Today was our last full day of the tour, and we visited the large Martin Lutherhaus and Philipp Melanchthon museum where I was most interested in hearing about the family life of these two giants of the Reformation. Luther was 42 years old when he married Katharina von Bora, an escaped nun who had lived in the convent from the age of six. Their relationship was not romantic when they married, but they fell in love after the wedding and had six children, three boys and three girls. Katie was in charge of the household which included her children, students, and visitors which may have numbered from 40-50 people at dinner every night!
In the Lutherhaus we saw many artifacts, such as the 95 Theses and an indulgence letter (which for a price, could absolve you of your sins, those of your dead relatives, and even future sins you could commit!)
Philipp Melanchthon was a prolific writer, who wrote 90,000 documents. In his house, they had set up a display showing 90,000 sheets of paper to give us some perspective on how much this was. He was truly a workaholic, and apparently didn’t pay much attention to his wife and family. He was practically a vegetarian and traded his meat for barley. Our guide told us that after the first year of marriage, Melanchthon told people his wife didn’t bother him so much anymore! Along with Martin Luther, he is the primary founder of Lutheranism, and was responsible for writing the Augsburg Confession.
In tonight’s closing remarks to our tour group, Dr. Karl Krueger reminded us that it was from this sleepy little town of Wittenberg, only 2000 inhabitants during Martin Luther’s time, the message of the Reformation changed the world. We were having dinner in the Colleg Wittenberg dining room, which has windows to the outside. From being here already three nights, we have learned that the whole town virtually shuts down at 8 pm, with not a creature stirring outside. This is the place where it all happened, and as we retraced the steps of Martin Luther, history came alive for us.
Our trip had started in the big bustling city of Leipzig, home to Bach, where we heard Bach’s music sung in the very church it was conceived. It was there in St. Thomas that Luther preached on Pentecost, 1539. Mendelssohn revived Bach’s music a hundred years later, and we saw the spacious and luxurious home in which he lived. We moved on to Erfurt, where Martin Luther had been a student, then Eisleben where he had been born and died. We also visited Halle, birthplace of Handel, and saw Luther’s death mask. And now we ended where the story began, with the words of Luther gone viral, thanks to the printing press. Along the way, we sang together, prayed together and bonded. We began as strangers, and ended as friends.
Thank you, Dr. Karl Krueger and Dr. Michael Krentz, for a fantastic trip!