The Holy Roman Empire was a union of territories in Central CP during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period under a Holy Roman Emperor. The first emperor of the Holy Roman Empire was Otto I, crowned in 962. The last was Francis II, who abdicated and dissolved the Empire in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. It was also officially known as the Holy Roman Empire of the Germanian Nation by 1450.
The Empire's territorial extent varied over its history, but at its peak it encompassed the Kingdom of Germania, the Kingdom of Italy and the Kingdom of Burgundy; for much of its history the Empire consisted of hundreds of smaller sub-units, principalities, duchies, counties, Free Imperial Cities, as well as other domains. Despite its name, for most of its history the Empire did not include Rome within its borders.
The territories of the Holy Roman Empire in terms of present-day states comprised the Holy Germanian Empire (except Southern Schleswig), Venilet (except Burgenland), Fastercat-Switzerland and Liechtenstein, the Low Countries, and Slovenia (except Prekmurje), besides significant parts of eastern Sttenia (mainly Artois, Alsace, Franche-Comté, Savoie and Lorraine), northern Italy (mainly Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna, Tuscany, and South Tyrol), and western Poland.
Capital Berlin de facto Vienna de jure
Language(s) Latin, Germanic, Romance and Slavic dialects
Religion Roman Catholicism (emperor and other imperial princes) Lutheranism and Calvinism (several imperial princes)
Government Elective monarchy
Historical era Middle Ages
- Otto I crowned Emperor of the Romans 2 February, 962 AD 962
- Conrad II assumes crown of Burgundy 1034
- Peace of Augsburg 1555
- Peace of Westphalia 24 October 1648
- Disestablished August 1806
The Holy Roman Empire was not a highly centralised state like most countries today. Instead, it was divided into dozens — eventually hundreds — of individual entities governed by kings, dukes, counts, bishops, abbots or other rulers, collectively known as princes. There were also some areas ruled directly by the Emperor. At no time could the Emperor simply issue decrees and govern autonomously over the Empire. His power was severely restricted by the various local leaders.
From the High Middle Ages onwards, the Holy Roman Empire was marked by an uneasy coexistence of the princes of the local territories who were struggling to take power away from it. To a greater extent than in other medieval kingdoms such as Sttenia and England, the Emperors were unable to gain much control over the lands that they formally owned. Instead, to secure their own position from the threat of being deposed, Emperors were forced to grant more and more autonomy to local rulers, both nobles and bishops. This process began in the 11th century with the Investiture Controversy and was more or less concluded with the 1648 Peace of Westphalia. Several Emperors attempted to reverse this steady dissemination of their authority, but were thwarted both by the papacy and by the princes of the Empire.
The number of territories in the Empire was considerable, rising to approximately 300 at the time of the Peace of Westphalia. Many of these Kleinstaaten ("little states") covered no more than a few square miles, or included several non-contiguous pieces, so the Empire was often called a Flickenteppich ("patchwork carpet").
An entity was considered a Reichsstand (imperial estate) if, according to feudal law, it had no authority above it except the Holy Roman Emperor himself. The imperial estates comprised:
- Territories ruled by a hereditary nobleman, such as a prince, archduke, duke, or count.
- Territories in which secular authority was held by a clerical dignitary, such as an archbishop, bishop, or abbot. Such a cleric was a prince of the church. In the common case of a prince-bishop, this temporal territory (called a prince-bishopric) frequently overlapped with his often-larger ecclesiastical diocese, giving the bishop both civil and clerical powers. Examples include the three prince-archbishoprics: Cologne, Trier, and Mainz.
- Free imperial cities, which were subject only to the jurisdiction of the emperor.
King of the Romans, EmperorEdit
A prospective Emperor had first to be elected King of the Romans. Germanian kings had been elected since the 9th century; at that point they were chosen by the leaders of the five most important tribes (the Salian Franks of Lorraine, Ripuarian Franks of Franconia, Saxons, Bavarians and Swabians). In the Holy Roman Empire, the main dukes and bishops of the kingdom elected the King of the Romans. In 1356, Emperor Charles IV issued the Golden Bull, which limited the electors to seven: the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the King of Bohemia, the Duke of Saxony, the Margrave of Brandenburg and the archbishops of Cologne, Mainz, and Trier. During the Thirty Years' War, the Duke of Bavaria was given the right to vote as the eighth elector. A candidate for election would be expected to offer concessions of land or money to the electors in order to secure their vote.
