Electoral Palatinate

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Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor with haloes (1400-1806) .svg
Territory in the Holy Roman Empire
Palatine County near the Rhine
coat of arms
Arms of the Electoral Palatinate (Variant 1) .svg
Map of the Oberämter of the Electoral Palatinate (1789) - Numbered.svg
Map of the upper offices of the western part of Pfalzbaiern around 1789:
1: Frankenthal, 2: Mannheim, 3, 17: Heidelberg
4: Alzey, 5: Bacharach, 6: Germersheim
7: Kreuznach, 8: Neustadt, 9: Lautern
10: Lauterecken, 11 : Oppenheim, 12: Simmern,
13: Stromberg, 14: Veldenz, 15: Boxberg
16: Bretten, 18: Ladenburg, 19: Lindenfels
20: Mosbach, 21: Ötzberg, 22: Umstadt
Alternative names Pfalz, Rheinische Pfalzgrafschaft, Pfalzgrafschaft bei Rhein
Arose from 1085 emerged from the office of the Count Palatine of Lorraine , revived in the House Treaty of Pavia 1329
Form of rule Duchy without title, electorate
Ruler /
Parliament Kurfürstenbank, Electoral Council
Reichskreis Kurrhein
District council Kreisobrist
Capitals /
Heidelberg , Mannheim
summer residence Schwetzingen
Dynasties Wigeriche , Askanier , Calw , Salm , Babenberger , Stahleck, Welfen , Wittelsbacher
Denomination /
Since 1546 large parts of the population and authorities Lutheran ,
1556 officially Lutheran,
1561 Calvinist authorities ,
1563 officially Calvinist,
since 1685 Roman Catholic authorities but the population continues to be predominantly Reformed ( Palatinate church division ) with small Mennonite and Jewish minorities
Language / n German
Incorporated into Electoral Palatinate Bavaria 1777

The Kurpfalz (short for Kurfürstentum Pfalz, more electoral Pfalzgrafschaft at Rhein or kurfürstlich rheinische Pfalzgrafschaft) was a to 1803 existing Kurfürstentum of Holy Roman Empire .


The Electoral Palatinate was on the Upper and Middle Rhine , between the Moselle and Kraichgau , with the core area on the lower Neckar and the capitals Heidelberg and Mannheim . The territory of the Electoral Palatinate was not contiguous, but a "patchwork quilt" typical of the time with enclaves and enclaves ; some territories were even shared with other states. At the end of its existence, the area covered 8,200 square kilometers.

Formerly kurpfälzische areas today in the German states of Baden-Wuerttemberg , Rhineland-Palatinate , Hesse , Bavaria ( Upper Palatinate  = Oberpfalz , Neuburg ), Saarland and in the today France belonging department Bas-Rhin (dt. Lower Rhine ) and Moselle .


The Electoral Palatinate was one of the most important secular territories of the Old Kingdom. In the confessional age it rose to become one of the most active and leading Protestant powers in the empire. Elector Friedrich V even briefly reached the Bohemian royal crown as the winter king. His failed "Bohemian adventure" triggered the Thirty Years' War , which also marked the turning point in the history of the Electoral Palatinate. It came under foreign rule for decades and, as a frequent theater of war, was repeatedly plundered and depopulated . The ancestral rule of the Palatinate Wittelsbachers was restored in the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, but the territory was unable to maintain its former importance.

Historical overview and the terms Palatinate and Electoral Palatinate

See also: List of the rulers of the Electoral Palatinate (showing the early days of the Palatinate Counties near the Rhine)

This section gives an overview of the history of the (Electorate) Palatinate up to 1777 and an outlook on the further political fate of the Palatinate areas from 1777. In addition, indivisible references to the names Palatinate and Electorate Palatinate are given, each before and after 1777 , 1803 and 1816 have very different meanings.

In 1214 the Palatinate fell from the Guelphs to the Wittelsbachers (who had already received the Duchy of Baiern - also previously Guelph - in 1180 ). At that time, the Wittelsbachers briefly held other larger territories, for example Holland , Zeeland , Hainaut and Brandenburg . In 1255 the Wittelsbach areas were divided; from 1329 the lines of the Palatinate and from 1340 that of the Bavarian Wittelsbach family developed from this division. The royal seat of the Palatinate was Heidelberg (the University of Heidelberg was founded in 1386 ) and Mannheim from 1720 . Since the founding of the Kurkollegium (around the middle of the 13th century), the Palatinate (with an interruption from 1623 to 1648) was also an electorate - the respective Count Palatine had the right to participate in the election of the Roman-German king . Affiliation was established in 1356 by the Golden Bull issued by Emperor Charles IV . Since then, the Palatinate near Rhine has also been referred to as the Electoral Palatinate.

Since the great division of the Palatinate in 1410, there was a confusing union of rulers with several Palatine branch lines and territories (for example Palatinate-Simmern , Palatinate-Zweibrücken , Palatinate-Veldenz , Palatinate-Neuburg , Palatinate-Sulzbach and Palatinate-Birkenfeld ). However, these played an important role in political history, as they could inherit when the main lines of the Palatinate or Wittelsbach family died out. To distinguish it from these other Palatinate states, the core territory to which the electoral dignity was tied was given the addition of Kur- and was therefore increasingly referred to as the Electoral Palatinate . The Electoral Palatinate was part of the Kurrheinische Kreis . The other Palatinate states, however, were part of the Upper Rhine District , with the exception of Pfalz-Neuburg, which was a member of the Bavarian District .

