The historical site where Martin Luther was interrogated before the King and the realm on 17 and 18 April 1521 is now a picturesque park, Heylshof Garden. The former Bishop's palace that once stood here was destroyed by fire in 1689. It was there, during the 1521 Diet of Worms, that Luther refused to recant his writings.
The sentence "Here I stand, I can do no other" was added later on. But subsequent generations considered the words so apposite that they are still gleefully quoted today. Luther's historically verified and distinctly more measured response to the question of whether he would recant the writings recognised as his work, was: ". . . unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason; for I can believe neither Pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves, I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen."
A plaque erected at the site of this exchange features quotations from Luther's speech, while a bronze relief, created in 1971 by the artist Gustav Nonnenmacher, shows a frontal view of the Bishop's palace before 1689, and a bolt of lightning dissecting the city relief points to the ecclesiastical schism. The 2017 walk-in bronze sculpture 'Luther's Large Shoes' offers visitors space for personal contemplation and enactments.
Standing in shoes big enough to climb into, they gaze down across the Nonnenmacher sculpture and into the expanses of the picturesque park, the original venue of historical events hundreds of years ago. For an instant one stands rooted to the ground, trapped within the portentous situation. Donning solid shoes can be perceived as a summons to step into this space of free conscience once marked out by Luther himself.
And simply by slipping into the shoes, the
visitors themselves complement the static, earthbound installation,
transforming it into an animated, temporary and contemporary sculpture in the
round that grasps at and alters the space it occupies.