The next highlight of the Reformation week conference was the visit to Basel. ( see Haus Barnabas report here; Constance report here and Zurich report here). The town of Basel was called Basilea or Basilia in Latin and this name is documented from 374 AD. Basel like most Swiss cities is calm and sedate. Beautifully located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel is Switzerland’s second-largest urban area. the River Rhine runs through Basel and provides such a romantic backdrop to maul up this city’s turbulent and engaging history.
My trip to Basel to trace places of historical importance to the Reformation period started by a cordial visit to a local Swiss Reformed church in Riehen (a municipal of Basel).
The Reformed branch of Protestantism in Switzerland was started in Zürich by Huldrych Zwingli and spread within a few years to Basel (Johannes Oecolampadius), Bern (Berchtold Haller and Niklaus Manuel), St. Gall (Joachim Vadian), to cities in southern Germany and via Alsace (Martin Bucer) to France.
In the Swiss Reformed church in Riehen one can still see the long standing traditional architectural structure of the church set up. The pews and wall designs tell of the tensions as you look at the different designs of art of a time gone past. One stained window survived the transition from Roman Catholicism and it has remained as an artifact for tourists and the curious to take photographs of (its a stained glass impression of the virgin Mary). An old Luther bible too has its own casing and place. The pulpit is on the right side and mounted high (rather than central as in some Baptist churches).
When in the centre Basel you will almost automatically drift to the banks of the river Rhine. Hordes of tourists usually will be seated. Or just watching the river drift. The blind too have a a version of the city in braille! One needs more than seven senses to decipher the multi colored tiles of Basel munster (cathedral) , St. Martin’s church, the elaborate and colorful Basel council building or even the monuments that tug at your sleeve at every turn.
At St Martins church (the oldest parochial church in Basel) probably dating back up to the 12th Century do not forget to see the plaque in tribute to Wibrandis Rosenblatt (1504 -1564). She was a wife to three people of theological significance! No, not at one go. Johannes Oecolampadius (married, 1528–1531), Wolfgang Capito (married, 1532–1541), and Martin Bucer (married, 1542–1551). She was the widow of a Ludwig Keller before she was married to Oecolampadius. She was also the mother of 11 children.
Up the high street you can also find the house in which Erasmus of Rotterdam died. Or better still you could walk a little further to the munster and see where he was laid to rest and where his monument is. Yup, at the Basel munster you will find a lot more!
The Basel munster is one of the main landmarks and tourist attractions of the Swiss city of Basel. It adds definition to the cityscape with its red sandstone architecture and coloured roof tiles, its two slim towers and the cross-shaped intersection of the main roof.
Oh before I forget, there was one more cathedral that caught my eye. It was in Germany-St. Blasien cathedral. Though it will be of interest to Roman Catholic enthusiasts, it is really vintage stuff! Great work of art indeed! Wish it had similar theology to match. 😉