Holy Roman Empire

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Emperor and Empire on an engraving by Abraham Aubry, Nuremberg 1663/64.
In the center is Emperor Ferdinand III. depicted as the head of the empire in the circle of the electors . A woman sits at his feet as an allegory of the empire, recognizable by the insignia of the imperial apple . The surrounding fruits symbolize the hope for new prosperity after the end of the Thirty Years' War .
The original is signed with: Germany's happy shouting / to blissful continuation / the general assembly of H. Röm, which was organized with God / in Regensburg. Rich supreme head and limbs

Holy Roman Empire ( Latin Sacrum Imperium Romanum or Sacrum Romanum Imperium ) was the official name for the domain of the Roman-German emperors from the late Middle Ages to 1806. The name of the empire is derived from the claim of the medieval Roman-German rulers, the tradition of the ancient To continue the Roman Empire and to legitimize the rule as God's holy will in the Christian sense.

The empire was formed in the 10th century under the Ottonian dynasty from the former Carolingian eastern France . With Otto I's coronation as emperor on February 2, 962 in Rome, the Roman-German rulers (like the Carolingians before) followed up on the idea of ​​the renewed Roman Empire, which was at least in principle adhered to until the end of the empire. The area of ​​Eastern Franconia was first referred to in the sources as Regnum Teutonicum or Regnum Teutonicorum ("Kingdom of the Germans ") in the 11th century ; but it was not the official title of the Reich. The name Sacrum Imperium is first documented for 1157 and the title Sacrum Romanum Imperium for 1184 (older research was based on 1254). The addition of German nation ( Latin Nationis Germanicæ ) was occasionally used from the late 15th century. Due to its pre-national and supranational character of a multi-ethnic empire with universal claims, the empire never developed into a nation- state or a state of modern character, but remained a monarchically- led, estates -based structure of emperors and imperial estates with only a few common imperial institutions.

In contrast to the German Empire , which was founded in 1871 , it is also known as the Roman-German Empire or the Old Empire .

The expanse and borders of the Holy Roman Empire changed significantly over the centuries. In its greatest expansion, the empire encompassed almost the entire area of ​​what is now central and parts of southern Europe . Since the early 11th century it consisted of three parts of the empire: the north Alpine (German) part of the empire , imperial Italy and - until it was actually lost at the end of the late Middle Ages - Burgundy (also known as Arelat ).

Since the early modern period , the empire was structurally incapable of offensive warfare, expansion of power and expansion. Since then, legal protection and peacekeeping have been seen as its main purposes. The empire should ensure calm, stability and the peaceful resolution of conflicts by curbing the dynamics of power: it should protect subjects from the arbitrariness of the sovereigns and smaller imperial estates from violations of the rights of more powerful estates and the emperor. Since neighboring states had also been integrated into its constitutional order as imperial estates since the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, the empire also fulfilled a peacekeeping function in the system of European powers.

Since the middle of the 18th century, the empire has been able to protect its members less and less against the expansive policies of internal and external powers. This contributed significantly to his downfall. Due to the Napoleonic Wars and the resulting founding of the Rhine Confederation , whose members left the empire, it was almost incapable of acting. The Holy Roman Empire expired on August 6, 1806 with the laying down of the imperial crown by Emperor Franz II.


The Holy Roman Empire emerged from the East Franconian Empire . It was a pre- and national entity, a Lehnsreich and persons member State who has never become a nation-state such as France or the UK developed and from the history of ideas would be never understood reasons as such. The competing contrast of consciousness in the tribal duchies or later in the territories and the supranational consciousness of unity was never carried out or dissolved in the Holy Roman Empire, an overarching national feeling did not develop.

The history of the empire was shaped by the dispute over its character, which - since the power relations within the empire were by no means static - changed again and again over the centuries. From the 12th and 13th centuries, a reflection on the political community can be observed, which is increasingly oriented towards abstract categories. With the rise of universities and an increasing number of trained lawyers, the categories of monarchy and aristocracy, taken from the ancient theory of the forms of the state, have been juxtaposed here for several centuries . However, the empire could never be clearly assigned to one of the two categories, since the power of government of the empire was neither in the hands of the emperor nor in the hands of the electors or in the entirety of an association such as the Reichstag . Rather, the empire combined features of both forms of government. Thus came in the 17th century Samuel Pufendorf in his published under a pseudonym magazine De statu imperii to the conclusion that the kingdom of its own kind is - a "irregular and more like a monster body" (irregular aliquod corpus et monstro simile) what Karl Otmar von Aretin is referred to as the most frequently cited sentence on the imperial constitution from 1648 onwards.

As early as the 16th century, the concept of sovereignty moved more and more into focus. The distinction between the federal state (in which the sovereignty lies with the entire state) and the state federation (which is a federation of sovereign states) is based on this, however, is an ahistorical approach, since the fixed meaning of these categories only emerged later. It is also not informative with regard to the empire, since the empire again could not be assigned to either of the two categories: just as the emperor never succeeded in breaking the regional idiosyncrasy of the territories, it has broken up into a loose confederation of states. More recent research emphasizes the role of rituals and the staging of rule in premodern society, especially with regard to the unwritten hierarchy and constitutional order of the empire until its dissolution in 1806 ( symbolic communication ).

As an “umbrella organization”, the empire overran many territories and gave the coexistence of the various sovereigns the framework conditions prescribed by imperial law. These quasi-independent, but not sovereign princes and duchies recognized the emperor as at least the ideal head of the empire and were subject to imperial laws, imperial jurisdiction and the resolutions of the Reichstag, but at the same time also through the election of a king , electoral surrender , Reichstag and other estates in imperial politics involved and could influence them for themselves. In contrast to other countries, the residents were not directly subject to the emperor, but to the sovereign of the respective imperial territory. In the case of the imperial cities, this was the city's magistrate .

Voltaire described the discrepancy between the name of the empire and its ethno- political reality in its later phase (since the early modern period ) with the sentence: “This corpus, which is still called the Holy Roman Empire, is in no way sacred, nor Roman , another empire. ” Montesquieu described the empire in his 1748 work Vom Geist deretze as “ république fédérative d'Allemagne ” , as a federally structured polity in Germany.

In recent research, the positive aspects of the empire are again emphasized, which not only offered a functioning political framework for several centuries, but also (precisely because of the more federal rulership structure) allowed diverse developments in the various domains.


Part of the coronation mantle , drawing by Schönbrunner, 1857

The name raised the claim to the succession of the ancient Roman Empire and thus to universal rule. At the same time there was fear of the coming true of the prophecies of the prophet Daniel , who had predicted that there would be four world empires and afterwards the Antichrist would come to earth ( doctrine of the four kingdoms ) - the apocalypse was about to begin. Since the (ancient) Roman Empire was counted as the fourth empire in the doctrine of the four kingdoms , it was not allowed to perish. The increase with the addition "Holy" emphasized the divine right of the Empire and the legitimation of rule through divine law .

With the coronation of the Frankish king Charlemagne as emperor by Pope Leo III. in the year 800 he placed his empire in the succession of the ancient Roman empire , the so-called Translatio Imperii . Historically and according to its own self-image, however, there was already an empire that arose out of the old Roman Empire, namely the Christian-Orthodox Byzantine Empire ; According to the Byzantines, the new Western “Roman Empire” was a self-proclaimed and illegitimate one.

At the time of its formation in the middle of the 10th century, the empire did not yet have the title holy. The first Emperor Otto I and his successors saw themselves as God's representatives on earth and were thus seen as the first protector of the church. So there was no need to emphasize the sanctity of the kingdom. The empire was still called Regnum Francorum orientalium or Regnum Francorum for short .

In the imperial titulatures of the Ottonians, however, the name components that were later transferred to the entire empire appear. In the documents of Otto II from the year 982, which arose during his Italian campaign, the title Romanorum imperator Augustus, "Emperor of the Romans" can be found. Otto III. rose above all spiritual and worldly powers in his title by humbly calling himself “servant of Jesus Christ” ( servus Jesus Christ ) and later even “servant of the apostles” ( servus apostolorum ) , analogous to the pope and thus rising above him .

This sacred charisma of the empire was massively attacked by the papacy in the investiture dispute from 1075 to 1122 and ultimately largely destroyed. The canonization of Charlemagne in 1165 and the concept of the sacrum imperium , which was first attested in 1157 in Frederick I's chancellery , were interpreted in research as an attempt "to separate the empire from the church through its own sanctity and to contrast it as equivalent" . According to this, holiness is a "process of secularization". However, Frederick never referred to his holy predecessor Karl, and the sacrum imperium did not become an official language in Frederick's time.

Regnum Teutonicum or Regnum Teutonicorum appear as a self-name in the sources for the first time in the 1070s. The terms were already used in Italian sources at the beginning of the 11th century, but not by authors in Imperial Italy . It was also not an official imperial title, which is why it was generally not used in the chancellery of the medieval Roman-German kings. The title rex Teutonicus was deliberately used by the papacy in order to indirectly dispute or relativize the universal claim of the rex Romanorum to rule rights outside the German part of the empire (as in the Arelat and in imperial Italy). In the papal chancellery language, a title was deliberately used during the investiture controversy that the Roman-German kings themselves did not use. Later, terms like regnum Teutonicum continued to be used as "battle terms " to contest claims to power by the Roman-German kings, such as in the 12th century by John of Salisbury . The Roman-German kings, on the other hand, insisted on their titulature rex Romanorum and on the designation of the empire as Romanum Imperium .

In the so-called Interregnum from 1250 to 1273, when none of the three elected kings succeeded in asserting themselves against the others, the claim to be the successor to the Roman Empire was combined with the predicate sacred to denote Sacrum Romanum Imperium (German "Heiliges Römisches Rich"). The Latin phrase Sacrum Romanum Imperium was first recorded in 1184 and became the common imperial title from 1254; it appeared in German-language documents around a hundred years later since the time of Emperor Charles IV . In the late Middle Ages, the universal claim of the empire was still adhered to. This was true not only for the period of the so-called interregnum, but also for the 14th century, when tensions and open conflicts with the papal curia arose again during the reigns of Henry VII and Louis IV . The formulation Imperium Sanctum is already occasionally documented in the late ancient Roman Empire.

The addition Nationis Germanicæ only appeared on the threshold between the late Middle Ages and the early modern period , when the empire essentially extended to the area of ​​the German-speaking area. In 1486 this title was included in the Landfriedensgesetz of Emperor Frederick III. used. This addition was officially used for the first time in 1512 in the preamble to the farewell to the Reichstag in Cologne. Emperor Maximilian I had invited the imperial estates among other things for the purpose of preserving [...] the Holy Roman Empire of the Teutsche Nation . The exact original meaning of the addition is not entirely clear. A territorial restriction can be meant after the emperor's influence in imperial Italy had sunk to a de facto zero point and large parts of the kingdom of Burgundy were now ruled by France. On the other hand, there is also an emphasis on the sponsorship of the empire by the German imperial estates , which was supposed to defend their claim to the imperial idea . Towards the end of the 16th century, the formulation disappeared from official use again, but was still used occasionally in literature until the end of the empire.

The Latin word natio did not have a completely uniform meaning until the 18th century; the intended community of origin could sometimes be narrower, sometimes wider than the “people” in today's sense. The addition of “German nation” does not make the Holy Roman Empire the nation state as we know it.

Until 1806, the Holy Roman Empire was the official name of the empire, often used as SRI for Sacrum Romanum Imperium in Latin or H. Röm. Rich or similar was abbreviated in German. In addition, terms such as German or Teutsches Reich and Teutsch- or Germany are used in modern times . It was not until the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803, the Rheinbund act as well as the declaration of dissolution of Emperor Franz II. From 1806 officially use the German or Teutsches Reich and Teutschland for the Holy Roman Empire.

Shortly after its dissolution, the Holy Roman Empire was increasingly given the addition of German nation in historical treatises , and so in the 19th and 20th centuries this originally only temporary designation was not quite correctly established as the general name of the empire. It is also called the Old Reich to distinguish it from the later German Empire from 1871 onwards.



The territorial division of the Franconian Empire in the Treaty of Verdun (Wirten) 843

The Frankish Empire had several divisions and reunions of parts of the empire through after the death of Charlemagne 814 among his grandchildren. Such divisions among the sons of a ruler were normal under Frankish law and did not mean that the unity of the empire ceased to exist, since a common policy of the parts of the empire and a future reunification were still possible. If one of the heirs died childless, his part of the empire fell to one of his brothers or was divided among them.

Such a division was also decided in the Treaty of Verdun in 843 among the grandsons of Charles. The empire was divided between Charles the Bald , who received the western part ( Neustria , Aquitaine ) up to around the Meuse , and Lothar I - he took over a central strip (with a large part of Austrasia and the formerly Burgundian and Longobard regions up to around Rome) the imperial dignity - and Ludwig the German , who received the eastern part of the empire with part of Austrasia and the conquered Germanic empires north of the Alps.

Although the future map of Europe is not recognizable here, not intended by those involved, in the course of the next fifty years there were further, mostly warlike, reunions and divisions between the sub-kingdoms. Only when Charlemagne was deposed in 887 because of his failure to defend himself against the plundering and robbing Normans , a new head of all parts of the empire was no longer appointed, but the remaining partial empires chose their own kings, some of which no longer belonged to the Carolingian dynasty . This was a clear sign of the fact that the parts of the empire were drifting apart and that the reputation of the Carolingian dynasty, which had reached its low point, plunged the empire into civil wars through disputes over the throne and was no longer able to protect it as a whole against external threats. As a result of the lack of dynastic brackets, the empire split up into numerous small counties, duchies and other regional lordships, most of which only formally recognized the regional kings as sovereignty.

In 888, the central part of the empire was particularly clearly divided into several independent small kingdoms, including Upper Burgundy and Lower Burgundy and Italy (while Lorraine was annexed to the Eastern Empire as a lower kingdom), whose kings had prevailed against Carolingian pretenders with the support of local nobles. In the Eastern Empire, the local nobles elected dukes at the tribal level. After the death of Ludwig the child , the last Carolingian on the East Franconian throne, the Eastern Empire could also have broken up into small empires if this process had not been stopped by the joint election of Konrad I as King of Eastern Franconia. Although Konrad did not belong to the Carolingian dynasty, he was a Franconian from the Conradin dynasty . On this occasion, however, Lorraine joined Western France. In 919, Heinrich I , Duke of Saxony, was the first non-Franconian elected King of Eastern Franconia in Fritzlar . From that point on, the empire was no longer ruled by a single dynasty, but the regional greats, nobles and dukes decided who ruled.

In the year 921 the West Franconian ruler recognized Heinrich I as having equal rights in the Treaty of Bonn ; he was allowed to use the title rex francorum orientalium, King of the Eastern Franks. The development of the empire as a permanently independent and viable state was thus essentially complete. In 925 Heinrich succeeded in reintegrating Lorraine into the East Franconian Empire.

Despite the detachment from the overall empire and the unification of the Germanic peoples who, in contrast to the common people of Western Franconia, did not speak Romanized Latin, but theodiscus or diutisk (from diot popularly, vernacular), this empire was not an early " German nation-state ". There was no overriding “national” sense of belonging in Eastern Franconia anyway, and the imperial and linguistic communities were not identical. Neither was it the later Holy Roman Empire.

Imperial seal of Otto I.

The increasing self-confidence of the new East Franconian royal family was already evident in the accession to the throne of Otto I , son of Henry I, who was crowned on the supposed throne of Charlemagne in Aachen . Here the increasingly sacred character of his rule was shown by the fact that he allowed himself to be anointed and vowed his protection to the church. After several battles against relatives and dukes of Lorraine, he succeeded in defeating the Hungarians in 955 on the Lechfeld near Augsburg, confirming and consolidating his rule. According to Widukind von Corvey, the army is said to have greeted him as emperor while still on the battlefield .

This victory over the Hungarians prompted Pope John XII. To call Otto to Rome and offer him the imperial crown so that he could act as the protector of the church. At this time Johannes was under the threat of regional Italian kings and hoped Otto would help against them. But the Pope's cry for help also shows that the former barbarians had turned into the bearers of Roman culture and that the eastern regnum was seen as the legitimate successor to the empire of Charlemagne. Otto followed the call and moved to Rome. There he was crowned emperor on February 2, 962. West and East Franconia finally developed politically into separate empires.

middle age

Rule of the Ottonians

The empire around 1000

In the early Middle Ages, the empire was still little differentiated classically and socially in comparison to the High and Late Middle Ages . It was visible in the army, in the local court assemblies and in the counties , the local administrative units already installed by the Franks. The highest representative of the political order of the empire, responsible for the protection of the empire and peace within, was the king. The duchies served as political sub-units . Until the late Middle Ages, the consensus between the rulers and the greats of the empire ( consensual rule ) was important.

Although in the early Carolingian period around 750 the Franconian official dukes were deposed for the peoples who were subjugated by the Franks or who only emerged from their territorial consolidation, in the East Franconian Empire, aided by the external threat and the preserved tribal law, five new ones emerged between 880 and 925 Duchies: that of the Saxons , the Bavarians , the Alemanni , the Franks and the newly created Duchy of Lorraine after the division of the empire , to which the Frisians also belonged. But already in the 10th century there were serious changes in the structure of the duchies: Lorraine was divided into Lower and Upper Lorraine in 959 and Carinthia became an independent duchy in 976.

