks were produced!

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The museum repays multiple visits.

Wittenberg is home to a famous University. Shakespeare’s Hamlet studied here and Marlowe’s Dr Faustus lived here. The painter and apothecary Cranach painted over 5,000 paintings here of which 1,000 remain as bright as they were on the first day. He made his own paints and had a secret recipe.

St Mary’s, the town church, also known as Luther’s Preaching Church – where he preached 1,700 sermons – is at the end of the main street. Luther said “One can preach over everything but not over 20 minutes!” Some of his colleagues preached over two hours.

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The town was full for the annual re-enactment celebration of Martin and Katherine Luther’s wedding – providing a kaleidoscope of music, marching, craft stalls (with delicious street food).

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We finished our visit by Luther’s grave in the Castle (University) Church – where the famous 95 Theses were supposed to have been nailed to the door. Though both church and wooden door have been renewed since.

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Then by coach to the cultural hub of Leipzig – home to J S Bach for 27 years as Cantor at St Thomas’ Church. Leipzig is also the birth place of Wagner, home to Felix Mendelssohn and Schiller (who wrote Ode to Joy here), Mahler, Grieg and Schumann and also still home to one of the world’s best orchestras!

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