Most of the people didn’t know that this was going to happen but on Sunday afternoon, after being in the Cathedral in the morning, I was able to get on a flight from Luton to Munich and finally join them. By then they were in Regensburg. I can’t tell you how wonderful it was to be able to join them after everything that’s we had been through. I had a great welcome when my taxi finally rolled up at the hotel. There was a group having a drink and they were as thrilled to see me as I was thrilled to see them.
So I woke up on Day Eight ready to spend a great day with everybody. To be honest most of the Luther visits had been done. So we were to spend the day in the area of the city where we were staying. After breakfast we went a short drive into the city itself and to what since the beginning of the 19th century has been the palace of the noble family of Von Thurn und Taxis. They were an entrepreneurial family who had set up a European postal system which was then taken over by the state. In compensation they got what had been a Benedictine Abbey which had been dissolved. It was a good property to get – 500 rooms, a nice cloister, a good place to raise a family and make a name for yourself. The family made it palatial and I mean palatial and it remains their private home to this day.
We were told all about the family itself. They weren’t originally German but Italian. They were the Taxis family, a name which means Badger. As they rose through the ranks they needed a better name and a better story. So they found another local family and a connection to them, whose name was ‘Tower’ and, ending up in Bavaria, they became the ‘Thurn und Taxis’, the ‘Tower and Badger’ family. It would make a fascinating edition of the BBC programme ‘Who do you think you are?’ Around the palace were wonderful tapestries hanging on the walls doing just that thing – telling the visitor who the ‘Tower and Badgers’ thought they were! In one they were in the foreground of a battle as though they were the victors yet in fact they had lost it. But history is always told by the ultimate victors and as it suits them.
That theme was followed up in the afternoon when, after a short cruise down the Danube, we arrived at Walhalla. This replica of a Greek Temple built on a promontory over the river by King Ludwig I is a wonderful sight. Inside its walls are full of plaques and busts of all the famous Germans – well the ones who made it into the room! So there is Goethe and Einstein, Hildegard and Mozart. We found the bust of Luther, very recognisable and Edith Stein. By the door is Sophie Scholl who at 22 was executed for non-violent resistance to the Nazis.
‘My longing for truth was a single prayer’.
The whole concept in Walhalla was to create a national story. It was the same for the family with their palace and exotic name. The story around Luther is one that the pilgrims have been learning – much of it true but much of it not. We create the story we need and hope that truth survives the process. Or maybe we don’t, maybe the story for some is more important than the truth. Edith’s prayer has to be ours as we long for truth whether that be in church, society or politics. We know how dangerous the national story can be and Sophie’s image next to the door of Walhalla is a poignant reminder of that.
Lord Jesus, may you be part of my story and may I be part of yours. Amen.