Since the empire emerged as an instrument of the self-confident duchies, it was no longer divided between the ruler's sons and also remained an elective monarchy . The non-sharing of the “inheritance” between the king's sons contradicted traditional Franconian law, but on the other hand the kings ruled the tribal dukes only as liege lords. The direct influence of the kingship was correspondingly small. In 929 Heinrich I laid down in his " House Rules " that only one son should succeed on the throne. Already here the concept of inheritance, which shaped the empire up to the end of the Salier dynasty, and the principle of the elective monarchy are connected with one another.

As a result of several campaigns in Italy, Otto I (r. 936–973) succeeded in conquering the northern part of the peninsula and integrating the kingdom of the Lombards into the empire. A complete integration of imperial Italy with its superior economic strength never really succeeded in the period that followed. In addition, the presence necessary in the south sometimes tied up quite considerable forces. Otto's coronation as emperor in Rome in 962 linked the claim of the later Roman-German kings to the western imperial dignity for the rest of the Middle Ages. The Ottonians now exercised a hegemonic position of power in Latin Europe.

Heinrich II. And Kunigunde crowned by Christ, personifications offer gracious gifts. Representation from the Pericope Book of Heinrich II. , Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 4452, fol. 2r

Under Otto II , the last remaining connections to the West Franconian-French Empire, which still existed in the form of family ties when he made his cousin Karl Duke of Niederlotharingia, were also broken. Karl was a descendant of the Carolingian family and at the same time the younger brother of the West Franconian King Lothar. But it did not become - as later claimed in research - a “faithless Frenchman” a feudal man of a “German” king. Such categories of thought were still unknown at the time, especially since the leading Frankish-Germanic strata of the West Frankish empire continued to speak their old German dialect for some time after the division. In more recent research, the Ottonian era is no longer understood as the beginning of “German history” in the narrower sense; this process dragged on into the 11th century. In any case, Otto II played off one cousin against the other in order to gain an advantage for himself by driving a wedge into the Carolingian family. Lothar's reaction was violent, and the argument was emotional on both sides. The consequences of this final break between the successors of the Frankish Empire only became apparent later. The French kingship was now viewed as independent of the emperor due to the emerging French self-confidence.

The integration of the church into the secular system of rule of the empire, which historians later referred to as the “ Ottonian-Salian imperial church system ”, reached its climax under Henry II . The imperial church system was one of the defining elements of its constitution until the end of the empire; the involvement of the church in politics was not in itself exceptional; the same can be observed in most of the early medieval empires of Latin Europe. Henry II demanded unconditional obedience from the clergy and the immediate implementation of his will. He completed royal sovereignty over the imperial church and became a “monk king” like no other ruler of the empire. But he not only ruled the church, he also ruled the empire through the church by filling important offices - such as that of chancellor - with bishops. Secular and ecclesiastical affairs were basically not differentiated and were negotiated equally at synods . This was not only the result of efforts to counterbalance the duchies' urge for greater independence, stemming from the Franconian-Germanic tradition, with a loyal counterweight to the king. Rather, Heinrich saw the kingdom as the “house of God”, which he had to look after as God's steward. At least now the kingdom was "holy".

High Middle Ages

The third important part of the empire was the Kingdom of Burgundy, which came under Conrad II , even if this development had already begun under Henry II: Since the Burgundian King Rudolf III. had no descendants, he named his nephew Heinrich as his successor and placed himself under the protection of the empire. In 1018 he even handed over his crown and scepter to Heinrich.

The rule of Konrad was further characterized by the evolving idea that the empire and its rule existed independently of the ruler and developed legal force. This is evidenced by Konrad's “ship metaphor” handed down by Wipo (see corresponding section in the article on Konrad II ) and his claim to Burgundy - because Heinrich was supposed to inherit Burgundy and not the realm. Under Konrad, the development of the ministerials began as a separate class of the lower nobility, by giving fiefs to the king's unfree servants. Important for the development of law in the empire were his attempts to push back the so-called divine judgments as legal means by applying Roman law, to which these judgments were unknown, in the northern part of the empire.

Konrad continued the imperial church policy of his predecessor, but not with his vehemence. Rather, he judged the church by what it could do for the kingdom. In the majority he called bishops and abbots with great intelligence and spirituality. However, the Pope did not play a major role in his appointments either. Overall, his rule appears to be a great "success story", which is probably also due to the fact that he ruled at a time when there was generally a kind of optimistic mood that led to the Cluniac reform at the end of the 11th century .

Henry III. took over a solid empire from his father Konrad in 1039 and, unlike his two predecessors, did not have to fight for power. Despite military actions in Poland and Hungary, he attached great importance to maintaining peace within the empire. This idea of ​​a general peace, a peace of God , arose in the south of France and had spread throughout the Christian West from the middle of the 11th century. This was intended to curb the feuds and blood revenge, which had become more and more a burden on the functioning of the empire. The initiator of this movement was the Cluniac monasticism. At least on the highest Christian holidays and on the days that were sanctified by the Passion of Christ, i.e. from Wednesday evening to Monday morning, the arms should be silent and the "peace of God" should prevail.

Heinrich had to accept a hitherto completely unknown condition for the consent of the greats of the empire in the election of his son, who later became Henry IV , as king in 1053. Subordination to the new king should only apply if Henry IV proved to be the right ruler. Even if the power of the emperors over the church with Heinrich III. was at one of its climaxes - it was he who decided on the occupation of the holy throne in Rome - the balance of his reign is usually viewed negatively in recent research. Thus Hungary emancipated itself from the empire, which was previously an imperial fief, and several conspiracies against the emperor showed the unwillingness of the greats of the empire to submit to a strong kingship.

Due to the early death of Henry III. his only six-year-old son Heinrich IV came to the throne. His mother Agnes took over the guardianship of him until he was 15 in 1065. This resulted in a gradual loss of power and importance of the kingship. Due to the " coup d'état of Kaiserswerth ", a group of imperial princes led by the Archbishop of Cologne in Anno II temporarily seized the power of government. In Rome, the opinion of the future emperor no longer interested anyone at the next papal election. The annalist of the Niederaltaich monastery summarized the situation as follows:

"[...] but those present at court each looked after themselves as much as they could, and no one instructed the king what was good and just, so that much in the kingdom got into disorder"

The so-called investiture dispute was decisive for the future position of the imperial church . It was a matter of course for the Roman-German rulers to fill the vacant episcopal seats in the empire. Due to the weakness of the kingship during the reign of Henry's mother, the Pope, as well as clerical and secular princes, tried to appropriate royal possessions and rights. The later attempts to regain control of the king's power naturally met with little approval. When Heinrich tried in June 1075 to push through his candidate for the Milanese bishopric , Pope Gregory VII reacted immediately. In December 1075 Gregory banished King Heinrich and thus released all subjects from their oath of loyalty. The princes of the empire demanded from Heinrich that he should have the ban lifted by February 1077, otherwise it would no longer be recognized by them. Otherwise the Pope would be invited to resolve the dispute. Henry IV had to bow down and humiliated himself in the legendary walk to Canossa . The positions of power had turned into their opposite; In 1046 Heinrich III. still judged over three popes, now a pope was supposed to judge the king.

The son of Henry IV revolted against his father with the help of the Pope and forced his abdication in 1105 . The new King Heinrich V ruled in consensus with the clerical and secular greats until 1111. The close alliance between rulers and bishops could also be continued on the investiture question against the Pope. The solution found by the Pope was simple and radical. In order to ensure the separation of the spiritual tasks of the bishops from the secular tasks previously performed, as required by the church reformers, the bishops should return the rights and privileges they had received from the emperor or king in the last centuries. On the one hand, the bishops' duties to the empire were no longer applicable, and on the other hand, the king's right to influence the appointment of the bishops was also eliminated. Since the bishops did not want to forego their secular regalia , Heinrich captured the Pope and extorted the right of investiture and his coronation as emperor. Only the princes forced a compromise between Heinrich and the incumbent Pope Calixt II in the Worms Concordat in 1122. Heinrich had to renounce the investiture right with the spiritual symbols of ring and staff (per anulum et baculum) . The emperor was allowed to attend the election of bishops and abbots. The emperor was only allowed to grant the newly elected royal rights (regalia) with the scepter. Since then, the princes have been regarded as "the heads of the state". The kingdom was no longer represented by the king alone, but also by the princes.

After the death of Heinrich V in 1125 Lothar III. elected king, whereby he was able to prevail in the election against the Swabian Duke Friedrich II , the closest relative of the emperor, who died childless. Legitimation under inheritance law no longer determined the succession to the throne in the Roman-German Empire, but the choice of princes was decisive.

In 1138 Konrad from Staufer was raised to the rank of king. However, Konrad's wish to acquire the imperial crown was not to be fulfilled. His participation in the Second Crusade was also unsuccessful; he still had to turn back in Asia Minor. For this he succeeded in an alliance directed against the Normans with the Byzantine emperor Manuel I Komnenos .

The enthroned Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa with a bow crown , imperial orb and scepter between his sons Heinrich VI. who is already wearing the royal crown and Friedrich von Schwaben with a ducal hat; Miniature from the Historia Welforum (Fulda, Hessische Landesbibliothek, Cod. D. 11, fol. 14r).

In 1152, after the death of Konrad, his nephew Friedrich , the Duke of Swabia, was elected king. Friedrich, known as "Barbarossa", pursued a determined policy aimed at regaining imperial rights in Italy (see honor imperii ), for which Frederick made a total of six moves to Italy. In 1155 he was crowned emperor, but because of a campaign against the Norman Empire in southern Italy that had not taken place but was contractually guaranteed, tensions with the papacy developed, and relations with Byzantium also deteriorated. The northern Italian city-states, especially the rich and powerful Milan , resisted Frederick's attempts to strengthen the imperial administration in Italy (see the Reichstag of Roncaglia ). The so-called Lombard League was finally formed , which was able to assert itself militarily against the Hohenstaufen. At the same time there was a controversial papal election, with Pope Alexander III, who was elected with the majority of the votes . was initially not recognized by Friedrich. Only after it became clear that a military solution had no prospect of success (an epidemic raged in the imperial army outside Rome in 1167, defeat in the Battle of Legnano in 1176 ), an agreement was finally reached between the emperor and the pope in the Peace of Venice in 1177 . The northern Italian cities and the emperor also came to an understanding, although Friedrich was by no means able to achieve all of his goals.

In the empire, the emperor fell out with his cousin Heinrich , Duke of Saxony and Bavaria from the house of the Guelphs, after the two had worked closely together for over two decades. However, when Heinrich made his participation in an Italian march subject to conditions, the overpowering Duke Heinrich was overthrown by Frederick at the endeavors of the princes. In 1180 Heinrich was “tried” and the Duchy of Saxony was smashed and Bavaria was made smaller, from which, however, it was less the emperor than the territorial lords of the empire who benefited.

The emperor died in June 1190 in Asia Minor during a crusade. He was succeeded by his second eldest son, Heinrich VI. on. He had already been elevated to Caesar by his father in 1186 and has been considered Frederick's designated successor ever since. In 1191, the year of his coronation as emperor, Heinrich tried to take possession of the Norman kingdom in southern Italy and Sicily. Since he was married to a Norman princess and the ruling house of Hauteville had largely died out, he was also able to assert claims that were initially not militarily enforceable. It was not until 1194 that the conquest of southern Italy succeeded, where Heinrich sometimes proceeded with extreme brutality against opposing forces. In Germany Heinrich had to fight against the resistance of the Guelphs - in 1196 his inheritance plan failed . In return he pursued an ambitious and quite successful "Mediterranean policy", the aim of which was perhaps the conquest of the Holy Land or possibly even an offensive against Byzantium.

After the early death of Henry VI. In 1197 the last attempt to create a strong central power in the empire failed. After the double election of 1198, in which Philip of Swabia was elected in March in Mühlhausen / Thuringia and Otto IV in Cologne in June, two kings in the empire faced each other. Heinrich's son, Friedrich II. , Had been elected king as early as 1196 at the age of two, but his claims were brushed aside. Philip had already largely prevailed when he was murdered in June 1208. Otto IV was able to establish himself as ruler for a few years. His planned conquest of Sicily led to a break with his long-time patron Pope Innocent III. In the northern Alpine part of the empire, Otto increasingly lost approval due to the excommunication from the princes. The Battle of Bouvines in 1214 ended his rule and brought the final recognition of Frederick II. After the controversy for the throne, the empire began to develop a great deal of development towards writing down customs. The two legal books of the Sachsen and Schwabenspiegel are considered to be significant evidence of this . Many arguments and principles that should apply to the following king elections were formulated at that time. This development culminated in the middle of the 14th century after the experiences of the Interregnum in the determinations of the Golden Bull .

The Holy Roman Empire at the time of the Hohenstaufen

The fact that Frederick II, who had traveled to Germany in 1212 to enforce his rights there, stayed only a few years of his life and thus his reign in the German Empire after his recognition, gave the princes more room for maneuver. In 1220, Frederick chartered extensive rights to the ecclesiastical prince in the Confoederatio cum principibus ecclesiasticis in order to secure their approval for the election and recognition of his son Heinrich as Roman-German king. The privileges mentioned since the 19th century as Confoederatio cum principibus ecclesiasticis and Statutum in favorem principum (1232) formed the legal basis for the princes on which they could expand their power to closed, independent sovereigns . However, they were not so much stations of the loss of power for the kingship, but with the privileges a level of development was documented that the princes had already achieved in the expansion of their territorial rule.

In Italy, the highly educated Frederick II, who increasingly centralized the administration of the Kingdom of Sicily according to the Byzantine model, was involved in a conflict with the papacy and the northern Italian cities for years, with Frederick being denigrated as an antichrist . In the end, Friedrich seemed to have gained the upper hand militarily, since the emperor, who had been deposed by the Pope in 1245, died on December 13, 1250.

Late middle ages

The electors elect Count Heinrich of Luxembourg as king on November 27, 1308. The electors, recognizable by the coats of arms above their heads, are, from left to right, the Archbishops of Cologne, Mainz and Trier, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Duke of Saxony, the Margrave of Brandenburg and the King of Bohemia (the latter accepted but did not take part in election 1308); Codex Balduini Trevirensis (State Main
Archive Koblenz, Inventory 1 C, No. 1, fol. 3b).

At the beginning of the late Middle Ages , in the course of the fall of the Hohenstaufen and the subsequent interregnum up to the time of Rudolf von Habsburg, royal power fell into disrepair , although this was traditionally only weak. At the same time the power of the sovereigns and electors increased. The latter had exclusive royal suffrage since the late 13th century, so that the subsequent kings often strived for a coherent imperial policy with them. King Rudolf (1273–1291) succeeded once again in consolidating the kingship and securing the remaining imperial property as a result of the so-called revindication policy. Rudolf's plan for the coronation of the emperor failed, as did his attempt to impose a dynastic succession, which the imperial princes were not ready to do. However, the House of Habsburg gained important possessions in the south-east of the German part of the empire.

Rudolf's successor, Adolf von Nassau , sought rapprochement with the powerful kingdom of France, but with his policy in Thuringia he provoked the resistance of the imperial princes, who united against him. In 1298, Adolf von Nassau fell in battle against the new King Albrecht von Habsburg . Albrecht also had to fight against the resistance of the electors, who disliked his plans to increase the Habsburg power and who feared that he was planning to establish a hereditary monarchy. In the end, Albrecht was able to assert himself against the electors, but he submitted to Pope Boniface VIII in an oath of obedience and surrendered imperial territories to France in the west. On May 1, 1308, he fell victim to the murder of a relative.

The increased French expansion in the western border area of ​​the empire since the 13th century had the consequence that the influence of the kingship in the former Kingdom of Burgundy continued to decline; a similar but less pronounced tendency emerged in imperial Italy (essentially in Lombardy and Tuscany ). It was not until Henry VII (1310-1313) moved to Italy that the imperial Italian policy was cautiously revived . King Henry VII, elected in 1308 and crowned in 1309, achieved a large degree of unity among the great houses in Germany and in 1310 won the Kingdom of Bohemia for his house. The House of Luxembourg rose to become the second important late medieval dynasty alongside the Habsburgs. In 1310 Heinrich set out for Italy. After Frederick II he was the first Roman-German king who was also able to obtain the imperial crown (June 1312), but his policy provoked the resistance of the Guelphs in Italy, the Pope in Avignon (see Avignon Papacy ) and the French king, who saw a new, power-conscious empire as a danger. Heinrich died in Italy on August 24, 1313 when he was about to embark on a campaign against the Kingdom of Naples. The Italian policy of the following late medieval rulers was much narrower than that of their predecessors.

