Photo A Leipzig is the city in which Martin Luther and John Eck debated in 1519. In Luther's day it was home to the prestigious University of Leipzig and part of Albertine Saxony, under the rule of Luther's enemy, Duke George. Photo A shows the French Baroque interior of the St. Nicholas Church, where Luther no doubt preached sometime during his various visits to the city. St. Nicholas church, however, is more important for its part in more recent history. In 1989 the church's weekly Monday prayer services became one of the major points of protest against the communist government. Over 70,000 people came to the church for a demonstration on October 9. On October 16 over 120,000 citizens gathered, and two days later communist party chief Erich Honecker resigned.

Facts and Photos

Photo BWithout question Luther's most important visit to Leipzig was in 1519, when he debated John Eck, theologian from the University of Ingolstadt. After much political wrangling, the debate, which lasted several days, finally got underway with a 6:00 am opening mass at St. Thomas Church (photos B and C). St. Thomas is also known for its most famous music director, J. S. Bach, who is buried in the chancel.

Photo CThe debate group processed after mass to the Pleissenburg Castle, which was torn down in the middle of the 16th century to make room for a new fortress. Although Luther made many enemies and Eck used Luther's arguments in the debate as ammunition for Pope Leo to issue the bull of excommunication against him, the Leipzig debate was not a total disaster for Luther. Kittelson notes that after the Leipzig debate Luther became the most famous man in Europe, and the number of students at the fledgling (founded in 1502) University of Wittenberg grew so great that the town could not house them all (145-6).


While in Leipzig, the five of us (Mom, Dad, Richard and Miriam Carter, and me) were the guests of friends of Richard and Miriam's daughter, who had studied and lived in Leipzig as a Fulbright scholar. These friends were all members of the SELK Lutheran congregation in Leipzig, an independent Lutheran body in Germany with which the LCMS is in fellowship. My parents and I had been a little hesitant about imposing on strangers, but it soon became clear that the Haeffner's (the SELK pastor and his wife) and the Dicke family were genuinely delighted to host us all. Our connection in Dresden was even more remote–at the train station we were welcomed by Hans-Gert and Anarosen Daenel. Their daughter had studied at Ohio State University, and a good friend of hers from Ohio State was friends with a Concordia student; through this friend of a friend of a student, Richard made arrangements with the parents, Hans-Gert and Anarosen. They welcomed us, total strangers, into their home and lives, with a genuine Christian hospitality that words cannot express. I believe their openness toward us and willingness to do countless acts of kindness for all of us during those few days and for me during my 8 weeks of study in Dresden–more than I can begin to recount–is intimately connected with their understanding of the Body of Christ. As professing Christians during communist rule in East Germany, they suffered both economically and socially. Yet through those experiences, they learned to value highly the fellowship shared by all Christians; so we were to them not strangers, but brothers and sisters in Christ. We in the USA, who often take for granted our religious freedom, do not have the same depth of understanding or appreciation for our oneness in Christ with other Christians around the world.