Church History

The Reformation at 500: Luther’s Escape to the Wartburg

Wartburg Castle

Read Part 1 and Part 2.

We visited Eisenach and the Wartburg Castle on the Sunday of our 500th anniversary Reformation trip.

The day was gloriously dark and dreary. Fortunately, we felt only a few raindrops. But it was an absolutely perfect day for a ride through the Thuringian Forest.

A young Martin Luther spent several of his most formative years less than three miles from the Wartburg Castle—in Eisenach, where the Cotta family hosted him as a schoolboy preparing to go to the University of Erfurt. We also traced the history of Johann Sebastian Bach that day, and our enthusiastic tour guide—a California transplant—told us excitedly how Eisenach became the source of Western civilization. He seemed to be familiar with every crack in the sidewalk of that city.

The Wartburg Castle is majestically awkward. Consider this fact: It had already been there for nearly 500 years by Luther’s time! The sprawling castle bears evidence of continuous construction, and one can only wonder how many sacrificed their lives in the process of building and maintaining it. The sights from the grounds around the castle, as well as within it, are too magnificent to describe. One can see the majesty of creation looking down from the castle grounds, and the depth of history that this site generates is almost palpable.

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The Reformation at 500: Luther’s Stand at Worms

Read Part 1.

One of the most fascinating sights that we saw on our 500th-anniversary Reformation tour was the Luther Monument—sometimes called the Reformation Monument—which is located across the street from the park where Dr. Martin Luther’s famous stand before the Diet of Worms is memorialized.

In fact, this set of bronze sculptures is described as “the world’s largest monument to the Reformation.”1 Here Luther still takes his stand, proudly holding his German Bible at the very center of the monument, enveloped in the words of his famous hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”2 He stands among his colleagues and others who paved the way for his work of Reformation. Looking at these figures, it is almost as if each one “being dead still speaks” (Heb. 11:4)3.

Beneath his feet—as his foundation, as it were—is this famous quote: “Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders, Gott helfe mir: Amen!”

The drama that brought Luther to Worms on April 16, 1521, began officially on June 15 of the previous year, when Pope Leo X promulgated a papal bull against Luther that was titled Exsurge Domine, based on Ps. 74:22, in which he charged Luther with 41 false teachings.

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“Historical knowledge and consciousness are indispensable to the health of the church”

"First, historical knowledge, even if justifiable by its practical uses, is not an end in itself. ...Such disciplines provide needed clarity and direction, and as the companions of the pilgrim save him from much needless wandering. But the pilgrim is not meant only to achieve clarity and a good sense of direction. The pilgrim is meant to attain the fatherland. Second, not just any historical knowledge is worth having." - Conciliar Post

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The Reformation at 500: Luther’s Journey to Worms

St. Peter's Cathedral in Worms, before 1901

It was a warm, sunny autumn Wednesday afternoon when our bus rolled into Worms, Germany—the second-to-last stop on the final day of touring on our 500th anniversary Reformation trip.

The town was decorated almost as if Luther himself were returning.

At the side of the road, we saw signs that read “Solus Christus,” “Sola Gratia,” “Sola Fide” and “Sola Scriptura”—like the placards that city residents might post to salute a winning sports team.

I wish that we had had more time in Worms, although there is not much left to see with regard to the place where Luther stood 500 years ago this month and—in the face of absolute power combined with demonic evil—declared his fidelity and commitment to the Word of God alone.

The Bishop’s Palace, where Holy Roman Emperor Charles V presided over the Diet of Worms, has been gone for more than 300 years. The spot where Luther is believed to have stood is now part of a sizeable park, and it is commemorated by a large pair of bronze shoes. There is a painting of the palace where Luther faced his accusers, along with some other historical markers.

Luther had preached his way through central Germany over the course of two weeks to get to Worms, and the thronging crowds cheered him exuberantly when he arrived. Humanly speaking, the fact that he had the people on his side was one of the factors that saved him.

His friends had cautioned him against going, fearing that he would be the next Jan Hus. The life stories of Luther and Hus are, in fact, intertwined at several key points.

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Patrick of Ireland: The Scripture-Saturated Life

By M.R. Conrad. Reposted from Rooted Thinking.

We’ve all heard of Patrick of Ireland. He lived in the fifth century, wore a halo, and liked picking clovers—the three-leaf kind (four leaf clovers would be heretical). People, the world over, remember him every March 17 by drinking beer and imagining leprechauns afterward. Rainbows and pots of gold could also be involved. The stereotypes get all muddled together. Maybe Patrick was a halo-wearing, beer-drinking leprechaun. Was there even a real Patrick? Do we even know who he was? Well yes, we do. Patrick was a scripture-saturated Celtic Christian who left behind a few writings that give us a glimpse at his work and testimony for Christ.

Who Was Patrick?

Long before the Roman Catholic Church took its current form or even started sainting people, Patrick followed Scripture.1 After being kidnapped as a teenager from his well-to-do family in Britain, he served as a slave in Ireland. There, remembering the gospel he had heard as a child, Patrick was “reborn in God,” his way of describing the biblical teaching of being born again (John 3:3). After a daring escape from his captors, the young man returned to Britain, studied God’s Word, and then answered God’s call to return to the land of his captivity. Patrick recounted this testimony in The Confession of Patrick, showing us today what kind of Christian and missionary he was.

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What We Need to Learn from the Second-Century Apologists

"The apologists affirmed: Christians are model citizens, respectful to Roman authorities, do good, and are not a threat to the empire. Within living memory of the apostles, these Christians learned well the deposit of apostolic teaching: we are, for example, 'to show perfect courtesy toward all people' (Titus 3:2) and to 'Honor the emperor' (1 Pet 2:17)." - Wyatt Graham

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