Worms, located on the west bank of the Rhine River, is one of Germany’s oldest cities. Besides the archaeological finds that go back more than 6,000 years, Worms was the scene of several events that shaped European history. It is the site of a medieval epic “the Nibelungelied’ , a story every German child learns at school about a legendary hero, Siegfried, and the Hun destruction of Worms. Legend says the name “Worms” referred to when Siegfried slew a lindworm (a type of serpent or dragon) near the city. There are various monuments and a museum that tell the story. Every year the Middle Ages comes alive with a re-enactment fair in the municipal gardens and a drama festival staged each summer.
I’ve always been curious about a city with a name like “Worms” (pronounced “vorms”) and last Fall I was invited to visit there on a day trip by train from Mainz with my German friend. Worms original name was of Celtic origin but was later changed to Vormatia by the Romans.
What I noticed most about Worms were the many churches. The Cathedral of St Peter in Worms is one of three Romanesque imperial cathedrals built on the Rhine River. Parts of the imposing building stand in the highest point of the city centre, dating back to 1000. One of the most attractive churches is the St. Andrews Collegiate Church in Weckerlingplatz, a Romanesque complex which now houses the city museum. Here we went on a tour through the centuries to learn the history of the city going back to Bronze Age times.
Most importantly, Worms is the place where in 1521, Martin Luther refused to recant his teachings. Although Luther only spent ten days in Worms, those days fundamentally changed the world. The main focal point of our visit was to explore the monuments and history of Martin Luther. Luther, an Augustinian monk, had been summoned to the Imperial Diet as his demand for a return to the roots of Christianity had caused trouble. His opponents saw it as a declaration of war against Rome and the Catholic Church. Luther refused to recant. The place where Luther entered the medieval city is marked by the beautiful St. Martins Gate. A replica of the gate stands at the entrance of the Kammerestrasse. The place where this eventful time in history took place is the St. Magnus church. This was the starting point for the Protestant movement. It is one of the oldest Reformation churches in Germany.
The Luther Memorial is an impressive monument, built in 1868, located on Lutherplatz. Martin Luther, bible in hand, is at the centre surrounded by statues of the forerunners of the Reformation. Nearby, in the historic Heylshof Gardens once the location of the bishop’s palace where the Emperor Charles V confronted Martin Luther, a plaque marks the place where Luther made his brave declaration. In the Worms City Museum in St. Andrews Collegiate Church, visitors can see a copy of Luther’s Bible. The Worms tourist info offers guided tours in costume, especially for groups, so you can experience interesting, humorous events from the days of the Reformation.
We wandered through the wide pedestrian streets and came upon the Jewish quarter of the city. In the middle ages, the Jewish community of Worms was one of several in western Europe. It was highly regarded and known as the “Jerusalem of the Rhine”. The first Jews in the area date back to 1034 when the first synagogue was consecrated. Today the synagogue has undergone several renovations but the original endowment plaque is still preserved on the façade.
The synagogue was completely destroyed in the Night of the Broken Glass, November 10, 1938, and a new synagogue was built in 1959. The Jewish museum is located in the Rashi House, erected on the site where the dance and wedding house once stood. It contains valuable manuscripts and items recalling the events of the Third Reich. We stopped to visit the Holy Sands Cemetery where many of the gravestones are half-submerged in the sandy earth, the oldest one dating to 1076. From April to October public city tours are offered on the subject of “Jewish Worms”.
Worms is also part of the wine-growing area of the Rheinhessen highlands. Wine has been grown here since the time of the Romans and the vineyards extend around the city. The world famous wine, Liebfrauenmilch, was created here. There is a vineyard close to the centre in the shade of the Church of Our Lady. Every summer the city holds a winemaking fair, the Backfischfest, which gives the visitor a chance to sample from the rich variety of wines grown in the area. From April until October there is a guided tour from the Church of Our Lady to view the vineyard. www.weinstadt-worms.de Not far from the St Peter’s cathedral on Kammerestrasse, there is a Vinter’s fountain. We stopped near here for lunch and I made sure to order a glass of this famous wine.
Worms is a pleasant city to visit. Most of the points of interest are in one central area not far from St. Peter’s Cathedral, so it’s easy to walk about with many shaded park areas where you can rest and enjoy the surroundings.
Written by and photos by W.Ruth Kozak for EuropeUpClose.com