Facts and Photos
Augsburg, located in the state of Bavaria in southern Germany, dates its founding to 15 BC, when the Romans built a fort between the Lech and Wetach rivers. A market town grew up nearby and became the capital of the Roman province. The Christian presence dates from the early fourth century; St. Afra, for whom the basilica is co-named (along with St. Ulrich, a tenth century bishop of Augsburg), was martyred here in 304.
Construction of Saints Ulrich and Afra Basilica, the abbey church of an important Benedictine monastery established in the 11th century, started in 1474. The copper-clad, onion-domed tower of the church–a typical feature of the Baroque architecture in the city–was completed in 1594 (photo A). Originally a preaching chapel connected to Ss. Ulrich and Alfa, St. Ulrich Lutheran Church adjoins the basilica at a right angle. The presence of Roman Catholic and Lutheran structures in close proximity seems to be a result of the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, requiring imperial cities to permit the presence and practice of both confessions.
On the north side of the city center (Ss. Ulrich and Afra is on the south) is the Cathedral of the Visitation of Mary (photo B). The first cathedral was dedicated in 807 and was remodeled and added to over the centuries. The two spires were built in the 11th century and raised higher in the 12th. The upper windows in the south wall of the nave, called the Prophets' windows, date from around 1140 and are the oldest stained glass windows in the world (sorry, my photos didn't turn out well).
Luther, visiting the imperial free city in 1518 for his hearing with the papal legate, Cardinal Cajetan, saw a powerful, rich city full of well-endowed monasteries and churches and splendid town houses. Augsburg was home to the Fugger family, wealthy international bankers and merchants. Jakob Fugger, as a condition of a loan to Emperor Maximilian, arranged to have copper imported from Hungary duty-free. Hence its wide-spread use in roofs and domes of the city. Known as a "Maker of Kings," Jakob Fugger financed the election of Charles V in 1519. Luther's meetings with Cajetan from October 12-14, 1518 took place in the Fugger palace, a complex of three adjoining houses on Maximilian Street. The inner courtyards (photo C) are examples of Renaissance architecture and offer a quiet place of repose in contrast to the busy street in the front of the mansion.
Luther may not have visited the Fuggerei in 1518 (construction on it began in 1516), but today it's a main tourist attraction. Built by the brothers Jakob, Ulrich, and Georg Fugger for the "innocent poor," the walled community is considered to be the first public housing project in the world (photo D, above). Annual rent was set at one florin, and residents were (and are still) required to pray daily for the founders. While it once housed families, the community now includes mostly older people who occupy the three-room apartments. One dwelling is maintained as museum, arranged as the house would have been circa 1520 (photo E, above).
While in Augsburg Luther stayed at the St. Anna Carmelite Monastery (photo E), perhaps because he was acquainted with the prior of the monastery, Johann Frosch, who had studied at Wittenberg. There was no Augustinian order in town where he might have stayed.
One of the many interesting features in this church is the replica (photo F) of the edicule (the structure built over the tomb of Christ) from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Constructed in 1510 through a special donation (Luther himself would have seen it), this edicule replica is one of seventeen such structures in Germany; many others exist throughout Europe. For more about this phenomenon in medieval Europe, see Görlitz.
Luther's meetings with Cardinal Cajetan did not go as either had planned. Cajetan demanded that Luther recant and Luther demanded to be shown on the basis of Scripture the error of his teaching. Wolfgang Hoffman writes: "The Augsburg Discourses were therefore of a significance that reached far beyond that of the meeting itself. It was during these discussions that Luther finally realized how deep and irreconcilable the split between the Holy Scriptures and the papal-scholastic teachings of the Church had become. He steadfastly refused to recant his `new teachings' because he had not been shown proof that they contradicted the Holy Scriptures. Cajetan announced that he had to excommunicate both Luther and his friends, whereupon Luther fled from the city on October 20 with the help of Augsburg friends" (35-6).
Because Luther was under the excommunication ban of the Roman Catholic Church from 1520 until his death, he was never able to travel outside of the land of his protector, the Elector of Saxony. Since Augsburg is in Bavaria, Luther could not attend the Imperial Diet in 1530 at which the Lutheran princes presented the summary of their beliefs in the Augsburg Confession. The Confession was read to Emperor Charles V on June 25, 1530, in the chapter house of the Augsburg bishops, part of a complex of buildings which served as the bishop's palace.
Nothing remains of this structure today. A small plaque on the exterior of the eighteenth century building–now the seat of the District Revenue office (photo H)–commemorates the reading of the Augsburg Confession.
I planned my weekend jaunts carefully, choosing very deliberately to be in Augsburg on June 25, the anniversary of the presentation of the Augsburg Confession. Several people have asked if there was a special celebration marking the event. If there was, I didn't find out about it. On Saturday, June 24, I scouted out the place, discovering a lovely garden area in front of the building with the commemorative plaque for the presentation of the Augsburg Confession. I returned to the spot on Sunday after attending worship at St. Ulrich's Lutheran Church, settled myself comfortably on a park bench, dug my copy of the Augsburg Confession (from the Concordia Triglotta, with texts in German, Latin, and English) out of my bag, and proceeded to "read" the German text. Had it been a nicer day, it might have been a holier moment, but it was quite cool and overcast (as the weather was for most of the 10 weeks I was in Germany–which one can see from most of my photos!). I made it through Article IV on justification, but then, to get warm, I had to switch from mental to physical activities. I spent quite some time tramping through the streets to find another plaque (on the back side of St. Gallus chapel, the present Russian Orthodox church), this one marking the spot in the old city wall where Luther had escaped by night in 1518, after refusing to recant.