Essentially he was the travelling companion of another Augustinian. Together they would raise German Augustinian matters with the Augustinian Curia in Rome, but Luther was the junior partner in the duo. The younger of the two travellers, Luther was then aged twenty-seven years, and had been a priest for four years, and not yet attained his doctorate.
Luther accompanied Anton Kresz O.S.A. from Nuremberg, who was in charge of the mission. Kresz was familiar with the ways of the Curia in Rome. The Augustinian purpose of this journey to Rome – which many historians have somewhat overlooked – will be presented herein a few pages hence.
In October 1510 Luther, the pious monk, departed from the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt, located in central Germany. He prepared himself for a journey of 850 miles (1,000 kilometres) southwards on foot to Rome.
Along the route, these two Augustinians probably stayed in Augustinian houses in Ulm; went through the Sempter Pass in Switzerland to Milan, Italy; visited the convento of San Gallo, the convento of Santo Spirito in Florence and the convento of Santa Maria della Misericordia in Bologna; and stayed for a month with the Augustinian community at Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome.
Luther was reportedly given ten gold florins by the Order for his travel expenses. He became ill en route and feared he would die; he was saddened that he might perish in a foreign country. He became despondent for a time, but his health returned and he continued his journey to Rome. On his arrival at the Porta del Popolo beside the Augustinian church of Santa Maria del Popolo, it is said that Luther kissed the ground, and shouted, "Blessed be you, holy Rome!"
Visually, Rome was not necessarily an edifying image. A large part of the city consisted of waste ground, on which churches and a few house stood here and there. The majority of the population was crowded together along the banks of the Tiber.
Even so, he soon came to dislike everything about the city, from the ignorance and casual attitude of the priests, the movement of the hands that accompanies Italian conversation, the luxurious lifestyle of many clerics, the haste with which the Mass was celebrated, the refuse floating in the Tiber, the ubiquitous immoral women, the moral corruption even in high ecclesiastical circles, and even the universal Roman habit of urinating in the street almost anywhere except within view of a picture of a saint.
(Continued on the next page.)