How Luther’s showdown at the ‘Diet of Worms’ shaped Christianity

Ever had a nerve-wracking job interview? How about being called in to see the headmaster? Take those feelings, multiply their intensity by one hundred and it might come close to that experienced by Martin Luther, this week almost 500 years ago.

How Luther's showdown at the 'Diet of Worms' shaped Christianity
The Wartburg Castle reflected in Martin Luther's portrait. Photo: DPA

Luther, a priest, monk and professor, had been summoned by the Holy Roman Emperor to appear at the Diet of Worms.

Diets, held across the Holy Roman Empire at various intervals, were the sprawling power's means of resolving interval disputes, as well as setting the agenda going forward.

Luther remains resolute in his teachings

Four years before, on October 31st, 1517, Luther had nailed the ‘95 Theses’ to the door of the University Church in Wittenberg, now in Saxony-Anhalt. These criticisms of Catholic dogma threw petrol onto the already burning flames of the Reformation, causing uproar across the Empire.

SEE ALSO: 12 surprising facts you didn't know about Martin Luther

Despite numerous demands for a retraction of his statements, as well as a series of debates with cardinals, Luther remained resolute in his teachings that were rapidly being taken up and reprinted by early presses. Thus, an edict was sent, demanding his appearance.

The Wittenburg Castle, today an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Photo: DPA

To the kind of welcome we would associate with a touring rock star, Luther arrived in Worms in on April 16th, 1521. The next day, he was brought before the Diet. Asked if he was ready to recant what were considered his heretical statements, he asked for a day to think and pray.

Refusing to recant

The next day, after hours of contemplation, Luther appeared at the Diet again. This time, he apologized if he had slandered anyone, but refused to recant his statements unless scripture could do so.

At this point, legend says he uttered the words, “Here I stand, I can do no other” to the Emperor, clergy and assembled nobles.

Luther left before a verdict was handed down, brandishing his letter of safe conduct. He would have to start planning for a life on the run – the signs didn't look good for his acquittal.

Indeed, the next month, another edict was issued calling for his capture and the banning of his works.

In the end, however, this was something he did not have to worry too much about. On the way back to Wittenberg, he was 'captured’ by troops loyal to his most powerful ally, the Elector of Saxony, and taken to Wartburg Castle.

A scene depicting Luther's refusal to revoke his teachings, today on display in Heylshof Park in Worms in Rhineland-Palitinate. Photo: DPA

Sparking a rebellion

Luther would spend just under a year at Wartburg, until the heat died down. Taking the name 'Junker Georg’, he spent his days translating the Bible into vernacular German and, if the legends are to be believed, struggling terribly with constipation.

SEE ALSO: How Luther gave Germans a language everyone could use

Despite the efforts of Church and Emperor, the Protestant genie was well and truly out of the bottle. Over the next few decades, Luther's teachings would stretch far beyond the Empire's borders. Within, it would help instigate the Peasants' War of 1525, and Anabaptist rebellion.

While the Protestant Reformation had been simmering away for decades, it was Luther's actions that would lead to the greatest change, and the rise of the Protestant churches we see today.

So, next time you're called into a very important meeting, or are pulled up for a minor infringement, take inspiration from Luther's actions at the Diet of Worms. A little calm under pressure, and asking for time to make an informed decision may just save you!


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Mosques in Cologne to start broadcasting the call to prayer every Friday

The mayor of Cologne has announced a two-year pilot project that will allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer on the Muslim day of rest each week.

Mosques in Cologne to start broadcasting the call to prayer every Friday
The DITIP mosque in Cologne. Photo: dpa | Henning Kaiser

Mosques in the city of the banks of the Rhine will be allowed to call worshippers to prayer on Fridays for five minutes between midday and 3pm.

“Many residents of Cologne are Muslims. In my view it is a mark of respect to allow the muezzin’s call,” city mayor Henriette Reker wrote on Twitter.

In Muslim-majority countries, a muezzin calls worshippers to prayer five times a day to remind people that one of the daily prayers is about to take place.

Traditionally the muezzins would call out from the minaret of the mosque but these days the call is generally broadcast over loudspeakers.

Cologne’s pilot project would permit such broadcasts to coincide with the main weekly prayer, which takes place on a Friday afternoon.

Reker pointed out that Christian calls to prayer were already a central feature of a city famous for its medieval cathedral.

“Whoever arrives at Cologne central station is welcomed by the cathedral and the sound of its church bells,” she said.

Reker said that the call of a muezzin filling the skies alongside church bells “shows that diversity is both appreciated and enacted in Cologne”.

Mosques that are interested in taking part will have to conform to guidelines on sound volume that are set depending on where the building is situated. Local residents will also be informed beforehand.

The pilot project has come in for criticism from some quarters.

Bild journalist Daniel Kremer said that several of the mosques in Cologne were financed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, “a man who opposes the liberal values of our democracy”, he said.

Kremer added that “it’s wrong to equate church bells with the call to prayer. The bells are a signal without words that also helps tell the time. But the muezzin calls out ‘Allah is great!’ and ‘I testify that there is no God but Allah.’ That is a big difference.”

Cologne is not the first city in North Rhine-Westphalia to allow mosques to broadcast the call to prayer.

In a region with a large Turkish immigrant community, mosques in Gelsenkirchen and Düren have been broadcasting the religious call since as long ago as the 1990s.

SEE ALSO: Imams ‘made in Germany’: country’s first Islamic training college opens its doors