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Martin Luther and the Reformation

Worms does much to keep alive the memory of Protestant reformer Dr Martin Luther and his visit to the city from 16 to 25 April 1521, when he was summoned to appear before Emperor Charles V.

During the Protestant Reformation from 1521 onwards, Lutheran teaching increasingly gained a following among the people of Worms. Luther’s appearance before Emperor and state in 1521 at the Diet of Worms created a special link between the Reformation movement and the city. However, Worms remained a multidenominational city and four religious tendencies were represented here in the 18th century: Lutherans, Catholics, Reformists and Jews.

 
 
 
 
Lutherdenkmal (Foto: R. Uhrig) 
Luther Monument (photographer: R. Uhrig)

Martin Luther and the Reformation

In 1517, Dr Martin Luther (1483–1545), an Augustinian friar, presented 95 theses questioning practices within the Catholic Church. In the following years he published several writings that were regarded as heretical. In them he rejected Church doctrines and practices that deviated from the Gospel and called for a reform. The Pope excommunicated him. 

Emperor Charles V summoned Luther to appear before the Diet of Worms in 1521 and demanded that he recant his writings. Luther refused because his views could not be disproved by the Scriptures The imperial ban issued by the Emperor proved ineffective. Frederick of Saxony, Luther’s prince-elector, gave him protection. 

The combination of political power and the desire for theological reform led to the Reformation. Luther’s ideas spread rapidly. His moral decision assumed great historical significance for Church and secular history worldwide.

 
 
Luther Monument (photographer: R. Uhrig) 
Luther Monument (photographer: R. Uhrig)

Luther Monument – the world’s largest Reformation monument

The Luther Monument in Worms tells the early history of the Reformation. The world’s biggest Reformation monument was made possible by donations from all over the Lutheran world. It was designed by Ernst Rietschel and officially unveiled in 1868.

Rietschel’s design is based on the Lutheran hymn ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’. The square base area is enclosed on three sides by castellated walls displaying the coats of arms of towns and cities that joined the Reformation movement. Raised pedestals support statues of famous 16th-century politicians and humanists who were connected with Luther. Between them sit three allegorical figures who symbolise the events and impacts of the Reformation. 

The tower-like main pedestal in the centre of the monument, with steps leading up to it, supports a statue of Luther dressed in a preacher’s robe and holding the Bible. He is looking towards the place in the shadow of the Cathedral, where the Bishop’s residence once stood and where he appeared before Emperor and state in 1521. Below him on four plinths sit Wyclif and Hus, forerunners of the Reformation, Petrus Waldus, founder of the Waldensian movement, and the friar Savonarola. The sides of the pedestal display coats of arms, medallions and reliefs illustrating the events of the Reformation.

Click here to see a photo gallery of the Luther Monument.

Take a virtual walk around the Luther Monument.

 
 
Trinity Church (photographer: R. Uhrig)
Trinity Church (photographer: R. Uhrig)

Reformation churches in Worms

Protestant sermons were held in the Magnuskirche as far back as 1520. In the 18th century, the Lutherans built the Dreifaltigkeitskirche (Holy Trinity Church, a Reformation memorial church), while the Reformists built the Friedrichskirche. The Luther Church, a church in the Darmstadt art nouveau style, was built in 1912.

 
 
Bodenplatte im Heylshofgarten 
Plaque in the Heylshof Garden (photographer: R. Uhrig)

History in the Heylshof Garden

In the Heylshof Garden a plaque set into the ground marks the spot where Martin Luther stood before the Diet of Worms in 1521 and refused to recant his teachings. At the time, this was the site of the Bishop’s Palace, which was destroyed in 1689.