Diet of Worms

The Diet of Worms from

The Life and Letters of Martin Luther

by Reserved Smith PH.D. 1911

Martin Luther etching 1521

The DIET OF WORMS. 1521 From Cologne Charles V proceeded to Mayence and thence to Worms, where he was about to open his first diet. The varied programme of the national assembly included the drafting of a constitution for the Empire and the formulation of grievances against the tyranny of the Roman hierarchy.  It could hardly hope to avoid the religious question then agitating the whole nation, but the unprecedented course of summoning the heretic to answer before the representatives of his nation was not decided on until after the estates had been sitting for a month.

Luther himself, in appealing to the Emperor, did not expect to be called before the Diet; he hoped to be allowed to defend his doctrines before a specially appointed tribunal of able and impartial theologians.  This plan was pressed quietly but vigorously by Erasmus, the foremost living man of letters.  Besides his action in urging Frederic to insist on such a trial for his subject, the great humanist had, at Cologne, handed to the counsellors of the Emperor a short memorial, Advice of One heartily wishing the Peace of the Church, proposing the appointment of such a commission.  He partly won over the Emperor’s confessor, Glapion, but Chievres and Gattinara, the real powers behind the imperial throne, remained in opposition.   A little later at Worms, John Faber, a Dominican friar, came forward with a similar plan, composed with the help of Erasmus.

Such a solution of the difficulty would have been most distasteful to the Curia.  Regarding the Wittenberg professor’s opinions as res adjudicates, the Romanists saw no reason for giving him a chance to defend them, and wished only to punish the man already condemned.  This course was urged by Aleander, an extremely able and unscrupulous diplomat.  His chief support was the young emperor, whose formal, backward mind failed to comprehend and even detested any variation from the faith in which he had been brought up.