Diet of Worms

Diet of Worms

Germany [1521]
      meeting of the Diet (assembly) of the Holy Roman Empire held at Worms, Germany, in 1521 that was made famous by Martin Luther (Luther, Martin)'s appearance before it to respond to charges of heresy. Because of the confused political and religious situation of the time, Luther was called before the political authorities rather than before the pope or a council of the Roman Catholic church.

      Pope Leo X had condemned 41 propositions of Luther's in June 1520, but he also had given Luther time to recant. Because Luther refused to recant, he was excommunicated on January 3, 1521. While the emperor should then have arrested and executed Luther, the intervention of Luther's ruler, Elector Frederick III the Wise (Frederick III), brought the decision that he would appear for a hearing at the Diet under the emperor's safe-conduct.

      On April 17, 1521, Luther went before the Diet for the first time. In response to questioning, he admitted that the books displayed before the court were his, but, when asked to repudiate them, he asked for time to consider the question. The next day, again before the assembled Diet, Luther refused to repudiate his works unless convinced of error by Scripture or by reason. Otherwise, he stated, his conscience was bound by the Word of God. According to tradition, he said, “Here I stand; I can do no other.” Disorder broke out at the conclusion of Luther's refusal to recant, and the emperor dismissed the Diet for the day.

      A hero to the Germans but a heretic to others, Luther soon left Worms but spent the next nine months in hiding in the Wartburg, near Eisenach. When it came to the question of what to do with Luther, the Diet remained divided. In May, after most of the rulers had left, a rump Diet passed the Edict of Worms, which declared Luther an outlaw who should be captured and turned over to the emperor and whose writings were forbidden. The edict, never enforced, nevertheless inhibited Luther's travels throughout his lifetime and made him dependent on his prince for protection.

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Universalium. 2010.

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