The Reformation didn’t happen overnight. Ideas on the Reformation existed long before Luther. The emergence of European humanism created a breeding ground in which new and often radical ideas developed. That's why it is well worth looking beyond Germany’s borders to France or Switzerland, for example. Cities such as Strasbourg and Zurich were once centres for book printing – and they played their part in the proliferation of Luther’s ideas.
Frankfurt, located right in the heart of Germany and quick and easy to get to from anywhere in the country, is an excellent starting point for this route as well.
The first stop is Worms, one of Germany’s oldest cities, made famous by the Nibelung saga and home to the largest Reformation memorial in the world. A little further south, in Heidelberg, Luther presented his first theological discourse outside of Wittenberg after nailing up his theses: on 26 April 1518 he led the Heidelberg Disputation, mounting another defence of his theses. In nearby Strasbourg, Martin Bucer, a reformer from Alsace, was also working to further the cause of the Reformation, acting as a constant mediator between different Protestant movements, and Protestant priest Matthäus Zell began holding sermons at Strasbourg Cathedral in 1521.
From 1514 onwards the great humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam lived and taught in Basel, which had joined the Swiss Federation only a short time earlier, and in 1519 Ulrich Zwingli became a preacher and pastor at the Great Minster in Zurich. Back in Germany, the breathtakingly beautiful region in and around Constance is steeped in history. The same can be said of Augsburg, where the Carmelite abbey, Luther’s home for a time, was the starting point of the Reformation. Even though the Reformation did not make much of a mark in Munich, this vibrant Bavarian city will certainly have lots to offer for those interested in Luther and his teachings.
The Hus Museum in Constance documents the life and times of Jan Hus, who is greatly esteemed to this day as an advocate for freedom of conscience. Hus came to the city in 1417 to present his pre-Reformation theses at the Council of Constance, which sought to end the papal schism. This turned out to be a grave error, for he was burned at the stake for heresy. That didn’t stop the Church from electing a new pope, however: the papal election of 1417 is thought to be the only one ever to have been held north of the Alps.
Distance: around 820 km
Starting point: Frankfurt
Waypoints: Frankfurt, Worms, Heidelberg, Strasbourg, Basel, Zurich, Lake Constance region, Augsburg, Munich
Airports: Frankfurt, Munich, Nuremberg
ICE train stations: Frankfurt, Worms, Heidelberg, Freiburg (Lake Constance region), Munich, Augsburg