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Historical Sites

None of the buildings that hosted Luther during his sojourn in Worms in 1521 remain standing. They were mainly destroyed in 1689 during the Nine Years’ War. But there are still many places that have tales to tell about the history of the Imperial Diet and the Reformation. 

Schlossplatz with Heylsschlösschen, photo: Worms City Archive 
Schlossplatz with Heylsschlösschen, photo: Worms City Archive

Bishop's palace (Heylshof Garden)

None of the buildings in which Luther spoke or sojourned remains standing in Worms. The sacking of the city in 1689 by troops loyal to Louis XIV and a fire during the 1794 revolution completely destroyed the Bishop's palace. So now the site of Martin Luther's interrogation can only be reconstructed based on historical sources.

King 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.

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Bronze plaque at the site of the destroyed Seminary of St John, photo: Eichfelder 
Bronze plaque at the site of the destroyed Seminary of St John, photo: Eichfelder

Seminary of St John

A bronze plaque, attached to the front of the bank building and adjacent to a Woolworth outlet (Hardtgasse 2-4), today commemorates Luther's quarters at their assumed location between the corner of Kämmererstraße and Hardtgasse. Attending the Imperial Diet, Luther stayed in the Seminary of St John from 16 to 26 April 1521, where he was forced to share his room with two other men. The Saxons had chosen the quarters prudently, as the councillors to the Elector of Saxony and Marshall Ulrich von Pappenheim were already living there. This way they could pay lip service to the wishes of the Habsburgs to keep Luther under control, while still largely pursuing the interests of the Saxon crown.

The city's destruction during the Nine Years' War did not remain a unique occurrence. British and American bombing raids on 21 February and 18 March 1945 flattened almost two thirds of the buildings in the city centre, so visitors sometimes need information on where buildings once stood to follow in the footsteps of Luther. 

 
The Luther Monument, photo: Rudolf Uhrig 
The Luther Monument, photo: Rudolf Uhrig

Luther Monument

The Luther Monument is the most important testimony to the Protestant history of Worms, one visited without exception by each guest in the city. It was designed and created by Ernst Rietschel and his students Donndorf, Schilling and Kietz, and inaugurated in 1868.

Martin Luther, a Bible in his hands, stands at its centre. He is surrounded by John Wyclif, Petrus Waldus, Girolamo Savonarola and Jan Hus, all of them reformers who preceded him. Gathered around him like a mighty fortress are Frederick the Wise of Saxony, who spirited him away to safety on the Wartburg, disguised as Junker Jörg (Squire George), his patron Margrave Philipp of Hesse, and his friends and compatriots Johannes Reuchlin and Philipp Melanchthon. Reliefs and plaques commemorate important stages in the reformation. Finally there are the three female sculptures representing Speyer, Augsburg and Magdeburg as symbols of crucial turning points in the Reformation.

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Luther's Tree in Pfiffligheim; photo: Worms City Archive 
Luther's Tree in Pfiffligheim; photo: Worms City Archive

Luther's Tree

Many of the sites in the city are shrouded in legends, among them Luther's Tree in the western district of Pfiffligheim. It is said that two women argued about Luther during the Diet of Worms. One of them, a follower of Luther, took her staff and thrust it into the ground, exclaiming: "By the truth that this staff will take root and grow into a tree, by the same truth are Luther's teachings true."

Of course she was proven right, as the staff became an elm, reaching a height of 40 metres and becoming a protected natural monument and local landmark. But it lost its crown during a storm in 1870. Eventually it had to be felled in 1949. The mighty trunk with a circumference of 11 metres is preserved and transformed into a cultural monument by a wooden relief board by Gustav Nonnenmacher.

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Luther's Gate next to the Nibelungen Museum, photo: Worms City Archiv 
Luther's Gate next to the Nibelungen Museum, photo: Worms City Archiv

Luther's Gate

Luther's Gate on Torturmplatz does not really commemorate the reformer. Its actual name is 'Fisher Gate'. Not until the 19th century were the parallels to Luther's Gate in Augsburg discovered, a small exit that Luther used to flee the city after his interrogation by Cajetan.

The gate in Worms is remarkable for the city and its history because it passes through a particularly handsome section of the former city walls that is now home to the Nibelungen Museum.

