Today, 25th February, at 6pm is a time of memorial at the Evangelical Augustinian Monastery in Erfurt. This has long been a date to be remembered for the victims of a bombing attack in Erfurt on 25 February 1945, and by extension today’s victims of war and violence. Today it remembers also the theft of the monastery’s Cross of Nails in July last year under unexplained circumstances. As many know, the Crosses of Nails that are blessed and presented from Coventry Cathedral today are made by inmates of the prison (JVA) Würzburg, and this one (pictured) had been set up at the place of silence in the House of Reconciliation. Here, today, a replacement Cross of Nails will be placed after its presentation in the Augustinian Church, the costs both times having been met by the circle of friends of the Augustinian monastery.
“After the shocking theft, we are pleased that a new cross is now coming to the empty space. We have not stopped praying for peace in recent months. The Cross of Nails is not only an impressive reminder of the destructive power of war, but a commitment to reconciliation and understanding today,” says Augustinian pastor Bernd S. Prigge. He recalls that the cathedral provost from Coventry had handed over such crosses to former enemies after the Second World War. “What a strong sign,” Prigge said.
February 25, 1945 is considered the blackest day at the Augustinian monastery, when English bombers dropped two air mines on the building. In today’s House of Reconciliation was the cellar of the former monastery library, where 268 people aged between 3 months and 83 years had sought shelter. The force of the detonation was so great that the building collapsed. 267 people died and a girl and a dog were rescued.
Shortly after the end of the Second World War, the city began the terrible clean-up work. The reconstruction of the church, the heavily destroyed West Wing, the arcade house and the guest house began as early as 1946. With great effort and despite difficult political conditions, the monastery was rebuilt stone by stone with its historical structures preserved. The library and warehouses remained as ruins.
In 2002 the foundations of the library were restored and partially reconstructed, and a key wall, threatened with collapse, rebuilt. In the summer of 2008, reconstruction began at a cost of around 5.1 million euros: a sure sign of the importance of preserving the old and creating new things. On 27 August 2010, the former library was re-opened, with, in the basement of the building, a memorial and meditation room, the “place of silence”. In 2008, the Evangelical Augustinian monastery, now an important peace and reconciliation centre, became the first member of the international Community of the Cross of Nails in Thuringia, eastern Germany. The Lutheran site is thus part of this worldwide movement for peace and reconciliation. Membership is practised, among other things, by a weekly devotional on Fridays at 12 o’clock.
This post is taken from an article originally appearing in EKMD | Pressestelle Erfurt | Gestohlenes Nagelkreuz wird im Augustinerkloster zweifach ersetzt