In 1314, two kings, Ludwig IV of Wittelsbach and Friedrich of Habsburg, were elected. In 1325, a double kingship, hitherto completely unknown to the medieval empire, was created for a short time. After Frederick's death, Ludwig IV pursued a very self-confident policy in Italy as sole ruler and carried out an imperial coronation "free of the pope" in Rome. This brought him into conflict with the papacy. In this intensive discussion, the question of the papal license to practice medicine played a major role. In this regard, there were also political theoretical debates (see Wilhelm von Ockham and Marsilius von Padua ) and finally an increased emancipation of the electors or the king from the papacy, which was finally expressed in 1338 in the Kurverein von Rhense . Ludwig pursued an intensive domestic power policy since the 1330s by acquiring numerous territories. In doing so, however, he disregarded the consensual decision-making with the princes. Above all, this led to tensions with the House of Luxembourg , which openly challenged him with the election of Charles of Moravia in 1346. Ludwig died shortly afterwards and Karl ascended the throne as Charles IV .

The late medieval kings concentrated much more on the German part of the empire, while at the same time relying more than before on their respective domestic power. This resulted from the increasing loss of the remaining imperial property through an extensive pledge policy , especially in the 14th century. Charles IV can be cited as a prime example of a domestic power politician. He succeeded in expanding the Luxembourg power complex to include important areas; In return, however, he renounced imperial estates, which were pledged on a large scale and ultimately lost to the empire, and in fact he ceded areas in the west to France. In return, Karl achieved a far-reaching balance with the papacy and was crowned emperor in 1355, but renounced a resumption of the old Italian policy in the Staufer style. But above all, with the Golden Bull of 1356, he created one of the most important "basic imperial laws" in which the rights of the electors were finally established and which had a decisive influence on the future policy of the empire. The Golden Bull remained in force until the empire was dissolved. During Karl's reign the so-called Black Death - the plague - broke out, which contributed to a serious mood of crisis and in the course of which there was a significant decline in the population and pogroms against the Jews . At the same time, however, this time also represented the heyday of the Hanseatic League , which became a major power in northern Europe.

The Holy Roman Empire around 1400

With the death of Charles IV in 1378, the power of the Luxembourgers in the empire was soon lost, as the complex of domestic power he had created quickly fell apart. His son Wenzel was deposed by the four Rhenish electors on August 20, 1400 because of his apparent inability. Instead, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, Ruprecht , was elected the new King. However, his power base and resources were far too few to develop effective government activity, especially since the Luxembourgers did not accept the loss of royal dignity. After Ruprecht's death in 1410, Sigismund , who had been King of Hungary since 1387, was the last Luxembourger to take the throne. Sigismund had to struggle with considerable problems, especially since he no longer had any domestic power in the empire, but in 1433 he achieved the dignity of emperor. Sigismund's political sphere of action extended far into the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

In addition, ecclesiastical political problems arose during this period, such as the Western Schism , which could only be eliminated under Sigismund with recourse to conciliarism . From 1419 the Hussite Wars presented a great challenge. The previously economically flourishing countries of the Bohemian Crown were largely devastated and the neighboring principalities found themselves in a constant threat from Hussite military campaigns. The disputes ended in 1436 with the Basel compacts , which recognized the Utraquist Church in the Kingdom of Bohemia and in the Margraviate of Moravia . The struggle against the Bohemian heresies led to an improvement in relations between the Pope and the Emperor.

With the death of Sigismund in 1437, the house of Luxembourg went extinct in a direct line. The royal dignity passed to Sigismund's son-in-law Albrecht II and thus to the Habsburgs , who they were able to maintain almost continuously until the end of the empire. Friedrich III. For a long time he largely stayed out of direct imperial business and had to contend with some political problems, such as the conflict with the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus . In the end, however, Frederick secured the Habsburg position of power in the empire, the Habsburg claims to larger parts of the disintegrated rulership complex of the House of Burgundy, and the succession to the kings for his son Maximilian . The empire also underwent a structural and constitutional change during this time, in a process of “designed compression” ( Peter Moraw ), the relationships between the members of the empire and the kingship became closer.

Early modern age

Imperial reform

Historians see the early modern empire as a new beginning and rebuilding and by no means as a reflection of the Hohenstaufen rule in the High Middle Ages . Because the contradiction between the claimed holiness, the global claim to power of the empire and the real possibilities of the empire had become too clear in the second half of the 15th century. This triggered a journalistically supported imperial constitutional movement, which was supposed to revive the old "healthy conditions", but ultimately led to radical innovations.

Under the Habsburgs Maximilian I and Charles V , the empire regained recognition after its decline, the office of emperor was firmly linked to the newly created imperial organization. In line with the reform movement, Maximilian initiated a comprehensive reform of the empire in 1495, which provided for an eternal land peace , one of the most important projects of the reform proponents, and an empire-wide tax, the common penny . It is true that these reforms were not fully implemented, because of the institutions that emerged from it, only the newly formed Reichskreis and the Reichskammergericht survived. Nevertheless, the reform was the basis for the modern empire. With it it received a much more precise control system and an institutional framework. For example, the possibility of bringing subjects to trial against one's sovereignty before the Reich Chamber of Commerce promoted peaceful conflict resolution in the Reich. The interplay between the emperor and the imperial estates, which had now been established, was to be formative for the future. The Reichstag was also formed at that time and was the central political forum of the Reich until its end.

Reformation and Religious Peace

So set, organize, want and command. that in addition to no one, whatever their dignity, status or essence, for the sake of any cause, such as the names, would like to have, even in whatever appearances it happens, arguing, warring, robbing, perceiving, overturning, besieging the other, even for the sake of it Do not serve yourself or someone else on his behalf, dismantle some of the Castle, Städt, Marckt, Fortification, Dörffer, Höffe and Weyler, or without the other's will with mighty deed take it with a violent act or damage it dangerously with fire or in other ways

§ 14 (Landfriedensformel) of the Augsburg Imperial and Religious Peace
State religion in Central Europe around 1530:
  • Roman Catholic
  • Protestant (either Lutheran or Reformed )
  • hussistic ( utraquistic )
  • Islamic
  • Until 1555, the Roman Catholic Church was the only officially recognized denomination in the empire (in addition, Utraquism was only recognized under national law in Bohemia and Moravia since 1436)

    The first half of the 16th century was marked on the one hand by further legalization and thus a further consolidation of the empire, for example through the enactments of Imperial Police Regulations 1530 and 1548 and the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina in 1532. On the other hand, the in disintegrating the religious schism caused by the Reformation at this time. The fact that individual regions and territories turned away from the old Roman Church presented the empire with an acid test, not least because of its claim to holiness.

    The Edict of Worms of 1521, in which the imperial ban on Martin Luther (after the papal ban on the Church, Decet Romanum Pontificem ) was made mandatory, did not yet offer any leeway for a policy that was friendly to the Reformation. Since the edict was not observed in the whole Reich, the decisions of the next Reichstag deviated from it. The mostly imprecise and ambiguous compromise formulas of the Reichstag gave rise to a new legal dispute. For example, the Nuremberg Diet of 1524 declared that everyone should obey the Edict of Worms, as much as possible . A final peace solution could not be found, however, one shuffled from one mostly temporary compromise to the next.

    This situation was not satisfactory for either side. The Protestant side had no legal security and lived for several decades in fear of a religious war. The Catholic side, especially Emperor Charles V, did not want to accept a permanent religious split in the empire. Charles V, who initially did not take the Luther case seriously and did not recognize its scope, did not want to accept this situation because, like the medieval rulers, he saw himself as the guardian of the one true Church. The universal empire needed the universal church; however, his coronation as emperor in Bologna in 1530 would be the last to be performed by a pope.

    After much hesitation, Karl imposed a ban on the leaders of the Evangelical Schmalkaldic League in the summer of 1546 and initiated the military execution of the Reich . This dispute went down in history as the Schmalkaldic War of 1547/48. After the victory of the emperor, the Protestant princes had to accept the so-called Augsburger Interim at the armored Augsburger Reichstag of 1548 , which at least granted them the lay chalice and the priestly marriage. This very mild outcome of the war for the Protestant imperial estates was due to the fact that Karl, in addition to religious-political goals, also pursued constitutional ones, which would have led to the undermining of the estates' constitution and a quasi-central government of the emperor. These additional goals earned him the resistance of the Catholic imperial estates, so that no satisfactory solution to the religious question was possible for him.

    The religious disputes in the empire were integrated into Charles V's conception of a comprehensive Habsburg empire, a monarchia universalis that would encompass Spain, the Austrian hereditary lands and the Holy Roman Empire. However, he did not succeed in making the empire hereditary, nor in changing the imperial crown back and forth between the Austrian and Spanish lines of the Habsburgs. At the same time, Charles found himself in conflict with France, which was mainly fought in Italy, while the Turks conquered Hungary after 1526. The military conflicts tied up considerable resources.

    The Prince's War of the Saxon Elector Moritz von Sachsen against Karl and the resulting Passau Treaty of 1552 between the warlords and the later Emperor Ferdinand I were the first steps towards a permanent religious peace in the empire, which led to the Augsburg Imperial and Religious Peace in 1555. The balance that took place at least for the time being was also made possible by the decentralized rulership structure of the empire, where the interests of the sovereigns and the empire repeatedly made it necessary to find a consensus, whereas in France with its centralized royal power during the 16th century, a bloody struggle between the Catholic royalty and individual Protestant leaders came.

    Title page of the print of the imperial farewell to Augsburg, Mainz 1555

    The Peace of Augsburg was not only important as a religious peace, it also had an important constitutional role, as important constitutional political decisions were made through the creation of the Reich Execution Order. These steps had become necessary due to the Second Margrave War of Kulmbach Margrave Albrecht Alcibiades of Brandenburg-Kulmbach , which raged in the Franconian region from 1552 to 1554 . Albrecht extorted money and even territories from various Frankish empire territories. Emperor Charles V did not condemn this, he even took Albrecht into his service and thereby legitimized the breach of the eternal peace. Since the affected territories refused to accept the robbery of their territories confirmed by the emperor, Albrecht devastated their land. In the northern empire troops were formed under Moritz von Sachsen to fight Albrecht. An imperial prince and later King Ferdinand, not the emperor, had initiated military countermeasures against the peace-breaker. On July 9, 1553, the bloodiest battle of the Reformation times in the empire, the Battle of Sievershausen , in which Moritz of Saxony died.

    The order of execution adopted at the Reichstag in Augsburg in 1555 included the constitutional weakening of the imperial power, the anchoring of the imperial principle and the full federalization of the empire. In addition to their previous duties, the imperial circles and local imperial estates also received responsibility for enforcing the judgments and appointing the assessors of the imperial chamber court. In addition to the coinage, they were given other important, previously imperial tasks. Since the emperor had proven to be incapable and too weak to carry out one of his most important tasks, the maintenance of peace, his role was now fulfilled by the imperial estates associated with the imperial circles.

    Just as important as the execution order was the religious peace proclaimed on September 25, 1555, with which the idea of ​​a denominationally unified empire was abandoned. The sovereigns were given the right to determine the denomination of their subjects, succinctly summarized in the formula whose rule, whose religion . In Protestant areas, ecclesiastical jurisdiction passed to the sovereigns, making them a kind of spiritual leader of their territory. It was also stipulated that ecclesiastical imperial estates, i.e. archbishops, bishops and imperial prelates, had to remain Catholic. These and a few other determinations led to a peaceful solution to the religious problem, but also manifested the increasing division of the empire and in the medium term led to a blockade of the imperial institutions.

    After the Reichstag in Augsburg, Emperor Karl V resigned from his office and handed power over to his brother, the Roman-German King Ferdinand I. Karl's policy inside and outside the empire had finally failed. Ferdinand restricted the emperor's rule to Germany again, and he succeeded in bringing the imperial estates back into closer ties with the empire, thereby strengthening it again. That is why Ferdinand is often referred to as the founder of the modern German Empire.

    Confessionalization and the Thirty Years' War

    Founding document of the Protestant Union dated May 14, 1608 (today in the Bavarian Main State Archives )

    Until the beginning of the 1580s there was a phase in the empire without major armed conflicts. Religious peace had a stabilizing effect and the imperial institutions such as imperial circles and the imperial chamber court developed into effective and recognized instruments for securing peace. During this time, however, the so-called confessionalization took place, i.e. the consolidation and demarcation of the three denominations Protestantism, Calvinism and Catholicism from one another. The associated development of early modern forms of government in the territories brought constitutional problems to the empire. The tensions increased to such an extent that the empire and its institutions were no longer able to exercise their role as arbitrator, which was above the denominations, and were effectively blocked at the end of the 16th century. As early as 1588, the Reich Chamber of Commerce was no longer able to act.

    Since the Protestant estates at the beginning of the 17th century also no longer recognized the Reichshofrat , which was exclusively occupied by the Catholic Emperor, the situation escalated further. At the same time, the Kurfürstenkolleg and the imperial circles split into confessional groups. A Reichsdeputationstag in 1601 failed due to the contradictions between the parties and in 1608 a Reichstag in Regensburg was ended without a Reich adoption because the Calvinist Electoral Palatinate, whose confession was not recognized by the Emperor, and other Protestant estates had left it.

    The Prague window lintel was a trigger, but not the cause of the war. This best-known representation of the lintel comes from the Theatrum Europaeum (1662).
    The Holy Roman Empire in 1618

    Since the imperial system was largely blocked and the protection of the peace was supposedly no longer given, six Protestant princes founded the Protestant Union on May 14, 1608 . Other princes and imperial cities later joined the union, but Electoral Saxony and the north German princes stayed away. In response to the Union, Catholic princes and cities founded the Catholic League on July 10, 1609 . The league wanted to maintain the previous imperial system and preserve the predominance of Catholicism in the empire. The Reich and its institutions were finally blocked and incapable of acting.

    The lintel in Prague was the trigger for the great war in which the emperor initially achieved great military successes and also tried to exploit them politically for his position of power over the imperial estates. In 1621, Emperor Ferdinand II ostracized the Palatinate Elector and Bohemian King Friedrich V and transferred the electoral dignity to Maximilian I of Bavaria . Ferdinand had previously been elected emperor by all, including the Protestant, electors on August 19, 1619, despite the beginning of the war.

    The decree of the edict of restitution on March 6, 1629 was the last significant act of law by an emperor in the empire and, like Frederick V's ostracism, arose from the imperial claim to power. This edict required the implementation of the Augsburg Imperial Peace according to a Catholic interpretation. Accordingly, all arches, monasteries and dioceses that had been secularized by the Protestant rulers since the Passau Treaty were to be returned to the Catholics. In addition to the re-Catholicization of large Protestant areas, this would have meant a significant strengthening of the imperial position of power, since questions of religious policy had previously been decided by the emperor together with the imperial estates and electors. In contrast, an interdenominational coalition of the electors was formed. They did not want to allow the emperor to issue such a drastic edict without their consent.

    The electors forced the emperor to dismiss the imperial generalissimo Wallenstein at the Regensburg Electoral Congress in 1630 under the leadership of the new Catholic elector Maximilian I and to agree to a review of the edict. Also in 1630 Sweden entered the war on the side of the Protestant imperial estates. After the imperial troops had been defeated by Sweden for a number of years, the emperor succeeded in winning the battle of Nördlingen again in 1634. In the subsequent Peace of Prague between the Emperor and Electoral Saxony of 1635, Ferdinand had to suspend the edict of restitution for forty years, based on the status of 1627. But the head of the empire emerged stronger from this peace, since all alliances of the imperial estates except for the Kurverein were declared dissolved and the emperor was granted the supreme command of the imperial army . But the Protestants also accepted this strengthening of the emperor. The religious-political problem of the Edict of Restitution had in fact been postponed by 40 years, since the emperor and most of the imperial estates agreed that the political unification of the empire, the cleansing of the empire's territory from foreign powers and the end of the war were most urgent.

    After France openly entered the war in order to prevent a strong imperial-Habsburg power in Germany, the balance shifted again to the detriment of the emperor. At this point, at the latest, the original German denominational war within the empire had turned into a European hegemonic struggle. So the war went on, since the religious and constitutional problems, which had at least provisionally been resolved in the Peace of Prague, were of secondary importance for the powers Sweden and France located on imperial territory. In addition, as already indicated, the Peace of Prague had serious shortcomings, so that the internal disputes within the empire continued.

    From 1641, individual imperial estates began to conclude separate peace, as it was hardly possible to organize broad-based resistance by the empire in the thicket of denominational solidarity, traditional alliance policy and the current war situation. The first major imperial estate was the Elector of Brandenburg in May 1641. He made peace with Sweden and released his army, which was not possible according to the provisions of the Peace of Prague, as it was nominally part of the Imperial Army. Other imperial estates followed; so in 1645 Electoral Saxony made peace with Sweden and in 1647 Electoral Mainz with France.

    Against the will of the emperor, since 1637 Ferdinand III. Who originally wanted to represent the kingdom at the now impending peace talks in Munster and Osnabruck, in accordance with the Peace of Prague alone, the imperial estates, supported by France were on their liberty pounded, admitted to the talks. This dispute, known as the admissions question , finally nullified the system of the Peace of Prague with the strong position of the emperor. Ferdinand originally only wanted to clarify European questions in the Westphalian negotiations and make peace with France and Sweden and deal with the German constitutional problems at a subsequent Reichstag, where he could have appeared as a glorious peace-maker. The foreign powers would have had no place in this Reichstag.

