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A Pilgrimage to Wittenberg, the Cradle of the Reformation
By B. H. Carroll, Th.D.
For The Baptist Argus, 1902
      About the first of September Preston Dargan and I decided to make a little trip to Wittenberg and Leipzig. We did not take a trunk, only very recent arrivals and idiots attempt that feat. I think I am in safe limits when I say that two grown people can travel just as cheaply and much more comfortably than one person and a trunk. In about two hours and a half we reached the musty dried-up, soporific little Wittenberg. It has a street-car track, but as far as we could see no street cars. After a few minutes' walk we reached the spot where Luther burned the papal bull, a well-kept little garden, in the corner near the street an old oak tree which was planted there to mark the spot, a little iron picket fence encloses the tree and on it an iron tablet with this inscription:

an dieser staelle
am 19 Dec. 1520
Paebstliche Baubulle

      A little further on in the courtyard of the old Augustine Monastery is Luther's house. "Hier lebte und wuerkte Dr. Martin Luther von 1508 bis 1546." His rooms are furnished as he left them, the old stove ornamented with the figures of the twelve apostles which he used to set in a glow, the grimy old walls, the heavy timbers of the floor were inches deep by generations of sandaled feet, a curious little table with two seats all in one piece where he and his wife used to eat the immutable rolls and butter that constitute with coffee the German breakfast, a thousand relics of one sort and another, old Bibles (one by Erasmus), autograph letters, and portraits of the Reformation worthies, Luther's signet ring, and device of a heart supporting a cross and resting on the open petals of a rose. Luther has a very pretty but somewhat sentimental and far-fetched explanation of this device. This house was assigned to "Brother Augustine," the Catholic professor of Philosophy, when he went from Erfurt to Wittenberg in 1508. It was afterward given to the same gentleman as the great Reformer by the Elector of Saxony.

      One can wind through old garden paths and under heavy arched corridors to the old stone table in Melancthon's garden, where he and Luther used to sit in the cool of the evening and discuss beer and theology together. Besides Luther and Melancthon, Wittenberg boasted yet another notable, Lucas Cranach, the elder erstwhile Burgomaster of the city and the most prominent of the Reformation painters. He has perpetrated his art outrages all over North Germany. I don't know which I am the sickest of seeing, the pair of fat wives of Petrus Paul Rubens or the bony excrescences and knobby protuberances of Cranach’s painted figures. They are all knee-caps and shoulder-blades, "a rag and a bone and a hank of hair." Whenever Cranach got the opportunity he painted a tall, rickety, knock-kneed figure, which is supposed to be the Savior, coming out of hell with the flames luridly leaping behind him, and with one foot on a preternaturally ugly, slimy, scaly, dragon-mouthed, bear-clawed, snake-tailed devil, and the other foot on a skull. The representation art and theology are utterly abominable in conception and hopelessly mediocre in execution. Cranach left a son who continued his art infamies on the same lines.

      In the city church in 1521 the Reformers for the first time gave the communion in both kinds.

      The castle church, to whose wooden doors Luther affixed his famous 95 Theses, although seriously injured by the cannonade of 1760, still stands. The doors themselves were burned, but have been replaced by metal doors, on which is cast in Latin the original text of the ninety-five Theses. I did not stop to read them all. Inside Luther and Melancthon are buried beneath the floor of the old church that used to echo their living voices. I don't know just where the Cranachs are buried, but it is a great comfort to me to know that they are buried somewhere.

      Not many tourists go to Wittenberg. In its drowsy solitude the women sit in the shade and knit, the men pass by in their uniforms to be admired, and the pigeons flutter fearlessly down into the listless market place. In the little restaurant to which we went for dinner our coming was evidently regarded in the light of an event. One is never troubled by insects in Germany, and we were all outdoors in the garden all by ourselves and were waited on by a scared-faced boy. After dinner we strolled out to the edge of the town and sat down on the grass and were surrounded by a ring of curious village children who manifestly regarded us with the same cheerful emotions with which our American youth contemplate Chinamen. One of these boys finally plucked up courage to throw a rotten apple at us and then the whole crowd scampered feeling that they had done their full duty.

      Perhaps the most notable thing about Wittenberg was that we did not hear a hand-organ play or anybody sing the German translation of our American street song, "There's just one girl in the world for me." You cannot imagine what a relief it was to go a whole day without hearing it. Having lived through the agonizing epidemic of it in America it is a little hard to have to go through it again in Germany. Late in the afternoon we passed by the celebrated battlefield of Breitenfield. Here the great marshals, Tilly and Poppenheim, were defeated by Gustavus Adolphus in 1631. (In Dresden I saw the batons of Tilly and Poppenheim and the sword of Gustavus Adolphus.)

      At nightfall we reached the university city of Leipzig, of which perhaps more anon.
           Berlin, Gubener street II, September 15, 1902.


[From The Baptist Argus, October 9, 1902, p. 2; via Baylor U. digital documents. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]

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