“Luther, who through the church’s excommunication was practically declared a heretic, was invited to Worms by the Emperor who had been pressured by a few princes. Both the church and Emperor wanted Luther to recant his teachings while he was there. The princes who supported Luther hoped that through the forthcoming events the political power of Rome over Germany would be weakend.
Luther’s powerful sovereign, Elector Friedrich the Wise of Saxon demanded that Luther not be outlawed and imprisoned without a hearing.
The Trip to Worms
Luther began his trip to Worms on April 2, 1521. The journey to the Imperial Diet did not embody the repentance the church had hoped for. The journey to Worms was more like a victory march; Luther was welcomed enthusiastically in all of the towns he went through.
He preached in Erfurt, Gotha and Eisenach. He arrived in Worms on April 16 and was also cheered and welcomed by the people.
Luther’s Appearance at the Imperial Diet
Luther’s appearance at the Imperial Diet was described as objective, clever and well thought out. He had to appear before the Emperor twice; each time he was clearly told to take back his teachings. Luther didn’t see any proof against his theses or views which would move him to recant: “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.”
I am Finished!
After he left the negotiations room, he said “I am finished.” And he was for the time finished; Luther was dismissed, and not arrested because he had a letter of safe conduct (Schutzbrief) which guaranteed him 21 days of safe travel through the land. He headed home on April 25.
When Luther and the princes who supported him left Worms, the emperor imposed an Imperial Act (Wormser Edikt): Luther is declared an outlaw (he may be killed by anyone without threat of punishment).
On the trip home, Elector Friedrich the Wise allowed Luther to be kidnapped on May 4 (Luther knew about it beforehand). This took place on the one hand to guarantee Luther’s safety and on the other hand to let him disappear from the scene for a short while; there were even rumors of Luther’s death. This action also helped the Elector not to endanger himself because he could have been held liable for protecting an outlaw and heretic.”
-KDG Wittenburg 1997