In 1685 the Palatinate-Neuburg line inherited the Electoral Palatinate. This line had already ruled over the duchies of Jülich and Berg on the Lower Rhine with the capital Düsseldorf , which were now ruled in personal union by the Palatinate Elector, since 1614 . In 1777 the Bavarian Wittelsbacher died out and the Palatinate was united with Baiern to form the new state Palatinate-Baiern . With regard to the divisions 1255, 1329 and 1340 one can also speak of a reunification. The history of the independent Palatinate, which is dealt with in this article, ends with the unification of 1777.

In 1778, the Palatinate-Baiern residence was relocated from Mannheim to Munich , making the former Electoral Palatinate a sideline . The exchange planned in 1785 (Bavaria to Austria , the Austrian Netherlands to the Palatinate) did not materialize - it might have made the old Palatinate the center of a new Palatinate state again. After a main line became extinct again in 1799, all of the former Palatinate territories were reunited for the first time since 1410.

Immediately afterwards, the effects of the French Revolution shook the Central European world of states, and between 1798 and 1816 the territory of the former Palatinate changed several times as well: the parts of the Palatinate on the left bank of the Rhine fell to France in 1798 , those on the right bank of the Rhine came mainly to Baden in 1803 at Napoleon's behest - The unity of the Wittelsbach countries achieved in 1777 and 1799 was over again. Since then, the former Palatinate has been divided into a part on the left and the right of the Rhine.

The remaining Duchy of Palatinate-Baiern received, among other things, Tyrol and large parts of the Franconian District in 1803 and 1806 and became the Kingdom of Baiern in 1806 (from 1826 "Ba y ern"). In 1816, after Napoleon's defeat, the parts of the former Palatinate on the left bank of the Rhine were returned to Baiern and, together with numerous other areas that had never been Palatinate before, formed the “new Palatinate”: the Baier Rhine District, later called Palatinate or Rhine Palatinate, with the (historically never Palatinate ) Capital Speier (from 1836 "Spe y er").

The parts of the former Palatinate on the right bank of the Rhine with the core area around Mannheim and Heidelberg were not returned to Bavaria despite all diplomatic attempts and remained with Baden. In Baden there was never a separate province “Palatinate” or “Kurpfalz”, but the name “Kurpfalz” lives on as a northern Baden landscape name to this day. It offered and offers a differentiation from the (new) "Pfalz" on the left bank of the Rhine; In today's Baden-Württemberg region “Kurpfalz” , areas are also referred to as “Electoral Palatinate” that were never (Electoral) Palatinate.

The current use of the terms "Palatinate" and "Electoral Palatinate" therefore has no direct continuity in either case with the historical circumstances of the old (Electorate) Palatinate, which was never differentiated between the left and right banks of the Rhine.


Lorraine Count Palatine

The election of the German king, depicted in a manuscript in the Sachsenspiegel around 1300. In the middle the three secular electors. The Count Palatinate near Rhine presented a golden bowl as a stewardess , followed by the Duke of Saxony with the marshal's baton and the Margrave of Brandenburg , who, as a chamberlain, brought a bowl of warm water.

At the beginning of the history of the Electoral Palatinate, there was not a territory, but an office, namely the office of Count Palatinate , which dates back to the Merovingian era and was first mentioned around 535 with Trudulf under King Childebert I. This made it the oldest consistently verifiable office of the Palatinate Count. Until the 10th century, the focus was on the royal palace of Aachen at the court of the Franconian kings. In Sachsenspiegel retrospect some talk that Franconia, Bavaria, Swabia, Saxony and Lorraine each had a Palatine. While Bavarian, Swabian and Saxon Count Palatine lost importance in the course of the Middle Ages, a Franconian Count Palatine cannot be proven at any time. Instead, there had been a Count Palatinate since the Merovingian period or, with the Duchy of Ripuarien, a tribal duchy in the Lorraine region. The first tangible accurate family came from the Lorraine Palatine were 985 to 1,085 the Ezzonen , presumably in Official conradines followed. The main castles were Siegburg and Tomburg . Under Hermann I (from around 985 Count Palatine, † 996) the dignity of the Count Palatine became hereditary near the Rhine. The main focus of office at this time was in the Eifel . In the period that followed, disputes with the Archbishops of Cologne led to a displacement from the edge of the Cologne Bay towards the southeast. In 1060 Count Palatine Heinrich I of Lorraine was expelled from Siegburg by Archbishop Anno II of Cologne .

Count Palatine near the Rhine

Up to 1156 people from various noble families appeared as heirs. Heinrich II. Von Laach († 1095) was the first in 1085 to call himself Count Palatine of the Rhine . He founded the Laach Monastery in 1093 . The nearby Laach Castle , built around 1070, was demolished in 1112 by his stepson and adoptive son Siegfried von Ballenstedt at the instigation of the abbey. After Siegfried's death in 1113, the Palatinate was initially lost to the Ascani , until his son Wilhelm (1112–1140) was able to regain it in 1125 . After his death, his stepfather Otto I von Salm , who had settled in Rheineck Castle , was taken over by the Staufer King Konrad III. overthrown and Heinrich II of Austria installed in his place. After he had taken over the margraviate of Austria , Hermann von Stahleck († 1156), the heir of Stahleck Castle and brother-in-law of Conrad III, was enfeoffed by the latter in 1142/1143 with the palatinate near the Rhine. Hermann had previously captured his rival, Otto II von Salm, and had him strangled at Schönburg in 1149 . This struggle had territorial consequences in the Eifel and Lower Mosel region.

