IBTS travels,  students

Anabaptists in Wartburg

IBTS group in front of the entrance to Wartburg castle where Luther was translating the Bible

It is well known that Wartburg castle, which the students visited two weeks ago, is famous due to many historical events that have happened there. For example, after Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of the Church in Wittenberg in 1517, he initiated the reformation period which led to the formation of the Protestant – Lutheran church. He was excommunicated by the Pope as a heretic and outlawed by the emperor after refusing to revoke his teachings at the imperial diet of Worms. He then found refuge behind the mighty walls of Wartburgh on May 4, 1521 and lived there for ten months. Most of the writers dealing with Luther’s life and work are well aware of the time he had spent in the castle and there is not much new to say about it.

However, as somebody who is passionate about and impressed by the Anabaptist studies, I was excited to find there the traces of the Anabaptist influence. While touring the castle, I found a board containing the information about a man whose name was Fritz Erbe. He was an Anabaptist who had been imprisoned in the dungeon of the southern tower of the castle for more than eight years.

The tower where Fritz Erbe was imprisoned for almost 15 years

Let me tell you something more about this man. In 1531 he was imprisoned with other Anabaptists living in Hausbreitenbach. In 1533 Fritz Erbe was imprisoned again because he refused to baptize his newborn child and had accepted a persecuted Anabaptist woman into his house. Between 1533-1540 Fritz Erbe was incarcerated in the Storchen Tower adjacent to the city wall of Eisenach. In 1537 two men, Hans Köhler from Heyerode and Hans Scheffer from Hastrungsfeld, were caught in a secret conversation with Fritz Erbe at the city wall. They were immediately imprisoned and executed in January 1538. In 1540, while expecting unrest and protests in the region,  the City Council of Eisenach made a decision to move Erbe to Wartburg and imprisoned him in the dungeon of the southern tower of the castle. In 1541, upon negotiations by Eberhart von der Thann, who served as an officer at the Wartburg, Erbe was again offered the last opportunity to renounce his faith. He was brought for four weeks to Eisenach Monastery for hearings but remained steadfast. In 1544, due to Erbe’s timely warning/alarm a fire in the castle was prevented. As a reward, his imprisonment conditions were improved, which meant that he got in his dungeon a wooden construction for bed. Eventually, in 1548 Erbe passed away after 15 years of imprisonment. He was buried below the castle.

While standing above his dungeon I finally understood what (McClendonian) convictions were all about! They are beliefs worthy to be lived out and even more, worthy to die for. Do we have such convictions?

– Dejan

One Comment

  • Ruth Gouldbourne

    This is fascinating – thank you for the stories. I am always gathering stories to tell – helping people understand where we have come from, and this helps.
    I got involved in a discussion about what was worth dying for at the EBF Council last week, and in a context where we trying to get to grips with our responsibilities for caring for creation – and the rejection by some of our community of these responsibilities – I began to wonder what the connection was between things I believed in enough to die for, and things I didn’t believe in enough, with the result that other people died for them. I haven’t worked it through yet, but this story has provoked me into thinking further. Thank you.

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