In the dreary coldness of February I have to admit to not being entirely sad that we aren’t walking back from Rome, especially thinking of the rotten weather that Luther certainly would have encountered in the famously harsh winter of 1510-11. But five hundred years ago this month he was on his way back home, carrying news of the failure of the mission back to this brothers. On the bright side, he got to see some different sights on his return journey.
The trip home started out the same as the inbound journey, from Rome back to Siena and then on to Florence and Bologna. But at that last city, Luther and his companion took a turn to the east, finishing their Italian sojourn through the cities of Modena (home to the original balsamic vinegar), Mantua (the setting of “The Taming of the Shrew”), Verona (the setting of “Romeo and Juliet”), Rovereto, Trent (home to the eventual Council of Trent, convened by the papal party in response to the Reformers), Salorno, Bolzano, Klausen (today Chiusa), Brixen (today Bressanone), and Sterzing (today Vipiteno). They crossed back to the north side of the Alps through Brenner Pass, bypassing Switzerland entirely by taking the path through the Austrian Alps. After Innsbruck and Seefeld, they re-entered Germany near Mittenwald and carried on to Peitung, Landsberg, and Augsburg. They made their final Danube crossing at the bridge at Donauwerth and picked up their previous route, finishing the journey through Nuremberg, Bamberg, and Coburg before arriving back home again in Erfurt.
Surely this intrigues those still as-yet-unidentified Catholics out there who intend to retrace Luther’s return journey…?
In other news, look for another article reflecting on our pilgrimage last fall in the April 5, 2011 issue of Christian Century! I’ll post a link to the issue when it’s published—I think you’ll be able to read the beginning of the piece online.