The transfer of the dignity of Palatine Count in 1156 to Konrad den Staufer , a half-brother of Friedrich Barbarossa , once again strengthened the Palatine position. Around 1182, Konrad moved his headquarters from Stahleck Castle near Bacharach on the Middle Rhine to Heidelberg Castle and is therefore considered the founder of the future residential city of Heidelberg , which was first mentioned in a document in 1196. To consolidate the Hohenstaufen position, the Salian inheritance on Donnersberg , in Nahegau , on Haardt , Bergstrasse and in Kraichgau became part of the Palatinate County. Count Palatine Konrad brought in the bailiwick of Worms from his maternal inheritance and the bailiwick of the Lorsch monastery from his father-in-law's inheritance . After Bacharach, the Heidelberg settlement was given a central function. At the end of the 12th century, Konrad's daughter Agnes secretly married Heinrich the Elder of Braunschweig from the warring family of the Guelphs . With this, the Palatinate County came to the Guelphs by inheritance in 1195. During their rule there was not only a loss of territory but also a considerable loss of power due to the return of the upper bailiwick over the Trier church. After Heinrich's son of the same name succeeded him in 1211 and died in 1214 without direct descendants, Emperor Friedrich II was able to reassign the Palatinate County.

Rise of the Wittelsbach family up to the division of the country in 1410

Territorial inventory of the Palatinate in 1329 according to the Wittelsbach house contract of Pavia (excluding the Upper Palatinate)
Ruprecht III. of the Palatinate, Roman-German King from 1400 to 1410 as well as Count Palatine and Elector from 1398 to 1410
Map of the Electoral Palatinate (excluding Upper Palatinate) before the inheritance was divided in 1410.
  • Area of ​​the Electoral Palatinate
  • Reich pledges
  • Condominia (common rulers with other sovereigns) are hatched

    In 1214, Ludwig the Kelheimer was the first of the Wittelsbach dynasty to be enfeoffed with the Palatinate County near the Rhine. The various branches of the family remained in the hands of the Palatinate territories until 1918. In 1329, when the Wittelsbach family separated into the older Palatinate line and the newer Bavarian line ( house contract from Pavia ), the Nordgau , which was henceforth known as the Upper Palatinate ( Upper Palatinate ), was added as an area. At least since 1198 the count palatine had held the electoral dignity of the Rhine, d. H. they were allowed to vote for the emperor; With the written fixation of the seven electors in 1356 in the Golden Bull , they were given a permanent prominent position in the empire. They were also given the office of imperial vicar for the areas of Franconian and Swabian law and that of the Reich's traditional food . During this time, the name Kurpfalz gradually became the name for the territories of the Elector Palatinate or for countries with related branches. Originally, the Wittelsbach house contract from Pavia said that the electoral dignity should change between the Palatinate and Bavaria. However, the Golden Bull gave the electoral dignity exclusively to the Count Palatinate, and Bavaria was left empty-handed, which led to a latent permanent conflict between the two Wittelsbach lines, which was not resolved until 1777 with the unification of all the Wittelsbach states. The allocation of the Electorate also had the consequence that in Kurpräzipuum were those parts of the country, which could not be further divided or disposed fixed. These included Bacharach , Kaub , Alzey , Neustadt , Weinheim , Lindenfels , Heidelberg and the Dilsberg , as well as Amberg , Nabburg and Kemnath in the Upper Palatinate . In 1386, Elector Ruprecht I acquired Zweibrücken , Mosbach and Simmern . His founding of the University of Heidelberg in the same year as the third university in the area of ​​the Holy Roman Empire (after Prague 1348 and Vienna 1365) also underlined the cultural claim of the Electoral Palatinate; it was one of the most important secular territories of the Old Kingdom, which was shown, among other things, by the fact that Elector Ruprecht III. became Roman-German king in 1400 .

    Territorial development up to the Landshut War of Succession in 1505

    Elector Friedrich I of the Palatinate, "the victorious", pursued a successful policy of conquest from 1451–1476, painting by Albrecht Altdorfer

    After Ruprecht's death in 1410, the Palatinate was divided into the lines that existed during the late Middle Ages and early modern times: Electoral Palatinate, Palatinate-Neumarkt (until 1448), Palatinate-Simmern (extinct in the male line in 1685) and Palatinate-Mosbach (up to 1499).

    Territorial expansion of the Electoral Palatinate (excluding Upper Palatinate) after 1505
  • Area of ​​the Electoral Palatinate after the Cologne arbitration award of 1505
  • Losses in the Landshut War of Succession 1504/05
  • In the 15th century, the Palatinate electors succeeded in significantly expanding and consolidating their dominion on the Middle and Upper Rhine. Initially, this was mainly done in a peaceful way by acquiring imperial pledges . Later, especially under Elector Friedrich I “the Victorious”, a policy of military conquests came about, particularly against the immediate neighboring areas of Kurmainz , the County of Württemberg , the Margraviate of Baden , but especially against his ducal relative Ludwig I of Palatinate -Zweibrücken set up. In the Lützelsteiner feud in 1450 he added the county of the same name to his territory; in the Mainz collegiate feud , he triumphed against the coalition of his opponents - in the battle of Pfeddersheim in 1460 and again in the battle of Seckenheim in 1462. Although Elector Friedrich I defeated the hostility of Emperor Friedrich III through his politics . and in 1474 even the imperial ban was closed, he was very successful as a territorial lord, and the territory of the Electorate of the Palatinate reached its greatest extent under him. After his death, his nephew Philip "the Sincere" (Elector from 1476 to 1505) failed to attempt to continue this expansion. In the War of the Landshut Succession in 1504/1505, there was a large coalition of opponents of the elector, with the Palatinate and Upper Palatinate being devastated by military campaigns. As a result of the war, most of the Alsatian possessions were lost to the Habsburgs and other areas to Hesse and Württemberg.

