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 Via Lutheri

 A 'Theatre - trip' from Rome to Wittenberg

from April to July 2012

Following in the footsteps of Martin Luther, as we travel the roads he travelled through Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany 500 years ago.


Via Lutheri

According to a recent publication (March 2011) of Hans Schneider, a Reformation  historian from Marburg, Luther's journey to Rome had a much more  significant impact and influence on his development as reformer, than is generally acknowledged.

Luther's journey to Rome is significant not only because this journey was the  longest journey (both in terms of the distance he covered and the time  he took for the journey) which Luther ever undertook, and not only  because it was the only one of the journey's which took Luther beyond  the border of Germany, and in so doing broadened Luther's horizons and  influenced his world-view. But for instance through the events and  conflicts that lead to, and accompanied Luther on his journey, Luther  gained many new experiences and insights which he developed further into spiritual and academic works that have become the heart of all  Reformation theology. Through the conflicts with which he was confronted in his monastic order, regarding the correct form of monastic life, he  came to the realization that issues of justice in this world are not  that easy; that law is often fought with law, and piety with piety; and  that devout religious people are often the most unholy of all.

Angebliches “Haus des Pilatus” in Vienne
von Luther beschrieben

All these experiences and reflections lead to Luther's understanding of  'works righteousness' (which he understood to be a redemptive  revelation)- the understanding that pious works do not secure one's  salvation, but rather represent a stumbling block in the form of pride  and self-righteousness which we encounter on our way to salvation.  Luther stated that nobody can save himself from the depths and darkness  of being lost in this world; that is something which only God can do,  rather,has already done!

In addition to the challenges which accompanied the 28- year old monk on  this journey (often more than 40 km's per day), which included stormy  weather and constant new experiences in a foreign environment, Luther  was accompanied by the many theological questions he asked himself along the way.

In 1993 50 people journeyed the 1718 km long journey of Luther's to Rome  via the Septimer mountain pass . In 2012 we would like, with 200 other  travellers, to attempt the return journey through Italy, France and  Switzerland.

Unfortunately Luther did not leave behind a 'travel-log', or description of his  travels. Schneider is confident however that, with great probability,  Luther travelled from Rome to a 'harbour-city' on the Italian West  coast, from where he travelled by ship to Nice, and then back to  Wittenberg via Aix, Avignon, Lyon, Geneva, Zrich and Augsburg. A number of towns along this route have, to this day, kept alive memories of  Luther's stay in these towns.

Our aim in following in the footsteps of Luther, approximately 500 years  after he himself undertook the journey to Rome and back, is not to  engage in necromancy, or to resuscitate Luther, but rather, in all  humility, to gain a deeper sense and understanding of the events and  spiritual movements that developed during that time, movements which  were believed to be movements that would change the world.

Since we believe that it is impossible to gain the above-mentioned deeper  sense and understanding without the help of the Arts, we have invited an 'artists brigade' (actors, artists, musicians) to accompany us on our  journey. These artists will have appearances in towns and cities along  the way.

These cities and towns will be asked to hand over messages to the travellers, which will be published at a later stage as a sign of European Unity.  It is our hope that this action will show that Luther did not only bring about division, and cause schisms and conflicts in the church and the  world of that time, but is able to create new points of contact, and to  encourage fellowship and mutually beneficial relationships amongst  churches and in society at large.

We would be extremely pleased if we could carry from the Vatican, into the world, the joyful message that the Pope has withdrawn the 1520  declaration which states that it is God's wish that all heretics be  burned. We are working on it!

Papst Julius II. 1443-1513

We are aware that we will not be able to experience the journey in exactly the same way in which Luther experienced it when he undertook it. We  will try to gain a sense (through using all senses) of how the journey  may have been for Luther. What the long, difficult journey has in stall  for us remains an exciting question.

It would be great if we succeeded through this journey to create the first European 'Lutherweg' (Luther-pilgrimage-path), on which hopefully as  many people who travel the Jakobsweg will one day journey. Kafka said  „Paths are made by walking them.“ Let's see if that is true!“

The 'Luther procession' will be said farewell to in Rome and will be  welcomed in Wittenberg. In-between we will experience numerous 'warm  welcomes' and encounters.

Not all travellers will be able to journey with the 'Luther procession' the whole way. The possibility exists to join the rest of the group for a  part of the journey.

The symbol of the procession is the flying swan (according to a prophecy of Jan Hus regarding Luther), which is accompanied by an image of a leaf  from the 'Ecumenical Olive tree', which was planted by representatives  of different Churches in front of the walls of the Roman Catholic Church St. Paul™s, in 2011.

Each participant will receive a gown and a song book including the anthem of the procession. We will journey approx. 30-40 km per day, and be  accommodated in hiking-houses, youth hostels, schools, hotels, or tents. We will have one day of rest per week.

Kaiser Maximilian I. 1449-1519

The trip to Rome, which Luther undertook by order of the monks Order to  which he belonged, marks the begin of his public work. The fact that he  was chosen to go on this mission shows both that his superior, the Vicar of the German Congregation of Augustinian-Eremite monks, Johann von  Staupitz, had a deep sense of trust in Luther, and furthermore explains  the friendship between these two men, which was an important  relationship for Luther's development. From this time onwards Luther  plays a greater and greater role in the Order and by 1517 had become the most  influential German Augustinian monk after Staupitz.

The journey of the monk Martin Luder (this is what he called himself at the time) from Rome to Wittenberg, is also a part of his journey in  becoming the reformer Martin Luther. The 'Theatre- trip' „Via Lutheri“,  would like, within the Luther Decade and in preparation of the 500th  year anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, to create awareness of this journey of Luther, and to invite others to follow in the footsteps of  him.

Ulrich Pfingsten