Photo A Wartburg is the fortress/castle (photo A) near Eisenach in which Luther was hidden (May 1521-February 1522) by Elector Frederick after the Diet of Worms. Built in the 12th century, the Wartburg is the best surviving example of a late Romanesque secular building north of the Alps. While here Luther translated the New Testament into German.

Facts and Photos

The Diet of Worms in April 1521 was the first imperial Diet convened by Emperor Charles V, who had been elected in June 1519. Hoffman writes: "For the Diet of 1521, a host of problems were on the agenda. Above all the emperor wanted to obtain money and troops from the Germans to counter the threats to the Empire from the Turks and the French. The imperial supreme court and imperial regiment were also to be topics of discussion. The `Luther Affair' was supposed to be taken care of on the side; instead it overshadowed the entire diet and turned into a test of strength between the imperial estates and the emperor" (220). Through the political maneuvering of the Elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise, Luther was granted a hearing before the Diet. He came expecting an opportunity to debate the issues. Instead he was asked, "Do you or do you not repudiate your books and the errors which they contain?" Luther answered, "Unless I am convicted by Scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of 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. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise."

Photo BOn his return trip to Wittenberg, he was "kidnapped" by Elector Frederick's people and taken into hiding at the Wartburg for his own safety, since he was declared an outlaw in the Edict of Worms. To ward off his feelings of doubt ("Are you alone wise? Have so many centuries gone wrong?") and depression brought on by his isolation, Luther wrote several treatises and translated the New Testament into German. Kittelson writes: "Luther translated the entire New Testament into German within 11 weeks. Like a man possessed, he worked at the rate of more than 1500 words per day. What he produced was so masterful that in time it did much to create the modern German language" (175).

Photo CLuther lived in two rooms in the castle warden's house at the Wartburg–a small, windowless room for sleeping, and a larger room with a window for writing (photo B, above). The picture above the desk is a copy of Cranach painting of Luther as "Knight George," with full beard–his disguise while in hiding. The present furniture is not original, with the possible exception of the whalebone (Photo C), which Luther is said to have used as footstool.



As a typical tourist/pilgrim, I wanted to buy inexpensive, easily transportable, nice (versus kitsch), and meaningful souvenirs at every place I went. I was often less than successful. In Eisleben I bought two coasters with Luther's seal on them and carefully wrapped them in socks to transport them safely. In Dresden while unpacking, one fell out on the floor and broke. I loved Aachen and hunted in the souvenir shops for something tasteful, but had to settle for a rather kitsch item–a bronze paperweight of the cathedral, which now graces my desk. In Wittenberg I bought "Luthersocks" for Mark and me. Woven into the ankle part of the sock are the words (in German) "Here I stand. I can do no other." I have worn mine with pride on Reformation Day and Luther's birthday. But the one thing I bought which met all my criteria was an item I got at the Wartburg gift shop–a German New Testament paperback subtitled "Luther-Übersetzung" (Luther translation); actually, it's a twentieth-century revision by the German church, but it's still based on his work.

Several years I was reminded of how we take for granted having the Scriptures easily available to us in so many different English translations when I visited a local church with a Concordia student, Truc Bi, a young Vietnamese woman. A Bible society group that does translation work was speaking after the service, and Truc Bi asked me if we could stay. I never would have done so, had I been there on my own. But this particular organization had worked on the Bible translation in Truc Bi's native tongue, and so for her there was a powerful connection. Around the world there are still language groups today that have the same experience the German people did in the sixteenth century–hearing and reading for the first time the Word of God in their native language, and having affordable copies of the Scripture made available for private and personal study of God's Word.