Holy Roman Empire

multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe (800/962–1806)

The Holy Roman Empire (Latin: Sacrum Imperium Romanum; German: Heiliges Römisches Reich), occasionally but unofficially referred to as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation,[7] was a polity in Western and Central Europe under the rule of an Emperor, who was elected by the princes and the magistrates of its regions and cities. On 25 December 800, Pope Leo III crowned Frankish king Charlemagne as Roman emperor and revived the title in Western Europe for the first time since the fall of the ancient Western Roman Empire in 476.

Holy Roman Empire
Sacrum Imperium Romanum (in Latin)
Heiliges Römisches Reich (in German)
Flag of Holy Roman Empire
Imperial Banner
(c. 1430–1806)
Coat of arms of Francis II of Holy Roman Empire
Coat of arms of
Francis II
  The Holy Roman Empire at its greatest extent in the early to middle 13th century during the Hohenstaufen dynasty (1155–1268) superimposed on modern state borders.
CapitalNo official capital, various imperial seats[b]
Common languagesGerman, Latin (administrative/liturgical/ceremonial)
Roman Catholicism (800–1806)
Lutheranism (1555–1806)
Calvinism (1648–1806)

see details
GovernmentElective monarchy
• 800–814
• 962–973
Otto I (first)
• 1792–1806
Francis II (last)
LegislatureImperial Diet
Historical eraMiddle Ages
Early modern period
• Charlemagne is crowned Emperor of the Romans[a]
25 December 800
2 February 962
• Conrad II assumes crown of Burgundy
2 February 1033
25 September 1555
24 October 1648
2 December 1805
• Francis II abdicated
6 August 1806
• 1200
• 1500
• 1618
• 1648
• 1786
Preceded by
Succeeded by
East Francia
Kingdom of Germany
Kingdom of Italy
Dutch Republic
Old Swiss Confederacy
Kingdom of Prussia
Austrian Empire
Confederation of the Rhine

When Charlemagne died in 814, his Frankish Empire was given to his sons and divided into three different countries: West Francia, Lotharingia and East Francia. In 962, Otto I was crowned Emperor by Pope John XII. The empire would live on for over eight centuries until it ended in 1806.

At the outset of the empire, the Emperor was considerably powerful. As time went on, however, the empire's duchies and counties became more powerful.

Politics change

Since Charlemagne, the polity was simply called the Roman Empire.[8] The name "Holy Roman Empire" was not used until the 13th century. Before then, people called the empire by different names like universum regnum ("the whole kingdom", meaning that it included all regions, not just local kingdoms) and imperium christianum ("Christian empire"). The Emperor's right to rule came from the idea of translatio imperii ("transfer of rule"). That meant that he had the highest power, which had been passed down from the Ancient Roman emperors.[9]

The Holy Roman Empire was not the highly-centralized state that most countries are today. Instead, it was divided into dozens and eventually hundreds of individual entities, which were governed by kings, dukes, counts, bishops, abbots, and other rulers. They were collectively known as princes. The Emperor directly ruled some areas, but could not simply issue decrees and govern autonomously over the empire. His power was severely restricted by the various local leaders.

In the 16th century, the empire had to deal with the rebellion of the Frisians, which was led by Pier Gerlofs Donia and Wijerd Jelckama, from 1515 until 1523.

The empire was a rare state in Europe to have an elective monarchy. That meant that the Emperor was chosen by a small group of prince-electors. The previous Emperor's dynastic heir was commonly elected to the throne. The House of Habsburg ruled for most of the period from about 1280 to the empire's fall.

A map of the empire.

References change

  1. Žůrek, Václav (31 December 2014). "Les langues du roi. Le rôle de la langue dans la communication de propagande dynastique à l'époque de Charles IV". Revue de l'Institut Français d'Histoire en Allemagne (in French) (6). doi:10.4000/ifha.8045. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
  2. "Atlas of Europe in the Middle Ages", Ostrovski, Rome, 1998, page 70
  3. John Pike. "Holy Roman Empire - 1500 - The German Empire".
  4. Rabe, Horst (1989). Reich und Glaubensspaltung, Deutschland 1500-1600. C.H.Beck. ISBN 9783406308161.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Mansbach, Richard W.; Taylor, Kirsten L. (17 June 2013). Introduction to Global Politics. Routledge. ISBN 9781136517372.
  6. Dann, Otto (1993). Nation und Nationalismus in Deutschland, 1770-1990. C.H.Beck. ISBN 9783406340864.
  7. Wilson, Peter H. (10 April 2016). Heart of Europe: A History of the Holy Roman Empire. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674058095 – via Google Books.
  8. Wilson 1999, p. 2.
  9. Whaley 2012a, pp. 17–21.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Some historians refer to the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire as 800, with the crowning of Frankish king Charlemagne considered as the first Holy Roman Emperor. Others refer to the beginning as the coronation of Otto I in 962.
  2. The Empire had no official capital, though there were a number of imperial seat cities, which varied throughout history: e.g. Vienna (Continuous Imperial Residenz City, 1483–1806), Regensburg (Eternal Diet, 1663–1806) and Prague (1346–1437, 1583–1611)
  3. German, Low German, Italian, Czech, Polish, Dutch, French, Frisian, Romansh, Slovene, Sorbian, Yiddish and other languages. According to the Golden Bull of 1356 the sons of prince-electors were recommended to learn German, Latin, Italian and Czech.[1]

Other websites change

  Media related to Holy Roman Empire at Wikimedia Commons