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|The Augustinians - Origins and Spirituality|
Author: Luis Marin OSA
|Erfurt - Germany
In an interview which Pope Benedict held recently at Castel Gandolfo he spoke of his upcoming visit to Germany from September 22 to 25, "One of the important moments of the visit will be Erfurt: in that Augustinian monastery, in that Augustinian church, where Luther began his journey, I will be able to meet the representatives of the Evangelical Church of Germany. There we will pray together, we will listen to the Word of God, we will reflect and speak together."
The Augustinerkloster of Erfurt dates to the 13th Century when the friars settled in that city in 1266. Forty years later there were already four German Provinces of the Order, with Erfurt as the largest and most important monastery of the Thuringia-Saxony Province and a general house of studies of the Order. The chair of theology at the Erfurt University was entrusted to the Augustinians.
The monastery was the home of many well-known and respected friars over the centuries: Henry of Friemar, Herman of Schildesche, Jordan of Saxony, and others who were contemporaries of Luther: Johannes von Staupitz, Johannes Nathin and Bartholomeus von Usingen.
When Luther joined the Order here in 1505 this monastery was a highly respected center of learning with a theological college and a library of great significance. It had also become, by this time, the principal house of the 27 friaries in Germany that formed part of the Order's observant movement with more than 50 friars in the community. Here Luther was professed in 1506 and ordained in 1507. He continued to be attached to the Erfurt monastery until 1511. After his break with the Church the monastery remained part of the Order and of the Church, but in 1522 fifteen members left to join Luther. Three years later, during an uprising, the others were forced to leave for safety. While some returned shortly after, and the monastery remained Augustinian for thirty more years, the friars were expelled finally in 1560.
While the monastery was damaged during the Second World War, some original sections still remain and the post war reconstruction conserved the original design. Following the expulsion of the friars in 1560 the monastery served at various times as a school, library, orphanage and assembly hall. The Evangelical (Lutheran) Church now uses parts of the monastery as a conference center while a group of Protestant sisters occupies another section.