    Peace of Westphalia

    May there be a general and everlasting Christian peace [...] and this should be honestly and seriously observed and observed, so that each part promotes the benefit, honor and advantage of the other and that both on the part of the entire Roman Empire with the Kingdom of Sweden as May also on the part of the Kingdom of Sweden loyal neighborhood, true peace and genuine friendship with the Roman Empire grow anew and flourish.

    First article of the Osnabrück Treaty
    The Holy Roman Empire after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 (in purple spiritual territories, in red the imperial cities).

    The Kaiser, Sweden and France agreed on peace negotiations in Hamburg in 1641 , during which the fighting continued. The negotiations began in 1642/43 in parallel in Osnabrück between the emperor, the evangelical imperial estates and Sweden and in Münster between the emperor, the catholic imperial estates and France. The fact that the emperor did not represent the empire alone was a symbolically important defeat. The imperial power, which had emerged stronger from the Peace of Prague, was again up for grabs. The imperial estates, regardless of their denomination, considered the Prague order so dangerous that they saw their rights better protected when they did not sit across from the emperor alone, but when the negotiations on the imperial constitution took place under the eyes of abroad. But this was also very beneficial to France, which wanted to limit the power of the Habsburgs and therefore campaigned for the participation of the imperial estates.

    Both negotiating cities and the connecting routes between them had been declared demilitarized in advance (but this was only carried out for Osnabrück) and all embassies were given safe conduct. Delegations from the Republic of Venice , the Pope and Denmark traveled to mediate, and representatives of other European powers flocked to Westphalia. In the end, all European powers except the Ottoman Empire, Russia and England were involved in the negotiations. In addition to the negotiations between the Reich and Sweden, the negotiations in Osnabrück actually became a constitutional convention at which constitutional and religious-political problems were dealt with. In Münster negotiations took place on the European framework conditions and the feudal changes in relation to the Netherlands and Switzerland. Furthermore, the Peace of Munster between Spain and the Republic of the Netherlands was negotiated here.

    Until the end of the 20th century, the Peace of Westphalia was viewed as destructive to the empire. Fritz Hartung justified this with the argument that the peace treaty had deprived the emperor of all handicaps and granted the imperial estates almost unlimited freedom of action, that the empire had been “split up”, “crumbled” - it was therefore a “national misfortune”. Only the religious-political question had been resolved, but the empire had fallen into a state of paralysis that ultimately led to its disintegration.

    Allegorical representation of the Peace of Westphalia: Germania leads the chariot drawn by the Habsburg lion and the eagle of the empire , in which an angel of peace sits; Chained to the car is the god of war Mars ( Triumphus Pacis Osnabruggensis et Noribergensis , Tübingen 1649).

    In the time immediately after the Peace of Westphalia, and also during the 18th century, the peace treaty was viewed quite differently. It was greeted with great joy and was considered the new constitution that applies wherever the emperor, with his privileges and as a symbol of the unity of the empire, is recognized. Through its provisions, the peace established the territorial lordships and the various denominations on a uniform legal basis and established the mechanisms established and proven after the constitutional crisis at the beginning of the 16th century, and rejected those of the Peace of Prague. Georg Schmidt summarizes:

    “Peace has produced neither state fragmentation nor princely absolutism. [...] The peace emphasized the freedom of the estates, but did not make sovereign states out of the estates. "

    All imperial estates were granted full sovereign rights and the right of alliance, which was annulled in the Peace of Prague, was reassigned. However, this did not mean the full sovereignty of the territories, which can also be seen from the fact that this right is listed in the contract text amid other rights that have been exercised for a long time. The right of alliances - this also contradicts the full sovereignty of the territories of the empire - was not allowed to be directed against the emperor and the empire, the peace of the land or against this treaty and, according to contemporary legal scholars, was in any case a long-established customary law (see also the section on Customs and Customs ) of the imperial estates which was only stipulated in writing in the contract.

    In the religious-political part, the imperial estates practically withdrew from themselves the authority to determine the denomination of their subjects. Although the Augsburg Religious Peace was confirmed as a whole and declared inviolable, the disputed questions were reorganized and legal relationships were fixed to the status of January 1, 1624 or reset to the status on this deadline. For example, all imperial estates had to tolerate the other two denominations if they already existed on their territory in 1624. All possessions had to be returned to the owner at the time, and all subsequent provisions to the contrary by the emperor, the imperial estates or the occupying powers were declared null and void.

    The second religious peace certainly did not bring any progress for the idea of ​​tolerance or for individual religious rights or even human rights. But that was not its aim either. It should have a peacemaking effect through further legalization. Peace and not tolerance or secularization was the goal. It is obvious that this succeeded in spite of all the setbacks and occasional casualties in later religious disputes.

    The treaties of Westphalia brought the long-awaited peace to the empire after thirty years. The empire lost some territories to France and effectively released the Netherlands and the old Confederation from the Reichsverband. Otherwise, not much changed in the empire, the power system between the emperor and the imperial estates was rebalanced without any major shift in weight compared to the situation before the war, and imperial politics was not deconfessionalized, only the way the denominations were dealt with. Neither was

    “[The] Reichsverband is still damned to freeze - these are fervently cherished research myths for a long time. Seen soberly, the Peace of Westphalia, this alleged national misfortune, loses much of its horror, but also much of its supposedly epoch-making character. The fact that he destroyed the idea of ​​the empire and the empire is the most glaring of all the false judgments that are circulating about the Peace of Westphalia. "

    Until the middle of the 18th century

    After the Peace of Westphalia, a group of princes, united in the Princely Association, pushed for radical reforms in the empire, which in particular were intended to limit the supremacy of the electors and to extend the royal electoral privilege to other imperial princes. At the Reichstag of 1653/54, which according to the provisions of the peace should have taken place much earlier, this minority could not assert itself. In the imperial farewell of this Reichstag, called the youngest - this Reichstag was the last before the body came into force - it was decided that the subjects would have to pay taxes to their masters so that these troops could support. This often led to the formation of standing armies in various larger territories. These were known as the Armied Imperial Estates .

    Nor did the empire disintegrate, since too many classes had an interest in an empire that could guarantee their protection. This group included especially the smaller estates, which could practically never become a state of their own. The aggressive, expansive policy of France on the western border of the empire and the danger of the Turks in the east made it clear to almost all estates the need for a sufficiently closed imperial union and an empire head capable of acting.

    Emperor Leopold I , whose work has only been examined in more detail since the 1990s, has ruled the empire since 1658 . His work is described as clever and far-sighted, and measured against the starting position after the war and the low point of the imperial reputation, it was also extremely successful. By combining various instruments of rule, Leopold succeeded in re-tying the smaller as well as the larger imperial estates to the imperial constitution and to the empire. Particularly noteworthy here are his marriage policy, the means of raising his rank and the awarding of all sorts of melodious titles. Nevertheless, the empire's centrifugal forces increased. The award of the ninth electoral dignity to Ernst August von Hannover in 1692 stands out in particular . The concession to the Brandenburg Elector Friedrich III also falls into this category . , To 1,701 for not belonging to the Empire Duchy of Prussia to King of Prussia crowned to be allowed.

    After 1648 the position of the imperial circles was further strengthened and they were given a decisive role in the imperial war constitution . In 1681, because of the threat to the empire from the Turks, the Reichstag passed a new constitution for the war in which the troop strength of the imperial army was set at 40,000 men. The imperial districts should be responsible for the formation of the troops . The Perpetual Reichstag offered the emperor the opportunity to bind the smaller imperial estates to himself and to win them over to his own politics. Thanks to the improved options for arbitration, the emperor was able to increase his influence on the empire again.

    The fact that Leopold I opposed the reunification policy of the French King Louis XIV and tried to persuade the imperial circles and estates to oppose the French annexations of imperial territories shows that imperial policy was not yet, as it was under his successors in the 18th century, had become a mere appendage of the Habsburg great power politics. It was also during this time that the great power of Sweden was pushed back from the northern regions of the empire in the Swedish-Brandenburg War and the Great Northern War .

    Dualism between Prussia and Austria

    L'Empire d'Allemagne , map of the empire according to imperial circles around 1705 by Nicolas de Fer

    From 1740 the two largest territorial complexes of the empire, the Archduchy of Austria and Brandenburg-Prussia , began to grow more and more out of the imperial association. The house Austria was after the victory over the Turks in the Great Turkish War after 1683 large areas outside the realm acquire, whereby the focus of the Habsburg policy shifted to the southeast. This became particularly clear under the successors of Emperor Leopold I. It was similar with Brandenburg-Prussia, here too part of the territory was outside the empire. In addition to the increasing rivalry, which put heavy demands on the structure of the empire, there were also changes in the thinking of the time.

    Until the Thirty Years' War it was very important for a ruler's reputation what titles he held and what position he was in the hierarchy of the empire and the European nobility, now other factors such as the size of the territory and economic and military power came into play more in the foreground. The view prevailed that only the power that resulted from this quantifiable information really counts. According to historians, this is a late consequence of the great war, in which time-honored titles, claims and legal positions, especially of the smaller imperial estates, played almost no role and were subordinated to the fictitious or actual constraints of the war.

    However, these categories of thought were not compatible with the previous system of the empire, which was supposed to guarantee the empire and all its members legal protection of the status quo and protect them from an excess of power. This conflict can be seen, among other things, in the work of the Reichstag. Its composition did differentiate between electors and princes, high aristocracy and city magistrates, Catholic and Protestant, but not, for example, between classes that maintained a standing army and those that were defenseless. This discrepancy between actual power and traditional hierarchy led to the desire of the large, powerful estates for a loosening of the Reichsverband.

    In addition, there was Enlightenment thinking , which questioned the conservative, conservative character, the complexity, and even the idea of ​​the empire itself and presented it as "unnatural". The idea of ​​equality between people could not be brought into harmony with the imperial idea of preserving what was already there and securing its assigned place in the structure of the empire for each class.

    In summary, it can be said that Brandenburg-Prussia and Austria no longer fit into the Reichsverband, not only because of the sheer size, but also because of the internal constitution of the two territories that have become states. Both had reformed the countries, which were originally decentralized and based on estates, and broke the influence of the estates. This was the only way to manage and preserve the various inherited and conquered countries sensibly and to finance a standing army. This reform path was closed to the smaller territories. A sovereign who had undertaken reforms of this magnitude would inevitably have come into conflict with the imperial courts, as they would have stood by the estates, whose privileges a sovereign would have violated. The Kaiser, in his role as the Austrian sovereign, did not, of course, have to fear the Reichshofrat he occupied as much as other sovereigns, and in Berlin people hardly cared about the imperial institutions anyway. An execution of the judgments would in fact not have been possible. This different inner constitution of the two great powers also contributed to the estrangement from the empire.

    The rivalry between Prussia and Austria , known as dualism , gave rise to several wars in the 18th century. The two Silesian Wars Prussia won and received Silesia, while the War of the Austrian Succession ended in Austria's favor. During the War of Succession, a Wittelsbacher came to the throne with Charles VII , but could not assert himself without the resources of a great power, so that after his death in 1745 with Franz I Stephan of Lothringen , Maria Theresa's husband , a Habsburg (-Lothringer ) was chosen.

    These conflicts were devastating for the empire. Prussia did not want to strengthen the empire, but wanted to use it for its own purposes. The Habsburgs, too, who were disgruntled by the alliance of many imperial estates with Prussia and the election of a non-Habsburg to the imperial throne, were now much more unequivocal than before on a policy that focused solely on Austria and its power. The imperial title was almost only sought because of its sound and the higher rank compared to all European rulers. The imperial institutions had degenerated into sidelines of power politics and the constitution of the empire no longer had much to do with reality. Prussia tried to hit the Kaiser and Austria by instrumentalizing the Reichstag. Emperor Joseph II in particular withdrew almost entirely from imperial politics. Initially, Joseph II tried to reform the imperial institutions, especially the imperial chamber court, but failed due to the resistance of the imperial estates, which broke away from the imperial association and therefore no longer wanted the court to talk into their "internal" affairs. Joseph gave up in frustration.

    But otherwise Joseph II acted unhappy and insensitive. The Austrian-centered policy of Joseph II during the War of the Bavarian Succession in 1778/79 and the peace settlement of Teschen, which was brokered from abroad, were a disaster for the empire. When the Bavarian line of the Wittelsbach family died out in 1777, this appeared to Joseph as a welcome opportunity to incorporate Bavaria into the Habsburg lands. Therefore Austria made legally questionable claims to the inheritance. Under massive pressure from Vienna, the heir from the Palatine line of the Wittelsbach family, Elector Karl Theodor , agreed to a treaty that ceded parts of Bavaria . Karl Theodor, who had already reluctantly accepted the inheritance, was suggested that an exchange with the Austrian Netherlands, which roughly encompassed the area of ​​present-day Belgium, would come about later. Instead, Joseph II occupied the Bavarian territories in order to create a fait accompli and, as emperor, attacked an imperial territory.

    These processes allowed the Prussian King Frederick II to rise to be the protector of the empire and the small imperial estates and thus, so to speak, to become the "anti-emperor". Prussian and Electoral Saxon troops marched into Bohemia. In the Treaty of Teschen on May 13, 1779, which was practically enforced by Russia , Austria was granted the Innviertel . Nevertheless, the emperor stood there as a loser. For the second time after 1648 an internal German problem had to be settled with the help of foreign powers. Not the emperor, but Russia brought peace to the empire. In addition to its role as a guarantor of the Peace of Teschen, Russia also became a guarantor of the Peace of Westphalia and thus one of the “guardians” of the imperial constitution. The empire had dismantled itself and the Prussian King Friedrich stood there as the protector of the empire. But Frederick's aim was not to protect and consolidate the empire, but to further weaken the position of the emperor in the empire and thus the entire imperial association itself. He had achieved this goal.

    The concept of a Third Germany, on the other hand, born out of the fear of the smaller and medium-sized imperial estates of degenerating into the mere disposal of the large, in order to speak with one voice and thus implement reforms, failed because of the prejudices and contradictions between the Protestant and the Catholic imperial princes, as well the self-interests of the electors and the great imperial cities. In the end, the real bearers of the imperial idea were practically only the imperial cities , the imperial knighthoods and to a certain extent the spiritual territories, whereby the latter were also often ruled by members of imperial princely dynasties and represented their interests (e.g. that in the War of the Spanish Succession under a Wittelsbacher Archbishop of Kurköln). The emperor, too, acted more like a territorial lord who aimed to expand his immediate rulership and less to preserve an “imperial interest”. For many contemporaries in the Age of Enlightenment, the empire was therefore perceived as an anachronism. Voltaire mockingly spoke of the “empire that is neither Roman nor holy”.

    End of the empire

    First coalition wars against France

    The Holy Roman Empire on the eve of the French Revolution in 1789 (in purple spiritual territories, in red the imperial cities).

    Both German great powers (Austria and Prussia) found an alliance of convenience against the revolutionary troops of France in the First Coalition War . This alliance of February 1792, known as the Pillnitz Assistance Pact , did not aim to protect imperial rights, but to contain the revolution, mainly because it was feared that it would spill over into imperial territory. Emperor Franz II , who was elected Emperor on July 5, 1792 in unaccustomed haste and unanimously , gambled away the chance to get the other imperial estates behind him because he wanted to enlarge the Austrian national territory, if necessary at the expense of others Reich members. And Prussia, too, wanted to keep itself harmless for its war costs by incorporating spiritual territories into the empire. Accordingly, it was not possible to build a united front against the French revolutionary troops and to achieve greater military success.

    Disappointed at the lack of success and in order to better deal with the resistance to the renewed partition of Poland , Prussia concluded a separate peace with France in 1795, the Peace of Basel . In 1796, Baden and Württemberg also made peace with France. In both agreements, the respective holdings on the left bank of the Rhine were ceded to France. The owners, however, were to be "compensated" at the expense of spiritual areas on the right bank of the Rhine, so these were to be secularized . Other imperial estates negotiated an armistice or neutrality.

    In 1797 Austria also made peace and signed the Peace of Campo Formio , in which it ceded various possessions inside and outside the empire, in particular the Austrian Netherlands and the Duchy of Tuscany . As compensation, Austria should also be compensated at the expense of secularized spiritual areas or other parts of the empire. Both greats of the empire held themselves harmless to other smaller members of the empire and even gave France a say in the future design of the empire. In particular, the emperor, acting as king of Hungary and Bohemia, but nonetheless obliged as emperor to preserve the integrity of the empire and its members, had allowed other imperial estates to be damaged in order to “compensate” a few, thus irreparably dismantling the empire .

    The imperial deputation of 1797/98 consented to the cession of the areas on the left bank of the Rhine and to the secularization with the exception of the three ecclesiastical electoral principalities at the Rastatt peace congress in March 1798 . The Second Coalition War ended the haggling and haggling over the territories that were hoped to be preserved. The war was ended in 1801 by the Treaty of Lunéville , in which Franz II, now as head of the empire, also consented to the cession of the areas on the left bank of the Rhine . In this peace, however, no precise determinations were made for the upcoming “compensations”. The subsequently convened Reichstag approved the peace.


