The Reformation is, of course, inextricably linked with key Luther towns such as Eisleben and Wittenberg. Yet the success of the Reformation would be inconceivable without the many journeys Luther made to other parts of Germany. Luther was always willing to face his opponents. This scenic route from Frankfurt to Berlin retraces some of his journeys and promises many wonderful discoveries along the way.
Frankfurt, whose cathedral was for centuries the coronation church of the German emperors, is the starting point for this tour towards the south-west.
In Worms, one of the oldest cities in Germany, Luther defended his 95 theses before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in April 1521. Worms is also home to the world’s largest Reformation memorial. Between 1526 and 1529, important imperial diets convened in Speyer, a city which is also known for its cathedral – the largest Romanesque church in the world. In Heidelberg, famous for its castle, Luther preached his first sermon after publishing his theses.
Our route then takes us to the Bavarian city of Augsburg. Luther stayed at the Carmelite abbey here when he defended his theses for the first time before the feared cardinal Cajetan in 1518. The excommunication of Martin Luther was reiterated in Nuremberg in 1524, yet only a short time later Nuremberg became the first free imperial city to introduce the Reformation – an early triumph for Luther. In 1530 Luther lived for a few months in Coburg. His living quarters and the other sites associated with him can be visited today. Back in Thuringia, our route takes us to the pretty mediaeval town of Schmalkalden, where the ‘Schmalkaldic League’, an important alliance of Protestant princes, was founded in 1531. Eisenach and Wartburg Castle are well known for their associations with Luther, as are Erfurt and Weimar. Points of interest in Weimar include the former Franciscan abbey, Cranach altar and Weimar palace, where Cranach’s famous portrait of Luther has pride of place. Via the market church in Halle (Saale), where Luther’s death mask and a cast of his hands are on display, our route takes us to Lutherstadt Wittenberg before ending in Berlin.
The Middle Ages were passé; a new age had dawned, and intellectually not one stone was left upon another. The upheavals of the early modern period altered peoples’ perceptions of the world — theologically, geographically, scientifically and artistically. The extent of these upheavals can be seen at the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg, in the superb exhibition “Luther, Columbus and the Consequences: A Change of World View in the 16th Century” from 13 July until 12 November 2017.
Distance: around 1,200 km
Starting point: Frankfurt
Waypoints: Frankfurt, Worms, Speyer, Heidelberg, Augsburg, Spalt, Nuremberg, Coburg, Schmalkalden, Eisenach, Erfurt, Weimar, Halle, Wittenberg, Berlin
Airports: Frankfurt, Nuremberg, Erfurt-Weimar, Berlin, Leipzig-Halle, Dresden, Munich
ICE train stations: Frankfurt, Worms, Heidelberg, Augsburg, Nuremberg, Eisenach, Erfurt, Weimar, Halle (Saale), Wittenberg, Berlin