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Bible Encyclopedias

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica


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a city of Germany, in the grand-duchy of HesseDarmstadt, situated in a fertile plain called the Wonnegau, on the left bank of the Rhine, 25 m. S. of Mainz, 20 m. N.W. of Heidelberg, and 9 m. by rail N.W. of Mannheim. Pop. (1895) 28,636; (1905) 43,841, about a third of whom are Roman Catholics. The town is irregularly built, and some of the old walls and towers still remain, but its general aspect is modern. The principal church and chief building is the spacious cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul, which ranks beside those of Spires and Mainz among the noblest Romanesque churches of the Rhine (see Architecture: Romanesque and Gothic in Germany). This magnificent basilica, with four round towers, two large domes, and a choir at each end, has a specially imposing exterior, though the impression produced by the interior, is also one of great dignity and simplicity, heightened by the natural colour of the red sandstone of which it is built. Only the ground plan and the lower part of the western towers belong to the original building consecrated in IIIo; the remainder was mostly finished by 1181, but the west choir and the vaulting were built in the 13th century, the elaborate south portal was added in the 14th century, and the central dome has been rebuilt. The ornamentation of the older parts is simple to the verge of rudeness; and even the more elaborate later forms show no high development of workmanship. The baptistery contains five remarkable stone reliefs of the late 15th century. The cathedral is 358 ft. long, and 89 ft. wide, or including the transepts, which are near the west end, 118 ft. (inside measurements). It belongs to the Roman Catholic community, who possess also the church of St Martin and the church of Our Lady (Liebfrauenkirche), a handsome Gothic edifice outside the town, finished in 1467. The principal Protestant place of worship is the Trinity church, built in 1726. Second in interest to the cathedral is the church of St Paul, also in the Romanesque style, and dating from 1102-1116, with a choir of the early 13th century, cloisters and other monastic buildings. This church has been converted into an interesting museum of national antiquities. The late Romanesque church of St Andrew is not used. The old synagogue, an unassuming building erected in the r rth century and restored in the 13th, is completely modernized. The Jewish community of Worms (about 1300 in number) claims to be the most ancient in Germany and to have existed continuously since the Christian era, though the earliest authentic mention of it occurs in 588. A curious tradition, illustrating the efforts of the dispersed people to conciliate their oppressors, asserts that the Jews of Worms gave their voice against the crucifixion, but that their messenger did not arrive at Jerusalem until after the event.

The town hall was rebuilt in 1884. The Bischofshof, in which the most famous diet of Worms (1521) was held, is now replaced by a handsome modern residence. The Luginsland is an old watch-tower of the 13th century. In the Lutherplatz rises the imposing Luther monument (unveiled in 1868), on a platform 48 ft. sq. In the centre the colossal statue of Luther rises, on a pedestal at the base of which are sitting figures of Peter Waldo, Wycliffe, Hus and Savonarola, the heralds of the Reformation; at the corners of the platform, on lower pedestals, are statues of Luther's contemporaries, Melanchthon, Reuchlin, Philip of Hesse, and Frederick the Wise of Saxony, between which are allegorical figures of Magdeburg (mourning), Spires (protesting) and Augsburg (confessing). The greater part of the work, which took nine years to execute, was designed by Rietschel, and carried out after his death in 1861 by Gustav Kietz (1826-1908), Adolf von Donndorf (b. 1835) and Johannes Schilling (b. 1828). The "Rosengarten" on the opposite bank of the Rhine.

associated with the, stories of the wooing of Kriemhild (see infra), has been laid out in keeping with the old traditions and was opened with great festivities in 1906. Extensive burial-grounds, ranging in date from neolithic to Merovingian times, have recently been discovered near the city.

The trade and industry of Worms are important, and not the least resource of the inhabitants is vine-growing, the most famous vintage being known as Liebfraumilch, grown on vineyards near the Liebfrauenkirche. The manufacture of patent leather employs about 5000 hands. Machinery, wool, cloth, chicory, slates, &c., are also produced. Worms possesses a good river harbour, and carries on a considerable trade by water.

