Lower Saxony Imperial Circle

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Imperial circles at the beginning of the 16th century. In red the Lower Saxony Reichskreis .
Map of the Lower Saxony Empire before the Peace of Westphalia , 1648 or earlier by Joan Blaeu

The Lower Saxony Imperial Circle was one of the ten Imperial Districts into which the Holy Roman Empire was divided under Emperor Maximilian I at the beginning of the 16th century.


The forerunner of the Lower Saxon Imperial Circle is the larger, Saxon Imperial Circle . The first plans for such a Saxon imperial circle go back to Albrecht II in 1438. The Saxon Circle, created in 1500, was divided into the Upper Saxon and Lower Saxony Imperial Circle in 1512 . The separation was implemented in 1522; z. B. first had to adjust the composition of the Reich Chamber of Commerce. The designation "Lower Saxony district" was also common.


The Lower Saxony Reichskreis comprised the eastern parts of what is now the state of Lower Saxony , northern Saxony-Anhalt (excluding the Altmark), Mecklenburg , Holstein (excluding Dithmarschen), Hamburg , Bremen and smaller areas in Brandenburg and Thuringia . Overall, it was a largely contiguous area, but some exclaves such as Halle an der Saale and Jüterbog were outside. The same applies to the imperial cities of Nordhausen and Mühlhausen . Within the district area was the bishopric of Verden , which had been administered in personal union with the Archdiocese of Bremen since 1502 , as well as the counties of Schaumburg and Spiegelberg , which did not belong to the district area.

At the end of the old empire, the district was about 1,240 square miles (about 69,000 square kilometers) and had 2,120,000 residents. With regard to the denomination, the inhabitants were almost all Protestant. The Hildesheim Monastery was partly Catholic .


The Guelph territories made up a large part of the district . In the Archdiocese of Magdeburg , which converted to the Reformation, administrators from the Brandenburg line of the Hohenzollern ruled from 1513 . The Halberstadt Monastery also belonged to Kurbrandenburg since 1648 . After the Reformation, the Danes and Swedes ruled the Archbishopric of Bremen and, from 1715, the Welfs there too. Through the Duchy of Holstein and later also the County of Oldenburg , the King of Denmark was one of the princes of the imperial circle. Due to their possession of district territories, the kings of Prussia , Sweden and Great Britain-Hanover also belonged to the district princes. The Lower Saxon imperial circle was probably the furthest from the emperor. Despite the strong position of the Guelphs, they could not completely dominate the district, especially because of the dukes of Mecklenburg and increasingly the kings of Denmark.

Since 1557, the princes who wrote the circle were the prince archbishops of Magdeburg and the dukes of Braunschweig-Lüneburg . The board of directors was initially held by the Archdiocese of Magdeburg (ruled by Brandenburg) before it switched between Brandenburg and Sweden (for the Duchy of Bremen ) in 1648/1652 . The oldest Duke from the House of Braunschweig was co-director. District bishops were mostly the Brunswick dukes who tried to use the office and the district war council for their own purposes. The district assemblies met initially mostly in Halberstadt , later also in Braunschweig or Lüneburg . Because of their remote location, Goslar , Mühlhausen and Nordhausen sometimes held separate conferences. A division according to banks, for example the clerical or secular classes, did not exist.

The district was able to propose 4 assessors to the Reich Chamber of Commerce and, since 1648, one more alternating with the Upper Saxon district. The dioceses of Magdeburg and Bremen as well as the House of Braunschweig provided one each. Mecklenburg and Holstein shared a job. When the additional post for the Lower Saxony district was due, it was filled by Lübeck, Goslar, Mühlhausen and Nordhausen. Later, the number of assessors fell to just two and the joint post with the Upper Saxon district was eliminated.


According to the regulations of 1681, the Reichskreis had to provide 1,322 soldiers on horseback and 2,707 on foot. According to the regulations of 1707, the district had to pay 30,000 guilders to the Reichsoperationskasse .

Like all imperial circles, the Lower Saxony imperial circle also had to perform important tasks in coinage (see imperial coinage order ). Among other things, the Reichskreis was responsible for probing the coins from the multitude of mints that processed the silver from mining in the Harz Mountains .


In 1625 the members of the Reichskreis appointed Christian IV of Denmark as colonel in connection with the Thirty Years War . This move was not recognized by the emperor until 1629, when Denmark withdrew from the war. From 1682 the differences between the powerful members intensified. From then until 1796 there were no more district meetings. During the Mecklenburg succession dispute, the emperor tried in vain to exert influence against the will of the district estates in 1697. After 1702 the district played no role because of the internal conflicts between the princes and no longer provided district troops. In fact, the circle ceased to exist long before the end of the old empire.

Area of ​​the circle

The Circle included and after 1512, the following territories.

Spiritual principalities

Imperial prelatures

Secular principalities

Imperial cities

See also


  • Winfried Dotzauer: The German Imperial Circles (1383-1806) , Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 1998, ISBN 3-515-07146-6 , GoogleBooks
  • Anton Friedrich Büsching: Great description of the earth. Vol. 21: The Lower Saxony District; First division of Brno, 1787
  • Gerhard Taddey (ed.): Lexicon of German history . People, events, institutions. From the turn of the times to the end of the 2nd World War. 2nd, revised edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 1983, ISBN 3-520-81302-5 , pp. 880f.
  • KJ Lorenzen Schmidt (+), Die Reichsgrafschaft Rantzau (as of May 27, 2015) on the website of the Society for Schleswig-Holstein History: www.geschichte-sh.de/reichsgrafschaft-rantzau
  • (Karl von Rantzau), Das Haus RANTZAU: Eine Familien-Chronik, Celle (JGMüller) 1865, digitized copy signed Gen 84-3 of the Bavarian State Library in Munich, printed without indication of author; whose name is handwritten under the title; www.digitale-Sammlungen.de

Web links

Commons : Lower Saxony Reichskreis  - collection of images, videos and audio files
  • Historical map from 1627: Dess Andern Theils Deß Nider Sachsischen Kreijses ( digitized version )