March 12, 2010

Land of the Reformers Academic Tour

Our second Academic Tour was filled with a week of hands-on lectures as we traveled along the footsteps of the Reformers.
Saturday was spent in Dresden, the Florence of Germany. We were awed by the quintessential Baroque architecture and students noted the city as one of the most magnificent they have seen thus far.
Sunday the group headed to Berlin to see the capital of Germany. A few highlights included the Brandenburg gate (the symbol of political Germany), remnants of the old wall which divided Germany during the Cold War, the Checkpoint Charlie Berlin Wall Museum, Parliament and the Holocaust Memorial.
Monday marked the beginning of our footsteps of the Reformers tour. Wittenberg, the undisputed center of Martin Luther’s ministry was our destination. We toured the Castle Church which holds the remains of Martin Luther and his close associate Philip Melanchthon. The church is also the famous landmark where Luther posted his 95 Thesis in response to the Roman Catholics claim that freedom from God’s punishment of sin can be purchased with money (e.g. indulgences). This was followed by a visit to the Stadtkirche where Luther preached twice weekly.
Tuesday students viewed the Luther Haus – Martin Luther’s home, office and place of ministry. Students were fascinated by the practicality of Luther’s home life. Martin and Katharina Luther boarded students, grew their own produce, and brewed beer at their home in Wittenberg.
Wednesday AMBEX traveled to Eisenach, the home of the Wartburg Castle. At the Wartburg, Luther translated the Greek New Testament into the German language. This key event opened the doors for personal study of Scripture (which had previously only been available to those literate in Latin) and widespread literacy in Germany. Next we toured the home of Johann Sebastian Bach who resided in Eisenach. The tour included a performance of Bach’s works on instrument owned and played by him.
Thursday we toured the Augustine Monastery in Erfurt. As a Catholic, Luther pledged himself to this order because of its strict adherence to Scripture, and Spartan-like lifestyle. Students were surprised to hear that the monks spent most of their day in silence, fasted for many weeks throughout the year, and lived mainly without heat in their dwellings.
Friday was spent in Mainz, Worms and Speyer. Mainz holds the famous Gutenberg Museum. On display we found the first printing press and Bible that contributed to the spread of the Reformation. Prior to this, Bibles were hand-written and it often took years to complete only one copy. In Worms we viewed the Reformation monument commemorating Luther’s trial. The Cathedral in Speyer is rightfully called the birthplace of Protestantism.
Saturday AMBEX continued on to Heidelberg, the epoch of Romanticism in Germany. Students toured the Gothic & Renaissance Castle with its famous Wine cellars, the old city and the sight of the oldest University in Germany.
We concluded the tour with a walk around Dinkelsbuehl, an extremely well-preserved medieval city on our way to Regensburg. Students stopped for pastries and Gelato (Italian ice-cream) and enjoyed the architecture and fortifications.

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