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 group of regions and free cities in central Europe under the rule of an emperor who was elected by the princes and magistrates of the regions and cities within the empire.

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
Holy Roman Empire at its territorial apex (per consensus).svg
  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
The Holy Roman Empire should not be mistaken for the Roman Empire.

When Charlemagne died, his Frankish Empire was given to his children and divided into three different countries: West Francia, Lotharingia and East Francia. The Holy Empire started when Otto I of East Francia became emperor in 962, and it was ended by Napoleon in 1806. The emperors claimed to be heirs of Charlemagne and that the Empire dates from 800, when Charlemagne became Frankish Emperor.

In the 17th century the Empire was shattered by the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). Nearly thirty percent of the population of the Empire was killed. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation lost parts of its territory.

At the outset of the Empire, the Holy Roman Emperor was considerably powerful. As time went on, however, all the duchies and counties inside the Empire became more powerful. By the 13th century, the emperors had little real power anymore, and the country existed only in name. The last emperor abolished the empire in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars.


It is known in popular culture that Voltaire, a French philosopher in the 18th century, once said that "the nation was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire." to criticize the very decentralized state of the empire during the 1700s and its claim as the successor to the Roman Empire.

The Empire was in fact Germanic and not Roman since it was mainly in the regions of present-day Germany and Austria. It was not really holy since, after Charles V in 1530, emperors were no longer crowned by the Pope. It was only an Empire in name: the territories it covered were mostly independent. The Empire did maintain a central government and armed forces that acted as one. Napoleon forced the emperor to abdicate when France began invading the Holy Roman Empire during the First French Empire. The Emperor named himself emperor of Austria and ended the Holy Roman Empire.

The Holy Roman Empire was not a highly centralized state like most countries today. Instead, it was divided into dozens – eventually hundreds – of individual entities governed by kings, dukes, counts, bishops, abbots, and other rulers. They were collectively known as princes. The Emperor directly ruled some areas. 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.

In the 16th century the Holy Roman Empire had to deal with the rebellion of the Frisians lead by Pier Gerlofs Donia and Wijerd Jelckama. This lasted from 1515 until 1523.

The Empire was one of the rare states in Europe that had an elective monarchy. This meant that the Emperor was chosen by a small group of Prince-electors. Commonly, the previous Emperor's dynastic heir was elected to the throne. This meant the House of Habsburg ruled from about 1280 to the Empire's fall in 1806.

A map of the empire.


  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. ISBN 9783406308161.
  5. 5.0 5.1 Mansbach, Richard W.; Taylor, Kirsten L. (17 June 2013). Introduction to Global Politics. ISBN 9781136517372.
  6. Dann, Otto (1993). Nation und Nationalismus in Deutschland, 1770-1990. 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.


  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 websitesEdit

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