On April 18, 1521, Marin Luther—age 37—gave his famous “Here I Stand” speech at the Diet of Worms.
- The Imperial Diet was the general assembly of the imperial estates of the Holy Roman Empire.
- Worms [pronounced more like verms] was a German town on the western bank of the Rhine River.
On April 17, 1521, Luther arrived in Worms after completing his 15-day, 300-mile journey from Wittenberg.
At 4 PM he was taken to the Bishop’s Court and waited for two hours to see the Emperor.
Then at 6 PM he appeared before the Diet, led by Charles V, the 21-year-old Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, and Johann Eck, his 33-year-old spokesman.
Along with them were the Roman advisers and representatives, Spanish troops, and the German political elite.
Luther was asked two questions:
- Do you acknowledge having written these twenty books lying here?
- Are you prepared to retract them as a whole or in part?
Luther was taken aback; he was expecting debate, not a yes or no answer. After Luther’s lawyer Hieronymus Schurff objected, “Let the titles of the books be read!” Luther responded in a barely audible voice: “The books are all mine and I have written more.”
As to the second question, Luther responded: “This touches God and his word. This affects the salvation of souls. Of this Christ said, ‘He who denies Me before men, him will I deny before My father.’ To say too little or too much would be dangerous. I beg you, give me time to think it over.”
The assembly reluctantly gave him 24 hours to think it through. He responded the next evening with his famous answer.