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On the late afternoon of May 4,1521, Martin Luther and his travel companions are attacked in the Glasbachgrund near Steinbach – near today's Bad Liebenstein. Passengers' cries for help remain unheard, one of the passengers is able to escape into the forest, but the masked riders only want one particular person...
It all began three and a half years earlier when Martin Luther formulated his criticism of the indulgence trade. On October 31, 1517, the young professor at Wittenberg University sends letters to the Archbishop of Magdeburg and Mainz, Albrecht von Brandenburg, and the local bishop of Wittenberg, Hieronymus Schultz, as well as to his religious brother Johannes Lang in Erfurt. But the contents of the letters are not kept secret for long: Luther's 95 Theses are quickly made known to the general public - book printing makes this possible. The response is so tremendous it does not only stir throughout Germany, it is even perceived in Rome. Several lawsuits are filed against Luther, the summons for interrogation by Pope Leo X follows. With diplomatic skills, Luther's Saxonian sovereign, Friedrich the Wise, can change this into a questioning in Germany. Less than a year after its first publishing, Luther faces the Pope's ambassador in Augsburg. Albeit the papal interests in Germany are rather low, a quick settlement is to be reached quickly. Thanks to his rhetorical skills, Luther escapes immediate condemnation and escapes subsequent arrest by fleeing. Friedrich the Wise refused to surrender to Rome a shortly after, bringing the proceedings to a halt - the negotiations on the succession to the emperor keep the policy of the electors and the Pope occupied for the time being.
Meanwhile, Luther uses the time to further formulate his thoughts and theses. Criticism of the indulgences trade turns into a critique of principles that stands in the tradition of condemned heretics such as John Wyclif and Jan Hus. Since the election of the emperor was not decided to the wishes of the Pope – he intended to avoid a Habsburg encirclement by Charles V – and Luther's declarations spread rapidly, causing increasing unrest, the Roman Church decided to take action in the middle of 1520. On June 15, the Pope warns him with bull of bans that he risked excommunication, requesting him to revoke his teachings within 60 days.
Due to the long travel times in the Middle Ages, this 60-day period is valid from the time when the letter was received, but Luther has already broken away from the papal membership at that time. He burns the bull in public and is excommunicated on January 3, 1521.
In the eyes of the church, Luther is thus regarded as being without rights, but Frederic's diplomatic work helps him once again.
This is why Emperor Karl V summons Luther to a hearing at the Diet of Worms. But a defense by Luther is not intended at all, he is simply to revoke his theses. Luther does not do that, so Charles V imposes the imperial ban on him.
Excluded from the church, without rights and outlawed: on his way back to Wittenberg, Luther sees his life in danger. Again it is Frederic the Wise who holds his protective hand over him. He assigns his secretary Georg Spalatin with a daring plan – Luther is to be put in protective custody. But it must look real, like a robbery, so only a few are let in on the plan. Most importantly, it is urgent! Spalatin succeeds in the performance – the participants know their roles and a suitable stage has been found: the Glasbachgrund.
On May 4,1521, where the monument to Luther, donated in 1857, is located today, the Wittenberg professor Martin Luther changes into the simple nobleman Junker Jörg. On enormous detours, the "robbers" lead him to Wartburg castle at night, where he translates the New Testament into German in the autumn of the same year in only 11 weeks.