    The Electoral Palatinate in the early days of the Reformation

    After the heavy defeat in the Landshut War of Succession , the successors of Philip the Sincere initially concentrated on rebuilding the heavily devastated country. The Electoral Palatinate was one of the more prosperous areas in the Holy Roman Empire, mainly due to its fertile soils, which allowed wine-growing. A relatively efficient administration was established at an early stage, with the council and later the senior council in Heidelberg as the central government body. The country was shocked by the Palatinate knight revolt under Franz von Sickingen in 1522/23 and the great peasants' war in 1524/25 . Although Elector Ludwig V had crushed the rebellious peasants in the Battle of Pfeddersheim in 1525, on the advice of Philipp Melanchthon , he was largely lenient towards the peasants in order to get things back to order as quickly as possible. In other respects, too, Ludwig V endeavored to achieve a balancing policy in the empire, especially with regard to the denominational differences between the supporters of Martin Luther and his opponents. Outwardly, he remained committed to the old Catholic faith, which may also have tactical reasons, since several of his brothers held important positions (some as prince-bishops ) in the imperial church . He did not take any major steps against the spread of the Reformation in his countries. His successor Friedrich II (Elector 1544–56) remained formally Catholic, but showed his inclination to the Protestant denomination publicly from 1545 by taking the Lord's Supper according to the Protestant rite. At the University of Heidelberg he supported professors willing to reformation and favored evangelical refugees.

    Count Palatine Ottheinrich (painting by Georg Pencz , between 1530 and 1545)

    Only under Ottheinrich (Elector from 1556 to 1559) did the transition to Lutheran teaching come about. The Electoral Palatinate was the last of the great secular territories of the empire to take this step. The Heidelberg University was redesigned by Ottheinrich in the Reformation spirit and richly endowed with the books from the dissolved monasteries . Ottheinrich himself was a deeply religious, even if not particularly theologically educated, Lutheran and also pursued an active policy in the Reich in the interests of Protestants. In particular, he tried to revise the ecclesiastical reservation of the Augsburg Religious Peace of 1555.

    Transition to Calvinism

    Elector Friedrich III.

    With Ottheinrich's death in 1559, the older line of the Palatine Wittelsbach family died out, and the Wittelsbach branch Palatinate-Simmern came with Elector Friedrich III. to rule. He too had been a follower of Lutheran teaching since 1546. From 1559/60, however, he increasingly turned to Calvinism. At his instigation, the rite of the Lord's Supper was changed and the Palatinate church order was redesigned in line with Calvinist teaching. The Heidelberg Catechism was published in 1563, the main author of which is Zacharias Ursinus , who was called from Zurich . This created an independent, specifically Electorate Palatinate variant of Reformedism. An essential difference to the Geneva tradition is the lack of the doctrine of predestination .

    With the introduction of Calvinism, the Electoral Palatinate was largely isolated politically in the Holy Roman Empire. At that time there were Reformed imperial cities and small territories, but no major large territories. Calvinism was only able to gain a foothold in a few territories in the empire, for example in western East Frisia , in the Landgraviate of Hesse- Kassel and in most of the sub-principalities of Anhalt. In northern Germany and in most imperial cities, the Lutherans dominated and in southern Germany the Catholics. The Calvinists were not protected by the provisions of the Augsburg Religious Peace of 1555, which explicitly referred only to the Lutheran denomination. The Lutherans often rejected the Calvinists just as vehemently as the Catholics. The Palatinate electors therefore tried to establish international connections with other Calvinist powers, namely the Netherlands, the French Protestants, Switzerland and Scotland. In addition, Elector Friedrich III tried to downplay the differences to the Lutherans and publicly denied pursuing a Calvinist religious policy. Overall, he represented an active policy of supporting the Reformed against the Catholic Counter-Reformation and, for example, campaigned in the empire for the support of the persecuted Huguenots and the Dutch against the Spaniards. Palatine troops moved several times towards France and the Netherlands to support the Dutch. The Palatinate became a place of refuge for religious refugees from all over Europe. Heidelberg University was converted into a reformed university (the only one on German soil) and attracted students from all reformed countries in Europe. In the population, Lutheranism was deeply rooted in large sections of the population, so that the reformed denomination was not fully implemented and significant Lutheran minorities remained. In the Upper Palatinate, the introduction of the Calvinist doctrine did not succeed at all; it remained strictly Lutheran.

    Heidelberg Castle with Palatinate Garden 1620

    Under Ludwig VI. (Elector 1576–83) there was a brief restoration of Lutheranism, but under the rule of Johann Casimir (administrator 1583–92) and Frederick IV (Elector 1592–1610) it was replaced by the Reformed denomination. Numerous reformed religious refugees came to the country and brought new skills such as cloth weaving, painting, gold and silversmithing with them. Frankenthal (Pfalz) , Otterberg and Mannheim, which has been systematically developed as a fortress town since 1607, were the centers of these settlements.

