Wittenberg Town Square

Wittenberg Town Square

July 22, 2016
We are staying at the Colleg Wittenberg – a spot for travelers and students to stay. There are private rooms and baths, a community dining room and meeting room, and a courtyard where we gather each night for reflections.
Today began with a visit from an old friend of Epiphany Lutheran Church – Pastor Hans Kasch. Hans served the Lutheran Church in Pritzier. Hans and Pastor Larry Hoffsis began a relationship 31 years ago when Larry came with several other pastors from the US to East Germany to establish relationships. Hans said a member of his congregation felt it was like a window being opened and fresh air pouring in.

Hans currently works with Lutheran World Federation in providing a place at the college for people to study and learn from the Lutheran Reformation.  From the web site of the LWF in Wittenberg: 

“The Lutheran World Federation considers it important to have a local representative during the process of planning and preparing for the big anniversary in 2017. The aim is to involve the member churches of the LWF in the preparations so that the significance of this event can be perceived and celebrated world-wide. “The Reformation Jubilee in 2017 should not merely be a reminder of an important past. It must remind us of God’s future for the world,” according to the general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, the Chilean pastor Martin Junge.  With reference to 2017, Junge underlined that the Reformation started in Germany but now belongs to the whole world. “When we look back on 500 years of Reformation, we should do more than just mention its global significance. Churches from all over the world must participate in the joint reflection and celebration. They must challenge one another’s theological reflection and practical action.””

When considering what to do to mark the 500th anniversary, the question asked is what can be done to commemorate this event. There are thousands of statues everywhere, and another statue seemed to not fit the mold of what the LWF is trying to accomplish. Instead, a garden was planned. It is based on the quote attributed to Luther, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”

So a Luthergarten was designed to include 500 trees in Wittenberg. Churches of all denominations from around the world are invited to come and plant a tree here. From many countries and continents, groups have come to plant a tree. These are 10-15 year old trees and are a variety of types. Epiphany has a tree there, a Hawthorne tree, that adds to the community of this forest to be. A tree is also planted near the entrance of Epiphany Lutheran Church as a connection to this garden.

You can see more and learn more about the garden at http://www.luthergarten.de/40376.html  Click on the British flag to read and hear in English.

In the center of the garden is a large depiction of Luther’s Rose. Here is a panoramic view of that space.



From the garden we walked to the Castle Church, where Luther nailed the 95 theses to the door on October 31, 1517. The following day, All Saints Day, was a day for theological debates, and it was common practice to write up your arguments, or theses, beforehand to let others know the topics for debate. There is a bronze version of these theses, written in Latin, that now make up that door.

This church was the church of Frederick the Wise, an elected prince who helped Luther in the early days of the reformation. It was here professors were installed and preached. The church was destroyed and rebuilt in 1892. There are over 300 coats of arms on the church – you would sit based on your family coat. Both Luther and Philip Melanchthon are buried in this church.

We walked through the city streets past the Town Hall to the Town Church. The town flourished in Luther’s day as his popularity grew. 100,000 copies of the New Testament translated by Luther in to German were printed and sold. The income to the town paid for plumbing and portions flowing to all parts of town.
The Town Church became the first Protestant church. Here is where the service was changed from Latin to German. Here is where both elements of communion were offered to all people. Here is where the people were encouraged to participate by singing the hymns in the service.
Wittenberg Door

Wittenberg Door

Beautiful paintings above and behind the altar are incredible by Lucas Cranach. Each painting is a class or sermon in itself. I will get copies of them to bring home. Very powerful images full of stories.

We then toured the university area of town where Luther taught. Luther was a big draw – over 800 students filled the school. This influx was good for the economy – Frederick the Wise was going to do whatever he could to support him. 

Inside the City Church

Inside the City Church

 Incredible Altar in City Church in Wittenberg

Incredible Altar in City Church in Wittenberg

The first house we toured was that of Philip Melanchthon – the author of the Augsburg Confession and many other documents important in the formation of the Lutheran Church. When he was installed as a professor at the school, because of his small demeanor – he was laughed at. But his speech on the reformation of the School System is the basis of the German schools today. In his home with students, they would have poem writing competitions. The winner was lauded as the poet laureate.  Others would have to write poems in honor of that person.

Next door is the former monastery, no longer needed when, with the Reformation priests could marry. So Luther moved in, as did his wife, Katie. Katie was raised In a nunnery from the age of six, and grew up there and became a part of the convent. After the Reformation, twelve of those in her nunnery were snuck out in fish vats.

She and Luther married and had six children. She was the one who ran the house, kept the books and brewed the beer – about 1500 gallons a year! They became the largest brewery and livestock owner in town. They had several students who would come and talk around the table about all matters of life and faith, and Katie was often a part of the conversation. 

Walking through Wittenberg

Walking through Wittenberg

In the Luther home, that meeting room had been preserved as it was in Luther’s day. – the walls, table and stove snd chairs all date back to 500 years ago.

It is so exciting for me to be here in this place. The stories I have learned and taught for over 25 years have come alive and taken on a deeper meaning.

We ended the day with some shopping and gelato and a time of sharing as a group. A great trip for everyone.



2 Responses to “Wittenberg”

  1. Larry Allen Hoffsis says:

    Hi Charlie and Lisa:
    We are hanging on every word and able to “picture” you in every site. Thank you so much for the blog. We’re sensing that this is more than a vacation trip; it is an emotional and spiritual learning experience.
    Please greet Silvio, Christian and other acquaintances in WB for us, especially Hans Kasch.
    BTW he was pastor of Pritzier…Hansherbert Lange was in Dabel when I first met them. Blessings for all of you as you proceed in the footsteps of Luther.
    Larry and Cindy

  2. Bill Raridan says:

    Thanks Charlie for this blog. Reading your descriptions and seeing the pictures is an emotional experience for me.
    Thank you so much!
    Bill and Carol

Leave a Reply