History of the Diet of Worms: Martin Luther on Trial 500 Years Ago

Martin Luther, Celebrity

The expectation was that Luther would travel the 300 miles to Worms, penitent and repenting. Instead, as he began his trip on April 3, 1521, he was invited to preach at Erfurt, Gotta, and Eisenach along the way from Wittenberg. It was more of a triumphal procession.

Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms

As a heretic, Luther’s hearing in Worms could not be held in the church but next to it in a building at the Heylshof Garden. The Allies had since bombed that building during WWII, but when I visited the location, I took a photo of the plaque commemorating that here Luther stood:

“Here stood, before Emperor and Empire, Martin Luther, 1521”

The Emperor

  • Habsburg (Austria and parts of central Europe)
  • Trastamara (Castile and Aragon Spain and parts of southern Italy.)

The Prosecution against Martin Luther

Johann Eck (Johannes von der Ecken), a professor from Ingolstadt whom Luther had debated at Leipzig, would act as his prosecutor and spokesman for the Emperor. Eck had burned Luther’s books in Worms. Luther’s defense lawyer would be Dr. Hieronymus Schurff, Professor of Canon Law at the University of Wittenberg.

Martin Luther before the Imperial Diet

Second Day of the Diet of Worms

The next day, after a night of consultation with friends and hours-long prayer Luther, replied to the second question, if he would reject them, saying:

The Edict of Worms

The next month, on May 25, the Edict of Worms decree was issued by Emperor Charles V, with these words:

Writer and technologist. Author of fascinating articles about history, tech trends, and pop culture. billpetro.com @billpetro

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