    The Electoral Palatinate in the Thirty Years War

    Friedrich V of the Palatinate, the Bohemian " Winter King "
    Historical floor plan of Mannheim 1620
    Heidelberger Castle

    In the years before the Thirty Years War , Prince Christian I von Anhalt-Bernburg decisively determined politics in the Electorate of the Palatinate. He tried to give the Electoral Palatinate a leading role in an anti-Catholic-anti-Habsburg alliance. This also put the country in opposition to the Lutheran Electoral Saxony , which also claimed leadership in the camp of the Protestant imperial princes, but saw itself as emphatically loyal to the emperor. In 1608 the Protestant Union was founded with the leading participation of the Electoral Palatinate after the majority of the Protestant free imperial city of Donauwörth was occupied by Catholic Bavaria . The first serious international crisis occurred in the context of the Jülich-Klevian succession dispute between 1608 and 1614. The outbreak of international war involving Spain and France ultimately prevented the assassination of the French King Henry IV. 1610. 1618 it did come to a great war after the majority Protestant states of the Kingdom of Bohemia rebelled against the Habsburg-Catholic domination and several Protestant princes had offered a Bohemian royal crown. Elector Friedrich V accepted the offer, moved to Prague and had himself crowned at Prague Castle . However, he was not up to the political and military challenges and was defeated in the Battle of White Mountain in 1620 by the troops of the Catholic League . The Protestant imperial princes had refused to help him for the Bohemian adventure. In return for his military aid, the leader of the Catholic League, Duke Maximilian of Bavaria , had the transfer of the Palatinate electoral dignity to Bavaria in a secret treaty from Emperor Ferdinand II . The imperial ban was imposed on Frederick V in 1621 . Maximilian von Bayern occupied the Upper Palatinate and began the Counter Reformation there. The Electoral Palatinate was conquered by Spanish troops under General Ambrosio Spinola and Bavarian troops under Tilly until the end of 1623 against the resistance of the troops of the Protestant Union . The conquest of Heidelberg by Tilly is remembered primarily through the art theft of the Bibliotheca Palatina , the Electoral Palatinate book collection. The library, which was famous all over Europe at the time and comprised around 8,000 volumes, was given to the Pope as a gift and packed in 184 boxes on 50 freight wagons and brought to Rome. After the conquest, a policy of violent recatholicization followed, especially under the Bavarian occupation.

    A turn of the war was indicated in 1630 after King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden landed on the Pomeranian Baltic coast and his decisive victory over Tilly in the battle of Breitenfeld . The Swedish troops then pushed further south. Gustav II Adolf took his winter quarters in the conquered Mainz in 1631/32, and his troops penetrated further into the Rhine plain from there. In the course of 1632, the Electoral Palatinate was conquered. Heidelberg and Mannheim were occupied in 1632, with Mannheim being captured because the population had overpowered the Bavarian guards. Elsewhere too, the majority of the local population supported the Swedes' advance. Another turn of the war was the heavy defeat of the Swedish and allied evangelical troops in the Battle of Nördlingen in 1634. The Swedes withdrew from the Electoral Palatinate, and imperial and Bavarian troops followed, who plundered the country again. In 1635 Heidelberg, Mannheim, Philippsburg and Frankenthal were again in the hands of the imperial and Bavarian families. In 1635, French troops began to advance into the Electoral Palatinate area.

    When the war ended in 1648, it left a devastated land. The Electoral Palatinate was one of the areas hardest hit by the war and had lost almost half of the population. In the Peace of Westphalia , the Palatinate elector did not get back the previous electoral dignity, which had been associated with the office of imperial vicar and the office of archdealer. She stayed with Bavaria. A new, eighth electoral dignity was created for the Palatinate in the Causa palatina , which was linked to a newly created ore office, that of the arch-treasurer . In terms of rank, however, this was a descent, the count palatine slipped from first to last place in the ranking of the secular spa offices. The loss of the Upper Palatinate to Bavaria, which had generated considerable surpluses before the war, mainly from mining, also weighed heavily (see Mining in the Upper Palatinate ). A certain success was, however, that the Calvinist denomination was recognized in the Peace of Westphalia as in principle equal to the Lutherans and Catholics.

    The Electoral Palatinate in the wars of Louis XIV. 1648–1714

    After the war, Elector Karl Ludwig (1649–1680) concentrated on rebuilding the destroyed country and consolidating its broken finances. He tried to repopulate the devastated areas and recruited settlers across Europe. The promise of religious tolerance brought persecuted religious minorities from all over Europe, Socinians from Poland, Hutterites from Moravia, Mennonites from Switzerland and Sabbatars from England. The Jews were also re-admitted. In addition, Reformed people came from the Netherlands, Switzerland and France as well as Lutherans and Catholics from the surrounding areas. As a result, the Electoral Palatinate lost its religiously uniform character, even if the Reformed continued to dominate. The immigrants brought many new skills with them that benefited the economic reconstruction. In terms of foreign policy, the elector pursued a cautious policy between the emperor on the one hand and France on the other. He married his daughter Liselotte von der Pfalz in 1671 to the Duke of Orléans , the widowed brother of King Louis XIV of France , in the hope of being able to guarantee good relations with France.

