Martin Luther’s Been Kidnapped!

We’ve begun a twelve-day TV shoot in Germany for a public television special celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (due out in late 2016). Perhaps you don’t know yet how exciting this is. Here’s a quick little clip taken by me in the back of a car. I’m recording a creative (low budget) effort to film a “point-of-view” shot illustrating how Luther was kidnapped and taken to a friendly prince’s castle. With the sun glinting through the trees, the hill-capping castle flickering up in the sky, and two cameras rolling, it could be really effective. Be patient; it takes a while for the castle to come into view in my video. (I’m shooting with producer/driver Simon Griffith, our regular cameraman Peter Rummel, and my friend — cameraman Tim Frakes — who produced the travel show I did on Martin Luther for the Lutheran Church 15 years ago.)

For background, read this bit of the script (six sequences out of 120; information in brackets includes shot number and location/image). I hope you can imagine how fun it is to tell this story:

[77a, art] While romanticized in this painting, the drama was certainly real. Imagine the showdown at Worms: Papal representatives, princes, Imperial troops — all power-dressing…and Charles — the Holy Roman Emperor himself — sitting high on his throne — the crowds craning to see the action. In the center of the room, Martin Luther stood alone…beside a table stacked with his rabble-rousing books and pamphlets.

[78, Worms courtroom, art] The prosecutor insisted Luther was a heretic. Summing up his case, he asked, “Who are you to go against 1,500 years of Church doctrine?” He demanded that Luther renounce his theses and writings. Luther would not budge. Perhaps as never before in European history, one ordinary person stood up to power for what he believed. He said: “Unless you can convince me by scripture or by clear reasoning, I am bound by my beliefs… I cannot and I will not recant. God help me. Amen.”

[79, Rick On Camera, Rothenburg] Luther was declared a heretic and left Worms essentially an outlaw. Now “outside the protection of the law,” Luther could be captured and killed by anyone. On his way home to Wittenberg, he was kidnapped and dropped out of sight. Many thought Luther had been killed.

[80, Wartburg, etchings] Days later, a man named Junker Jörg — or “Squire George” — appeared at Wartburg Castle. This was actually a disguised Martin Luther, who had been kidnapped for his own safety on his journey back from Worms by his benefactor, Prince Frederick the Wise. Safely hidden behind the stout walls of Wartburg, Luther spent nearly a year making his next stand against the Vatican and wrestling with his deepening depression. He fought his depression by working…studying and writing.

[80a ] This was Luther’s room. Restless, overfed, and lonely in the castle — he continued his lifelong personal battle with Satan. And it was here that he employed his favorite weapon — the printed word.

[81 Rick On Camera, Wartburg cell] Believing that everyone should be able to read the word of God, Luther began the daunting — and dangerous — task of translating the New Testament from the original ancient Greek into German. He used simplified language, as he said, like a mother talking to her children. As the King James Version of the Bible did for English, Luther’s translation helped to establish a standard German language that’s used to this day.


5 Replies to “Martin Luther’s Been Kidnapped!”

  1. Thank you for marking this special anniversary of world historical significance with a video release and for sharing clips of the making of it. Before final editing please consider including Luther’s complete famous statement at Worms. The statement in its entirety, as you undoubtedly know, is “Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.” This statement is so well-known that yours is a glaring alteration (it actually startled me to read the modified “my beliefs”). While most would grant the political correctness of editing out the part of the quote addressing the popes and councils, to change the part about the conscience, in my – and I imagine most others’ opinion, may overstep the bounds of editing license, since your alteration somewhat changes the meaning and certainly the weight of the actual testimony. For this reason, and since your video will be watched by many who trust it to be factual, please reconsider including the entire quote as stated by Luther. Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to seeing the video.

  2. “I hope you can imagine how fun it is to tell this story”–indeed I can, because I’ve told it. “Kingdom of the Birds” (Kirk House Publishers, 2010) is a young adult novel in which a village boy disguised as a page must keep the secret of a mysterious knight’s identity or the household of the Wartburg Castle will risk punishment by church and state. All of the scenes mentioned in this blog post appear in my book. I look forward to seeing your video!

  3. are you including Coburg, where Luther spent 6 months? On the Veste Coburg, an even more impressive fortress than the Wartburg. I visited the site (and the Luther room) in March. Not many tourists come there, in fact my wife and I were the only people there and the staff was more than helpful showing us around. Coburg is off the beaten path but for many reasons worth visiting. Among other things Queen Victorias husband Prince Albert was born there in the (wonderfully restored) Rosenau residence.

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