Worms was known in Roman times as Borbetomagus, which in the Merovingian age became Wormatia, afterwards by popular etymology connected with Wurm, a dragon. The name Borbetomagus indicates a Celtic origin for the town, which had, however, before Caesar's time become the capital of a German tribe, the Vangiones. Drusus is said to have erected a fort here in 14 B.C. In 413 the emperor Jovinus permitted the Burgundians under their king Guntar or Guntiar to settle on the left bank of the Rhine between the Lauter and the Nahe. Here they founded a kingdom with Worms as its capital. Adopting Arianism they came into conflict with the Romans, and under their king Gundahar or Gundicar (the Gunther of the Nibelungenlied) rose in 435 against the Roman governor Aetius, who called in the Huns against them. The destruction of Worms and the Burgundian kingdom by the Huns in 436 was the subject of heroic legends afterwards incorporated in the Nibelungenlied (q.v.) and the Rosengarten (an epic probably of the late 13th century). In the Nibelungenlied King Gunther and Queen Brunhild hold their court at Worms, and Siegfried comes hither to woo Kriemhild.

Worms was rebuilt by the Merovingians, and became an episcopal see, first mentioned in 614, although a bishop of the Vangiones had attended a council at Cologne as early as 347. There was a royal palace from the 8th century, in which the Frankish kings, including Charlemagne, occasionally resided. The scene of the graceful though unhistorical romance of Einhard and Emma, the daughter of Charlemagne, is laid here.

Under the German kings the power of the bishops of Worms gradually increased, although they never attained the importance of the other Rhenish bishops. Otto I. granted extensive lands to the bishop, and in 979 Bishop Hildbold acquired comital rights in his city. Burchard I. (bishop from 1000 to 1025)destroyed the castle of the Franconian house at Worms, built the cathedral and laid the foundations of the subsequent territorial power of the see. There were frequent struggles between the bishops and the citizens, who espoused the cause of the emperors against them, and were rewarded by privileges which fostered trade. Herny IV. granted a charter to Worms in 1074, and held a synod there in 1076, by which Pope Gregory VII. was declared deposed. Henry V. acquired Worms in 1121 by the treaty of Wiirzburg, built a castle and granted privileges to the city, which retained its freedom until 1801, in spite of the bishops, who ruled a small territory south of the city, on both sides of the Rhine, and resided at Ladenburg near Mannheim till 1622.

The city of Worms was frequently visited by the imperial court, and won the title of "Mother of Diets." The concordat of Worms closed the investiture controversy in 1 12 2. The "perpetual peace" (ewiger Landfriede) was proclaimed by the emperor Maximilian I. at the diet of 1495, and Luther appeared before the famous diet of 1521 to defend his doctrines in the presence of Charles V. Four years later, Worms formally embraced Protestantism, and religious conferences were held there in 15 4 0 and 1557. It suffered severely during the Thirty Years' War. After being sacked in turn by Mansfeld, Tilly and the Spaniards, it was taken by Oxenstierna in 1632, who held a convention here with his German allies. The imperialists again took Worms in 1635, and it admitted the French under Turenne in 1644. The French under Melac burnt the city almost entirely in 1689, and it has only fully recovered from this blow in recent years. Thus the population, which XXVIII. 27 in its prosperous days is said to have exceeded 50,000, had sunk in 1815 to 6250.

By the treaty of Worms in 1743 an offensive alliance was formed between Great Britain, Austria and Sardinia. The French under Custine took the city by surprise in 1792 and it was annexed by the peace of Luneville in 1801 to France, together with the bishop's territories on the left bank of the Rhine. The remaining episcopal dominions were secularized in 1803 and given to Hesse-Darmstadt, which acquired the whole by the Vienna Congress in 1815. In 1849 the Baden revolutionaries seized Worms, but were overthrown by the Mecklenburgers and Prussians in May of that year.

See Zorn, Wormser Chronik (Stuttgart, 1857); Fuchs, Geschichte der Stadt Worms (Worms, 1868); F. Soldan, Der Reichstag zu Worms, 1521 (Worms, 1883); Beitrage zur Geschichte der Stadt Worms (Worms, 1896); G. Wolf, Zur Geschichte der Juden in Worms (Breslau, 1862); Nover, Das alte and neue Worms (Worms, 1895).

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Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Worms'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. 1910.

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