    The peace agreements of Basel with Prussia, Campo Formio with Austria and Lunéville with the Reich demanded “compensation” which only a Reich law could decide on. Therefore a Reich Deputation was convened to work out this compensation plan. Ultimately, however, the deputation accepted the Franco-Russian compensation plan of June 3, 1802 with minor changes. On March 24, 1803, the Reichstag finally accepted the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss.

    Almost all imperial cities, the smaller secular territories and almost all ecclesiastical colleges and ore monasteries were chosen as compensation for the larger imperial estates. The composition of the empire changed abruptly, the previously predominantly Catholic prince bank of the Reichstag was now Protestant. Two out of three ecclesiastical electoral principalities had ceased to exist, the elector of Mainz also lost his bishopric , but received Aschaffenburg-Regensburg as the new electorate. In addition to this there were only two ecclesiastical imperial princes, the Grand Prior of the Order of Malta and the High and German Masters of the Teutonic Order .

    In total, there were 110 fewer territories as a result of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss and around three million people were given a new sovereign. A manageable number of medium-sized countries emerged from a large number of small areas. This became a permanent change that far outlasted the three years of validity. The Reichsdeputationshauptschluss also introduced a new normal year, i.e. the starting point for how things stand in an area with the denomination and how the financial situation. The year 1803 became the new normal year after the normal year 1624 determined in the Peace of Westphalia .

    In this context one spoke generally of “compensation”, “ secularization ” and “ mediatization ”. However, behind this (euphemistically) one also hid the fact that a few sovereigns received much more land and money than they had given up. The margrave of Baden, for example, received more than nine times as many subjects as he lost on the left bank of the Rhine. The reason for this was that France created a number of satellite states that were large enough to cause difficulties for the emperor, but too small to jeopardize France's position.

    Furthermore, the imperial church, which had been a pillar of the emperor, had ceased to exist. The Enlightenment had long contributed to this, as had the absolutist tendency of the sovereigns not to want to share power with church institutions. This was true for Protestant and Catholic princes alike, and France saw it that way too.

    In the autumn of 1803 the imperial knighthoods were also occupied by the neighboring countries in the so-called Rittersturm . The laws of the empire were no longer paid much attention to anybody.

    Laying down of the imperial crown

    On May 18, 1804, a constitutional amendment made Napoleon hereditary Emperor of the French. In doing so, he wanted to place himself in the tradition of Charlemagne , who had succeeded the Roman Empire a thousand years earlier.

    After Napoleon had accepted the imperial title, talks with Austria took place. In a secret note dated August 7, 1804, Napoleon demanded that Austria recognize the imperial title. In return, the Roman-German Emperor Franz II could become Emperor of Austria. A few days later, the demand turned into a de facto ultimatum. This meant either war or recognition of the French Empire. Franz gave in and, as a consequence of this step, on August 11, 1804, in addition to his title as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, "for Us and Our Successors [...] the title and dignity of a hereditary Emperor of Austria". This was obviously done in order to maintain equality with Napoleon. The title of Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire alone no longer seemed suitable for this, even if this was probably a violation of imperial law, as he neither informed the electors of this step nor asked the Reichstag for approval. Apart from the violation of the law, this step was controversial and was viewed as hasty.

    Napoleon could no longer be stopped. In the Third Coalition War , his army, which was reinforced by Bavarian , Württemberg and Baden troops, marched towards Vienna and on December 2, 1805, the Napoleonic troops won the Battle of the Three Emperors at Austerlitz over Russians and Austrians. The subsequent Peace of Pressburg , which was dictated to Franz II and the Russian Tsar Alexander I by Napoleon, should have finally sealed the end of the empire, as Napoleon enforced that Bavaria , Württemberg and Baden endowed with full sovereignty and thus with Prussia and Austria were assimilated. These countries were now in fact outside the imperial constitution.

    However, the final impetus for the laying down of the crown was an act by Karl Theodor von Dalberg , Archbishop of Regensburg. Dalberg was Arch Chancellor of the Reich and thus head of the Reich Chancellery , overseer of the Reich Court and custodian of the Reich Archives. In 1806 he made the French grand almsman Joseph Cardinal Fesch his coadjutor with the right of succession . The cardinal appointed as his successor was not only French and did not speak a word of German - he was also Napoleon's uncle. If the elector had died or had otherwise somehow given up his offices, the uncle of the French emperor would have become arch-chancellor of the empire. The Reichstag was informed of this on May 28, 1806.

    Medal of the Rhine Confederation 1808

    The Austrian Foreign Minister Johann Philipp von Stadion recognized the possible consequences: either the dissolution of the empire or a reorganization of the empire under French rule. Thereupon, Franz decided to protest on June 18, which remained ineffective, especially as events rolled over: On July 12, 1806, Kurmainz, Bavaria, Württemberg, Baden, Hessen-Darmstadt, Nassau, Kleve-Berg and other principalities founded with signature of the Rhine Confederation Act in Paris, the Confederation of the Rhine , of which Napoleon acted as protector, and on August 1 they declared their departure from the Reich.

    In January the Swedish king had already suspended the participation of the West Pomeranian ambassadors in the sessions of the Reichstag and, in response to the signing of the Rhine Confederation Act on July 28th, declared that in the countries belonging to the Reich under Swedish rule, the imperial constitution had been repealed and the estates and district administrators had been dissolved . Instead, he introduced the Swedish Constitution in Swedish Pomerania. In doing so, he ended the imperial regime in this part of the empire as well. The empire had effectively ceased to exist, for only a rump remained of it.

    The decision whether the emperor should lay down the imperial crown was practically anticipated by an ultimatum to the Austrian ambassador in Paris, General Vincent. Should Emperor Franz not abdicate by August 10th, then French troops would attack Austria, this was announced on July 22nd.

    In Vienna, however, Johann Aloys Josef Freiherr von Hügel and Graf von Stadion had been working on the preparation of reports on the preservation of the imperial dignity of the empire for several weeks . Their analysis concluded that France would try to dissolve the imperial constitution and transform the empire into a federal state influenced by France. They concluded that maintaining the imperial dignity would inevitably lead to difficulties with France and therefore renouncing the imperial crown was inevitable.

    The exact time of this step should be determined according to the political circumstances in order to be as advantageous as possible for Austria. On June 17, 1806, the report was presented to the emperor. However, the decisive factor in the emperor's decision was probably Napoleon's ultimatum. On July 30th, Franz decided to forego the crown; On August 1, the French envoy La Rochefoucauld appeared in the Austrian State Chancellery. Only after the French envoy formally confirmed after violent disputes with Graf von Stadion that Napoleon would never wear the imperial crown and respect Austria's state independence , the Austrian Foreign Minister consented to the abdication, which was announced on August 6th.

    Franz II's declaration of abdication was printed .

    The abdication states that the emperor no longer sees himself in a position to fulfill his duties as head of the empire, and accordingly he declared:

    “That we see the bond which has bound us to the state body of the German Reich as loosened, that we see the imperial head office and dignity as extinguished through the unification of the confederate Rhenish estates, and we thereby from all obligations we have taken on towards the German Reich look at them counted, and put down the imperial crown and imperial government that has been worn because of it, as is happening here. "

    And the emperor exceeded his powers as head of the empire for the last time. Franz not only laid down the crown, but also dissolved the empire as a whole, but this would have required the consent of the Reichstag, because he also announced:

    "At the same time we release princes, princes and estates and all members of the Reich, in particular also the members of the highest imperial courts and the rest of the imperial servants, from their duties, whereby they were bound to Us, as the legal head of the kingdom, by the constitution."

    He also detached the lands of the empire belonging to his own domain and made them subject to the Austrian Empire alone. This also ended the activities of the most important institutions in the empire. The Reichstag no longer met and the Reich Chamber of Commerce switched its activities to collecting and archiving the existing files.

    The formal dissolution of the empire marked the end of a prolonged decline of the empire through the weakening of the central power, the dualism of the two great powers Prussia and Austria, increasing sovereignty and individual interests of the medium-sized empire territories and the disregard of the imperial constitution. In the end there was a lack of political will and foreign policy power to preserve the empire.

    Congress of Vienna and German Confederation 1815

    After the Congress of Vienna in 1815, the individual German states merged to form the German Confederation . Before that, however, in November 1814, 29 sovereigns of small and medium-sized states made the following request to Congress:

    "To propose the reintroduction of the imperial dignity in Germany to the committee that deals with the drafting of the plan for a federal state."

    This petition is unlikely to have been based on patriotic zeal. Rather, it can be assumed that they feared the dominance of the princes who achieved full sovereignty and royal titles through Napoleon, for example the kings of Württemberg , Bavaria and Saxony .

    But the question of whether a new emperor should be chosen was also discussed. So existed inter alia. the proposal that the imperial dignity should alternate between the most powerful prince in southern Germany and the most powerful prince in northern Germany. In general, however, the advocates of the empire favored a renewed assumption of the imperial dignity by Austria, i.e. by Franz I.

    Since, however, due to the low power of the supporters of the restoration, the small and medium-sized German princes, it was not to be expected that the emperor would receive the rights in the future that would make him an actual head of the empire, Franz refused the offer of imperial dignity. Accordingly, Franz I and his Chancellor Metternich viewed these in their previous form only as a burden. On the other hand, Austria did not want to allow Prussia or any other strong prince to receive the imperial title.

    The Congress of Vienna broke up without having renewed the empire. As a result, the German Confederation was founded on June 8, 1815 . It was essentially just a military alliance for the internal and external security of the member states. The only federal body to represent them was the Bundestag . There the Austrian envoy ran the business, which is why Austria was called the presidential power .


    Title page Historical development of the current state constitution of the German Empire by Justitzrath Pütter , Göttingen 1788

    The concept of the constitution of the Holy Roman Empire is not to be understood in today's constitutional sense as a fixed, formal and legal comprehensive document. Rather, it essentially consisted of many legal norms that have been established and practiced through long tradition and practice , which have only been supplemented by written basic laws since the late Middle Ages and increasingly since the early modern period.

    The constitution of the empire, as it has been discussed and defined by constitutional lawyers since the 17th century as part of what was later to be called the Reich journalism , thus consisted of a conglomerate of written and unwritten legal principles about the idea, form, structure, responsibilities and actions of the empire and of his limbs. Since the strongly federal character of the empire combined with an elective monarchy can hardly be pressed into a scheme, the constitutional lawyer Johann Jakob Moser already formulated evasively about the character of the imperial constitution:

    "Teutschland is governed in Teutsch, and in such a way that no school word or few words or the way of government of other states are appropriate to make our way of government understandable."

    The fact of the federal order with many individual schemes was already by contemporaries such as Samuel von Pufendorf examines critically the 1667 in his under the alias Severinus de Monzambano published work De statu imperii Germanici the kingdom as a systematic monstrosum and unhappy "intermediate thing" between monarchy and state union characterized . He came to his famous assessment of the imperial constitution as "irregular" and "monstrous" on the basis of the knowledge that the form of the empire can neither be assigned to one of the Aristotelian forms of government nor does it do justice to the concepts of the sovereignty thesis.

    Nevertheless, the empire was a state structure with a head, the emperor, and its members, the imperial estates. As described, the empire's constitutional lawyers were aware of the unusual character of the empire and its constitution, which is why attempts were made to portray its character in the theory of “dual” sovereignty . According to this theory, the empire was ruled by two majesties. On the one hand there was the majestas realis , which was exercised by the imperial estates, and on the other hand the majestas personalis, that of the chosen emperor. This constitutionally theoretically captured dualism was also reflected in the frequently encountered formulation of emperor and empire . In contrast to many other countries, its head was not the Reich. The “Imperial Constitution” thus represented a kind of mixed constitutional system, consisting of the emperor and the imperial estates.

    A good 100 years after Pufendorf, Karl Theodor von Dalberg , Archbishop of Mainz, defended the order of the empire with the words:

    "A permanent gothic building that is not built according to all the rules of architecture, but in which one can safely live."

    Basic laws

    The written laws and texts that were included in the imperial constitution emerged in different centuries and their recognition as part of the constitution was not uniform. Nevertheless, some of these generally accepted basic laws can be named.

    The first quasi-constitutional regulation can be found in the Worms Concordat of 1122, with which the investiture dispute was finally ended. The establishment of the temporal priority of the appointment of the bishop to the secular office by the emperor before the appointment to the spiritual office by the pope opened the secular power to a certain degree of independence from the spiritual power. This is the first piece of the mosaic in the context of the centuries-long emancipation of the state - which can hardly be called that here - from the church.

    Internally, the first constitutional milestone came about 100 years later. The originally autonomous tribal principalities had changed into dependent imperial principalities in the 12th century. At the Reichstag in Worms in 1231, Frederick II had to cede coin, customs, market and escort as well as the right to build castles and towns to the imperial princes in the statute in favor of the princes . In addition, Frederick II recognized the princes' right to legislate at the same Reichstag.

    In addition to the statute in favor of the princes, the most important constitutional regulation is certainly the Golden Bull of 1356, which regulated the principles of the election of a king for the first time and thus avoided double elections, as has already happened several times. In addition, however, the group of princes for the election of the king was determined and the electorates were declared indivisible in order to avoid an increase in the number of electors. In addition, she excluded papal rights in the election and limited the right to feud.

    The third constitution is the German Concordats of 1447 between Pope Nicholas V and Emperor Friedrich III. in which the papal rights and the freedoms of the Church and the bishops in the kingdom were regulated. This concerned, among other things, the election of bishops, abbots and provosts and their confirmation by the Pope, but also the award of ecclesiastical dignity and property issues after the death of an ecclesiastical dignitary. The Concordats formed an important basis for the role and structure of the church as an imperial church in the centuries to come.

    The fourth of these important legal principles is the Eternal Reichsfriede , which was proclaimed on August 7, 1495 at the Reichstag in Worms and was to be secured with the creation of the Reich Chamber of Commerce. This banned the noble right to feud , which had been common up until then , and tried to enforce the state's monopoly on force. Armed conflicts and self-help of the nobility were declared illegal. Rather, the courts of the territories or of the empire should now regulate and decide the disputes if it concerned imperial estates. Breaking the peace should be severely punished. The imperial ban or heavy fines were exposed for breaking the peace .

    The Worms Reichsmatrikel of 1521, this "Reich basic laws" are considered to be the fifth. In this all imperial estates were recorded with the number of troops to be provided for the imperial army and the sum that had to be paid for the maintenance of the army. Despite adjustments to the current conditions and minor changes, it was the basis of the Imperial Army constitution.

    In addition, there are a number of other laws and regulations, such as the Augsburg Religious Peace of September 25, 1555 with the Reich Execution Regulations and the regulations of the Reichshofrat as well as the respective electoral surrender, which in their entirety have shaped the constitution of the Reich since the beginning of the early modern period.

    After the end of the Thirty Years' War , the provisions of the Peace of Westphalia were declared the Eternal Basic Law of the Empire after the exchange of the ratification documents in 1649 . In addition to the territorial changes, the imperial territories were finally granted sovereignty in this treaty and, in addition to the Catholics and Protestants, who were already recognized as fully entitled denominations in the Peace of Augsburg, the Calvinists (Reformed) were also granted this status. Furthermore, provisions were agreed on religious peace and denominational parity in empire institutions.

    This essentially concluded the development of the imperial constitution. The scholars of constitutional law also added the various Reich peace treaties to the constitution of the empire. Examples of this are the Peace of Nijmegen in 1678/79 and the Peace of Rijswijk in 1697, in which the borders of some parts of the empire were changed. However, the various imperial farewells were also added, in particular the last imperial farewell of 1654, which ensured that the standing armies of the sovereign princes were constitutionally recognized and budgeted and the regulation of the Perpetual Diet of 1663.

    Today's historians occasionally refer to the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss as the last Basic Law of the Reich, since it created a completely new basis for the Reich constitution. However, this assignment of the main conclusion is not used uniformly, since it is often viewed as the beginning of the end of the empire, which does not justify classification as the Imperial Basic Law. Nevertheless, according to Anton Schindling in his analysis of the development potentials of the main conclusion, the historical analysis should take it seriously as an opportunity for a new Reich Basic Law for a renewed Reich.

    Custom and custom

    The constitutional lawyer of the 18th century KA Beck defined the customary rights that are common and recognized in other countries as follows:

    "Imperial observance or custom are those rights which have not been introduced through express laws or treaties, but through custom and tradition, but which the imperial laws and treaties themselves often refer to."

    On the one hand, there are rights and habits that were never written down and, on the other, rights and habits that led to a change in written laws and contracts. For example, the Golden Bull was changed so that the coronation of the king was always carried out in Frankfurt from 1562 and not in Aachen as specified. In order for such action to become customary law , it had to be carried out repeatedly and, above all, uncontested. For example, in the second half of the 16th century, the secularizations of the north German bishoprics by the rulers who had become Protestant were never valid law, as these were contradicted several times by the emperor. But also by non-application of rules it was possible to abolish what was stipulated.

    The constitutional lawyers of that time differentiated between tradition, which concerned the affairs of state themselves, the "Reichsherommen", and the tradition of how they had to be carried out. The first group included the agreement that since modern times only one German could be elected king and that since 1519 the king had to negotiate an electoral surrender with the electors. From old customary law, the noblest imperial estates were allowed to add the title “by God's grace”. Likewise, the spiritual imperial estates were therefore viewed as higher than a secular imperial estate of the same rank.

