Travel Series: Erfurt, Eisenach, Wartburg

Well we con­tin­ued our Luther tour by vis­it­ing Erfurt, Eisenach and Wartburg.

Erfurt is the town that Martin Luther went to uni­ver­si­ty. He began law, the career his father planned for him, but after being saved from a near death expe­ri­ence, which he attrib­uted to St Anna (the moth­er of Mary the moth­er of Jesus) he swore to give his life to the church. As a result he gave up law, much to his fathers dis­may, and joined an Augustinian monastery.


In Erfurt we were able to vis­it the monastery that Luther lived in. Usually the tours are in German, but we were for­tu­nate enough to arrive at the same time as an American tour group and so we were allowed to join in their English tour of the monastery. It was real­ly inter­est­ing see­ing where the monks would have slept and walked and singing in the small chapel where they would have sung their morn­ing prayers. The life of the monk was very struc­tured (around singing, prayers and med­i­ta­tion with 7 ser­vices every­day) and very iso­lat­ing (could­n’t speak to any­one). It was inter­est­ing to con­sid­er how the piety of the monastery life might have influ­enced Martin Luther’s lat­er work.

In Erfurt we also saw the oth­er very impres­sive cathe­drals and the bridge of shops… lit­er­al­ly a bridge which is made up of shops. It was a love­ly town to stay in with some beau­ti­ful build­ings. There were also a sur­pris­ing­ly high num­ber of tourists around. They also sell real­ly good straw­ber­ries in Erfurt!

We then went on to Eisenach. This was where Luther grew up and we went to the muse­um at the house he was a school­boy at. The house was so small (dimen­sion wise) I don’t know how he did­n’t get claus­tro­pho­bic. There were also some church­es and stat­ues in Eisenach that we got to vis­it along the way.

Just up the hill from Eisenach is the Wartburg Castle. This mag­nif­i­cent cas­tle was the inspi­ra­tion for the Neuschwanstein Castle (which in turn was the inspi­ra­tion for the Disney cas­tle!) It was beau­ti­ful set up on a hill. The guid­ed tour (in German!) took us through the main liv­ing areas of the cas­tle, and par­tic­u­lar­ly focused on the life of Saint Elizabeth who lived there.

At the end of the tour though we got to see the bit we had been wait­ing for, the room that Luther lived in when he was in hid­ing from the Catholic church. This was the very room he trans­lat­ed the New Testament from Greek into German. It was not a par­tic­u­lar­ly impres­sive room, and con­sid­er­ing the grandeur of the rest of the cas­tle, it’s no won­der he would have been depressed at times, but the view was pret­ty awe­some. When read­ing about Luther though, there are a lot of ref­er­ences to his life in exile and the like, it was easy to under­stand how iso­lat­ed he would have felt being at Wartburg, look­ing out over the hills yet not being able to have sat­is­fy­ing con­tact with the out­side world.



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