… is the setting of a major scene in the Reformation history?

Almost every child knows the story of David versus Goliath. It is always mentioned when two unequal opponents encounter—and the supposedly weaker one wins out in the end. Oddly enough, this tale from the Old Testament is never used in relation to Martin Luther, although his biography actually corresponds to the same pattern: A young Augustinian monk from insignificant Wittenberg by conviction starts an argument with the establishment—with a decisive scene of this conflict taking place in Worms in 1521.

Four years previously, Luther had expressed his discontent with the common practice of the selling of indulgences (“bought absolution”) in the Catholic Church in his “95 theses”—which marked the beginning of the Reformation. His ideas rapidly spread and were gladly received by many sympathisers—a fact increasingly leading to unrest amongst the temporal and spiritual authorities. The rulers exerted pressure. But Luther did not change his opinion and even reinforced it in more than 80 writings in the years to follow. In the beginning of 1521, Pope Leo X excommunicated him after a public dispute. Yet, before Luther could ultimately be made an outlaw, he was due to speak at a hearing at the Imperial Diet, which took place in Worms in April 1521 on account of Emperor Charles V. Luther again showed himself uncompromising and unwilling to recant his teaching. He said that his conscience was captive to the word of God: “Thus I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against the will of the conscience is neither safe nor salutary. God help me. Amen!”

What followed was what later came to be known as the Edict of Worms, imposing the ban of the Holy Roman Empire on Luther. Provided with a letter of safe conduct ensuring his security for three weeks, Luther set out to travel back to Wittenberg in the beginning of May 1521. On his way back, a prearranged kidnapping was carried out. Armed men brought him to the remotely situated Wartburg Castle near Eisenach on account of his sovereign Frederick, the Elector of Saxony. Luther disappeared from the scene for one year, translating the New Testament into German during that time. The Reformation, however, could not be stopped anymore. The Reformation movement had already carried away large parts of the society. The rest of this David-versus-Goliath story is world history.

Today, there are still many testimonies bearing witness to the Reformation era in Worms. Just to mention a few: More than 600 historical printed documents are stored in the city library, some of which belong to the UNESCO Memory of the World. And at the square called Lutherplatz, you can find one of the biggest Reformation monuments in the world.