What does Luther actually have to do with Worms?

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The Nibelungen City Worms celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Diet of Worms in 2021. What connects the city with Luther and how can you experience Luther in Worms?..

Nibelungen Bridge; Photo: Tomy Heyduck

The Unruliness of Worms: Martin Luther and the Imperial Diet of 1521

Luther belongs to Worms just like the Romanesque cathedral of St. Peter, the Nibelungen and the Jewish history of the city. They have all shaped the city and can still be experienced today as important cultural profiles in many places.
Striking sights that have a direct connection to Luther and the Reformation in Worms are the Trinity Church as a Reformation memorial church and one of the largest Reformation monuments in the world, the Luther Monument. But what does Martin Luther actually have to do with Worms?

Luther Monument of the City of Worms

Worms is one of 16 Luther cities and as such has been part of the "League of Luther Cities" since 1993. The German cities in which Luther lived or worked have joined together in this alliance. Did Luther live in Worms? Or was this where he posted the 95 theses? No, that was of course another city with W. Admittedly, I had to dig a little in my school knowledge until it came back to me: Luther refused to recant his writings before the emperor here at the Diet of Worms in 1521, more than 500 years ago.

Guided tour of Worms; Photo: Bernward Bertram

The Diet of Worms in 1521 was a major event in Worms at the time. For several months, there were 10,000 more visitors in the city than Worms had inhabitants (estimated between 6,000 and 7,000). The newly elected Emperor Charles V had invited and attracted attention. Many important decisions must have been made at that time, but virtually no one remembers them today.

Instead, only one trial has gone down in the history books - the trial of Martin Luther. For the days of April 17 and 18, Luther was invited to the Diet. There he was given the crucial choice of recanting his published writings. If he did not do so, he would be subject to the imperial ban - he would be outlawed without any rights. After an all-night period of reflection, Luther refused to recant on April 18 because he could not reconcile this with his conscience.

I wonder if Luther knew back then what kind of stone he was going to set rolling? After all, freedom of conscience is in Article 4 of the Basic Law, and we trace our structure of the federal states and the development of the Protestant Church back to the Reformation and thus also to that one moment of refusal to recant in Worms.

Luther's shoes; Photo: Bernward Bertram

Luther's decision of conscience: A walk through the Heylshof Park

At that time, at the Imperial Diet in the bishop's court, Luther invoked his conscience. He is said to have thought about it for a whole night beforehand. Then, the next day, Luther stood in front of all those pairs of eyes looking at him expectantly and said: "I cannot and will not revoke anything because it is neither safe nor advised to do anything against one's conscience."

Heylshof Park; Photo: Bernward Bertram

We can only guess what exactly it looked like at the trial back then, because the original sites from 1521 have disappeared due to the destruction of the Palatinate War of Succession in 1689 and the Second World War. On the site of the former bishop's court today is the Heylshof Park and so you can stand, albeit in a different setting, on the same spot where Luther stood more than 500 years ago. If you step into the large Luther shoes of the artist couple Illig & Illig, you can indulge in the thought of what it would really be like to follow in Luther's footsteps. With a little imagination, it becomes clear how Luther must have felt back then and what must have been going through his mind.

Here in Heylshof Park, there are many stations that remind visitors of Luther. Through a sound and light installation, visitors are asked 24 questions spread throughout the park. Luther is said to have asked himself these questions, or something similar, on the night of his Luther moment. The Heylshof Park is a small, quiet, green oasis in the middle of the city in the shadow of the cathedral, which invites you to linger and reflect.

Photo: Bernward Bertram

Luther is known in this place by the Educational and adventure course has become a tangible experience. At the same time, the Heylshof Park is transformed once a year into "Germany's most beautiful theater foyer" with the Nibelungen Festival, thus combining two of Worms' most important cultural profiles here.

Photo: Bernward Bertram
Luther Trail near Abenheim; Photo: Vera Meurer

In Worms offers the Luther Tour to experience the city at the time of Luther. The tour can also be done with the tour app "Experience Worms" which is also available as an AR version in the form of a graphic novel. Even outside Worms, you can follow in Luther's proverbial footsteps. The Luther Trail 1521 in Rhinehesse lures from or to Worms with many special impressions through the Rhine-Hessian nature to the Wartburg.

What else there is to discover in Worms, you can find out on the website of the City Worms.

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As an external author for the Rheinhessen blog, I like to take you with me on my discovery tours through Rheinhessen. With camera and notebook always in my luggage, I explore the region of a thousand Hiwwel, get to know the diversity of wine and meet hospitable Rheinhessen.

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