St. Augustine’s Evangelical Monastery in Erfurt (The Augustinian Monastery) – an accredited heritage site of special cultural significance and holder of the European Heritage Label.
Erfurt is the spiritual home of Martin Luther. He studied here from 1501 – 1505 at the then already well-known University. He began studying the “seven ancient sciences”, then later studied theology and, following his father’s wishes, he also studied law. Yet it was a significant personal experience that was to radically change his life. On 17th July
1505 he requested acceptance into the Erfurt monastery, home to the Augustinian hermits, an order famous for its scholarship. In April 1507 Martin Luther was ordained as a priest and delivered his first service on 2nd May 1507 in the Monastery Church.
As early as 1525, only 8 years after Luther had posted his 95 theses on the Church door in Wittenberg, St. Augustine’s church became Protestant. It was taken over by the Evangelical parish of St . John. This had dramatic consequences for the rest of the Monastery. The monks were no longer allowed to use the church for their prayer services and no longer allowed to recruit novices. The last Augustinian monk died in 1556 and in 1559 the monastery was secularised by the city of Erfurt.
HISTORY OF THE CHURCH BUILDING -Building started in 1276 and by 1320 the church, cloisters and main monastery buildings had been completed. The monastery in its totality and unity with church, cloisters, courtyards, monastic buildings and outbuildings is a rare example of medieval ecclesiastic architecture.
The church bell tower with its distinctive crown was added a century later. The most valued features of the church are the stained glass windows originating from about 1310.
On 25th February 1945 a powerful bomb destroyed the late Gothic Library and killed 267 people who were using it as an air-raid shelter. The monastery and church were severely damaged. During World War II the windows were removed and put into storage and for that reason they survived.
Today, the Abbey serves as an ecumenical conference centre and a memorial to Luther.
We visited an informative exhibition of Luther’s life and works, depicting Luther as a student and a monk.
The Krämerbrücke (Merchants’ Bridge), one of Erfurt ‘s landmarks, is the longest bridge in Europe entirely covered with houses that are still inhabited today – 120 metres in length and with 32 houses. The current structure has had several predecessors. In order to be able to cross the river at high water, successive wooden pedestrian bridges were built next to the ford. In 1325 these were replaced by a stone bridge and from the start it was a popular place for traders to sell their wares. After a great fire in 1472, it was widened to its current width of 19 metres using buttresses and wooden truss frames. With several strong sandstone arches, the bridge spans both river channels. Once only luxury goods such as spices and medicaments, dyes, precious metals, silk and paper were available but today there are small galleries and shops selling local Thuringian products.
Our first assignment for today was to go to the Post Office as we had parcels to pack and send home, stamps to buy and cards to purchase, all a little daunting as none of the counter assistants spoke English. We managed to find and purchase appropriate packaging and then commandeered a table, stripped off our coats as we were overheated by then, and set to work. Lo and behold, before many minutes had passed, we had people asking US questions. After about 40 minutes I was back in the queue and mission was accomplished!!!