    The second group of customary rights included, among other things, the division of the imperial estates into three colleges with different rights, the implementation of the Reichstag and the administration of the ore offices.


    Emperor's coat of arms, clearly recognizable are the coat of arms of the countries of the Habsburgs, which are arranged around the double-headed imperial eagle, Siebmacher 1605

    The medieval rulers of the empire saw themselves - in connection with the late ancient imperial idea and the idea of ​​the Renovatio imperii , the restoration of the Roman empire under Charlemagne - in direct succession of the Roman Caesars and the Carolingian emperors. They propagated the idea of ​​the Translatio imperii , according to which the highest secular power, the empire, had passed from the Romans to the Germans. For this reason, the election of the Roman-German king was combined with the king's claim to be crowned emperor by the pope in Rome. This was important for the imperial position of the head of the empire insofar as he also became the head of the territories connected to the empire, imperial Italy and the kingdom of Burgundy .

    The election as king was initially - theoretically - by all free people of the empire, then by all imperial princes, and finally only by the most important princes of the empire. The exact group of people was controversial, however, and double elections were held several times because the princes could not agree on a common candidate. It was not until the Golden Bull in 1356 that the circle of eligible voters and the majority principle became binding.

    Since Maximilian I (1508) the newly elected king called himself "Elected Roman Emperor", and from then on a coronation by the Pope in Rome was waived. Only Charles V was crowned by the Pope, albeit in Bologna .

    Colloquially and in older literature, the term German Kaiser is used for the "Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation". In the 18th century these names were also adopted in official documents. The more recent historical literature, on the other hand, describes the emperors of the Holy Roman Empire as Roman-German emperors in order to distinguish them from the Roman emperors of antiquity on the one hand and from the German emperors of the 19th and early 20th centuries on the other.

    Constitutional role of the emperor

    The emperor was the head of the empire and supreme liege lord. When the emperor is mentioned in early modern files, the head of the empire is always meant. A “ Roman King ” possibly elected during the emperor's lifetime only referred to the successor and future emperor. As long as the emperor was still alive, the king could not derive his own rights in relation to the empire from his title. Occasionally, as Charles V did with his brother and Roman King Ferdinand I in the case of his absence from the empire , the governorship and thus at least limited government rights were transferred to the king . After the death of the emperor or, as in the case of Charles V, the resignation of the crown, the king took over rule of the empire without any further formalities.

    Since the early modern period at the latest, the title of emperor has implied more power than was actually in his hands, and cannot be compared with that of the ancient Roman Caesars or the medieval emperors. In fact, it could only become politically effective in cooperation with the imperial estates, including in particular the electors.

    Eighteenth-century legal scholars often divided the emperor's powers into three groups. The first group comprised the so-called comitial rights ( Latin iura comitialia ), to which the Reichstag had to give its approval. These rights included all essential governmental acts such as imperial taxes, imperial laws as well as declarations of war and peace agreements that affected the entire empire.

    The second group comprised the iura caesarea reservata limitata, the limited imperial reservation rights , for the exercise of which the electors had to agree or at least obtain their approval. These rights included the convening of the Reichstag and the granting of coinage and customs rights .

    The third group comprised the rights known as iura reservata illimitata or iura reservata for short , which the emperor could exercise without the consent of the electors throughout the empire and whose exercise was only linked to the limits of the applicable constitutional law, such as electoral surrenders and the rights of the imperial estates . The most important of these rights were the right to appoint court councilors, to submit an agenda to the Reichstag, and to raise one's rank. There were also a few other rights that were less important for imperial politics, such as the right to award academic degrees and to legitimize illegitimate children.

    The composition of imperial rights changed more and more in the course of the early modern period in the direction of rights requiring approval. So the right was the imperial ban to impose originally a reserve law, the approval of the Reichstag was at the end but subject so became a Komitialrecht.

    Imperial estates

    The quaternion eagle with the imperial estates as a symbol of the empire, woodcut by Hans Burgkmair the Elder. Ä., 1510

    The imperial estates are those persons or corporations who were directly imperial and who had a seat and vote in the Reichstag. They were not subject to any sovereign and paid their taxes to the empire. At the beginning of the early modern period, the extent of the imperial estate had finally developed.

    In addition to the differences in the imperial estates according to their rank, a distinction is also made between spiritual and secular imperial estates. This distinction is important because in the Holy Roman Empire spiritual dignitaries, such as archbishops and bishops, could also be sovereigns. In addition to the diocese , in which the bishop was the head of the church, he often ruled over part of the diocesan area and was also the sovereign in this area. This area was called Hochstift , or Archbishopric as Erzstift . Here he issued ordinances, collected taxes, and granted privileges like a secular sovereign. To illustrate this dual role as spiritual and secular head, such a bishop is also referred to as a prince-bishop . Only this secular role of the prince-bishops established their membership in the imperial estates.


    George Desmarées ' (1697–1776) Clemens August I of Bavaria with the page of Weichs .
    The picture shows Elector Clemens August with all the signs of his ecclesiastical and secular rule: the Kurmantel and Kurhut stand for the Electorate of Cologne, the episcopal pectoral hanging on his chest, the collar of the priest's robe and the miter lying on the table behind the Kurhut symbolize his office as Archbishop of Cologne.

    The electors (principes electores imperii) were a group of imperial princes emphasized by the right to elect the Roman-German king . They were considered the "pillars of the empire". The Kurfürstenkolleg represented the empire vis-à-vis the emperor and acted as the empire's voice. The Kurkolleg was the cardo imperii, the hinge between the emperor and the imperial association. The secular electors held the imperial offices that they exercised during the coronation celebrations of a new king or emperor.

    The Kurkollegium was formed in the 13th century and can be understood as an electoral college for the first time in the double election of 1257. In 1298 it was first expressly named as "collegium" and its members as "kurfursten" for the first time. The committee was established by the Golden Bull of Charles IV. 1356 on seven princes. In the late Middle Ages these were the three ecclesiastical electors of Mainz, Cologne and Trier and four secular electors, the King of Bohemia, the Margrave of Brandenburg, the Count Palatine of the Rhine and the Duke of Saxony.

    Emperor Ferdinand II transferred the Palatinate cure to the Duchy of Bavaria in 1632. In the Peace of Westphalia, the Palatinate cure was re-established as the eighth and in 1692 the Duchy of Braunschweig-Lüneburg received a ninth cure, which was only confirmed by the Reichstag in 1708.

    The King of Bohemia played a special role, since since the Hussite Wars he only took part in the elections for kings, but no longer in the other activities of the Kurkolleg. Only after the “Readmission” of 1708 did this change again.

    Through their exclusive right to vote, the electoral surrender of the emperor negotiated by them alone, and the pre-eminence they exercised and defended over the other imperial princes, the electors had a decisive influence on imperial politics, especially up to the end of the Thirty Years' War. They were responsible for the empire as a whole until the 1630s. This was particularly reflected in the Electoral Days. From then on, the exclusive claim to leadership was contested and fought against by the other imperial estates. Since the 1680s it was possible to upgrade the Reichstag as a whole, so that the influence of the Kurfürstenkolleg declined sharply, but nevertheless remained the first and most important body of the Reichstag.

    Imperial princes

    The rank of imperial princes had developed in the High Middle Ages and included all princes who had received their fiefs only and directly from the king or emperor. So there was a feudal imperial immediacy. In addition, there were also princes who were counted among the imperial princes through rank surveys or simply through customary law. The imperial princes included nobles who ruled over territories of different sizes and carried different titles. The imperial princes, like the electors, were divided into a secular and a spiritual group.

    According to the imperial register of 1521, the ecclesiastical imperial princes included the four archbishops of Magdeburg, Salzburg, Besançon and Bremen and 46 bishops. This number decreased to the two archbishops of Salzburg and Besançon and 22 bishops by 1792.

    Contrary to the number of spiritual imperial princes, which was reduced by a third by the end of the empire, the number of secular imperial princes more than doubled. The Worms imperial register from 1521 still counted 24 secular imperial princes. At the end of the 18th century, however, 61 imperial princes were listed.

    At the Augsburg Diet of 1582, the increase in the number of imperial princes was restricted by dynastic coincidences. The imperial estate was tied to the territory of the prince. When a dynasty went out, the new territorial lord took over the imperial estate; in the case of inheritance divisions, they jointly took over the heirs.

    The imperial princes formed the imperial princes' council , also known as the prince bank, at the Reichstag . This was divided into a spiritual and a secular bank according to the composition of the principality. By binding the imperial prince to rule over a territory, the number of votes was determined according to the imperial register and formed the basis for the right to vote in the Reichstag. If a secular or spiritual prince was ruler of several imperial territories, he also had the corresponding number of votes.

    The larger of the princes were at least superior to the ecclesiastical electors in terms of power and size of the ruled territories and therefore demanded from the second third of the 17th century a political and ceremonial equality of the imperial princes with the electors.

    Imperial prelates

    In addition to the archbishops and bishops belonging to the imperial princes, the heads of the monasteries and chapters directly connected to the empire formed their own class within the empire. The state of the Empire prelates thus consisted of the Reichsäbten, Reichspröpsten and Reichsäbtissinnen. The imperial register of 1521 recorded 83 imperial prelates, the number of which was reduced to 40 by 1792 through mediatization, secularizations, assignments to other European states and elevations to the prince class. The exit of the Swiss Confederation also contributed to the reduction in the number of imperial prelates, as St. Gallen, Schaffhausen and Einsiedeln and thus their monasteries no longer belonged to the empire. The territories of the imperial prelates were often very small - sometimes they only comprised a few buildings - and could only with difficulty evade the access of the surrounding territories, which did not always succeed in the long term.

    Most of the imperial prelatures were in the south-west of the empire. Due to the geographical proximity to each other, a cohesion developed which was reflected in the establishment of the Swabian Imperial Prelate College in 1575 and which became even stronger as a result. This college formed a closed group at the Reichstag and had a curate vote that was equal to the voice of an imperial prince. All other imperial prelates formed the Rhenish imperial prelate college , which also had its own vote, but never achieved the influence of the Swabian college due to the greater geographical distribution of its members.

    Imperial Counts

    This group was numerically the largest among the imperial estates and united those nobles who had not succeeded in converting their property into a royal fief, since the counts were originally only administrators of imperial property or representatives of the king in certain areas. Nevertheless, like the larger princes, the counts pursued the goal of converting their property into a territorial state. In fact, they had been rulers since the High Middle Ages and were occasionally elevated to the rank of imperial prince, as can be seen in the example of the largest county of Württemberg , which was elevated to a duchy in 1495.

    The numerous, mostly small territories of the imperial counts - the imperial register of 1521 lists 143 counts - contributed greatly to the fragmentation of the imperial territory. In the list from 1792 there are still almost 100 imperial counts, which, despite numerous mediations and the extinction of noble families, is due to the fact that in the course of the early modern period numerous people were elevated to the status of imperial count, but no longer had territories directly under the empire .

    Imperial cities

    Frankfurt am Main was one of the most important imperial cities and the place of choice and coronation of the emperors since 1562, engraving from 1658

    The imperial cities were a political and legal exception, since in this case the imperial estate did not refer to an individual, but to the city as a whole, which was represented by the council. They differed from the other cities of the empire in that they had only the emperor as ruler. Legally they were on an equal footing with the other imperial territories. However, not all imperial cities had a seat and vote in the Reichstag and thus the imperial estate. Of the 86 imperial cities mentioned in the imperial register in 1521, only three quarters were able to secure membership in the Reichstag. With the others, the imperial estate was controversial or never existed. For example, Hamburg was not able to take its seat in the Reichstag until 1770, as Denmark had disputed this status throughout the early modern period and this was only finally established in the Gottorp Treaty in 1768 .

    The roots of the early modern imperial cities lay on the one hand in the medieval city foundations of the Roman-German kings and emperors, who were then regarded as the cities of the empire and were only subject to the emperor. On the other hand, there were cities that in the late Middle Ages, increasingly since the investiture controversy, were able to free themselves from the rule of a mostly ecclesiastical city lord. In contrast to the imperial cities, these cities, known as “free cities”, did not have to pay taxes or military services to the emperor.

    Since 1489 the imperial cities and the Free Cities formed the imperial cities of college and have been grouped under the term "Free and Imperial Cities". In linguistic usage, this formula merged over time to form the "Free Imperial City".

    By 1792 the number of imperial cities had decreased to 51. After the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803 only the cities of Hamburg, Lübeck, Bremen, Frankfurt, Augsburg and Nuremberg remained as imperial cities. The role and importance of cities also decreased more and more since the Middle Ages, as many were only very small and often found it difficult to withstand the pressure of the surrounding territories.

    During the deliberations of the Reichstag, the opinion of the imperial cities was usually only taken pro forma after the electors and imperial princes had come to an agreement.

    More immediate links

    Imperial Knight

    The imperial knight class did not belong to the imperial estates and was also not taken into account in the imperial register of 1521. The imperial knights belonged to the lower nobility and were recognizable as a separate class at the beginning of the early modern period. Although they did not achieve full recognition like the imperial counts, they were able to resist the access of the various territorial princes and preserve their imperial immediacy.

    They enjoyed the special protection of the emperor, but were excluded from the Reichstag and were not included in the constitution of the imperial district. From the late Middle Ages, the imperial knights formed knight leagues, which allowed them to preserve their rights and privileges and to fulfill their duties towards the emperor.

    Therefore, from the middle of the 16th century, the imperial knighthood organized itself into a total of 15 knightly places, which in turn, with one exception, were grouped into three knight circles. Since the 17th century, the knightly places have been called "cantons", following the example of the Swiss Confederation.

    Since 1577, meetings of the imperial knighthood called "General Correspondence Days" took place, but the districts and especially the cantons remained much more important due to the strong territorial anchoring of the knights.

    The imperial knights were very often used by the emperor for military service and thus gained a great deal of influence in the military and the administration of the empire, but also on the territorial princes.


    The imperial villages were recognized in the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 alongside the other imperial estates and the imperial knighthood. These remnants of the imperial bailiffs, which were dissolved in the 15th century, were few in number and consisted of communities, imperial patches or so-called free people located on former crown estates. They had self-government and had lower, sometimes even high, jurisdiction and were only subordinate to the emperor.

    Of the originally 120 imperial villages known in documents, only five still existed in 1803, which were mediatized as part of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss, i.e. assigned to neighboring large principalities.


    Institutions of the Empire since the early modern period


    The Reichstag was the most significant and lasting result of the imperial reforms of the late 15th and early 16th centuries. Since the time of Maximilian I, it developed into the supreme legal and constitutional institution without a formal act of establishment or a legal basis. In the struggle for a more centralized or more federalist character of the empire between the emperor and the imperial princes, he developed into one of the guarantors for the preservation of the empire.

    The Reichstag met in various imperial cities until 1653/54 and existed as the Perpetual Reichstag in Regensburg from 1663 . The Reichstag was only allowed to be convened by the emperor, but since 1519 he was obliged to ask the elector for approval before sending the letters of invitation known as “letters of invitation”. The emperor also had the right to set the agenda, although he had little influence on the issues actually discussed. The Elector of Mainz was in charge of the Reichstag .

    The Reichstag could last from a few weeks to several months. The resolutions of the Reichstag were recorded in a notarized document, the Reichs Farewell . The last of these imperial farewells was the youngest imperial farewell (recessus imperii novissimus) of 1653/54.

    The permanence of the Perpetual Reichstag after 1663 was never formally resolved, but developed from the circumstances of the deliberations. Due to its permanence, the Perpetual Reichstag quickly developed into a pure ambassadorial congress at which the imperial estates only appeared very rarely.

    Session of the Reichstag in Regensburg in 1640 (after an engraving by Matthäus Merian )

    Since the Perpetual Reichstag has not been formally terminated since 1663, its resolutions were laid down in the form of so-called imperial conclusions. The ratification of these resolutions was mostly carried out by the representative of the emperor at the Reichstag, the principal commissioner , in the form of an "imperial commission decree".

    The decisions were made in a lengthy and complicated decision-making and advisory process. If decisions were made by majority or unanimous resolution in the respective councils of states, the results of the deliberations were exchanged and an attempt was made to submit a joint resolution of the imperial estates to the emperor. Due to the increasingly difficult decision-making processes, attempts were also made to facilitate the decision by means of various committees.

    After the Reformation and the Thirty Years War, the Corpus Evangelicorum and later the Corpus Catholicorum were formed as a result of the religious split in 1653 . These gathered the imperial estates of the two denominations and discussed imperial affairs separately. The Peace of Westphalia stipulated that in religious matters the principle of majority should no longer apply, but rather the principle of consensus.

    Imperial circles

    Imperial district division since 1512. The independent territories are shown in white.

    The imperial circles were created as a result of the imperial reform at the end of the 15th century or at the beginning of the 16th century and the proclamation of the Eternal Peace in Worms in 1495. They mainly served to maintain and restore the peace through the geographical context of its members. Any conflicts that break out should be resolved at this level and directed through disruptors of the peace. In addition, the districts promulgated the imperial laws and enforced them if necessary.

