Luther had told the Diet of Worms that he would retract nothing he had written or taught. The chancellor announced that the council would meet again the next day to hear the emperor’s opinion. Two imperial officers escorted Luther back to his room. At the sight of Luther flanked by guards, a disturbance broke out. The people thought he’d been arrested. Luther called out, “They are accompanying me to my hotel.”[i] The crowd dispersed. Luther spent the night in relative peace.
Charles Makes a Deal with the Pope
Meanwhile, Emperor Charles, had much to think about. The Ottoman armies were approaching the eastern borders. Francis, king of France, was also threatening war. At such a dangerous time, Charles needed the pope’s support and had made a deal with him. In exchange for part of the empire, the pope had promised his support in Charles’ war against France.
What Charles didn’t know was that the pope had also made a deal with King Francis, promising his support in Francis’ war against Charles. In exchange, Francis had promised to give the pope some of the territory he planned to take from Charles. Either way, the pope was bound to prosper and expand his territories.
Charles knew none of this. All he knew was that he wanted the pope’s friendship. He would give him a gift. To please the pope, Charles would condemn Luther.
Charles’ Surprising Announcement
Friday, April 19, 1521, Charles announced to the council that his ancestors had long been supporters of the Roman Catholic Church and he would follow their example. “I am about to dismiss the Augustine Luther, forbidding him to cause the least disorder among the people.”[ii] He declared that he would employ “every means calculated to destroy them (Luther and his followers).” He called every ruler to obey him.
Prince George, who hated Luther, said, “The princes of Germany will not permit a safe-conduct to be violated.” Elector Frederick declared, “The punishment of John Huss has brought too many misfortunes on the German nation for us ever to raise such a scaffold a second time.” These objections began a discussion that lasted two days.
Knights and nobles prepared their weapons to defend Luther.
The emperor gave Luther three days to reflect upon his decision. During this time, councillors and church leaders appealed to Luther to recant.
Luther is Banished
Finally, the emperor’s messengers went to Luther’s hotel. The chancellor read said, “Martin Luther, His Imperial Majesty, the electors, princes of the states of the empire, having at sundry times and in various forms exhorted you to submission, but always in vain, the emperor, in his capacity of advocate and defender of the Catholic faith, finds himself compelled to resort to other measures. He therefore commands you to return home in the space of twenty-one days, and forbids you to disturb the peace on your road, either by preaching or writing.”
Luther left Worms, Friday, April 26, 1521.
[i] History of the Reformation of the Sixteenth Century.