Worms, Germany

Worms (pronounced "vorms") is a city of about 85,000 people in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany, about 28 miles south of Mainz. The ancient city of Worms can trace its beginnings from the earliest civilizations. Even before the Romans came, Germanic peoples had made Worms their capital. The Romans arrived in 14 BC, and built a small town with the Roman street plan, a forum, and temples to the gods Jupiter, Juno, Minerva and Mars.

It was in Worms that Siegfried began his legendary adventures, recorded in The Nibelungenlied. Worms became a Christian bishopric in 614 AD (which passed to Hesse-Darmstadt in 1801). In the Frankish Empire, the city was the location of an important palatinate of Charlemagne, who built one of his many administrative palaces and an imperial cathedral here. The bishops administered the city and its surrounding territory.

In April 1521, the town's most famous visitor, Martin Luther, arrived under less than desirable circumstances, when he was called to appear before the Imperial Diet ("dee-it") at Worms. After refusing to retract his views (with the legendary words, "Here I stand, I can do no other"), Holy Roman Emperor Charles V declared him an outlaw. Now that Worms is mainly Protestant, a large monument to Luther and other giants of the Reformation has been erected in the city and it is a stop along the popular "Luther Trail."

Worms is also famous for its Romanesque architecture (it boasts five Romanesque churches, including the cathedral) and is a popular base for a tour of the Deutsche Weinstrasse, a 50-mile route through local wine towns.


advertisement
Worms Cathedral
Built 1125-81, this towering cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of High Romanesque architecture in Germany. It also has splendid Romanesque and Gothic carvings, a gilded Baroque altar, and an eerie crypt.
Martinskirche
Made of striking red sandstone, St. Martin's Church is a former collegiate church. It dates from the 12th century and is one of several fine Romanesque churches of Worms.
Jewish Cemetery
In the southwest corner of the walled city of Worms is the Heiliger Sand, the oldest Jewish cemetery in Europe. The green, peaceful grounds are home to hundreds of twisted and sunken tombstones, some more than 900 years old.
Worms Synagogue
Before World War II, Worms had one of the oldest Jewish communities in Germany. Today it is home to a rebuilt Romanesque synagogue, a medieval underground mikveh and a Jewish museum.
Magnuskirche
Originally a small Carolingian church built in the 8th and 9th centuries, the Church of St. Magnus has since been rebuilt and expanded. It was the first church in this region to convert to Protestantism.
Heylshofgarten
The Imperial Palace where Luther stood his ground and was declared an outlaw in 1521 was destroyed in 1689. The site is occupied by the Heylshofgarten, where a plaque commemorates the great Reformation event.
Pauluskirche
This 11th-century Romanesque Dominican church of rough sandstone looks like a miniature of Worms Cathedral. The exotic dome was likely inspired by Crusader descriptions of Middle Eastern architecture.
Luther Monument
Erected in 1868 and funded by Lutherans around the world, this is the largest Reformation monument ever built. Situated in a purpose-built park, it includes statues of Luther, his contemporaries and his forerunners.