    Contemporary print about the destruction of Heidelberg in the Palatinate War of Succession in 1693

    Despite the Elector's policy of neutrality , the war reached the Palatinate again in 1674. French troops under Turenne devastated the area on the right and left of the Rhine during the Dutch War . From 1679, French politics took on a form that threatened the Electoral Palatinate. As part of the reunification policy , areas on the left bank of the Rhine were gradually annexed by France for flimsy reasons. After the death of Karl Ludwig in 1680, his only and ailing son Karl II became elector. This continued the policy of accepting religious refugees in the Palatinate. When it became apparent shortly after taking office that he would not live long due to serious illness and would not have a son entitled to inherit, it became foreseeable that Philipp Wilhelm , Duke of the Palatinate-Neuburg line , would take over his inheritance. This line also held the Rhenish duchies of Jülich and Berg . This meant the reign of a Catholic princely house in the Palatinate. The dying elector tried to secure the future of the Reformed denomination in the Palatinate in the so-called Schwäbisch Hall recession , but before his untimely death in 1685 he was unable to create clear legal relationships.

    The extinction of the Electoral Palatinate Princely House in 1685 had two serious consequences: On the one hand, the accession of the Catholic Princely House of Palatinate-Neuburg led to protracted religious disputes again, and on the other hand, Louis XIV of France reported inheritance claims to alleged allodial ownership of the Electoral Palatinate, including the Principality of Palatinate -Simmern and Palatinate-Lautern , understood the Palatinate share in Sponheim and the Oberämter Oppenheim and Germersheim. Liselotte von der Pfalz had expressly waived any inheritance rights when she got married, but this no longer counted in view of the realpolitical possibilities. The outbreak of the Palatinate War of Succession (1688–1697) was waged with hitherto unknown brutality.

    From 1688, French troops invaded the Palatinate and occupied the country. When they were slowly pushed back by imperial troops , they began to devastate the occupied territories completely. This corresponded to a plan by the French Quartermaster General Jules Louis Bolé de Chamlay . This envisaged the complete destruction of all Palatinate towns and villages as well as the murder and expulsion of all residents in order to create an approximately 100 km wide strip in front of the French border, in which no more fortified human settlements should be possible. The order Brûlez le Palatinat - burn the Palatinate down! who was systematically executed primarily by General Ezéchiel de Mélac . In 1688/89 Heidelberg, Mannheim, Philippsburg and the Pforzheim residence in Baden went up in flames, the imperial cities of Worms and Speyer were devastated, and Heidelberg Castle was blown up on February 16, 1689. In 1693 Heidelberg was again badly destroyed.

    Ultimately, Louis XIV could not achieve his goals, and the Palatinate kept its independence. Just four years after the end of the war in 1697, however, another major war broke out, and the Palatinate again became a theater of war in the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–1714), but this time it was not nearly as badly affected. Because of the never-ending atrocities of war, tens of thousands of people from the Palatinate decided to emigrate during these years. to North America and Prussia.

    The Mannheim Jesuit Church , built 1738–1760, symbolizes the
    Counter-Reformation that was favored by the electoral authorities after 1685

    The Catholic dynasty Pfalz-Neuburg, which has ruled the Electoral Palatinate since 1685, initially acted cautiously in the predominantly Reformed country and officially confirmed the rights of the Reformed. The French who occupied the country, however, pursued an overt policy of recatholization . Evangelical church property was handed over to the Catholics and the Catholic Church was promoted wherever possible. In the Peace of Rijswijk , which ended the War of the Palatinate Succession in 1697, France tried to establish the results of this policy beyond the period of occupation. The Catholics should be allowed to keep the church property preserved under French occupation. Elector Johann Wilhelm (Elector 1690–1716), citing this clause, pushed the re-Catholicization of the Electoral Palatinate. In 1698 a decree was issued that the Reformed churches in all places where Catholics lived could also be used by them. In future, non-Catholics should take off their hats at Catholic processions and kneel down in front of the monstrance . The Protestants resisted these measures, and under pressure from the Protestant imperial estates , namely from Brandenburg-Prussia , these were partially mitigated again. When in the course of the Spanish War of Succession the regaining of the electoral dignity lost to Bavaria in the Thirty Years War and the Upper Palatinate seemed to be within reach again (Duke Maximilian II. Emanuel of Bavaria had sided with France against the Emperor and was defeated, was over him the imperial ban was imposed, and he had been expelled from his country), the elector was forced to adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards the Protestants in his country, as he needed the support of the evangelical imperial estates to regain his electoral dignity. In 1705, in a religious declaration, he guaranteed the three major denominations (Reformed, Lutherans and Catholics) freedom of conscience and religion. In the Palatinate church division of 1705, the churches in the Electoral Palatinate were divided between the Reformed and the Catholics. Many simultaneous churches remained, so that the Electoral Palatinate became the land of simultaneous churches. However, favoring the Catholic denomination remained a constant in electoral politics throughout the 18th century. In Heidelberg, the 1712 Jesuit church consecrated and built from 1715 to 1717, a Jesuit high school in Mannheim one was also from 1738 to 1760 Jesuit church built.

