Sunday, April 30, 2017

Worms, 11 Feb 2017

  A small piece of the old city wall of Worms
It was a cold, dreary day in Worms February 11. Worms is on the Rhine River south of Frankfurt. It was an imperial city in 1521 when Martin Luther was summoned to appear before the Roman Catholic emperor of the Holy Roman Empire to answer for his position on reforming the church. We arranged for a walking tour of part of the old city with a focus on the history of Luther.

This year is the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation. In 1517, Luther wrote a list of 95 theses and sent them in a letter to the Bishop of Mainz. Luther was a theologian and most agree that he did not originally intend to confront the church but set forth his theses as a start to a theological discussion. He was particularly opposed to the sale of indulgences (a practice of the Catholic church at the time to "forgive sins" based on the payment of money). According to one account, Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of All Saints' Church in Wittenberg on 31 October 1517. There is no historical evidence for this event, but it has been largely accepted as history anyway. What is certainly true is that Luther's opposition to these church practices and teachings lead to conflict with the church in Rome. The conflict escalated until Pope Leo X excommunicated Luther in January, 1521. Luther was then summoned to an imperial council or Diet in Worms and was tried over several months from January to May of that year.

Portrait of Luther in 1529 by Lucas Cranach

During the trial, he was invited to answer whether the stood behind the things he had written. He asked for the opportunity to pray about his answer. The next day he returned and said, "Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen." Emperor Charles V branded Luther an outlaw, banned his writings, and gave anyone in the empire permission to kill Luther without penalty. It's all fascinating history.

Our guide was a pleasant older woman who clearly loves Worms and loves this religious history. We were intrigued by it all, too.

Before the tour, we visited a museum built in two towers of the old city wall. The museum was devoted to the Niebelungen, a German legend that has enormous historical and political significance in Germany. Janet was in literary heaven and enjoyed it all.

We also squeezed in lunch at a Chinese buffet. It was nice to have a break from schnitzel and sausage.

One of the city wall towers now serving as a museum

This portal in the old wall leads out into a park (at our backs) that contains a burial mound

The museum had some interesting art work that was supposed to be related to the Niebelungen story
Photo of Worms in 1945. Most German cities sustained this kind of damage. What they have accomplished in rebuilding is amazing.

Climbing the tower to learn about the legend
The Worms "cathedral" now just a parish church

Patrons of the church immortalized in stone

The windows in the western choir are huge and colorful

Crypts for nobles

Posted to identify the remains in the crypt under the main altar

There are nine of these stone coffins in the crypt

Model of the cathedral complex as it looked in the time when Luther was tried

One of the stone carvings removed from the exterior and moved inside the church to protect it from the weather.

Eastern choir and main altar. 

We can't recall who this represents

Classic altar piece in a side chapel

We haven't seen much of this kind of decoration on the vaulted ceilings of churches

These stone carvings were amazing. This one was an "epitaph" for Eberhard von Heppenheim who died in 1559

A relief depicting the stem of Jesse growing out of the root of Jesse. Descendants of Jesse down to Jesus Christ are shown in the branches of the tree.

The resurrection of Christ (carved in 1488)

The burial of Christ. The photos don't do justice to the incredible, detailed stone carving

The birth of Christ

Detail of Mary from the carving shown above

The appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary to announce her role as the future mother of the Savior

Central nave

Window from the Nicholaus chapel 

The chapel windows are modern, but the chapel was added to the cathedral between 1280 and 1315

We enjoyed the bit of whimsy - a blue dragon with the cathedral towers in the background

Why a blue dragon we asked? No answer.
We walked into the garden behind the cathedral and found a small marker to commemorate Luther's trial - it is, after all, a catholic church, so we didn't expect to see something there to mark the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation.
The only sign on the church grounds that something significant happened

In the park behind the church where the Luther marker is in the dirt.
The world's largest monument to the Reformation is about a block away. The light was fading when we got there, so we didn't get good pictures of it. The central figure in the monument is a heroic statue of Martin Luther, but there are depictions of other reformers like Luther's predecessors Jan Hus (burned at the stake), John Wycliff, and Peter Waldo, along with others who followed Luther like Calvin and Zwingli. Because the Reformation was prelude to a full restoration by the Prophet Joseph Smith, we enjoyed the day and learned a lot. We shared information with our tour guide and invited her to learn more about the restored gospel.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Burg Münzenberg and Butzbach, 29 April 2017