 
Holy Trinity Church on the Market Square, photo: Rudolf Uhrig 
Holy Trinity Church on the Market Square, photo: Rudolf Uhrig

Holy Trinity Church

In 1733, Ludwig Seekatz, an artist from Worms, created a monumental painting depicting the scene before the Imperial Diet in 1521, which was built between 1709 and 1725. The painting was hung above the gallery on the western wall of the church, where it was enclosed in a frame made of plaster. Its signature identifies the artist as Johann Martin Seekatz. J. M. Seekatz (born 1669 in Grünstadt), father of Ludwig Seekatz, accepted the commission to paint the church in 1725. But he passed away in 1729.

His son continued the work in the name of his father. The painting was restored in 1817 by Philipp Christian Seekatz, a nephew of Ludwig Seekatz. It was destroyed in the fire that burned down the church in 1945. A watercolour remains preserved (gouache – original 31 x 39 cm). There is every indication that this painting is the work of Philipp Christian Seekatz, who will have created it during his restoration of the large-scale work. But some details of his watercolour differ from the original,

the most striking of which is the architecture: The engraving by Remshart and the painting in the church show the pilasters on the walls, the cornice above the windows and the cupola ceiling to be richly adorned. In contrast, Philipp Christian Seekatz reduced all of these features to classicist lines and forms.

A modern mosaic by Walter Eglin (Basel) entitled "Luther before the King and the Realm" now hangs in place of the former painting in the reconstructed Trinity Church.  A memorial plaque attached to the north-eastern wall of the choir in the Trinity Church commemorates the magnificent Guildhall once located here, which together with the Burgher House (Bürgerhof) formed the administrative centre of Worms.

Its destruction was perceived as divine retribution, prompting the city to build Trinity Church at precisely this location during reconstruction. 

 
The Luther Bible with a handwritten dedication by Luther, photo: William Schanzer 
The Luther Bible with a handwritten dedication by Luther, photo: William Schanzer

Luther Library

Constructed in 1963, the Guildhall is now home to the City Library. It is in charge of the Luther Library with its over 650 printed works from the Reformation era, including works by Luther and Melanchthon. The most precious item is a parchment Bible from 1541 with a personal inscription by the reformer. There is a facsimile copy of the first English translation of the New Testament by William Tyndale, which Peter Schöffer printed in Worms in 1526.

A touchscreen-operated media station at the entrance provides information on the collection and on works printed in the studio of Peter Schöffer the Younger (will be added in May `17)

 
Martin's Gate, photo: Worms City Archive 
Martin's Gate, photo: Worms City Archive

Martin's Gate

Luther entered the city through Martin's Gate. A building from 1904 now stands in its place, its artistically adorned façade graced with the words 'Martin's Gate' embossed on its surface. From Martin's Gate (bottom right), Luther's path took him along today's Kämmererstraße, past the over 1000-year-old St Martin's Church and St Lambertus Church, now gone, to his quarters in the seminary of the Order of St John. 

 
Exterior view of St Magnus' Church, photo: Rudolf Uhrig 
Exterior view of St Magnus' Church, photo: Rudolf Uhrig

St Magnus' Church

There is no doubt that Luther was aware of the cathedral and St Magnus' Church, the city's oldest ecclesiastical building, during his sojourn in Worms. Even at the time of the Imperial Diet, there are members of the clergy who advocate the new doctrine: among them is Johannes Rom(anus), chaplain of St Magnus' Church and a canon of St Andrew's Seminary.

The Protestant movement is supported by the theologian and seminary cantor Nikolaus Maurus, St Magnus' pastor Ulrich Preu, called 'Schlaginhaufen', and his chaplain Johannes Freiherr, as well as by Ulrich Sitzinger and the theologians Friedrich Baur and Heinrich Stoll. Ulrich Preu grants the Lutherans licence to use St Magnus' Church, which is incorporated within St Andrew's Seminary.

Other locations to congregate soon include the House of Dance and, from 1526, the ship owned by the Dominican church, as well as the Franciscan Monastery on Petersgasse. Ulrich von Hutten pens a pamphlet in July 1522, soliciting support from the other cities in his campaign against the papal church.

In 'demütige ermanung an ein gemeyne statt Wormbß' (in humble exhortation for unity in Worms), he admonishes the nascent Protestant church around pastor Ulrich Preu to remain true to its principles in the face of all resistance, while also calling for free elections of priests and bishops. A clergyman marries in St Magnus' Church in 1524. St Magnus' Church and St Andrew's Church directly adjacent originally belonged to St Andrew's Seminary.

 
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