The Bishop's palace was an annex on the northern side of the Cathedral until the city was sacked in 1689. Emperor Charles V resided here during the Imperial Diet of 1521. Martin Luther was summoned to the palace on 17 and 18 April, where he confessed to his writings and refused to recant:
It is wrong, he said, to act against conscience
when it is enshrined in God's law. "So help me God. Amen." The words:
"Here I stand, I can do no other!" were added retrospectively.
Heylshof Garden is now located at the site of the former Bishop's residence. An
ornate memorial site commemorates the events of 1521.
A drawing by Johann Friedrich Hamman depicts the shape of the Bishop's palace complex, built at right angles as an annex to the north-facing side of the cathedral, as it was before the sacking of the city in 1689. The drawing shows the two-storey residential buildings between the cathedral and St Stephen's Church (the bishop's court chapel) as Aula minor (built on to the cathedral), an enclosed gateway, and what was called the 'Aula major', the largest of the buildings; the latter has a roof structure adorned with bay windows.
The 'Saalstiege' (outdoor steps with balustrades, connected to the building) was located on the square in front of the Bishop's palace, adjacent to St Stephen's, until shortly after 1600; this was an important site in the city's constitution, where significant legal acts were held such as the proclamation of laws or public investitures. This site, facing the cathedral's northern portal with its inscribed depiction of the privileges granted to the city by Frederick I Barbarossa (1184), was the most important place of public assembly for the citizens of Worms as far back as 1200, and shortly afterwards it was even used by the author of the Song of the Nibelungs as the setting for important scenes.
The precise location of Luther's hearings in April 1521 is not known, as details of the building's layout remain a mystery and the complex was destroyed when the city was sacked in 1689. Moreover, sections of the complex were refurbished and others added on repeated occasions, especially from the 15th century onward.
Mentioned in records for the first time around
1212/15, the Bishop's palace had been used since the Middle Ages as a residence
and reception facility for the Bishops of Worms, their administrators and
courtiers. It was also called upon frequently to accommodate travelling kings,
emperors and their respective retinues.