Saturday, 21 May 2011


The Erfurt Gang

Today was a very pleasant and relaxed day. We even got to sleep in a little bit, AND despite the students' grieving over the fact that the Mainzerhof Hotel Breakfast Extravaganza was a thing of the past, this hotel - The Radisson BLU - actually upped the ante! We had originally planned to spend the night at a hotel in Eisenach, but they ended up not having enough room for us, so the travel agent switched us to this 4-star hotel free of charge... one reason we keep using our favorite travel agent.
Just a little sample of breakfast

We came to Erfurt to tour the Augustinian Monastery where Luther lived from 1505 to 1511. It is now used as a non-profit ecumenical center, but was, like Luther, Catholic in origin. Erfurt is one of the few cities in Europe during the Reformation where both Catholics and Protestants got along and coexisted peacefully. During his time there, Luther was ordained a priest in the Cathedral of Erfurt, which is a little ways away from the monastery, and gave his first mass at the church on May 2, 1507. It was hard to conceive that we were walking on the same ground where Luther began his work that brought about the religion we've always known to exist. The tour was rather humorous as we knew only a little German, while the guide knew even less English. Thankfully, there were two men in our group that knew enough of both languages to get us through with at least some understanding.

WWII memorial in the monastery basement, and the 2008 Nagel Kreuz, or Coventry Cross of Nails

While the monastery is well known primarily because of Luther, the monastery also serves as a memorial to the terrors of World War Two. The library was destroyed by Allied bombing on February 25, 1945, killing 267 people that were using it as a bomb shelter -- leaving only one survivor. This was but one of the 14 times Erfurt was bombed by the allies during World War II, but the February 25 attack was the one that destroyed 74% of the medieval city center and killed 8,800 civilians -- over 20% of the town's population.

Coventry Litany of Reconciliation

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,
Father, forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father, forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Father, forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Father, forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,
Father, forgive.

The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
Father, forgive.

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God,
Father, forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Building connected to the monastery, one of Erfurt's oldest surviving structures

In the afternoon we walked around downtown Erfurt, a very quaint, picture-perfect European town. For dinner, we ate at Christoffel, a medieval-themed restaurant with a rich history. The atmosphere was lots of fun as we feasted on lots of meat and dumplings, clapped along to live music, and rose our mugs to good health many a time just to have an excuse to make a lot of noise. After we were all done eating, our large group split into many small groups, and each went their separate ways. One group coincidentally stumbled upon the before mentioned Cathedral of Erfurt, also known as St. Mary's Cathedral, and got there right in time to attend the Taizé service. (A Taizé service is one in which Catholics and Protestants of all denominations come together and worship through moments of prolonged silence, scripture readings, and song.) While they said the service was unique and awesome in of itself, they were blown away by the church itself. They thought its grandeur and beauty was comparable to even that of the Wartburg Castle, if not even greater. It was so large and massive, yet its gothic architecture gave it a complex simplicity that was literally breath-taking. After a whole day in Erfurt, few of the students are anxious to leave this little city as we head off to Berlin tomorrow.
St. Mary's Cathedral

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