Burg Münzenberg in Wetteraukreis
We visited the castle ruin at Münzenberg about 30 miles north of Frankfurt in a spectacular area of hilly land that has been in agricultural production since the days of the Roman occupation. The castle is unique because it has two keep towers. It was partially destroyed during the 30-years war (1618-1648) and was never rebuilt. It is on a high hill overlooking beautiful green farmland. Elder Mumm counted more than 20 villages in the surrounding landscape. The fields that are planted now are deep green or bright yellow (rapeseed in full bloom - the seeds that are harvested after the blooms are crushed to collect vegetable oil, Canola oil in the U.S. I imagine "rapeseed oil" wouldn't be the best marketing name).
Walking up the steep path to the castle ruin

Elder Snapp explaining construction techniques or something technical

View from one of the castle openings

Western keep

This was a high status place before the 30-years War. Construction started in the 12th century.

What remains is fairly grand in scale

Looking back toward the entrance

Stone walls were incredibly thick

Walking the narrow path atop the wall of the inner courtyard

Check out those yellow fields

Looking toward the outer curtain wall

Another look at the landscape

The eastern tower from below the castle ruin

Headed toward an old gate in the outer curtain wall

Reading inscriptions from the late 1700s carved in the stone blocks

What a view
Could have soaked in the view all day -- except it was cold and windy on top of the tower

Our second spring, and we are amazed at the quantity of Raps being grown

The village just below the castle

Multiple walls with defensive towers protected the inner palace and courts

Great picture from the top of the eastern tower looking west

I'll meet you at the crossroads

Houses and farms all perfectly neat

Why is there one tree in the middle of the plowed field?

Look closely at the church steeple. The tower that rises above the clocks was built by some inebriated workmen?
A more complete look at the village church
Elder and Sister Kay, Sister and Elder Snapp, Janet, Sister and Elder Mumm

Elder Kay took this one. Janet pulled her hood off for a picture.
Happy accident. After missing the footpath turn back to the cars, we found this magnificent horse in an orchard.
He came right to the gate when Elder Mumm whistled

"That's right, Wilbur."

A new friend
Butzbach is just 6 miles west of Münzenberg, so we drove there to see the old city and have some lunch. Butzbach was home to a U.S. military garrison after WWII until 1991 when the castle they were using as headquarters and the military barracks were turned over the city of Butzbach. The castle is now used as an administrative district office. The market place was surrounded by 16th and 17th century fachwerk (timbered) houses. We had a great lunch together in a nice Italian restaurant called La Piazza. The food was delicious and the company fun. They had a party upstairs with 40 people, so the service was a little slow, but they brought us some fresh bread and olives to tide us over and by way of apology.
The Marktplatz in the middle of the old city of Butzbach
The town hall dates back to 1630. Many buildings in the town originated in the 1400s.
The building leans a little to the left

We decided we would like a buildout if we had a multi-story house
Quaint doesn't begin to describe the town

"Goethe was here" is akin to saying "George Washington slept here"

The town was quiet - this is a holiday weekend, and we imagine Monday, May 1 (their Labor Day) will be busy

This old half-timber house needs a little reno

Row of buildings on the Marktplatz

Carved and painted wooden panels on the building front

No one has wood carving just for decoration on a building at home

The fountain in the Marktplatz was still sporting Easter eggs

A German tour group passed by as we were studying the crooked building across the street

This is a door in a sad state on what used to be the city's salt warehouse. Salt was like gold and even used as a sort of currency during the middle ages.

The clock face on the town hall is ornate

This 14th century chapel is now museum storage

The Protestant church in town has been through multiple building phases

Janet just loves doors

The stained glass depicts the woman wiping the Savior's feet with her hair and preparing to anoint them with oil. Pharisees look on reprovingly knowing this woman to be a sinner (Luke 7)

These ancient buildings are all over town and are still used as shops and apartments

This is an interesting door in an building that was a home to a baker, a copper smith, a button maker, and a small shop keeper.

The best missionary companion in Germany

Yes, the sky really was that blue today.