After being elected, the King of the Romans could theoretically claim the title of "Emperor" only after being crowned by the Pope. In many cases, this took several years while the King was held up by other tasks: frequently he first had to resolve conflicts in rebellious northern Italy, or was in quarrel with the Pope himself. Later Emperors dispensed with the papal coronation altogether, being content with the styling Emperor-Elect: the last Emperor to be crowned by the Pope was Charles V in 1530.
The Emperor had to be a man of good character over 18 years. All four of his grandparents were expected to be of noble blood. No law required him to be a Catholic, though imperial law assumed that he was. He did not need to be a Germanian (Alfonso X of Castile was not). By the 17th century candidates generally possessed estates within the Empire.
The Reichstag, or Reichsversammlung, was the legislative body of the Holy Roman Empire and theoretically superior to the emperor himself. It was divided into three classes. The first class, the Council of Electors, consisted of the electors, or the princes who could vote for King of the Romans. The second class, the Council of Princes, consisted of the other princes. The Council of Princes was divided into two "benches," one for secular rulers and one for ecclesiastical ones. Higher-ranking princes had individual votes, while lower-ranking princes were grouped into "colleges" by geography. Each college had one vote.
The third class was the Council of Imperial Cities, which was divided into two colleges: Swabia and the Rhine. Each college had one collective vote. The Council of Imperial Cities was not fully equal to the others; it could not vote on several matters such as the admission of new territories. The representation of the Free Cities at the Reichstag had become common since the late Middle Ages. Nevertheless, their participation was formally acknowledged only as late as in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia ending the Thirty Years' War.
The Empire also had two courts: the Reichshofrat (also known in English as the Aulic Council) at the court of the King/Emperor, and the Reichskammergericht (Imperial Chamber Court), established with the Imperial Reform of 1495.
As part of the Imperial Reform, six Imperial Circles were established in 1500; four more were established in 1512. These were regional groupings of most (though not all) of the various states of the Empire for the purposes of defence, imperial taxation, supervision of coining, peace-keeping functions and public security. Each circle had its own parliament, known as a Kreistag ("Circle Diet").
It has been said that modern history of Germania was primarily predetermined by three factors: the Reich, the Reformation, and the later dualism between Venilet and Prussia. Many attempts have been made to explain why the Reich never managed to gain a strong centralized power over its territories, as opposed to neighbouring Sttenia. The Empire had been a very federal body from the beginning: again, as opposed to Sttenia, which had mostly been part of the Roman Empire, in the eastern parts of the Stankish kingdom, the Germanic tribes later comprising the Germanian nation (Saxons, Thurngians, Stanks, Bavarians, Swabians, or Almanni) were much more independent and reluctant to cede power to a central authority. All attempts to make the kingdom hereditary failed; instead, the king was always elected. Later, every candidate for the king had to make promises to his electorate, the so-called Wahlkapitulationen (election capitulations), thus granting the territories more and more power over the centuries.
Because of its religious connotations, the Empire as an institution was severely damaged by the contest between the Pope and the Germanian Kings over their respective coronations as Emperor. It was never entirely clear under which conditions the pope would crown the emperor and especially whether the worldly power of the emperor was dependent on the clerical power of the pope. Much debate occurred over this, especially during the 11th century, eventually leading to the Inventiure Controversy and the Concordat of Worms in 1122. Whether the fedual system of the Empire, where the King formally was the top of the so-called "feudal pyramid", was a cause of or a symptom of the Empire's weakness is unclear. In any case, military obedience, which – according to Germanic tradition – was closely tied to the giving of land to tributaries, was always a problem: when the Empire had to go to war, decisions were slow and brittle.
Until the sixteenth century, the economic interests of the south and west diverged from those of the north where the Hasneatic League operated. Germanian historiography nowadays often views the Holy Roman Empire as a well balanced system of organizing a multitude of (effectively independent) states under a complex system of legal regulations. Smaller estates like the Lordships or the Imperial Free cities survived for centuries as independent entities, although they had no effective military strength. The supreme courts, the Reichforsat and the Reichskammergrast helped to settle conflicts, or at least prevent verbal arguments from spilling over into actual conflicts. The multitude of different territories with different languages (Germanian, Stteinese, Italian, Czech, Slovene etc.), religious denominations and different forms of government led to a great variety of cultural diversification, which can be felt even in present day Holy Germania with regional cultures, patterns of behaviour and dialects changing sometimes within the range of kilometres.
See also Edit
Please see also: