Photo: André NestlerWartburg near EisenachLuther's stay on the Wartburg, situated formidably above Eisenach, was not long and not entirely voluntary. From May 4th, 1521, until March 1st, 1522, the theologian lived there in a quaint cell that can be visited today as "Luther's Room". This stay has made history, not only because it saved Luther's life, but also because Luther used his time on the Wartburg for great things.
Translation of the bible into German
Here, he translated the New Testament from the Greek into German. With this translation, the Holy Scripture - until then only accessible to scholars with a command of the Biblical languages - could be read by anyone who could read.
But how did the Reformer end up on the Wartburg? After his courageous appearance at the Imperial Diet of Worms in 1521, where he had defended his writings, Luther was in mortal danger. He had been declared an outlaw: everybody could have killed him without being held responsible.
Protective custody after a simulated attack
Therefore, the Elector of Saxony, Frederick the Wise, arranged for Luther to be taken into protective custody after a simulated attack. In the evening hours of May 4th, 1521, he was brought to his hiding place, where he changed into "Junker Jörg" (Knight George). He grew a beard and the opulent hairstyle of a knight, wore noble garments and a sword at his side, so that soon nobody was able to identify him.
Quietude and time, which Luther had in abundance on the Wartburg, helped him towards one of his most productive periods. It was mostly boredom that made him take the pen and translate the New Testament in only ten weeks time. Unlike his predecessors, Luther used the Greek text, the so-called Septuaginta.
With the ink pot against the devil
It can be concluded from Luther's numerous letters that he experienced his exile as very lonely. He also reported a strange noise in the old walls, which he believed to come from the devil. But he never mentions what later became a legend about him: that he threw an ink pot at the devil.
Only after the 17th century, this vivid legend about the struggle of the Reformer against his godless adversary can be found in the repertoire of the Wartburg stories. A wall of Luther's simple room in the castle was furnished with a suitable ink stain, which continued to be regularly refreshed until the end of the 19 century.
Due to its significance for the Reformation and its turbulent history, the Wartburg is one of the most famous castles of Germany today and belongs to the UNESCO world heritage.