Translating the Bible at the Wartburg Castle

In Luther’s day anything that did not correspond to Church teaching was regarded as heresy. Those who deviated were executed as heretics. This fate threatened Martin Luther, who was repeatedly summoned by rulers and called upon to recant his theses and his criticisms of the papacy. But Luther refused to do so. At the Diet of Worms in 1521 the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V demanded that Luther recant, on which occasion he is reputed to have declared, “Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

“Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”

Thereupon Martin Luther was subject to imperial banishment. What happened then sounds like a detective story. That is because the imperial condemnation meant that anyone who killed the condemned person was immune from punishment himself. Prince Elector Frederick the Wise kept his protective arm over Luther, but at the same time did not want to be obvious in his protection of “his” heretic. Frederick had Luther kidnapped on the return trip from Worms to Wittenberg. Luther was taken to the Wartburg Castle outside of Eisenach. Luther took up residence disguised as Squire George and soon set about translating the New Testament into German within a few weeks’ time.

Luther used every possible means to deliver his thoughts and writings to the people. The invention of moveable type and the printing press came at an opportune time. It took little while for the new German Bible to reach the people.

Friedrich the Wise

Frederick III – known as „the Wise“ – was prince elector of Saxony and was indeed clever and wise. He helped Wittenberg to blossom. He had the castle and its chapel built, and he founded the university. He was also a great lover of art. He brought Lucas Cranach to Wittenberg and awarded him his own crest with the winged snake. Cranach used this crest to sign his paintings. Frederick the Wise was a quiet adherent of the Reformation, who for political reasons operated in the background. In such a manner he arranged for the “kidnapping” of Luther and his seclusion in the Wartburg as a means of protecting Luther. The Prince never openly appeared as the protector of his most famous subject.