Holy Roman Empire

Article

August 19, 2022

The Holy Roman Empire (Latin: Sacrum Imperium Romanum; German: Heiliges Römisches Reich; also called das alte Reich, "the ancient Empire", in recent times), sometimes also called the First Reich (referring to the Second and Third Reich), was an agglomeration of territories in central and western Europe born in the early Middle Ages and existed for about a millennium. It drew the name "Roman Empire" from being considered a continuation of the Western Roman Empire and therefore a universal power, while the adjective "sacred", which contrasted it with the pagan empire of the first three centuries, emphasized that the rebirth the imperial power was linked to the Christian religion and had to be considered willed by God; for this reason the power to crown the emperor was attributed to the pope, at least until the Reformation. On 25 December 800, Pope Leo III crowned the Frankish king Charlemagne as emperor, restoring the title in Western Europe, more than three centuries after the fall of the previous Western Roman Empire in 476. In theory and diplomacy, the emperors were considered primus inter pares, considered the first among other Catholic monarchs in all of Europe. The title continued in the Carolingian family until 888 and from 896 to 899, after which it was disputed by the sovereigns of Italy in a series of civil wars until the death of the last Italian suitor, Berengario I, in 924. The title was resumed again in 962 when Otto I, king of Germany, was crowned emperor, configuring himself as the successor of Charlemagne and starting a continuous existence of the empire for over eight centuries. Some historians refer to the coronation of Charlemagne as the origin of the empire, while others prefer the coronation of Otto I as its beginning. Scholars generally agree, however, in reporting an evolution of the institutions and constitutive principles of the empire, describing a gradual assumption of the imperial title and role. The first to add the term "sacred" to the usual "Roman empire" was Frederick Barbarossa: it appears in a letter of 1157, which asked the tycoons of the empire for help against the Lombard cities. Only in 1512 under the emperor Maximilian I the term "Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic Nation" (in German Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation , in Latin Sacrum Imperium Romanum Nationis Germanicae), already attested since 1417, was used in an act of the sovereign, the farewell preamble to the Reichstag of Cologne. The title of the emperor, in any case, did not change, remaining until 1806 "Imperator Romanorum semper Augustus", without Germanic references. In theory, the emperor was to be the highest political authority in the inhabited world, superior to all kings and matched (or surpassed, depending on political views) only by the pope, who was called to govern Christianity in matters concerning faith. . However, in fact, something similar was achieved only with Charlemagne, who in any case already did not have direct jurisdiction over some Christian lands, such as England. From Otto I of Saxony onwards the empire ruled only Germany, the Alpine countries, and for a lesser period parts of Italy and other European lands. The Holy Roman Empire was formally dissolved with the 1806 Peace of Presburg.

History

Origins

Continuity and discontinuity between the Carolingian and Germanic Empires

By convention, the birth of the Holy Roman Empire is fixed in 962, when Otto I of Saxony, king of the Eastern Franks, of Italy and Lotharingia, was crowned by Pope John XII as emperor of an entity that included Germany and Italy (and then Burgundy). However, much of the Italian and French historiography includes the Carolingian Empire and therefore indicates its beginning in the coronation of Charlemagne in the 19th century. Charles himself, to the title of king of the Franks, added that of "Augustus Imperator Romanorum gub