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The Imperial Villages (Reichsdörfer, singular Reichsdorf) were the smallest component entities of the Holy Roman Empire.[1] They possessed imperial immediacy, having no lord but the Emperor, but were not estates. They were unencircled and did not have representation in the Imperial Diet. Their inhabitants were free men.[2]

The Imperial Villages—relics of the royal demesne during the era of the Hohenstaufen—were all located in southern and western Germany and in Alsace.[2] Originally there were 120 villages, but this number was greatly reduced by the early modern period. At the time of the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss—the final imperial reform—in 1803, there were only five: Gochsheim, Sennfeld, the Free Men of Leutkirche Heide, Soden and Sulzbach. These had preserved their rights of justice and their free status for centuries without force of arms, a "testimony to the progressive 'juridification' of the Reich".[2]


  1. ^ Whaley 2012, p. 44: "the most minuscule and least significant independent entities of the Reich".
  2. ^ a b c Whaley 2012, p. 44.


  • Kümin, Beat (2015). "Rural Autonomy and Popular Politics in Imperial Villages". German History. 33 (2): 194–213. 
  • Whaley, Joachim (2012). Germany and the Holy Roman Empire, Volume I: Maximilian I to the Peace of Westphalia, 1493–1648. Oxford: Oxford University Press.