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Martin Luther: Diet of W


Title: Martin Luther: early career to 1517 Author: Richard Fitzsimmons Last modified by: Albert Created Date: 9/11/2004 10:31:09 PM Document presentation format – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Martin Luther: Diet of W

Martin Luther Diet of Wörms, 1521
  • Richard Fitzsimmons
  • Strathallan School

  • Luther had been summoned before the Imperial Diet
    and the new young Emperor Charles V to answer for
    his writings and teachings
  • He had been given a promise of safe conduct by
    the Emperor, though many in Germany did not
    expect Charles to keep to it. (c.f. Jan Hus in
  • He had been granted a hearing before his peers in
    Germany as a favour to Frederick the Wise, and
    because of a law passed by Maximilian I that
    Germans could not be place on trial outside of
  • Luther was unaware of the amount of public
    support he had on the journey to Wörms he was
    to receive a shock when he got to Wörms

What was the situation in 1521 ?
  • Luthers rejection of the Bull Exsurge Domine at
    the end of 1520 meant that the internal church
    mechanisms for controlling opinions had failed to
    bring him back to orthodoxy.
  • The rapid spread of his writings, and the
    effectiveness of their appeal to the German
    people, threatened the established religious
    structure in Germany.
  • As Luthers writings began to divide educated
    opinion in Germany, his campaign was becoming as
    much of a political as a religious issue.
  • Any physical punishment of Luther would require
    either the cooperation of his own ruler,
    Frederick the Wise, or action by the Imperial

A fatal invitation ?
  • Charles V became German Emperor just as Luthers
    campaign was spreading he did not appreciate
    the level of support that Luthers ideas had
    amongst the Germans
  • Charles himself was a deeply committed Catholic
    he felt that he was the heir to good Catholic
    rulers and that he should uphold their example.
  • Although he was Emperor, Charles was in a
    relatively weak position as an inexperienced
    ruler, while the German princes were eager to see
    how their ruler would react to Luthers challenge
  • Rather than seek to punish Luther immediately, he
    decided to summon him to an Imperial Diet at
    Wörms where he could answer for his views.

Who was Charles V ?
  • On the death of Emperor Maximilian in 1519, his
    grandson, Charles I of Spain, was elected Emperor
  • Through the inheritance of his mother, Joanna of
    Castile, Charles had already been King of Spain
    since 1516.
  • He now became Emperor Charles V, and ruler of
    Flanders, Sicily, Naples and the New World.

Safe Conduct
  • Martin Luther was offered a safe-passage to
    appear before the Emperor at Wörms on 17 April
  • In 1415, the Czech reformer, Jan Hus, had been
    given a similar safe-passage to the Council of
    Constance. He was arrested and burned at the
  • Luthers life was certainly in danger not
    necessarily from the Emperor but perhaps from
    someone anxious to ingratiate themselves with
    their new ruler
  • Would the Reformation have died there and then if
    Luther had been burnt at Wörms ?

Luther at Wörms
  • Luther was asked whether he was prepared to
    recant the views that he had held. He refused and
    defended himself.
  • I do not set myself up as a saint. It is not my
    life that I am arguing about, but the teaching of
    Christ. It is not right for me to retract these
  • He concluded Here I stand, I can do no other.

What did the Emperor say ?
  • Charles V was infuriated by Luther, and replied
    After Luthers stiff-necked reply yesterday, I
    now repent that I have so long delayed
    proceedings against him and his false doctrines.
    I have resolved never again, under any
    circumstances, to hear from him. Under protection
    of his safe conduct he shall be escorted home,
    but forbidden to preach and to seduce men with
    his evil doctrines and incite them to rebellion.

The Edict of Wörms, 1521
  • Charles V kept his promise and Luther was allowed
    to return to Saxony.
  • Elector Frederick abducted Luther and hid him in
    the Wartburg Castle, for his own protection,
    until 1522.
  • The Edict of Worms gave imperial confirmation and
    support for the Popes Bull of Excommunication of
    3 January 1521.
  • Luther was now condemned both by the Pope and the

The situation after Wörms
  • Luther was not only an excommunicate, but also
    now an outlaw in the Empire he could be seized
    by anyone and handed over as a heretic.
  • Luther disappeared into the protective custody
    of Frederick the Wise at the Wartburg castle
  • Charles departed for Spain thinking that the
    official Ban passed by the Diet would be enough
    to dampen down the Luther Affair he was
    wrong. His absence and delegation of power to his
    brother Ferdinand meant that the Habsburg
    response to the spread of Lutheranism was hardly
    vigorous or sustained.
  • There was widespread sympathy for Luthers
    criticisms of the Church throughout Germany, and
    Charles Edict was upheld in some areas, ignored
    in others. Certain groups took up Luthers
    cause enthusiastically, among them the Imperial
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