    In 1708 the Palatinate elector seemed close to his goal when the old Palatinate electoral dignity was reassigned to him from Bavaria by a resolution of the Reichstag . In 1711 he again exercised the imperial vicariate. He then ceded the office of treasurer to the newly created Electorate of Braunschweig-Lüneburg . However, all hopes of the Palatinate for an increase in rank failed after the Netherlands and Great Britain withdrew from the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713 , so that France could dictate the peace conditions in 1714. France ensured that its ally Bavaria was reinstated in all rights (electoral dignity, Upper Palatinate). The Electoral Palatinate not only came away empty-handed, it was even worse off than before the war, as the Elector of Braunschweig-Lüneburg refused to give up the arch-treasurer dignity that had just been conferred on him. Disputes about electoral rank accompanied the Electoral Palatinate policy through the entire century until they found their solution in the Bavarian-Palatinate Union of 1777.

    The Electoral Palatinate in the 18th century

    The Mannheim Palace , built between 1720 and 1760
    Schwetzingen Castle , the summer residence of the electors
    Elector Karl Theodor in electoral regalia and with a marshal's baton
    The Palatinate near Kaub in the Oberamt Bacharach, an Electoral Palatinate customs station in the Middle Rhine.

    Elector Karl III. Philipp intended to reside again in the Heidelberg Castle, which was to be rebuilt. His Catholic court, however, also needed a representative court church, and the elector's choice fell on the oldest church in Heidelberg, the Heiliggeistkirche , which was used as a simultaneous church by both Reformed and Catholics. The reformed church council resisted the intentions of the elector. He then wanted to set an example and had the church occupied by soldiers. Another stumbling block was the formulation in the Reformed Heidelberg Catechism, in which Catholicism was described as “condemned idolatry”. Charles III Philip gave orders to collect the catechism as well. The Reformed then sought support outside the Palatinate from the Protestant imperial estates. In particular Prussia and the Electorate of Hanover intervened diplomatically and began, as a countermeasure, so to speak, to harass the Catholics in their countries. At the pressure of the emperor, the elector finally gave in and allowed the Heidelberg Catechism to be reprinted, but without the offensive wording. Since the Heidelberg Reformed remained steadfast and did not want to surrender the Heiliggeistkirche for a new building as a replacement, Karl III. Philipp came true in 1720 when he initially threatened to move the residence from Heidelberg and began building a new palace in Mannheim. In more than 20 years of construction, the second largest palace complex in Europe after Versailles was built here . The city of Mannheim itself had to be completely redesigned as it was completely destroyed by the war. It was laid out strictly geometrically according to a checkerboard pattern.

    With the death of Charles III. Philipp In 1742 the Pfalz-Neuburg line also became extinct. The Wittelsbach branch of the Palatinate-Sulzbach line with Elector Karl Theodor (Elector from 1742 to 1799) took its place through succession . In terms of foreign policy, he operated with varying success a rocking policy between the great powers France, the Emperor or Austria and Prussia . After the Bavarian Wittelsbach family died out in 1777, he assumed the inheritance as Duke and Elector of Bavaria in accordance with the provisions of the mutually concluded inheritance contracts . This created a Wittelsbach state of Electoral Palatinate Bavaria , the first time since the house contract of Pavia . However, the Bavarian legacy was challenged by Emperor Joseph II . Karl Theodor, who would have liked to stay in Mannheim and did not want to move to Munich, which he did not like, allowed himself to be persuaded to cede parts of Bavaria to the Kaiser in exchange for Upper Austria . There was even talk of a large-scale country swap: Bavaria versus the Austrian Netherlands . However, the exchange plans failed due to the resistance of Prussia and the German princes' union founded by it , and Karl Theodor thereby made himself unpopular with his Bavarian subjects, who did not appreciate being viewed only as an object of exchange.

    Overall, however, the long reign of Karl Theodor, which lasted more than 50 years, meant a heyday for the Electoral Palatinate. The elector was connected to the ideas of the Enlightenment. He was often active as a builder and promoted the sciences. In 1763 the Palatinate Academy of Sciences was founded in Mannheim. Then there was the Kameral-Hohe-Schule and the Electoral German Society . Torture was abolished in 1776. The economy was promoted along the lines of mercantilism . Bourgeois enlighteners, who set themselves apart from the courtly-influenced institutions, formed primarily in reading societies or in regional Masonic lodges . The Mannheimer Hof achieved particular splendor and musical historical importance through the Mannheim School , which provided essential impulses for the later Viennese classical music. The young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart received important suggestions here in 1777/78 and applied - albeit in vain - for a position in the electoral court orchestra.

    Administrative division of the Palatinate in 1789 in city offices and main offices
    Map of the Oberämter of the Electoral Palatinate (1789) - Numbered.svg

    City offices
    1 Frankenthal (Palatinate)
    2 Mannheim
    3 Heidelberg

    Upper offices on the left of the Rhine

    4 Alzey
    5 Bacharach
    6 Germersheim
    7 Kreuznach
    8 New Town
    9 louder
    10 Lauterecken
    11 Oppenheim
    12 simmers
    13 Stromberg
    14 Veldenz

    Upper offices on the right of the Rhine

    15 Boxberg
    16 boards
    17 Heidelberg
    18 Ladenburg
    19 Lindenfels
    20 Mosbach
    21 Otzberg
    22 Umstadt ( condominium with changing Hessian rulers)

    The division of the Electoral Palatinate in the Napoleonic period

    In the course of the First Coalition War (1792 to 1797), the part of the Electoral Palatinate on the left bank of the Rhine was separated from the part on the right bank of the Rhine as a result of the French occupation. From 1798 to 1814 the areas on the left bank of the Rhine were incorporated into the French state . They were mostly part of the Département du Mont-Tonnerre (French for Donnersberg); some northern parts, e.g. B. Simmern and Bacharach, belonged to the Department de Rhin-et-Moselle (Rhine and Moselle).

