Holy Roman Empire


August 20, 2022

The Holy Roman Empire (German: Heiliges Römisches Reich (H.R.R.), Italian: Sacro Romano Impero, Latin: Sacrum Romanum Imperium) was a central European empire during the Middle Ages. The term First Reich (sax. das Erste Reich) refers to this empire. It was based on the kingdom created in the Treaty of Verdun in 843 when the Frankish Empire broke up, which was later merged with the Roman Empire. Formally, the empire lasted until 1806. The name, extent and structure of the kingdom have varied over the centuries.


The lands under Emperor Konrad II were called the Roman Empire in 1034, the Holy Empire in 1157 and the Holy Roman Empire in 1254, initially with the Latin adjective Sacrum ('blessed') and later in German Heilig ('holy/blessed'). Emperor Otto II was the first to be called Roman Emperor. The name Holy Roman Empire dates back to 1512, when it appeared as Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation ('Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation').

Nature of the Empire

The Empire was a unique institution in world history, and its nature is difficult to understand. It is easier to state what the Empire was not than to define it: It was never a nation state. Although most of the rulers and inhabitants were of Germanic origin, non-Germanic languages ​​were also spoken in its territory. During the kingdom's heyday, it included parts of present-day Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, eastern France, northern Italy, and western Poland. However, some of the time it was more than a loose empire. The empire had its own central government and was strongly united by Christianity. The Pope crowned the German king as emperor until 1508. The French writer and philosopher Voltaire famously said that it was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.

Structure and Institutions

From the 12th century onwards, the empire was shaped by the efforts of local, largely independent princes to transfer the emperor's power to themselves. Kings (emperors) repeatedly granted concessions to princes (dukes, counts, and the like) to strengthen their own choice or gain support for their aspirations. At the same time, the kingdom broke up into even smaller units. The process ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia.

King of Germany

The coronation of Charlemagne as emperor by the Pope at Christmas 800 was an example for later kings. Charlemagne had beaten the Lombards and the townspeople of Rome who opposed the Pope, which gave rise to the role of the empire as the protector of the church. Becoming emperor required becoming the king of Germany. The German king was elected by election from time immemorial. In the 8th century, the dukes of the five tribes (Franks, Saxons, Bavarians, Swabians and Thuringians) carried out the selection. In 1356, the group of electing princes was formalized, which initially included seven electoral princes (Kurfürst), but later the number changed slightly. Until 1508, the elected king had to travel to Rome, where he was crowned emperor by the Pope. The German king was also called the king of the Romans. Later, the person chosen as the heir to the emperor's crown was called the king of the Romans. The emperor could never make laws and rule alone. His power was limited by local princes. At the end of the 15th century, the Reichstag was established, which only became established in 1663.


The kingdom was divided into counties corresponding to states, free cities, ecclesiastical principalities and other similar areas. The Reichslehen was obtained directly from the emperor. These areas included ru