We left Dresden early this morning and arrived in Meissen by 8:00 a.m.
If you know porcelain, you know of Meissen.
And if you know me, you know I wasn’t going on the porcelain excursion.
Nothing against porcelain, but I am on a Luther quest. So, while the other members of GSB team reverted to worldly pursuits like Augustus II to popery, I set off alone into the city of Meissen like Abraham, not knowing where I was going but looking for the city which has foundations whose architect and builder is God.
I was not disappointed.
Using the gothic spires of the Meissen Cathedral as my North Star, I walked up the narrow meandering streets of Old Town until I found myself in front of the imposing structure, that is Meissen Cathedral, whose towers, spires, and roof whispered, “Look up to the heavens.”
Inside was a Reformation treasure, an original work by Lucas Cranach (the Elder), painted about 1524 (see pic). Cranach was was considered the greatest of painter of his day in Germany, and was one of Luther’s closest friends. In fact, he was one of the few people present when Luther married Katharina Von Bora, and was godfather to their first child. Cranach, who gained his reputation as a painter while still Catholic had to grapple with how to see and paint through the new lens of a Reformation worldview.
We left Meissen at 12:30 p.m and enjoyed a long beautiful afternoon of cruising. The enourmous billowing clouds backlit by the summer sun hung quietly in a powder blue sky, as our ship sauntered down the serpentine Elbe. As I looked into the distance in each direction, I saw no evidence of civilization—no homes, no barns, no cars, no roads—just open fields, a smattering of trees, and the river. It occurred to me I was probably seeing exactly what Luther saw. Nothing had changed here in 500 years, but everything had changed.
We knew we would be arriving at Torgau at 6:45 p.m. and were not sure if St. Mary’s church—where Katharina von Bora is buried—would be open after 7:00 p.m. So, I worked out with our cruise director to allow us to set out before dinner to get to the church before it closed to see Katharina’s tomb. By the time we arrived at Torgau, Terri and The Wife had already succumbed to the leisurely and liquid temptations of the lounge and advised Ann and me that we were on our own.
As the ship was docking, Ann and I took our places at sliding glass door to the ship like racehorses at the gates. The captain sensing our urgency and no doubt aware of the importance of our quest went to the top deck to personally operate the crane, put the gangway in place, and secure for us a speedier exit. Once the gangway was in place we were across it to the shore and headed into town.
If you’ve ever been to Torgau you know the city planners in the 10th century did not have twenty first century river cruisers in mind when they laid out the streets. The streets don’t so much cross as they wind, and even though we could see the steeple of St. Mary’s we could not find a direct route. By the time we arrived it was just after 7:00 p.m.
We tried every door, but to our great disappointment they were all locked. Ann then went back to the main doors and knocked, and when she received no response she combined knocking with a plaintive wail, “Let us in. We are pilgrims who have come 6,000 miles.” Knowing we were in the former East Germany and that one of the most notorious communist era prisons was in Torgau, I stood at a distance in case the police showed up so I could make a quick escape. However, no one showed up to open the door or arrest Ann, so we left.
As we walked away, Ann looked at her Fitbit and said consolelingly, “Well at least we walked 10,000 steps today. One cannot overstate the importance of that.” I was silent. Then Ann said, “OK maybe one can overstate the importance of that.”
Life can sometimes deal us devastating blows, but the GSB team is a resilient bunch, and before the evening was over we had seen the house were Katharina lived, Hartenfels Castle were Martin Luther preached and consecrated the chapel, and we had begun preparing for a visit to Wittenberg tomorrow. GS