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Visit the monastery where Martin Luther took his religious vows in 1505. (You can even spend the night in a comfortable cell.)
From: Erfurt, Germany
"Martin Luther slept here."
Not too many hotels can make such a claim, but thein Erfurt, Germany doesn't call itself a hotel: It's a working Lutheran church and cloister that offers Sunday services, weekday prayer meetings, a 60,000-volume historical library, tours, a café, and a conference center with 51 comfortably equipped single and double rooms for visitors.
The Augustinerkloster (a.k.a. the Augustinian Church and Monastery) is one of the most important landmarks on the "Luther Trail" in Germany. Martin Luther took his vows as a monk in the church and lived in the cloister from 1505 to 1511. (You may have seen the monastery and church in Luther, a movie that includes scenes from Erfurt and was released in 2003.)
The monastery dates back to the 13th Century, when Augustinian monks settled in Erfurt. By the time Martin Luther joined the order in 1505, the Augustinerkloster was a respected center of Catholic learning with a theological college and an extensive library of books and manuscripts.
However, after the Reformation, the monastery was secularized (the last monk died in 1556) and was occupied by a grammar school, a library, an orphanage, and a government assembly hall over the next three centuries until the church was restored and reconsecrated in 1851.
In the 20th Century, restoration plans were interrupted by World War II. A British bombing raid destroyed much of the monastery on February 25, 1945, killing 267 people who had taken shelter in the cellars beneath the library.
Reconstruction of the monastery began in 1946, and a seminary occupied the buildings from 1960 until 1993.
The Evangelical Church (as the Lutheran Church is known in Germany) subsequently completed restoration work on the church where Luther took his vows and turned the monastery's east and west wings into a conference center.
An English-language leaflet for the Augustinerkloster states:
Plain and simple though it may be, the church is quite attractive, with three aisles and an impressive collection of stained-glass windows from the early 1300s--among them, a "picture-cycle window" that portrays the life of St. Augustine in multiple scenes. (My own favorite window is the "Lion and Parrot Window," in which the lions are said to represent Christ, or the Lion of Judah, and the parrots invite the worshipper to imitate the voices of the apostles.)
Behind the choir loft, on both sides of a tall stained-glass window, a restored Walcker organ from 1938 is available for services and choir performances. (If you're visiting during the summer, ask about the Augustinerkloster's 10 p.m. evening concerts in the church or the monastery courtyard.)
Church hours and religious services:
For an up-to-date calendar of midday prayers, evening prayers, communion, and other services, check with the monastery during your visit or at its Web site (see link below).
Tours of the Augustinerkloster
One-hour tours of theare offered daily year-round, and fees are modest. You can sign up at the monastery reception desk or in the Klosterstube café.
The tour includes a visit to the "Bible - Monastery - Luther" exhibit, which opened in 2002 and occupies the former monks' quarters. (Interestingly, the monks studied or worked in their cells but slept outside their cell doors in the hall.) One cell has been furnished as it might have looked in Luther's time. You can view the exhibit without taking the monastery tour.
Another option is to visit the monastery with an English-speaking guide from the Erfurt Tourist Information office during a walking tour of the historic center.
The monastery's offers 45-tours from Monday to Friday by prior arrangement. Its 60,000 volumes include some 3,500 books from the 17th Century and 100 manuscripts from the 12th through the 18th Centuries.
For more information, see the Augustinerkloster's English-language Web site.
Directions (foot, tram, or car)
The Augustinian Church and Monastery are in the historic center of Erfurt, about 10 minutes on foot from the city tourist office and the cathedral. The Augustinerkloster is clearly marked on local tourist maps.
If you're coming from the railroad station, look for tram "1 - Grubenstrasse" or "5 - Zoo" and get off at Augustinerstrasse. Turn left from the streetcar line and walk a block to 10 Augustinerstrasse.
If you're driving, follow the Juri-Gagarin-Ring to Fraanckestrasse, which leads into Augustinerstrasse. The monastery has 14 parking places, and there's a parking fee. (Unless you're spending the night, it may be more convenient to park on the edge of the historic center and walk the short distance to the Augustinerkloster.)
Spend a night in a modern-day monk's cell
Martin Luther may have slept in the hall, but you don't have to: Since 2002, the Augustinerkloster has offered 51 modern, centrally heated guest rooms with private shower and toilet within the old monastery's walls. These are available to both individual travelers and church groups.
To "maintain the monastic character" of the building, there are no phones, radios, or TVs in the rooms, although there is a television lounge down the corridor. Free Wi-Fi is available in public areas.
Each room is named after a monk. My single room was #105, called "Nikolaus vom Amsdorf" in honor of a monk who was born in 1488 and was a supporter of Martin Luther and the Reformation from 1517 until his death in 1565.
An elevator provides wheelchair access to the 26 single and 25 twin-bedded rooms (some with private baths, and some without). The modest rates include service and taxes, and a generous buffet breakfast is available.
To check prices or book a room, see our hotel partner's Web page, which has photos and reviews by paying guests:
Also see: Erfurt photo gallery: Augustinerkloster
Top photo: Thüringer Tourismus GmbH / Toma Babovic.
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