Christian Travelers Guides

Christian Travelers Guides

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Magdeburg continued - second blog

The Siege of Magdeburg 1631

The effect of this act and the propaganda that accompanied it was that Protestant kings, princes, independent cities, and even French Catholics rallied to aid Gustavus’s army, preventing the conquest of northern Europe by the Imperial forces of Austria and Spain. 

Following the end of the Thirty Years’ War, Magdeburg was slowly rebuilt. The physicist Otto von Guericke (1602 – 86), whose experiments proved the existence of a vacuum, was one of the survivors of the siege and eventually became the mayor.
Almost a century later, the composer George Philipp Telemann (1681 – 1767) lived and worked in Magdeburg. Over half of the city, including the old town, was destroyed by Allied bombing on the night of January 16, 1945. Today many fine Baroque and other buildings are slowly being restored to create what promises to be a very beautiful city.
Places to Visit
Weinkeller Buttergasse (Wine Cellar Butter Alley) is a unique example of 13th-century architecture that was discovered in 1947 when workmen were clearing away rubble created by Allied bombing. Today it is a restaurant that attempts to recreate a medieval atmosphere.
Johanniskirche (St. John’s Church), Jakobstrasse, overlooking the river, is a haunting ruin which is being restored as a memorial to war and a reminder of its destructive power. In many ways this church typifies the pathos of Magde­burg’s tragic history.

Kulturhistorisches Museum (Museum of History and Culture), Otto von Guericke Strasse 68 – 73, is an impressive neo-Renaissance type of building designed in 1906 by an Austrian architect Friedrich Ohmann. Inside the vestibule one finds the original magnificent Magdeburger Rider (1240) which, like the Bamberg Rider, is one of the earliest equestrian statues produced in Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The ground floor of the museum is devoted to the work of Otto von Guericke and provides fascinating insights into the rise of modern science.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Why no recent postings?

Visiting a Blog that has not been updated for almost a year can be discouraging. And this Blog falls into that category. The reason is quite simple: a series of family illnesses. Now, I hope, things are getting better and I can return to blogging.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Magdeburg where Luther began high school

Magdeburg is not high on most ­people’s list of places to visit in Ger­many. The town was extensively damaged by wartime bombing and is only slowly recovering from 40 years of Communist neglect. Never­the­less, anyone interested in German history or the Reformation has to visit this historic city.

Magdeburg in 1572
 Originally a trading center, Magdeburg is first mentioned in 805. Later the town became the site of a famous Benedictine monastery built by Emperor Otto I, the Great (912 – 73) in 937. It was elevated to an archbishopric in 968 and played an important role as a center for evangelism in Eastern Europe.

As a powerful and rich member of the Hanseatic League, which was a confederation of free trading cities, the city prospered. Its people welcomed the Reformation as early as 1524.

General Johann Tserclaes Count Tilly (1559-1632)

Almost a century later, Imperial Catholic armies under General Johann Tserclaes Tilly (1559-1632) stormed the city on May 20, 1631, after a six-month siege. At the time of the attack, the defenders were engaged in discussions about a possible surrender. They were taken by surprise and quickly overwhelmed after a fierce battle that lasted a few hours. The city fell, and Tilly retired to the cathedral to say Mass as his troops went on the rampage. A fire started and within hours destroyed the entire city, except for the cathedral and one other church. Over 30,000 people perished in the carnage and the fire.

News about the fate of Protestant Magdeburg was seized upon by the Swedish King  Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632) and Protestant propagandists as an example of “Catholic barbarity” and quickly spread throughout Europe. Thus, the destruction of Magdeburg became the 17th-century equivalent of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan and the fate of the Jews in Auschwitz
To be continued …
Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Mansfeld – Where Luther Grew Up

About ten miles north-west of Eisleben is the small town of Mansfeld which is  where Martin Luther grew up. His parents moved from Eisleben to Mansfeld when he was six months old. As a result he received all of his earl education in the town before moving away to study first in Magdeburg and later in Eisenach.

Mansfled was founded in the late tenth century and is mentioned in records dating back to 973 when it was paird with the town of Leimbach. A dispute settled by Emperor Otto II between the Archbishop of Magdeburg and the Archbishop of Fulda gave the area to Magedeburg.

In 1229 the town became the residence of the Dukes of Mansfeld after the area became important dues to rich copper deposits in the area. In 1884 Hans Luder, who changed his name to Luther, moved to Mansfeld with his family. There he prospered as a result of his business dealings in the copper smelting business.

The residence of the Dukes of Mansfeld
Later Martin Luther liked to say that he was of peasant stock and that his father was a miner. This was technically correct and no doubt the way the family talked about things. But, in reality his father rose well above the position of a miner to enter the growing middle class.

When the Luthers first left Eisleben it was approximately a three hour walk to reach Mansfelf. Today it takes about fifteen minutes by car. 

The town is overlooked by the ruins of the residences of the Dukes one of which is a dilapidated youth center. Currently it is undergoing renovation and promises to be an interesting place.

The family home of the Luther family where Martin Luther grew up

 In the town itself one can visit the family home of Luther as well as his old school. Both are clearly marked. There is also a fascinating fountain with a statue of the young Luther. 

The Luther fountain near his old school and the local church he attended

Saturday, March 31, 2012

The churches of Eisleben

Close to the house where Luther died is the parish Church of St. Andrew (Marktkirche St. Andreas) where Luther frequently preached when he visited the town. In fact, his last four sermons were preached here shortly before his death. This late Gothic hall church dominates the market square with its twin bell towers.

Originally built in the early middle ages as a Romanesque structure the church was renovated in the fifteenth century following a fire that almost completely destroyed the original building. The church was rebuilt to create a relatively rare triple-naved hall church. Inside this dimly lit building are a number of impressive tombs and an richly carved altar. It also contains busts of both Luther and his close associate Philipp Melancthon (1497-1560).

Statue of Luther with St. Andrew's Church in the background.
 Today the church is in dire need of renovation due to years of neglect during the communist era of the German Democratic Republic. Once these renovations, which are due to begin soon, are completed it will be a truly magnificent building rich in history.

A short walk down the hill from the market square leads to the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul which stands a few hundred yards from Luther’s birthplace. It is here that on St. Martin’s Day, 11 November 1483, the baby boy who grew up to become Martin Luther was baptized.

The church was first mentioned in local records in 1333. It is a three-aisled church which was extensively renovated in 1486. Today, once more, it is undergoing large scale renovations in preparation for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Inside the church the visitor can see its impressive fan vault and the actual font which it is believed was used in Luther’s baptism. For years it was thought that the font was lost, but it was unearthed in a local garden in 1726. The inscription on commemorating Luther was added in the 18th century.

The Church of St. Peter and St. Paul as seen
when approached from Luther's birthplace.
A winged altar dates from the late 15th century while the main altar was added around 1500. It was dedicated to St. Anne the patron saint of miners. Significantly, when caught in a terrible thunder storm at Strotternheim, near Erfurt, the young Luther, who by that time was a university student, called upon St. Anne to save him. Shortly after surviving the storm, Luther entered a monastery to become a monk.

Before leaving Eisleben it is also worth visiting the Local History, or Heimat, Museum, located at Andreaskircheplatz 7. It has an interesting collection of mining tools from Luther’s time and provides a background to the life of Luther and his family.

The winged altar in the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul