Diet of Worms

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Luther at the Diet of Worms, by Anton von Werner, 1877 Luther at the Diet of Worms.jpg
Luther at the Diet of Worms, by Anton von Werner, 1877

The Diet of Worms 1521 (German : Reichstag zu Worms [ˈʁaɪçstaːk tsuː ˈvɔɐms] ) was an imperial diet (assembly) of the Holy Roman Empire called by King Charles V. It was held at the Heylshof Garden in Worms, then an Imperial Free City of the Empire. An imperial diet was a formal deliberative assembly of the whole Empire. This one is most memorable for the Edict of Worms (Wormser Edikt), which addressed Martin Luther and the effects of the Protestant Reformation. It was conducted from 28 January to 25 May 1521, with the Emperor Charles V presiding. [1]

German language West Germanic language

German is a West Germanic language that is mainly spoken in Central Europe. It is the most widely spoken and official or co-official language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, South Tyrol in Italy, the German-speaking Community of Belgium and Liechtenstein. It is one of the three official languages of Luxembourg and a co-official language in the Opole Voivodeship in Poland. The languages that are most similar to German are the other members of the West Germanic language branch, including Afrikaans, Dutch, English, the Frisian languages, Low German/Low Saxon, Luxembourgish, and Yiddish. There are strong similarities in vocabulary with Danish, Norwegian and Swedish, although those belong to the North Germanic group. German is the second most widely spoken Germanic language, after English.

Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire) general assembly of the Holy Roman Empire

The Imperial Diet was the deliberative body of the Holy Roman Empire. It was not a legislative body in the contemporary sense; its members envisioned it more like a central forum where it was more important to negotiate than to decide.

In politics, a diet is a formal deliberative assembly. The term is mainly used historically for the Imperial Diet, the general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire, and for the legislative bodies of certain countries. Modern usage mainly relates to the National Diet of Japan, or the German Bundestag, the Federal Diet.

Contents

Other imperial diets took place at Worms in the years 829, 926, 1076, 1122, 1495, and 1545, but unless plainly qualified, the term "Diet of Worms" usually refers to the assembly of 1521.

Diet of Worms (1495)

At the Diet of Worms in 1495, the foundation stone was laid for a comprehensive reform (Reichsreform) of the Holy Roman Empire. Even though several elements of the reforms agreed by the Imperial Diet (Reichstag) at Worms did not last, they were nevertheless highly significant in the further development of the empire. They were intended to alter its structure and constitutional ordinances in order to resolve the problems of imperial government that had become evident.

Background

Summons for Luther to appear at the Diet of Worms, signed by Charles V. The text on the left was on the reverse side. Summons for Luther to appear at the Diet of Worms.jpg
Summons for Luther to appear at the Diet of Worms, signed by Charles V. The text on the left was on the reverse side.

In June of the previous year, 1520, Pope Leo X issued the Papal bull Exsurge Domine ("Arise, O Lord"), outlining forty-one purported errors found in Martin Luther's Ninety-five Theses and other writings related to or written by him. Luther was summoned by the emperor. Prince Frederick III, Elector of Saxony obtained an agreement that if Luther appeared he would be promised safe passage to and from the meeting. This guarantee was essential after the treatment of Jan Hus, who was tried and executed at the Council of Constance in 1415 despite a promise of safe conduct.

Pope Leo X Pope from 1513 to 1521

Pope Leo X, born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, was pope from 9 March 1513 to his death in 1521.

Papal bull Type of letters patent or charter issued by a Pope of the Catholic Church

A papal bull is a type of public decree, letters patent, or charter issued by a pope of the Catholic Church. It is named after the leaden seal (bulla) that was traditionally appended to the end in order to authenticate it.

<i>Exsurge Domine</i> papal bull issued in 1520 discussing teachings of Luther

Exsurge Domine is a papal bull promulgated on 15 June 1520 by Pope Leo X. It was written in response to the teachings of Martin Luther which opposed the views of the Church. It censured forty one propositions extracted from Luther's Ninety-five Theses and subsequent writings, and threatened him with excommunication unless he recanted within a sixty-day period commencing upon the publication of the bull in Saxony and its neighboring regions. Luther refused to recant and responded instead by composing polemical tracts lashing out at the papacy and by publicly burning a copy of the bull on 10 December 1520. As a result, Luther was excommunicated in 1521.

Emperor Charles V commenced the Imperial Diet of Worms on 23 January 1521. Luther was summoned to renounce or reaffirm his views. When he appeared before the assembly on 16 April, Johann Eck, an assistant of the Archbishop of Trier (Richard von Greiffenklau zu Vollrads at that time), acted as spokesman for the emperor.

Richard von Greiffenklau zu Vollrads Roman Catholic archbishop

Richard von Greiffenklau zu Vollrads (1467–1531) was the Archbishop-Elector of Trier from 1511 to 1531.

Martin Luther

Luther in Worms, colorized woodcut, 1577 Luther-in-Worms-auf-Rt.jpg
Luther in Worms, colorized woodcut, 1577

The main events of the Diet of Worms relating to Luther took place from 16 to 18 April 1521.

On 16 April, Luther arrived in Worms. Luther was told to appear before the Diet at 4 p.m. the following day. Dr Jeromee Schurff, Wittenberg professor in Canon Law, was to act as Luther's lawyer before the Diet.

Worms, Germany Place in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany

Worms is a city in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, situated on the Upper Rhine about 60 kilometres (40 mi) south-southwest of Frankfurt-am-Main. It had approximately 82,000 inhabitants as of 2015.

On 17 April, the imperial marshal, Ulrich von Pappenheim, and the herald, Caspar Sturm, came for Luther. [2] Pappenheim reminded Luther that he should speak only in answer to direct questions from the presiding officer, Johann Eck. Eck asked if a collection of books was Luther's and if he was ready to revoke their heresies. Dr Schurff said, "Please have the titles read." There were 25 of them, probably including The 95 Theses, Resolutions Concerning the 95 Theses, On the Papacy at Rome, Address to the Christian Nobility, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, and On the Freedom of a Christian. Luther requested more time for a proper answer, so he was given until the next day at 4 p.m. On 18 April, Luther, saying that he had prayed for long hours and consulted with friends and mediators, presented himself before the Diet. When the counselor put the same questions to him, Luther first apologized that he lacked the etiquette of the court. Then he answered, "They are all mine, but as for the second question, they are not all of one sort." Luther went on to place the writings into three categories: (1) Works which were well received even by his enemies: those he would not reject. (2) Books which attacked the abuses, lies and desolation of the Christian world and the papacy: those, Luther believed, could not safely be rejected without encouraging abuses to continue. To retract them would be to open the door to further oppression. [3] "If I now recant these, then, I would be doing nothing but strengthening tyranny". [3] (3) Attacks on individuals: he apologized for the harsh tone of these writings but did not reject the substance of what he taught in them; if he could be shown by Scripture that his writings were in error, Luther continued, he would reject them. Luther concluded by saying:

Johann Eck German theologian

Johann Maier von Eck, often Anglicized as John Eck, was a German Scholastic theologian, Catholic prelate, and early counterreformer who was among Martin Luther's most important interlocutors and theological opponents.

Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. Its adherents, known as Christians, believe that Jesus is Christ, whose coming as the messiah was prophesied in the Hebrew Bible, called the Old Testament in Christianity, and chronicled in the New Testament. It is the world's largest religion with about 2.4 billion followers.

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen. [4]

According to tradition, Luther is said to have declared, "Here I stand, I can do no other," before concluding with "God help me. Amen." [5] However, there is no indication in the transcripts of the Diet or in eyewitness accounts that he ever said this, and most scholars now doubt these words were spoken.

Luther statue in Worms Luther statue, Martin-Luther-Denkmal, Worms.JPG
Luther statue in Worms

According to Luther, Eck informed Luther that he was acting like a heretic:

"'Martin,' said he, 'there is no one of the heresies which have torn the bosom of the church, which has not derived its origin from the various interpretation of the Scripture. The Bible itself is the arsenal whence each innovator has drawn his deceptive arguments. It was with biblical texts that Pelagius and Arius maintained their doctrines. Arius, for instance, found the negation of the eternity of the Word—an eternity which you admit, in this verse of the New Testament—Joseph knew not his wife till she had brought forth her first-born son; and he said, in the same way that you say, that this passage enchained him. When the fathers of the council of Constance condemned this proposition of John Huss—The church of Jesus Christ is only the community of the elect, they condemned an error; for the church, like a good mother, embraces within her arms all who bear the name of Christian, all who are called to enjoy the celestial beatitude.'" [6]

Private conferences were held to determine Luther's fate, but he was not arrested at Worms. Through negotiations by his prince, Frederick III, Luther had been given a letter of safe conduct to and from the hearing. After his dismissal he departed for his home in Wittenberg. However, fearing for Luther's safety, Frederick III sent men to fake a highway attack and abduct Luther, hiding him away at Wartburg Castle.

Edict of Worms

The Edict of Worms was a decree issued on 25 May 1521 by Emperor Charles V, declaring:

For this reason we forbid anyone from this time forward to dare, either by words or by deeds, to receive, defend, sustain, or favour the said Martin Luther. On the contrary, we want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic, as he deserves, to be brought personally before us, or to be securely guarded until those who have captured him inform us, whereupon we will order the appropriate manner of proceeding against the said Luther. Those who will help in his capture will be rewarded generously for their good work.

