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.

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