John Sharp, for Tourmagination

Since 1973, my first time in Anabaptist Europe, I wanted to do this. When on tour with John Ruth, forty-three years later in 2016, it happened. We arrived in the North German city of Münster, where we always tell of the misguided Anabaptist Kingdom. And we point to the evidence—the three ghastly iron cages two-thirds of the way up St. Lambert’s Church tower. These cages (replicas are in the city museum), contained the bodies of the notorious King David and two lesser leaders from the time of their execution in January 1536 to their disintegration. 

Tower keeper Maartje Saljé playing her horn

The recently appointed tower keeper Maartje Saljé joined our tour and added to the story. Then she surprised me by asking if I would like to see the city from the top of the tower. A gaggle of historians had been granted permission to climb the tower and I was welcome to join them. Would I? Well yes, I would!

While John Ruth’s group went on to Cologne, I and the others climbed the 300 well-worn, stone steps. We paused to see the city through the iron cages, each with a dangling lightbulb representing the souls of the departed. We followed Saljé to the top and stepped into a tiny apartment furnished with a cot, a phone, her guitar, blue cape, and an ancient copper horn.

At the top of each hour, from 9 pm to midnight, she blew a series of blasts to reassure city residents that all was well—a six-hundred-year-old ritual.

Between the horn-tooting episodes, Saljé picked up her guitar and sang—most notably, a German tower keepers’ song, “I left the earth and stand on the tower.” At 11 pm, I clumped down the circular stairs, boarded a train and joined the tour group in the Roman city of Cologne.

The story gets even better. Last summer, my entire group of Amish—with a few others—was invited to climb the tower with Saljé. To my knowledge, this was the first TourMagination group to experience this. 

St. Lambert’s Tower, Münster, Germany

I cannot promise it will happen again, but on every tour we discover something new in the ancient Anabaptist homeland—from the Netherlands to Switzerland and from France to Austria. 

I lead three TourMagination Tours in 2019: “Discover Prague and the Mennonites Sojourn in Poland,” May 27-June 6; “European Anabaptist Heritage Tour,” June 10-24; and “Central Asia: Crossroads of Faith and Culture,” September 21-October 3. 

In 2020, another Amish group will ride the Queen Mary II to Southhampton, England, and take the train to meet me in Amsterdam for another sure-to-be-amazing tour. These fortunate people will see the world-famous Passion Play at Oberamergau, Germany. Welcome aboard!

Explore your Mennonite and Anabaptist roots on a heritage tour in Western Europe, Poland, Russia/Ukraine, South America or Central Asia with our sponsor TourMagination