Friday, November 9, 2012

November 09, 2012

Martin Luther’s “Black Cloister”

In Wittenberg, Germany there stands a beautiful old cloister with more than its fair share of history. Though this large medieval structure was well-known for religious purposes, that is not where its claim to fame originated . . . instead, it was propelled into the pages of history when reformer Martin Luther and his family took up residence inside its storied walls.

The “Black Cloister,” as it was originally named, was built in the early 1500s and was ceremoniously presented to Luther as a dwelling-place. From the front, the building is indeed very German, long, lean, peppered with windows of various sizes, and accessorized with a distinctive rounded tower in the center. The decorative dormer windows put one in mind of the half-timber houses one might see in German city centers like grand old Munich. A side view of the buildings reveals another rounded tower (one can only imagine what the rooms in that tower must look like, except those who have been fortunate enough to visit for themselves). The top of the structure is dark window-work and is very gothic, lending to the Black Cloister’s historical charm.

Closer inspection of a particular door reveals that it does not carry the same design as the Cloister’s other doors. This door was constructed in 1540 and commissioned by Katharina von Bora Luther, “My Lord Katie,” as Martin Luther affectionately called her. The interior of the Black Cloister is as simple and yet as gothically handsome as the exterior. Various rooms have been decorated to look as they would have looked during the time when Martin Luther cared for his family, housed students, and held colorful sessions of his “Table Talk.”

A particularly beautiful room is the great-room, which showcases Luther’s beautiful old iron stove. This monster of a stove is very 16th century in appearance and gives a good feel for how differently homes were equipped in this era. The painted woodwork and wooden doors evoke not only that long-ago century but Germany in particular, as that nation was already becoming famous for such decoration.

The Black Cloister is not a “shrine” . . . it is not special simply because Martin Luther and his family lived here, but also because of the ideas and dreams that were circulated here. Many Germans had grown tired of the abuses of the medieval Catholic Church but had been conditioned to obey without complaint. When the time came that they could voice their concerns . . . practices in which they did not believe, corrupt hierarchy, whatever their complaints . . . without fear of retribution or even death, they experienced a surge of hope. A time had come when men dared to follow their own consciences and go against the grain.

And this newfound freedom of faith flourished at the Black Cloister.

(c) 2012 Joyously Saved

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