The Papal nuncio at the diet, Girolamo Aleandro, drew up and proposed the denunciations of Luther that were embodied in the Edict of Worms, promulgated on 26 May. The Edict declared Luther to be an obstinate heretic and banned the reading or possession of his writings.

It was the culmination of an ongoing struggle between Martin Luther and the Catholic Church over reform, especially concerning the practice of donations for indulgences. However, there were other deeper issues that revolved around both theological concerns:

To protect the authority of the Pope and the Church, as well as to maintain the doctrine of indulgences, ecclesiastical officials convinced Charles V that Luther was a threat and persuaded him to authorize his condemnation by the Holy Roman Empire. Luther escaped arrest and remained in seclusion at Wartburg castle for several months where he continued to write and translate the New Testament into German.

Other decisions

The Diet of Worms was also the occasion for Emperor Charles V to come to terms with his younger brother Ferdinand. Given the vast dominions of the House of Habsburg, Charles was often on the road and needed deputies (such as the Governors of the Netherlands and the Regents of Spain) for the times he was absent from his territories. According to the Habsburg compact signed at the Diet of Worms, and confirmed a year later in Brussels, Ferdinand obtained the regency and governorship of the Archduchy of Austria held by Charles V. At the Diet of Worms, Charles also agreed to favor the election of Ferdinand as King of the Romans, which took place in 1531. With the abdication of Charles V in 1556, Ferdinand succeeded Charles as Emperor and obtained hereditary rights over Austria. [9] [10]

Aftermath

Despite the agreement that he could return home safely, it was privately understood that Luther would soon be arrested and punished. To protect him from this fate, Prince Frederick seized him on his way home and hid him in Wartburg Castle. It was during his time in the Wartburg Castle that Luther began his German translation of the Bible. Martin Luther's powerful testimony of faith at the Diet of Worms in 1521 made an indelible impression upon the mind of George, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, who turned his eyes to the new faith earlier than any other German prince or any other member of the House of Hohenzollern. Moreover, Luther entered into correspondence with him, discussing with him the most important problems of faith. The edict was temporarily suspended at the Diet of Speyer 1526 but then reinstated in 1529.

When Luther eventually emerged from the Wartburg, the emperor, distracted with other matters, did not press for Luther's arrest. Ultimately, because of rising public support for Luther among the German people and the protection of certain German princes, the Edict of Worms was never enforced in Germany. However, in the Low Countries (comprising modern-day Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands), the Edict was initially enforced against Luther's most active supporters. This could be done because these countries were under the direct rule of Emperor Charles V and his appointed regent, Margaret of Austria, Duchess of Savoy (and Charles's aunt). In December 1521, Jacob Probst, prior of the Augustinian monastery in Antwerp, was the first Luther-supporting cleric to be arrested and prosecuted under the terms of the Worms Edict. In February 1522, Probst was compelled to make public recantation and repudiation of Luther's teachings. Later that year, additional arrests were made among the Augustinians in Antwerp. Two monks, Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes, refused to recant; on 1 July 1523, they were burned at the stake in Brussels. [11]

The 1522 and 1524 Diets of Nuremberg attempted to execute the judgement of the Edict of Worms against Luther, but they failed. [12]

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An edict is a decree or announcement of a law, often associated with monarchism, but it can be under any official authority. Synonyms include dictum and pronouncement.

Frederick III, Elector of Saxony Elector of Saxony

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Andreas Rudolph Bodenstein von Karlstadt, better known as Andreas Karlstadt or Andreas Carlstadt or Karolostadt, or simply as Andreas Bodenstein, was a German Protestant theologian, University of Wittenberg chancellor, a contemporary of Martin Luther and a reformer of the early Reformation.

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References

  1. Chronik der Stadt Worms Internet Archive
  2. Schaff, Philip (2015). History of the Christian Church. Arkrose Press. p. 145. ISBN   1346209650.
  3. 1 2 Oberman, Heiko, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006, ISBN   0-300-10313-1.
  4. Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. tr. James L. Schaaf, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985–93, 1:460.
  5. Elesha Coffman. "'Hier Stehe Ich!'". ChristianityToday.com.
  6. Martin Luther. "Life of Luther (Luther by Martin Luther)".
  7. Noll, Mark A. (2000) [1997]. Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic. p. 160. ISBN   978-0-8010-1159-7.
  8. Graebner, Augustus Lawrence. "Outlines of Doctrinal Theology". Saint Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. p. 161. Archived from the original on 21 January 2012. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
  9. Kanski, Jack J. (2019). History of the German speaking nations. ISBN   9781789017182.
  10. Brecht, Martin. Martin Luther. tr. James L. Schaaf, Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985–93, 2:102ff.
  11. 1899 Lutheran Cyclopedia article titled "Nuremberg Convention"