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Luther and Emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms (1521)

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C. Edict of Worms

In May 1521, Emperor Charles V issued, in the name of the Diet, the following edict against Luther and his followers:

[ . . . ]

And now, particularly on account of these things, we have summoned here to Worms the electors, princes and estates of this our Holy Empire, and carefully examined the aforesaid matters with great diligence, as evident necessity demands, and with unanimous advice and consent of all, we decree what follows.

Although one so condemned and persisting in his obstinate perversity, separated from the rites of the Christian Church and a manifest heretic, is denied a hearing under all laws; nevertheless, to prevent all unprofitable dispute
[ . . . ] we, through our herald, gave him a safe-conduct to come hither, in order that he might be questioned in our own presence and in that of the electors, princes, and estates of the empire; whether he had composed the books which were then laid before his eyes. [ . . . ]

And as soon as these books were enumerated, he acknowledged them as his own, and moreover declared that he would never deny them. And he also says that he has made many other books, which we have not mentioned herein because we have no knowledge of them. [ . . . ]

Accordingly, in view of all these considerations and the fact that Martin Luther still persists obstinately and perversely in maintaining his heretical opinions, and consequently all pious and God-fearing persons abominate and abhor him as one mad or possessed by a demon [ . . . ] we have declared and made known that the said Martin Luther shall hereafter be held and esteemed by each and all of us as a limb cut off from the Church of God, an obstinate schismatic and manifest heretic. [ . . . ]

We strictly order that immediately after the expiration of the appointed twenty days, terminating on the fourteenth day of May, you shall refuse to give the aforesaid Martin Luther hospitality, lodging, food, or drink; neither shall anyone, by word or deed, secretly or openly, succour or assist him by counsel or help; but in whatever place you meet him, you shall proceed against him; if you have sufficient force, you shall take him prisoner and keep him in close custody; you shall deliver him, or cause him to be delivered, to us or at least let us know where he may be captured. In the meanwhile you shall keep him closely imprisoned until you receive notice from us what further to do, according to the direction of the laws. And for such holy and pious work we will indemnify you for your trouble and expense.

In like manner you shall proceed against his friends, adherents, patrons, maintainers, abettors, sympathizers, emulators and followers. And the property of these, whether personal or real, you shall, in virtue of the sacred ordinances and of our imperial ban and over-ban, treat in this way; namely, you shall attack and overthrow its possessors and wrest their property from them and transfer it to your own custody and uses; and no one shall hinder or impede these measures, unless the owner shall abandon his unrighteous way and secure papal absolution.

Consequently we command you, each and all, under the penalties already prescribed, that henceforth no one shall dare to buy, sell, read, preserve, copy, print, or cause to be copied or printed, any books of the aforesaid Martin Luther, condemned by our holy father the Pope as aforesaid, or any other writings in German or Latin hitherto composed by him, since they are foul, harmful, suspected, and published by a notorious and stiff-necked heretic. Neither shall any dare to approve his opinions, nor to proclaim, defend, or assert them, in any other way that human ingenuity can invent, notwithstanding he may have put some good in them to deceive the simple man.

Source of English translation: Hans J. Hillerbrand, ed., The Reformation. New York: Harper & Row, 1964, pp. 89-91, 94, 99-100.

Source of original German text: Detlef Ploese and Guenther Vogler, eds., Buch der Reformation. Eine Auswahl zeitgenössischer Zeugnisse (1476-1555). Berlin: Union Verlag, 1989, pp. 245-53.

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