    The part of the Electoral Palatinate on the right bank of the Rhine was divided up as a result of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss of 1803. Most of the area, including the cities of Heidelberg , Mannheim , Schwetzingen and Weinheim , was added to Baden, which was upgraded to an electorate at the same time .

    In the Odenwald the Electoral Palatinate belonged to scattered territories, which the Palatinate Electors claimed from the heir of the monastery, Kurmainz , due to their long service as bailiffs of the Imperial Monastery of Lorsch , and finally brought them under their control through wars and seizures. These areas in the Odenwald and on the Bergstrasse ( Neckarsteinach , Viernheim , Heppenheim ) came together with the Electoral Mainz areas to the Grand Duchy of Hesse via the short-lived Principality of Leiningen in 1806 .

    With the Congress of Vienna in 1815, cities such as Alzey and Worms also became part of the Grand Duchy of Hesse ( Province of Rheinhessen ), while the parts of the former Electoral Palatinate north of the Nahe fell to Prussia , among others . The left-bank heartland of the Palatinate to Mutterstadt , Neustadt , Landau and Frankenthal came along with numerous other territories of today's Palatinate to the Kingdom of Bavaria , that the territorial closed "from the patchwork Bavarian Rhine circle " with its capital Speyer created (since 1836 under King Ludwig I . Called "Rheinpfalz"). The Palatinate has been part of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate since 1946 . The division of the old Electoral Palatinate into a right and a left bank of the Rhine continued in 1795.

    coat of arms

    Coat of arms of the Electoral Palatinate, with helmet and Palatinate lion as a crest ornament ; Collegiate Church (Neustadt an der Weinstrasse) , around 1420
    The former Palatinate rulership can be partially traced back to the spread of the Palatinate lion as a heraldic animal

    In gevierten sign in the (heraldic) left canton and in the (heraldic) right diagonally right riveted Untereck of white and blue, (heraldic) right Obereck and (heraldic) left Untereck quite a turned-over golden, rotbewehrter, rotbezüngter and rotgekrönter lion in the black field.

    The white and blue diamonds were the coat of arms of the Counts of Bogen and were inherited by the Wittelsbach family in 1242. They therefore stand for the rule of the Palatinate line of the Wittelsbachers over the Electoral Palatinate.

    The golden lion in the black field was the coat of arms of the Count Palatine near the Rhine. It can also be found as part of the large state coat of arms of Baden-Württemberg , where it stands for the Electoral Palatinate areas in North Baden as well as in the state coat of arms of Rhineland-Palatinate and some municipalities.


    • Rudolf Haas, Hansjörg Probst: The Palatinate on the Rhine. 2000 years of national, cultural and economic history. Südwestdeutsche Verlagsanstalt, Mannheim 1984, ISBN 3-87804-159-4 .
    • Meinrad Schaab : History of the Electoral Palatinate.
    • Alexander Schweickert: Electoral Palatinate. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-17-014038-8 .
    • Armin Kohnle : A short history of the Electoral Palatinate. G. Braun, Karlsruhe 2011 (4th edition), ISBN 978-3-7650-8329-7 .
    • Wilhelm Kreutz: Enlightenment in the Electoral Palatinate. Contributions to institutions, societies and people. Rhein-Neckar-Kreis, Historische Schriften Vol. 4. Verlag Regionalkultur, Ubstadt-Weiher 2008, ISBN 978-3-89735-552-1 .
    • Stefan Mörz: Enlightened absolutism in the Electoral Palatinate during the Mannheim reign of Elector Karl Theodor (1742–1777). Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1991, ISBN 978-3-17-011186-8 .
    • Volker Press : Calvinism and the Territorial State. Government and central authorities of the Electoral Palatinate 1559–1619. Stuttgart 1970.
    • Udo Wennemuth (Ed.): 450 years of the Reformation in Baden and the Electoral Palatinate . Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 2009, ISBN 978-3-17-020722-6 .
    • Ellen Widder: Chancellor and law firms in the late Middle Ages. A histoire croisée princely administration in the south-west of the empire , Stuttgart 2016 (publications of the commission for historical regional studies in Baden-Württemberg, series B: Research, 204).

    Web links

    Wikisource: Kurpfalz  - Sources and full texts
    Commons : Kurpfalz  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

    Individual evidence

    1. " de castrum Stalecka in castrum Heidelberg ", Saint Vita of Eberhard von Kumbd (from approx. 1220). See: Franz Schneider , Die Vita Eberhardi de Commeda (also called de Stalecke) as a Rhenish historical source for the second half of the 12th century. In: ZGO 110, NF 71 (1962), p. 37 ff.
    2. Heinz Musall, Arnold scouring Brand: settlement destruction and fortifications in the late 17th and early 18th centuries (1674-1714). In: HISTORICAL ATLAS OF BADEN-WÜRTTEMBERG 6.12.
    3. On the whole Johannes Arndt : Control of rule by the public. The journalistic representation of political conflicts in the Holy Roman Empire 1648–1750. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2013 (publications by the Institute for European History, Mainz, vol. 224), ISBN 978-3-525-10108-7 , Chapter II.2: Imperial vicariate dispute between the spa Bavarians and the Electoral Palatinate. Pp. 261–296 (preview on Google Books).