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History of the Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Empire portal gives an overview of events from about 900 to 1806, that affected the territories of the Empire and its leading aristocratic families.

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The purpose of the Holy Roman Empire portal is to make it easy for readers to find and explore articles about the Holy Roman Empire and its aristocratic families, as well as enabling editors to come together to work to enhance the subject and its themes. New editors are warmly welcome and invited to participate in adding new articles and improving existing ones – the first steps are very easy.

Article of the month


Article of the month

Imperial Sword

Imperial Sword and scabbard in the Imperial Treasury, Vienna

The Imperial Sword of the Holy Roman Empire is one of the Imperial Regalia of the kings and emperors of the Holy Roman Empire, the others including the Imperial Crown, Imperial Cross, Imperial Orb and Imperial Sceptre.

The Imperial Sword was made for the Emperor Otto IV in the 12th century, possible for his coronation as King of the Romans in 1198. The sword is 110 centimetres long and was refitted and redecorated several times during the Late Medieval and Early Modern periods. The scabbard depicts the emperors of the High Middle Ages.

The sword was handed over to the Holy Roman Emperor at his coronation as a sign of the secular power which he received from the hand of God. As he subsequently made his way out of the church after the ceremony, the new emperor was preceded by the sword-bearer who carried the sword, point uppermost, as a sign of secular power and force. Today it is kept in the Imperial Treasury in Vienna's Hofburg.

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Important noble families
AgilolfingsAhalolfingsAndechsAribonidsArnulfingAscaniaBabenbergBalduinBillungBurchardingCaroligiansConradinesDiepolding-RapotonesEkkehardinsEmichonesEppensteinsEtichonidsEzzonidsGriffinsHabsburgHohenstaufenHohenzollernLudovingiansLuitpoldingsLuxembourgMatfriedsMeinhardinerNassauNortheimObodritesOttoniansGood article PlantagenetPopponidsPremyslidReginarSaliansSieghardingiansSpanheimSupplinburgUdalrichingsUnruochingsWelfsWigericsWittelsbachWettinWilhelminersWürttembergZähringen

Important imperial treaties, edicts and legal sources
Peace of AugsburgConfoederatio cum principibus ecclesiasticisConstitutio Criminalis CarolinaCuius regio, eius religioGolden Bull of 1356Ems PunctationEwiger LandfriedePeace of ConstanceTreaty of LunévilleTreaty of VeniceYoungest RecessGerman mediatization (Reichsdeputationshauptschluss) • Ottonian-Salian Imperial Church SystemPeace of PassauSachsenspiegelSchwabenspiegelStatutum in favorem principumTreaty of Bonn (921) • Peace of WestphaliaEdict of WormsConcordat of Worms

Conflicts and key events
Anti-kingsAugsburg InterimBattle of the Three EmperorsWar of the Austrian SuccessionFeatured article War of the Bavarian SuccessionWalk to CanossaCrusadesInvestiture ControversyBattle of LechfeldBattle of LegnanoWar of the Palatine SuccessionDefenestrations of PragueReformationSchmalkaldic LeagueSchmalkaldic WarSeven Years' WarThirty Years' WarWestern Schism

Terminology
Imperial Army (Reichsarmee) • Free imperial city (Freie Reichsstadt) • HasenratPerpetual Diet of Regensburg (Immerwährender Reichstag) • InterregnumCoronationRecess (Reichsabschied) • Imperial ban (Reichsacht) • FlagsReichsdeputationReichsexekutionReichsexekutionsordnungReichsfürstenratImperial Italy (Reichsitalien) • Imperial Regalia (Reichskleinodien) • Imperial Register (Reichsmatrikel) • Imperial Prelate (Reichsprälat) • Imperial Reform (Reichsreform) • Imperial Government (Reichsregiment) • Imperial Knighthood (Reichsritterschaft) • ReichsstädtekollegiumReichssturmfahneReservatrechteRömermonatQuaternionenadlerWahlkapitulation

Organisation of the Empire

Structures

Institutions of the Empire

Holy Roman Empire

East Francia 843.svg

The Holy Roman Empire (Latin: Sacrum Imperium Romanum; German: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.

On 25 December 800, Pope Leo III crowned the Frankish king Charlemagne as Emperor, reviving the title in Western Europe, more than three centuries after the fall of the earlier ancient Western Roman Empire in 476. The title continued in the Carolingian family until 888 and from 896 to 899, after which it was contested by the rulers of Italy in a series of civil wars until the death of the last Italian claimant, Berengar I, in 924. The title was revived again in 962 when Otto I was crowned emperor, fashioning himself as the successor of Charlemagne and beginning 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 concur, however, in relating an evolution of the institutions and principles constituting the empire, describing a gradual assumption of the imperial title and role.

The exact term "Holy Roman Empire" was not used until the 13th century, but the concept of translatio imperii, the notion that he—the sovereign ruler—held supreme power inherited from the ancient emperors of Rome, was fundamental to the prestige of the emperor. The office of Holy Roman Emperor was traditionally elective, although frequently controlled by dynasties. The mostly German prince-electors, the highest-ranking noblemen of the empire, usually elected one of their peers as "King of the Romans", and he would later be crowned emperor by the Pope; the tradition of papal coronations was discontinued in the 16th century.

The empire never achieved the extent of political unification as was formed to the west in France, evolving instead into a decentralized, limited elective monarchy composed of hundreds of sub-units: kingdoms, principalities, duchies, counties, prince-bishoprics, Free Imperial Cities, and other domains. The power of the emperor was limited, and while the various princes, lords, bishops, and cities of the empire were vassals who owed the emperor their allegiance, they also possessed an extent of privileges that gave them de facto independence within their territories. Emperor Francis II dissolved the empire on 6 August 1806 following the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine by emperor Napoleon I the month before.

History of the Holy Roman Empire

Extent of the Holy Roman Empire

The Holy Roman Empire (Latin Sacrum Romanum Imperium) was the official name for the sovereign territory of the Roman-German Emperor from the Middle Ages to the year 1806. The name of the Empire is derived from the claim of its medieval rulers that it continued the tradition of the Ancient Roman Empire. The Holy Roman Empire is the forerunner of the modern nation-states of Germany and Austria. To distinguish it from the German Empire founded in 1871 it is also referred to by modern historians as the “Old Empire” (German: Altes Reich) more...

Well known people of the Holy Roman Empire

Emperors and kings
Otto IOtto IIOtto IIIHenry IIConrad IIHenry IIIHenry IVHenry VConrad IIIFrederick IHenry VIPhilip of SwabiaOtto IVFrederick IIHenry VIILouis IVCharles IVFrederick IIICharles VFerdinand IFerdinand IIJoseph ICharles VIIFrancis II

Important church leaders
Leo IIIGregory VIIUrban IIInnocent IIIAlexander IIILeo XJan HusMartin LutherPhilip MelanchthonFeatured article John Calvin