    The first six imperial circles were established at the Diet of Augsburg in 1500 in connection with the formation of the imperial regiment. They were simply numbered and were made up of imperial estates from all groups, with the exception of the electors.

    With the creation of four more imperial districts in 1512, the Austrian hereditary lands and the electoral principalities were also incorporated into the district constitution. The electorate and kingdom of Bohemia with the associated areas of Silesia, Lusatia and Moravia remained outside the district division until the end of the empire . The Swiss Confederation, the Imperial Knighthood , the feudal territories in Imperial Italy and some Imperial counties and dominions, such as Jever , were also not involved .

    Reich Chamber Court

    Audience at the Imperial Court of Justice, copper engraving, 1750

    The Imperial Court of Justice was established in the course of the imperial reform and the establishment of the Eternal Peace in 1495 under the Roman-German King Maximilian I and lasted until the end of the empire in 1806. Alongside the Reichshofrat, it was the supreme court of the Reich and had the task of putting a regulated dispute procedure in place of feuds, violence and war. As a court of appeal, it also made it possible for subjects to take legal action against their respective sovereign.

    After its establishment on October 31, 1495, the court had its seat in Frankfurt am Main . After stops in Worms, Augsburg, Nuremberg, Regensburg, Speyer and Esslingen, it was located in Speyer from 1527 and after its destruction as a result of the Palatinate War of Succession from 1689 to 1806 in Wetzlar .

    According to the resolutions of the Diet of Constance in 1507, the electors each sent one of the 16 assessors, i.e. the assessors of the court. The Roman-German king named two each for Burgundy and Bohemia, and each of the Imperial circles formed in 1500 was allowed to send an assessor to the Imperial Court of Justice. In addition, the last two seats were elected by the Reichstag on the proposal of the Reich circles, so that half of the assessors of the Reich Chamber Court consisted of representatives of the Reich circles.

    Even when the number of assessors was increased to 24 in 1555, the role of the imperial circles was retained in accordance with their importance for the peace in the country. Since then, each imperial circle has been allowed to send a trained lawyer and a representative of the imperial knighthood, so now two representatives. Even after the Peace of Westphalia, in which the number was increased to 50, and the recent Reichs Farewell, half of the assessors were filled with representatives of the Reich circles.

    With the establishment of the court, the supreme judicial function of the king and emperor was abolished and made accessible to the influence of the imperial estates. This was not the case with the royal chamber court, which had existed since the beginning of the 15th century. The first Reich Chamber Court Ordinance of August 7, 1495 established our [that is, the King] and the Hail Empire Cammergericht . The documents on the eternal land peace , the handling of peace and law and the order of the common penny , which all together show the success of the imperial estates vis-à-vis the emperor, also date from the same day , which is also reflected in the regulations for the court regarding the venue, one of the residence the emperor's distant imperial city, financing and personnel composition.

    However, the participation of the estates in the establishment and organization of the court meant that they had to participate in the financing, as the fees and other income were insufficient. How important the court was to the estates is shown by the fact that the chamber target was the only permanent Reich tax approved by the Estates after the common penny as a general Reich tax failed in the Reich adoption of Constance in 1507. Despite the fixed amount and payment dates, there were repeated financial difficulties due to default or refusal to pay, and even in the 18th century this caused long interruptions in the work of the court.


    The Reichshofrat was the highest judicial authority alongside the Reich Chamber of Commerce. Its members were appointed by the emperor alone and, in addition to judicial tasks, were also available to him as an advisory body and government authority. In addition to the areas of law that could also be dealt with by the Reich Chamber Court, there were some disputes that could only be heard before the Reichshofrat. The Reichshofrat was exclusively responsible for all cases relating to imperial loan matters, including imperial Italy, and imperial reservation rights.

    Since the Reichshofrat, unlike the Reichskammergericht, did not have to strictly adhere to the court rules of the time and very often deviated from it, proceedings before the Reichshofrat were generally quicker and less bureaucratic. In addition, the Reichshofrat often commissioned local imperial estates that were not involved in the conflict with the formation of a "commission" to investigate the events on the ground.

    On the other hand, Protestant plaintiffs often wondered whether they really wanted to sue a court run by the emperor, who was always Catholic and only called Catholics to the Reichshofrat until the 18th century.

    Imperial military affairs

    In the Middle Ages, the empire mainly knew the army of emperors, dukes or electors and the cities. From the 15th century onwards, an imperial military system developed which, however, could never be compared with the standing armies that emerged under absolutism . On the one hand, there was an " Imperial Army ", which was privileged to be recruited from all over the empire until the end, but increasingly served the interests of the Habsburg family. On the other hand, the created from the first Reichsmatrikel an additional 1422 evolving imperial military constitution Reich army , which with the Reichsgeneralität from the Diet according to the Reichsexekution order has been used by the 1555th In the imperial dimensional order of 1681, which was essentially valid until 1806, there was a new division into the troop contingents of the imperial districts , the total (Simplum) was increased to 40,000 soldiers. In addition, in times of danger, the particularly endangered front imperial districts formed considerable troop contingents as district associations . The right of the individual sovereigns to own troops anchored in the Peace of Westphalia ( "jus armorum et foederum" ) used the great imperial estates to set up separate standing armies, for example Brandenburg from 1644 , Bavaria and Saxony from 1682 . The Reichsarmee, together with the Imperial Army, provided services in the Imperial Wars against the Turks and France, but lost its importance at the latest after the defeat at the Battle of Rossbach in 1757 in the Imperial Execution against Prussia. The Reichsheer had its last missions in the coalition wars . The Imperial Army was largely transferred to the Imperial and Royal Army of the Austrian Empire.

    Reich territory and population

    The territory of the Holy Roman Empire in the period from 962 to 1806, drawn along with the modern borders

    Territory of the empire

    At the time of the establishment of the empire, the area covered around 470,000 square kilometers and, according to rough estimates, was inhabited by ten or more people per square kilometer around the year 1000. The area in the west , which belonged to the Roman Empire in antiquity, is more densely populated than the areas in the east.

    From the 11th to the 14th centuries the population tripled to about 12 million; In the course of the plague waves and the flight of many Jews to Poland in the 14th century, according to conservative estimates, the population in Germany fell by a third. Since 1032 the empire consisted of the Regnum Francorum (Eastern France), later also called Regnum Teutonicorum , the Regnum Langobardorum or Regnum Italicum in what is now northern and central Italy ( Imperial Italy ) and the Kingdom of Burgundy .

    The process of nation-state formation and its institutionalization in other European countries such as France and England in the late Middle Ages and the beginning of the modern era also included the need to have clearly defined external borders within which the state was present. In the Middle Ages, in spite of the precisely defined borders that are supposedly recognizable on modern maps, there were more or less broad border lines with overlaps and a thinned rulership of the individual empires. Since the 16th century one can in principle recognize a clearly delineated state area for the imperial territories and the other European states.

    The Holy Roman Empire, on the other hand, comprised areas with close ties to the empire throughout the early modern period, zones with a thinned presence of the empire and peripheral areas that did not participate in the political system of the empire, although they were generally counted as part of the empire. Rather, membership of the empire was defined by the feudal bond with the king or emperor, which originated in the Middle Ages, and the legal consequences that followed. Membership in the feudal association and the extent of the feudal bond to the ruler were seldom clear.

    The borders of the empire in the north on the basis of the sea coasts and along the Eider, which separated the duchies of Holstein , which belonged to the empire, and Schleswig , which was a fiefdom of Denmark, are fairly clear . In the southeast, where the Austrian hereditary lands of the Habsburgs with Austria under the Enns, Styria, Carniola, Tyrol and the Hochstift Trient marked the borders of the empire, the borders are also clearly recognizable. In the northeast, Pomerania and Brandenburg were part of the empire. The area of ​​the Teutonic Order , on the other hand, is not regarded by most of today's historians as belonging to the empire, although it was influenced by German and was already regarded as an imperial fiefdom in the Golden Bull of Rimini in 1226 before it was founded, which it endows with privileges, which of course is pointless would have been if he had not considered the area to be part of the empire. The Augsburg Reichstag of 1530 also declared Livonia a member of the empire, and the conversion of the order territory of Prussia into a Polish feudal duchy was not accepted by the Reichstag for a long time.

    Emperor Rudolf II moved his residence to
    Prague in 1583

    The Kingdom of Bohemia is generally shown on maps as belonging to the empire. This is correct insofar as Bohemia was an imperial feudal territory and the Bohemian king, who only existed since the Hohenstaufen era, belonged to the circle of electors.

    In the west and south-west of the empire there are hardly any indisputable borders. This can be seen very well in the example of the Netherlands. The territories of today's Belgium and the Netherlands were united by the House of Burgundy as early as 1473 and made an area with a greatly reduced imperial presence by the Burgundian Treaty of 1548, for example released from the jurisdiction of the empire. Shortly after the start of the Dutch uprising , the Netherlands formed an independent state in practice, but it was not until the end of the Eighty Years' War in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 that it was finally recognized de jure as sovereign. The southern Netherlands fell to Austria in 1714. As the Austrian Netherlands , this area formed an almost independent state, which was only connected to the other Austrian areas through a personal union.

    France more or less gradually detached the monasteries of Metz , Toul and Verdun from the imperial union in the 16th century , and further imperial areas in the late 17th century as a result of the "reunion policy". This included the annexation of the imperial city of Strasbourg in 1681. The army with 40,000 men that had already been set up to liberate the city could not intervene, as troops were also needed to defend against the Turks in front of Vienna. Since the Treaty of Nuremberg in 1542, Lorraine, which had been loosely bound to the Reich and was occupied several times by the French, came to Stanislaus Leszczyński , the dethroned King of Poland and father-in-law of the French king , in a Franco-Habsburg barter in the Peace of Vienna in 1737/38 . It was only after Stanislaus' death in 1766 that the area fell directly to the French crown.

    The Swiss Confederation has not been part of the empire de jure since 1648, but since the peace treaty of Basel in 1499 the confederates have not paid any imperial tax and have barely participated in imperial politics. Nonetheless, the earlier thesis that the peace at Basel de facto meant that the Confederation left the Reich, because the federal towns continued to see themselves as part of the Reich. From a legal point of view , Savoy , located south of Switzerland, belonged to the empire until 1801, but its factual affiliation to the empire had long since been relaxed.

    The emperor claimed feudal sovereignty over the areas of imperial Italy, i.e. the Grand Duchy of Tuscany , the duchies of Milan , Mantua , Modena , Parma and Mirandola , but these areas felt as little German as they participated in imperial politics. They did not make use of the rights of a member of the Reich, but neither did they submit to the obligation to bear the corresponding burdens. In general, such areas designated as remote from the empire were not recognized as belonging to the empire.


    The empire had an ethnically diverse population. In addition to German-speaking areas, this also included population groups with other languages. It was populated in the east by people with Slavic languages ​​and in the Romance west and in imperial Italy with languages ​​from which modern French and Italian developed. Emperor Henry VII's mother tongue was French. Emperor Charles V grew up in Ghent with Dutch and French as mother tongues and only learned German when he was running for Roman-German royal dignity.

    The German-speaking areas also differed considerably due to different historical conditions: After the time of the migrations , the eastern areas of the later (in the late Middle Ages) German-speaking part of the empire were mainly Slavic , the western areas predominantly Germanic .

    In the Germanic dominated western area there were also Celtic influences and influences of the ancient Roman Empire , especially in the south . These influences were very different from region to region. Over time, the different population groups mixed. The ethnic mix was particularly diverse in the area that once belonged to the area of ​​the ancient Roman Empire (southwest of the Limes ), despite the migration of peoples, ethnic influences from different regions of the Roman Empire were sometimes present here.

    The eastern parts of the German-speaking area only gradually became part of the empire, some never (e.g. East Prussia ). These formerly almost purely Baltic populated areas were Germanized to varying degrees as a result of the eastern settlement by settlers from the western areas. In most areas, the Baltic, Slavic and Germanic populations mixed over the centuries.

    Over the centuries, the population mix in the Holy Roman Empire changed almost continuously, largely due to immigration and emigration from abroad and movements within the borders of the empire. After the Thirty Years War, a targeted migration policy was partly pursued, e.g. B. in Prussia, which led to significant immigration to the areas concerned.

    See also

    Portal: Holy Roman Empire  - Overview of Wikipedia content on the subject of the Holy Roman Empire

    Source editions and translations

    The most important sources for the medieval empire are edited in the various editions of the Monumenta Germaniae Historica . Selected sources on German history in the Middle Ages are collected in the Freiherr vom Stein commemorative edition with a German translation . Older translations, some of which have not yet been replaced, can be found in the series Die Geschichtschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit . The chronicles of German cities are important for the city's history . Also important are the Regesta Imperii , in which some widely scattered material is processed. The historical sources of the German Middle Ages offer an overview of the sources .

    For the early modern empire, the sources (official documents, diaries, letters, historical works, etc.) are even more extensive. The Reichstag files (from the late Middle Ages onwards) and the various documents in the archives (of the Reich, the cities and the sovereigns) are important for the history of the Reich.

    General collections of sources in German translation offer, for example, German history in sources and presentation (across epochs) and Arno Buschmann on the constitutional history.


    The annual reports on German history offer a comprehensive online bibliographic database that will last until the end of 2015 .

    Overall representations

    • Klaus Herbers , Helmut Neuhaus : The Holy Roman Empire - scenes of a thousand-year history (843–1806). Böhlau, Cologne [a. a.] 2005, ISBN 3-412-23405-2 ; Klaus Herbers, Helmut Neuhaus: The Holy Roman Empire. An overview. Böhlau, Cologne 2010, ISBN 978-3-8252-3298-6 (slightly modified and less illustrated study edition).
    • Wilhelm Brauneder , Lothar Höbelt (Ed.): Sacrum Imperium. The Empire and Austria 996–1806. Amalthea, Vienna 1996, ISBN 3-85002-390-7 .
    • Exhibition of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation 962–1806. 29th exhibition of the Council of Europe in Magdeburg and Berlin 2006,
      • Exhibition first section: From Otto the Great to the end of the Middle Ages. In Magdeburg 2006. Catalog in 2 volumes by Matthias Puhle , Claus-Peter Hasse (Hrsg.): Volume 1: Catalog . Volume 2: Essays. Sandstein Verlag Dresden 2006, ISBN 3-937602-68-2 . (Complete edition). Catalog and volume of essays in a slipcase, ISBN 3-937602-59-3 (catalog - museum edition).
      • Exhibition second section: Old Empire and New States 1495–1806. Dresden 2006, catalog ed. by Hans Ottomeyer et al. Volume I: Catalog, Volume II: Essay Volume, ISBN 978-3-937602-67-7 .
    • Erwin Gatz : Atlas on the Church in Past and Present. Holy Roman Empire - German-speaking countries. Schnell and Steiner, Regensburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-7954-2181-6 .
    • Werner Paravicini , Jörg Wettlaufer, Jan Hirschbiegel (eds.): Residency research. Courtyards and residences in the late Middle Ages. Counts and gentlemen. Thorbecke, Ostfildern 2012, ISBN 978-3-7995-4525-9 .
    • Peter H. Wilson : The Holy Roman Empire. A Thousand Years of Europe's History. Allen Lane, London 2016, ISBN 978-1-84614-318-2 .

    middle age

    • Heinz Angermeier : Imperial reform 1410–1555. Beck, Munich 1984, ISBN 3-406-30278-5 .
    • Johannes Fried : The way into history. The origins of Germany up to 1024. Propylaea, Berlin 1994 (ND 1998), ISBN 3-549-05811-X .
    • Hagen Keller : Between regional boundaries and a universal horizon. Germany in the empire of the Salians and Staufers 1024–1250. Propylaea, Berlin 1986, ISBN 3-549-05812-8 .
    • Karl-Friedrich Krieger : King, Empire and Imperial Reform in the Late Middle Ages (=  Encyclopedia of German History. Vol. 14). Oldenbourg, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-486-57670-4 .
    • Peter Moraw : From an open constitution to structured condensation. The empire in the late Middle Ages 1250 to 1490. Propylaeen, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-549-05813-6 .
    • Malte Prietzel : The Holy Roman Empire in the late Middle Ages. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2004, ISBN 3-534-15131-3 .
    • Ernst Schubert : King and Empire. Studies on the late medieval German constitutional history (=  publications of the Max Planck Institute for History. Vol. 63). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1979.
    • Hans K. Schulze : Basic structures of the constitution in the Middle Ages . Vol. 3 (Emperor and Empire) . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [a. a.] 1998, ISBN 3-17-013053-6 .
    • Hans K. Schulze: Basic structures of the constitution in the Middle Ages . Vol. 4 (The Kingship) . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart [a. a.] 2011, ISBN 978-3-17-014863-5 .
    • Bernd Schneidmüller , Stefan Weinfurter (Ed.): The German rulers of the Middle Ages. Beck, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-406-50958-4 .
    • Bernd Schneidmüller, Stefan Weinfurter (Ed.): Holy - Roman - German. The empire in medieval Europe. International conference for the 29th exhibition of the Council of Europe and state exhibition Saxony-Anhalt. Sandstein-Verlag, Dresden 2006.
    • Bernd Schneidmüller: The emperors of the Middle Ages. From Charlemagne to Maximilian I. Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-53598-4 .
    • Stefan Weinfurter: The Empire in the Middle Ages. Brief German history from 500 to 1500. Beck, Munich 2008, ISBN 3-406-56900-5 .

