GHDI logo
German History in Documents and Images
return to system

Götz von Berlichingen zu Hornberg (undated)
Götz (= Gottfried) von Berlichingen zu Hornberg (ca. 1480-1562), called “the Knight with the Iron Hand” for a prosthesis he wore, is perhaps the most famous Imperial knight of the 16th century. His fame is largely attributable to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, whose drama Götz von Berlichingen is based on Berlichingen’s autobiography. Berlichingen’s rearing, like his values – honor, loyalty, and pride in family and in deeds – was entirely traditional. It involved family and kinsmen, service at a princely court, and participation in the Imperial Diet, wars, and feuds. The central event in his life was the German Peasants’ War of 1525, in which he was forced to serve the rebels against his will. Berlichingen commonly stands as a model of his class, a declining lesser nobility given to a traditional way of life based on feuds and wars. Undated woodcut by Emil Eugen Sachse.