The Sorbs? Who are the Sorb people? And Lusatia? Where is that?
Let’s start from the beginning.
Lusatia is the easternmost region in ex East Germany. And that’s no small feat, especially if – like me – you were young while the Berlin Wall was still standing and Europe was split by the Iron Curtain, and travelling to East was almost impossible. Moreover, Lusatia is one of the few places in Germany with two official languages. German, of course, and a slavic one: Sorb.
There are no more than 60.000 Sorbs, which makes them the smallest Slavic population in the world. They live here since more than 1500 years and they protected their culture and their language by any means – they managed to preserve them during the dark ages of Nazism and DDR.
The Sorb language is part of the Western Slavic group and is divided into Upper Sorb and Lower Sorb. Such linguistic partition is matches a religious one: Upper Sorbs are Catholics, the Lower Sorbs are Lutherans.
Historically Lusatia had more than one capital. One of these is Bautzen (Budyšin in Sorb), an ancient medieval citadel with great charm. Small alleys and staircases lead to the old town, its 17 towers – one of them being a leaning tower – and its 1300 historical buildings – in town of just 40.000 inhabitants!
The Cathedral of Saint Peter, right in the middle of the old town, is quite an eclectic building: the original Gothic has been widely revisited during during the Baroque era, especially the interiors and the dome. The result is somehow disappointing, but the cathedral is interesting well beyond its architectural value.
Here in 1523, six years after the beginning of the Protestant Reform, a Lutheran preacher started his missionary activity, seizing a this Catholic church. Seven years of tirades followed, nut since 1530 Catholics and Lutherans share more or less peacefully the religious building, which became one of Germany’s largest shared church.
Once inside this large Gothic building you will find a church with two altars: the Catholic one was made in 1723 by a scholar of Balthasar Permoser, the designer of Dresda’s Zwinger. There is a barrier, as tall as the one of a balcony, with a small door. On one side seat the Catholics, on the other the Protestants. In the past the barrier was four meters tall, but with the softening of religious bitterness it was lowered down. When I visited the church the barrier’s door was open and one could easily walk from one side to the other.