    Early modern age

    Web links


    Additional information

    Commons : Holy Roman Empire  - collection of images, videos, and audio files
    Wiktionary: Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


    1. The Latin forms of the name vary, see for example Klaus Herbers, Helmut Neuhaus: Das Heilige Römische Reich. 2nd edition, Cologne [u. a.] 2006, p. 2.
    2. Klaus Herbers, Helmut Neuhaus: The Holy Roman Empire. 2nd edition, Cologne [u. a.] 2006, p. 1 ff. See also Joachim Ehlers : The emergence of the German Empire. 4th edition, Munich 2012.
    3. Carlrichard Brühl : The birth of two peoples. Cologne [u. a.] 2001, p. 69 ff.
    4. See Jürgen Petersohn: Rome and the imperial title "Sacrum Romanum Imperium". Stuttgart 1994, pp. 78-80.
    5. Joachim Ehlers: The emergence of the German Empire . 4th edition, Munich 2012, p. 97 (with documents): Addition of German nation to the Roman Empire title 1474, Roman Empire Teutscher Nation 1486 and 1512 completely Holy Roman Empire Teutscher Nation . In modern research literature, the term Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation is used not for the medieval but for the modern empire.
    6. See for example Axel Gotthard: Das Alte Reich 1495–1806. Darmstadt 2003.
    7. ^ Joachim Ehlers: Nationality 1.5 Germany and France . In: Lexikon des Mittelalters , Vol. 6, Col. 1037 f.
    8. ^ Dietmar Willoweit : German constitutional history. From the Franconian Empire to the reunification of Germany . 6th edition, Munich 2009, § 13 IV, § 15 I 2, § 21 I 2 and § 22 II 2.
    9. ^ Karl Otmar von Aretin: Das Alte Reich 1648-1806. Volume 1: Federal or hierarchical order (1648–1684). Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1993, p. 346 .
    10. Cf. Dietmar Willoweit: German Constitutional History . From the Franconian Empire to the reunification of Germany. 6th edition, Munich 2009, § 22 I.
    11. Overview with Gerd Althoff : The power of rituals. Symbolism and rule in the Middle Ages. Darmstadt 2003 [Middle Ages]; Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger : The emperor's old clothes. Constitutional history and symbolic language of the Old Kingdom. Beck, Munich 2008 [early modern times].
    12. Ute van Runset: Voltaire's picture of Germany. In: Ernst Hinrichs, Roland Krebs, Ute van Runset (eds.): "Pardon, mon cher Voltaire ...". Three essays on Voltaire in Germany (=  Small Writings for Enlightenment. Vol. 5, edited by the Lessing Academy, Wolfenbüttel). Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 1996, ISBN 3-89244-084-0 , pp. 49-86, here p. 57 .
    13. ^ Charles Louis de Secondat de Montesquieu: De L'esprit des Loix. Tome II. Quoted from Volker Depkat : The Old Reich in the constitutional debates of colonial British North America and the USA, 1750–1788 (PDF; 243 kB), DTIEV-Online No. 1/2013, Hagener online contributions on European constitutional studies, ISSN  2192-4228 , p. 9.
    14. See for example Klaus Herbers, Helmut Neuhaus: Das Heilige Römische Reich - scenes of a thousand-year history (843–1806). Cologne [u. a.] 2005; Joachim Whaley: The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and its Territories. 2 vol., Darmstadt 2014; Peter H. Wilson: The Holy Roman Empire. A Thousand Years of Europe's History. London 2016.
    15. ^ Gerd Althoff: Otto III. Darmstadt 1997, p. 136.
    16. Knut Görich: Friedrich Barbarossa: A biography. Munich 2011, p. 635.
    17. Cf. Carlrichard Brühl: The birth of two peoples. Cologne [u. a.] 2001, p. 69 ff.
    18. Cf. Joachim Ehlers: The emergence of the German Empire. 4th edition, Munich 2012, p. 46f.
    19. Cf. Joachim Ehlers: The emergence of the German Empire. 4th edition, Munich 2012, p. 47f.
    20. Joachim Ehlers: The emergence of the German Empire. 4th edition, Munich 2012, p. 48.
    21. See Jürgen Petersohn: Rome and the imperial title "Sacrum Romanum Imperium". Stuttgart 1994, pp. 78-80.
    22. cf. B. Gorippus , In Laud. Just Min. 3,328f.
    23. Hans K. Schulze : Basic structures of the constitution in the Middle Ages. Vol. 3 (Emperor and Empire) . Stuttgart [u. a.] 1998, pp. 52-55.
    24. Karl Zeumer : Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. A study of the realm title . Weimar 1910, p. 26 f. ( Full text at Wikisource ).
    25. There are many other abbreviations in the sources, such as H. Reich , Heyl. Rom. Rich or just rich ; however, the modern abbreviation HRR is not found.
    26. Marco Jorio : Holy Roman Empire - Chapter 1: Territory and institutions. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . April 25, 2016 , Retrieved June 4, 2019 .
    27. ^ Teutschland, Germany, Teutsches-Reich. In: Johann Heinrich Zedler : Large complete universal lexicon of all sciences and arts . Volume 43, Leipzig 1745, Col. 273-295.
    28. ^ Rheinbundakte at Wikisource
    29. Hermann Weisert: The Reich title to 1806. In: Archiv für Diplomatik , Vol. 40 (1994), pp. 441–513, especially pp. 408–410; Karl Zeumer: Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. A study on the realm title , Weimar 1910, p. 26 f. ( Full text at Wikisource ).
    30. Hans-Werner Goetz : Gentes et linguae. Peoples and languages ​​in the East Franconian Empire as perceived by contemporaries. In: Wolfgang Haubrichs et al. (Ed.): Theodisca. Contributions to the Old High German and Old Low German language and literature in the culture of the early Middle Ages. Berlin 2000, pp. 290-312, here specifically p. 309 f.
    31. Exact description of the seal: The seals of the German emperors and kings , Siegel Otto I, No. 5 on Wikisource .
    32. ^ Widukind, Sachsengeschichte II , 1–2.
    33. Widukind, Sachsengeschichte III , 49.
    34. Bernd Schneidmüller: Consensual rule. An essay on forms and concepts of political order in the Middle Ages. In: Paul-Joachim Heinig (Ed.): Empire, regions and Europe in the Middle Ages and modern times. Festschrift for Peter Moraw. Berlin 2000, pp. 53-87.
    35. Karl Schmid: The Succession to the Throne of Otto the Great was fundamental . In: Zeitschrift für Rechtsgeschichte Germanistische Department 81 (1964), pp. 80–163; again in: Eduard Hlawitschka (Ed.): Election of the king and succession to the throne in Ottonian-Early German times. Darmstadt 1971, pp. 417-508.
    36. Bernd Schneidmüller: Otto II. (973-983) . In: Bernd Schneidmüller, Stefan Weinfurter (Hrsg.): The German rulers of the Middle Ages. Historical portraits from Heinrich I to Maximilian I (919–1519). Munich 2003, pp. 62–72, here p. 66.
    37. Cf. Hagen Keller, Gerd Althoff: The time of the late Carolingians and the Ottonians. Stuttgart 2008, p. 18 ff.
    38. The term has received controversial assessments in the last few decades. Critical: Timothy Reuter: The "Imperial Church System" of the Ottonian and Salian Rulers. A reconsideration . In: Journal of Ecclastiastical History 33, 1982, pp. 347-374.
    39. Hartmut Hoffmann: Monk King and "rex idiota". Studies on the church policy of Heinrich II. And Konrad II. Hanover 1993.
    40. Wipo c. 7th
    41. Stefan Weinfurter: The Century of the Salians 1024–1125. Ostfildern 2006, p. 101.
    42. Hermann von Reichenau, Chronicon , a. 1053.
    43. Egon Boshof: The Empire in Crisis. Thoughts on the outcome of Henry III's government. In: Historische Zeitschrift 228, 1979, pp. 265–287; Friedrich Prince: Emperor Heinrich III. His contradicting assessment and its reasons. In: Historische Zeitschrift 246, 1988, pp. 529-548.
    44. Annales Altahenses a. 1062; quoted from Matthias Becher : Heinrich IV. (1056–1106). With Rudolf (1077-1080), Hermann (1081), Konrad (1087-1093, † 1101). In: Bernd Schneidmüller , Stefan Weinfurter (Hrsg.): The German rulers of the Middle Ages Historical portraits of Heinrich I to Maximilian I (919–1519). Munich 2003, pp. 154–180, here p. 156.
    45. Gerd Althoff: Heinrich IV. Darmstadt 2006, p. 148.
    46. ^ Stefan Weinfurter: Reform idea and royalty in the late Salian empire. Considerations for a reassessment of Emperor Heinrich V. In: Reform idea and reform policy in the Late Sali-Early Staufer Empire. Mainz 1992, pp. 1-45.
    47. Stefan Weinfurter: The Century of the Salians 1024–1125. Ostfildern 2006, p. 185.
    48. Wilfried Hartmann: The Investiture Controversy. 3rd, revised and expanded edition, Munich 2007, p. 41.
    49. Knut Görich: The honor of Friedrich Barbarossas. Communication, Conflict, and Political Action in the 12th Century. Darmstadt 2001.
    50. Knut Görich: Hunter of the lion or the driven of the princes? Friedrich Barbarossa and the disempowerment of Henry the Lion. In: Werner Hechberger, Florian Schuller (eds.): Staufer & Welfen. Two rival dynasties in the High Middle Ages. Regensburg 2009, pp. 99–117.
    51. See in detail Hagen Keller: From 'holy book' to 'bookkeeping'. Life functions of writing in the Middle Ages. In: Frühmittelalterliche Studien 26, 1992, pp. 1–31.
    52. Knut Görich: The Staufer. Ruler and empire. Munich 2006, p. 103.
    53. See also Marcus Thomsen: "A fiery lord of the beginning ...". Emperor Friedrich II. In the view of posterity. Stuttgart 2005, pp. 36-43.
    54. ^ Marie-Luise Heckmann: The double kingship of Frederick the Beautiful and Ludwig of Bavaria (1325 to 1327). Contract, execution and interpretation in the 14th century. In: Mitteilungen des Institut für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung 109 (2001), pp. 53–81.
    55. Cf. Bernd Schneidmüller: Emperor Ludwig IV. Imperial rule and imperial princely consensus. In: Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung 40, 2013, pp. 369–392, here p. 386.
    56. On the deposition of King Wenzels: Ernst Schubert: King Depositions in the German Middle Ages, A Study on the Development of the Imperial Constitution. Göttingen 2005, pp. 362-420.
    57. Peter Moraw: From an open constitution to a structured compression. The empire in the late Middle Ages 1250 to 1490. Berlin 1985.
    58. ^ Fritz Hartung quoted from Axel Gotthard: Das Alte Reich 1495–1806. 4th, reviewed and bibliographically supplemented edition, Darmstadt 2009, p. 96 f.
    59. Georg Schmidt: History of the Old Kingdom. State and Nation in the Early Modern Era 1495–1806. Munich 1999, p. 181.
    60. Axel Gotthard: The Old Empire 1495–1806. Darmstadt 2003, p. 107.
    61. Michael Kotulla: German Constitutional History: From the Old Empire to Weimar (1495 to 1934). Springer, Berlin 2008, p. 228.
    62. a b Declaration by Emperor Franz II on the resignation of the German imperial crown . In: Collection of sources on the history of the German Imperial Constitution in the Middle Ages and Modern Times , edited by Karl Zeumer, pp. 538–539, here p. 538 (full text on Wikisource ).
    63. ^ Federal Archives Virtual Exhibition of the Reich Chamber of Commerce
    64. Michael Kotulla: German Constitutional History: From the Old Empire to Weimar (1495 to 1934). Berlin 2008, pp. 227-231.
    65. Quoted from Ernst Kubin: Die Reichskleinodien. Your Millennial Way. Vienna / Munich 1991, p. 156.
    66. a b Ernst Kubin: Die Reichskleinodien. Your Millennial Way. Vienna / Munich 1991, p. 156.
    67. Ernst Kubin: The Reichskleinodien. Your Millennial Way. Vienna / Munich 1991, p. 158 ff.
    68. Ernst Kubin: The Reichskleinodien. Your Millennial Way. Vienna / Munich 1991, p. 160.
    69. Current overview from Matthias Schnettger : Kaiser und Reich. A Constitutional History (1500–1806). Stuttgart 2020.
    70. Quoted from Peter Claus Hartmann: The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in the Modern Age 1486–1806. Stuttgart 2005, p. 39.
    71. On the Constitution of the German Empire , translation by Harry Breßlau , Berlin 1870, p. 106 ff. ( Full text at Wikisource ). See Julia Haas: The theory of empire in Pufendorf's “Severinus de Monzambano”: Monstrosity thesis and empire debate as reflected in the political and legal literature from 1667 to today. Berlin 2006; Karl Otmar von Aretin: The Old Empire 1648–1806. Volume 1: Federal or hierarchical order (1648–1684). Stuttgart 1993, pp. 346-360.
    72. Quoted from Uwe Wesel : History of Law. From the early forms to the present. Munich 2001.
    73. Uwe Wesel: History of the law. From the early forms to the present . 3rd, revised and expanded edition, Beck, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-406-47543-4 , Rn. 242.
    74. Klaus Herbers, Helmut Neuhaus: The Holy Roman Empire. Scenes from a thousand-year history (843–1806). Cologne [u. a.] 2005, p. 284.
    75. Anton Schindling: Was the failure of the Old Kingdom inevitable? In: Heinz Schilling, Werner Heun, Jutta Götzmann (eds.): Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation 962 to 1806. Old Empire and New States 1495 to 1806. Volume 2: Essays, exhibition of the German Historical Museum , Dresden 2006, p. 302 –317, here p. 315.
    76. Quoted from Peter Claus Hartmann: The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation in the Modern Age 1486–1806. Stuttgart 2005, p. 46.
    77. Rudolf Schieffer: Otto Imperator - In the middle of 2000 years of empire. In: Hartmut Leppin, Bernd Schneidmüller (ed.): Empire in the first millennium. Scientific companion volume for the state exhibition “Otto the Great and the Roman Empire. Empire from antiquity to the Middle Ages. ” Regensburg 2012, pp. 355–374, here p. 374.
    78. ^ Armin Wolf: Electors . Article from March 25, 2013. In: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns , accessed on December 8, 2013.
    79. Axel Gotthard: The Old Empire 1495–1806. 4th, reviewed and bibliographically supplemented edition, Darmstadt 2009, p. 24 f.
    80. Basically: Anton Schindling: The beginnings of the everlasting Reichstag in Regensburg. Class representation and statecraft after the Peace of Westphalia. Mainz 1991.
    81. Martin Rink , Harald Potempa: The collapse of the Old Reich (962-1806) and the old Prussia in 1806. In military history. Issue 3/2006, pp. 4–9, here: p. 6.
    82. See Helmut Neuhaus : The Empire in the Early Modern Age (=  Encyclopedia of German History. Vol. 42). Munich 2003, p. 100 ff.
    83. For the individual territories and cities, see the brief overview in each case in Gerhard Köbler : Historisches Lexikon der Deutschen Länder. 7th, completely revised edition, Munich 2007.
    84. Werner Rösener : The basics of life in the empire. In: Matthias Puhle, Claus-Peter Hasse (ed.): Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation 962 to 1806. From Otto the Great to the End of the Middle Ages, Volume 2: Essays , Dresden 2006, pp. 359–371, here p. 361.
    85. Werner Rösener: The basics of life in the empire. In: Matthias Puhle, Claus-Peter Hasse (ed.): Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation 962 to 1806. From Otto the Great to the End of the Middle Ages, Volume 2: Essays , Dresden 2006, pp. 359–371, here p. 368
    86. ^ Claudius Sieber-Lehmann : Peace of Basel (1499). In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . June 10, 2004 , accessed June 4, 2019 .
    87. Axel Gotthard: The Old Empire 1495–1806. Darmstadt 2003, p. 4.
    88. Cf. Maria Elisabeth Franke: Emperor Heinrich VII. In the mirror of historiography. Cologne et al. 1992, p. 301.
    89. ^ William S. Maltby: The Reign of Charles V. Basingstoke 2002, p. 20.
    90. Selected sources on German history in the Middle Ages. Freiherr vom Stein memorial edition . Academy of Sciences and Literature Mainz. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
    91. The digital repertory "Historical Sources of the German Middle Ages" . Bavarian State Library. Retrieved May 7, 2019.
    92. A brief overview of source editions and source collections is offered by Helmut Neuhaus : Das Reich in der Early Modernzeit. 2nd edition, Munich 2003, p. 103 ff .; see also the bibliographical information in the literature given here.
    93. Arno Buschmann (Ed.): Kaiser and Reich. Munich 1984.