Edict of Worms

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Edict of Worms as a poster

The Edict of Worms was a decree of Charles V with which Martin Luther was banned from the Reich in 1521 and the reading and distribution of his writings was forbidden. Luther himself was to be handed over to Rome by anyone who could get hold of him, and it was forbidden to accommodate him.



On July 24, 1520, Pope Leo X issued the bull threatening excommunication, "Exsurge Domine", which called on Luther to revoke 41 of the doctrines listed there within 60 days of delivery, otherwise he was threatened with excommunication. In addition, Luther's writings were to be collected and burned.

The bull itself, " Decet Romanum Pontificem ", which excommunicated Luther , was issued on January 28, 1521. The papal nuncio , Hieronymus Aleander , held it in Worms on January 18, 1521 . Since its content did not fit into the political run-up to the upcoming Reichstag in Worms , he initially tried neither to deliver it to Martin Luther - this would only have made it legally binding - nor to publish it. The latter only happened in October 1521, well after the end of the Reichstag.

In the medieval understanding of rule, the German king and emperor was the church's bailiff , had to protect it, act in accordance with it and thus flank a church bull with an imperial ban.

Reichstag 1521

At the Reichstag, Charles V acted with a twofold strategy: On the one hand, he tried to get Martin Luther to withdraw and gave him safe conduct. So it came to the famous appearance of Luther before the Reichstag in Worms.

On the other hand, he tried to issue a mandate against Luther at the same time, but this could only be done in accordance with the imperial estates . The emperor was also reluctant to assume responsibility alone, but rather to involve the imperial estates. These, however, were divided and, because of the church-critical approach that they shared, tended towards Luther's side, on which public opinion also predominantly stood. The imperial estates let two drafts of the emperor come up for a corresponding mandate.

On March 6, 1521, Charles V issued the summons to Luther in Worms in safe conduct. At the same time, however, he published a “sequestration mandate” on March 26 or 27, 1521 - now without the participation of the estates: Luther's writings were to be confiscated and destroyed. In fact, that was a prejudice.

In his hearing on April 17 and 18, 1521, Luther insisted that he refuse any revocation as long as his writings are not refuted based on the Holy Scriptures or for reasons of reason , and he stayed in the renegotiations of his famous appearance before the Reichstag on April 24th and 25th, 1521, at his point of view. On April 26th he left Worms.


On April 30, the emperor informed the imperial estates that he intended to act against Luther as bailiff of the church and asked them for advice. The estates agreed that the emperor would submit a corresponding draft. It was written by the nuncio Hieronymus Aleander. The wording was haggled until May 8, 1521, when the mandate was available in German and Latin . The nuncio was immediately in print. The preparations for printing had to be canceled when the Imperial Grand Chancellor Mercurino Arborio di Gattinara informed him that the approval of the Imperial Estates still had to be obtained first.

The Reichstag farewell took place on May 21, 1521, the electors , who sympathized with Luther, left Saxony and the Palatinate on May 23, 1521, and the final session of the Reichstag took place on May 25, 1521. Only after this official end of the Reichstag, but still on May 25, did the Emperor open the mandate to the remaining imperial estates, now referred to as the "Edict". Elector Joachim I of Brandenburg declared the approval of the imperial estates without discussion or change . It was made out the following day - although it was dated May 8, 1521, giving the impression that it had come about during the session of the Reichstag. Because of these discrepancies, there was a dispute about its validity.


The Edict of Worms could not be enforced throughout the empire . The territories that turned to the Reformation ignored it. Luther's sovereign, Elector Friedrich von Sachsen , forbade the emperor to deliver the edict - which he also observed.

At the Reichstag in Nuremberg in 1524, the Edict of Worms was included in the Reichstag farewell - the formal errors that his opponents complained about when it came about in Worms in 1521 were thus eliminated.

At the Diet of Speyer in 1526, Ferdinand I granted the estates the right to implement the edict as they could answer for it before God and the emperor. The Edict of Worms was thus obsolete for the Protestant territories. The Diet of Speyer in 1529 reaffirmed the edict, which, however, only became effective in the Roman Catholic territories. The contradiction expressed at the time (“protestatio”) of the evangelical imperial estates made them “ Protestants ”.


  • Martin Brecht : Martin Luther. His path to the Reformation 1483–1521 . Calwer, Stuttgart 1981.
  • Martin Brecht: The Edict of Worms in southern Germany . In: Fritz Reuter (ed.): The Reichstag in Worms 1521 . Worms 1971, pp. 475-489.
  • Gerhard Liebig: Protestant church development and Edict of Worms. Charles V as a Lutheran "church father" against his will. Archives for Lutheran Theology 24 (1995).
  • Robert Stupperich : Prehistory and aftermath of the Edict of Worms in the German northwest . In: Fritz Reuter (ed.): The Reichstag in Worms 1521 . Worms 1971, pp. 459-474.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Brecht, Martin Luther, p. 372ff.
  2. ^ Brecht, Martin Luther, p. 406.
  3. Brecht, Martin Luther, p. 407.
  4. Brecht, Martin Luther, p. 415ff.
  5. ^ Brecht, Martin Luther, p. 425.
  6. ^ Brecht, Martin Luther, p. 443ff.
  7. Brecht, Martin Luther, p. 450.
  8. Brecht, Martin Luther, p. 450.
  9. ^ Brecht, Martin Luther, p. 451.
  10. Brecht, Martin Luther, p. 453.