Protestation at Speyer

The Memorial Church which commemorates the protestation at Speyer

On April 19, 1529 six Fürsten (princes) and 14 Imperial Free Cities, representing the Protestant minority in the Holy Roman Empire, petitioned the Imperial Diet (Reichstag) at Speyer against the Reichsacht (Imperial Ban) against Martin Luther, as well as the proscription of his works and teachings, and called for the unhindered spread of the "evangelical" (i.e. Protestant) faith.[1]

The "Protestants"

The 6 Princes

  1. John the Steadfast of Wettin, Elector of Saxony
  2. George the Pious of Hohenzollern, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach
  3. Ernest I the Confessor of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Duke of Lüneburg-Celle and his brother
  4. Francis, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Duke of Gifhorn
  5. Philip I the Magnanimous, Landgrave of Hesse
  6. Wolfgang of Ascania, Prince of Anhalt-Köthen

The 14 Imperial Free Cities

  1. Strassburg
  2. Augsburg
  3. Ulm
  4. Konstanz
  5. Lindau
  6. Memmingen
  7. Kempten
  8. Nördlingen
  9. Heilbronn
  10. Reutlingen
  11. Isny
  12. St. Gallen
  13. Weissenburg
  14. Windsheim


Eight years earlier Martin Luther had been banned by the Holy Roman Empire at the Diet of Worms of 1521. Emperor Charles V had wanted to end the religious unrest between the Catholic majority and the evangelical minority at the Second Diet of Speyer. The "Lutheran Heresy" and the resulting religious strife did not figure in his political plans.

The Edict of Worms had been suspended in 1526, when the Diet of Speyer decided that every prince should hold whichever religious beliefs he could justify before his King and God.

Three years after the Diet of 1526, on the 1 March 1529 Charles V announced the second Diet of Speyer. He again let himself be represented by his brother Ferdinand, as he could not personally appear due to the war with France.

In his opening address Ferdinand gave the decision of the Emperor: the annulment of the Diet's decision in 1526, recognition of "great mistakes and misunderstanding" and the threat of Imperial Ban against "seduction by false beliefs". Until clarification from another council all further new developments would remain forbidden. He also made further declarations:

"Those that until now have followed the Edict of Worms should continue to do so. In the areas where this has been deviated from, there shall be no further new developments and no-one shall be refused Mass. Finally, the sects which contradict the sacrament of the true body and blood, shall absolutely not be tolerated, no more than the Anabaptists."

On 19 April the majority of representatives accepted the revocation of the 1526 edict. The evangelicals were told that they should yield "to the fair and proper decisions" of the majority. At this point the evangelical princes left the hall. When they returned somewhat later, Ferdinand wanted to leave the hall and refused to listen to them. So their objection was read out: they protested against the decision of the majority, to undo the decision of the 1526 Reichstag. Ferdinand demanded that they "accept and obey the decision".

The Protestant delegates refused to be bound by secular authority in matters of faith. On 20 April they presented the "Letter of Protestation", which Ferdinand refused to accept. Therefore, it did not come to be read out, but was printed and made public.

The "Letter of Protestation" was signed by Johann, Elector of Saxony, Georg, Margrave of Brandenburg, Ernst, Duke of Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Philipp, Landgrave of Hesse, and Wolfgang, Prince of Anhalt.

At the final sitting of the Diet on 24 April the "decision of the Diet" was once more read out, but no word was said of the protest by the evangelical princes. In response the councils of the evangelical princes and the agents of the Free Cities met on 25 April and drew up a Instrumentum Appellationis, in which complaints against the decision of the Diet were once more summarised. This text was brought to the Holy Roman Emperor by an embassy. Since this Diet in Speyer the adherents of the reform movement became known as "Protestants", and thus the protestation of the Princes and Free Cities has been seen as the birth of Protestantism.

The decision of the Reichstag was protested by

John of Saxony in the Speyer Memorial Church
  1. Elector John of Saxony,
  2. Gregor Brück (Pontanus), Chancellor of Elector John
  3. Philipp Melanchthon, companion of Elector John
  4. Simon Grynaeus, companion of Philipp Melanchthon
  5. Johann Agricola, chaplain of Elector John
  6. Landgrave Phillip of Hesse
  7. Erhard Schnepf, chaplain of Philip of Hesse
  8. Margrave George of Brandenburg-Anhalt
  9. Duke Ernst of Braunschweig-Lüneburg
  10. Duke Franz of Braunschweig-Lüneburg
  11. Johann Förster, Chancellor of Dukes Franz and Ernst of Braunschweig-Lüneburg
  12. Prince Wolfgang of Anhalt
  13. Count William of Fürstenberg
  14. Bürgermeister Christoph Tetzel, representative of Nürnberg
  15. Bürgermeister Christoph Kreß, representative of Nürnberg
  16. Bürgermeister Bernhard Buamgärtner, representative of Nürnberg
  17. Councillor Jakob Sturm, representative of Straßburg
  18. Guildmaster Matthias, clergyman, representative of Straßburg
  19. Bürgermeister Bernhard Besserer, representative of Ulm
  20. Bürgermeister Sebastian Hagelstein, representative of Windsheim
  21. Bürgermeister Josef Weiß, representative of Reutlingen

The decision of the Reichstag was voted for by

  1. Holy Roman Emperor Charles V,
  2. Ferdinand, imperial commissioner and representative of Charles V
  3. Grand Chancellor Bernhard Cles, Bishop of Trent, imperial commissioner
  4. Freiherr Georg Truchsess von Waldburg, vice-regent of King Ferdinand
  5. Dr. Johann Faber, canon of Konstanz and Basel
  6. Probst Balthasar von Waldkirch, imperial commissioner
  7. Frederick II, Elector Palatine, imperial commissioner
  8. William IV, Duke of Bavaria, imperial commissioner
  9. Leonhard von Eck, chancellor of Duke Wilhelm IV. of Bavaria
  10. Louis X, Duke of Bavaria
  11. Herzog Erich der Ältere of Braunschweig, imperial commissioner

See also


  1. Roland Bainton (2007). Here I Stand - A Life of Martin Luther. ISBN 1-4067-6712-3.
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