Protective custody

Group 236


Martin Luther began the journey from Worms to Wittenberg on April 26, 1512, – promised safe passage by Emperor Charles V – with a large contingent of supporters, but days later only a handful remained. A group of men suddenly appeared on horseback and forced Luther to accompany them into the castle in Eisenach. Placed in a room, was this the end for the outspoken Luther?

As the day progressed, however, a very different fate unfolded. Details on all these events are scarce. One source notes that Frederick, Elector of Saxony, “allowed” Luther to be placed there in protective custody. In this way, Frederick was not directly implicated with Luther’s “disappearance.”

For the next 10 months, Martin Luther lived in disguise – his hair grown out and called “Knight Georg” – in Wartburg Castle. While there, he wrote and published more pamphlets in defense of his controversial views. Most importantly, Luther translated Erasmus’ Greek-based version of the New Testament into German. This effort proved significant for not just increasing access to the Bible in the vernacular but also on the emergence of the modern German language.

Contrary to expectations, the Diet of Worms led Luther to new freedom and an expanded Reformation role.

  • Bulletin insert – Week 11: Protective custody (pdf file)
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