The Wartburg is a castle situated on a 410 metre precipice overlooking the town of Eisenach in the province of Thuringen, Germany. In 1999 UNESCO proclaimed it a World Heritage Site as (please note !) an "Outstanding Monument of the Feudal Period in Central Europe". The greatest significance of this place, at least to my biased Reformed mind, is what this place had contributed to the 16th Century Reformation.
According to historical records this castle was founded in AD 1067 by the count of Schauenburg, Ludwig der Springer. According to tradition, the castle (Burg) got its name when its founder first laid eyes on the hill upon which the Wartburg is built. Enchanted by the site, he is supposed to have exclaimed, "Warte, Berg -- du sollst mir eine Burg werden!" ("Wait, mountain - you shall become a castle for me!")
One of its most famous residents would be Martin Luther. He lived there only for a brief time - from May 1521 until March 1522, after he had been taken there for his safety at the request of the elector of Saxony, Frederik the Wise following his excommunication by Pope Leo X, after his refusal to recant at the Diet of Worms. It was at this time that Luther translated the New Testament into German, the first translation into a modern language in over a 1000 years! This literally (if you will excuse a pun!) caused a storm in the spiritual history of Europe as the Word of God was made available in the Native tongue (German).
|The room where it all happened !|
FRITZ ERBE ( died 1548)
The most interesting discovery of my visit to the Wartburg however was a plague on the South tower pictured below. It was placed there in memory of one Fritz Erbe, an Anabaptist of Thuringen who suffered martyrdom in this tower.The story goes that he had owned a large farm in Herda, a village in the Eisenach district. Early in October 1531 he was arrested because he had been baptized on the profession his faith. He was taken to Eisenach and imprisoned there. At the end of January 1532 he was released by Philip of Hessen. A little later he refused to have his child baptized and he was arrested again in January 1533. John Frederik the elector of Saxony at this time insisted that he be put to death, basing his verdict on an opinion of the Wittenberg theologians and jurists recommending death by the sword for "rebaptized" persons. But Philip of Hessen did not give his consent. He hesitated to execute a man for his faith, since faith is a gift of God. He could not see how a man, even with an "erring faith" could be executed, for he thought it was done out of ignorance, not malice. He favored expulsion from the country. A long correspondence between the two rulers followed, as well as lengthy negotiations with courts and officials.
Fritz Erbe was kept in this dungeon for many years. His long imprisonment ruined his health, but his spirit remained firm. After an imprisonment of 16 years, he died in 1548 and was buried below the walls of the Wartburg.
A SAD THOUGHT...
What a sad thought then that two godly men had been occupants of this magnificent place - although they were not there at the same time. Martin Luther was kept imprisoned for his own safety there for a while, and Fritz Erbe was kept imprisoned there for the sake of his Christian conscience, which instructed him through the Scriptures that only converted people were to be the subjects of Christian baptism. We know that Martin Luther was generally intolerant of the Anabaptists , but one wonders what might have happened if Fritz and Martin had met without prejudice and had talked about the gospel - "the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes." (Romans 1:16,17)