Although there were signs of economic stagnation, the Diocesan and Imperial City of Worms in 1521 was an important urban centre occupying a prime location by the river Rhine. The population can only be estimated, but it is likely to have ranged between 6,000 and 7,000.
As Diocesan city, the seat of a bishop, an office that still laid claim to governing rights around 1500, Worms was a deeply religious urban centre with numerous seminaries, monasteries, parish churches and chapels with all their attendant, powerful and socially distinct clergy.
Nevertheless, the city council, acting in its capacity as the governing body of the municipality, had increasingly asserted its right to rule the city and its citizens since the 15th century. The council, which repeatedly faced internecine conflicts for power over the urban centre (the most recent violent citizens' uprising had occurred in 1513/14), recruited its members from the city's most prominent, wealthy families. Since the 14th century it had aligned itself with the monarch, meaning the king or the emperor, in the bitter dispute with sections of the clergy. From around 1500 onward, the council used legal and symbolic acts to emphasise the freedom of Worms as an Imperial City and to defend itself against the bishop's claims to the city and the increasingly frequent interference in the affairs of Worms by its direct neighbour, Electoral Palatinate. The council enjoyed consistent success in this conflict, securing far-reaching freedoms to define its own policies in alliances with cities located near by (above all Speyer, Strasbourg and others). The key to this strategy was to remain in the good graces of the emperor, who rewarded the city by granting privileges.
The Imperial Reform had already been initiated here during the Diet of 1495, so Worms was also selected as the venue for the eagerly anticipated first diet under the regency of the young King Charles V in the spring of 1521. The Imperial Diet presented an immense logistical challenge to those responsible, i.e. the City of Worms, as merely providing sufficient quarters for everyone wishing to attend was an almost insurmountable problem. But nevertheless the city was determined to use this grand stage to raise the profile of Worms and to emphasise its status as an Imperial City.