Holy Roman Empire

Holy Roman Empire

Sacrum Imperium Romanum  (Latin)
Heiliges Römisches Reich  (German)
  The Holy Roman Empire at its greatest extent during the Hohenstaufen dynasty (1155–1268), superimposed on present state borders
  The Holy Roman Empire at its greatest extent during the Hohenstaufen dynasty (1155–1268), superimposed on present state borders
CapitalNo permanent single/fixed capital[1]
Vienna (Aulic Council (Reichshofrat) from 1497)
Regensburg (Reichstag (Imperial Diet) from 1594, perpetual from 1663)[b]
Wetzlar (Reichskammergericht from 1689)
For other imperial administrative centres, see below.
Common languagesLatin (administrative/liturgical/ceremonial)
Catholicism (800–1806)
Evangelical Lutheranism (1555–1806)
Calvinism (Reformed) (1648–1806)

see details
GovernmentElective monarchy
• 800–814
• 962–973
Otto I
• 1792–1806
Francis II
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 (Arelat)
2 February 1033
25 September 1555
24 October 1648
2 December 1805
• Francis II, Holy Roman Emperor forced abdication
6 August 1806
1032[4]900,000 km2 (350,000 sq mi)
• 1032[4]
• 1700[5]
• 1800[5]
Preceded by
Succeeded by
East Francia
Kingdom of Germany
Kingdom of Italy
Kingdom of Prussia
Austrian Empire
Confederation of the Rhine

The Holy Roman Empire (Latin: Sacrum Imperium Romanum; German: Heiliges Römisches Reich), also known as Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, 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.[6] The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also included the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia and Kingdom of Italy, plus numerous other territories, and soon after the Kingdom of Burgundy was added.[7][8][9] Its size gradually diminished over time, particularly from 1648 onward, and by the time of its dissolution, it largely contained only German-speaking territories (although Switzerland and East Prussia were not included), plus the Kingdom of Bohemia which was bordered by the German lands on three sides. At the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, most of the Holy Roman Empire was included in the German Confederation.

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[10] and beginning a continuous existence of the empire for over eight centuries.[11][12][13] Some historians refer to the coronation of Charlemagne as the origin of the empire,[14][15] while others prefer the coronation of Otto I as its beginning.[16][17] 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.[8][14]

The exact term "Holy Roman Empire" was not used until the 13th century, but the concept of translatio imperii,[d] 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.[8] 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.[9][18] 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.


Double-headed eagle with coats of arms of individual states, the symbol of the Holy Roman Empire (painting from 1510)

Before 1157, the realm was merely referred to as the Roman Empire.[19] The term sacrum ("holy", in the sense of "consecrated") in connection with the medieval Roman Empire was used beginning in 1157 under Frederick I Barbarossa ("Holy Empire"): the term was added to reflect Frederick's ambition to dominate Italy and the Papacy.[20] The form "Holy Roman Empire" is attested from 1254 onward.[21]

In a decree following the 1512 Diet of Cologne, the name was changed to the "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" (German: Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation, Latin: Sacrum Imperium Romanum Nationis Germanicæ),[22][23] a form first used in a document in 1474.[20] The new title was adopted partly because the Empire had lost most of its territories in Italy and Burgundy (the Kingdom of Arles) to the south and west by the late 15th century,[24] but also to emphasize the new importance of the German Imperial Estates in ruling the Empire due to the Imperial Reform.[25] By the end of the 18th century, the term "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" had fallen out of official use. Contradicting the traditional view concerning that designation, Hermann Weisert has argued in a study on imperial titulature that, despite the claims of many textbooks, the name "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" never had an official status and points out that documents were thirty times as likely to omit the national suffix as include it.[26]

In a famous assessment of the name, the political philosopher Voltaire remarked sardonically: "This body which was called and which still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was in no way holy, nor Roman, nor an empire."[27]

In the modern period, the Empire was often informally called the German Empire (Deutsches Reich) or Roman-German Empire (Römisch-Deutsches Reich).[28] After its dissolution through the end of the German Empire, it was often called "the old Empire" (das alte Reich). Beginning in 1923, early-twentieth century German nationalist and Nazi propaganda would identify the Holy Roman Empire as the First Reich (Reich meaning empire), with the German Empire as the Second Reich and either a future German nationalist state or Nazi Germany as the Third Reich.[29]

Other Languages
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Сьвятая Рымская імпэрыя
客家語/Hak-kâ-ngî: Sṳ̀n-sṳn Lò-mâ Ti-koet
Bahasa Indonesia: Kekaisaran Romawi Suci
interlingua: Sacre Imperio Roman
Lingua Franca Nova: Impero Roman Santa
Bahasa Melayu: Empayar Suci Rom
Nedersaksies: Heilige Roomse Riek
Nordfriisk: Hilag Röömsk Rik
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Muqaddas Rim imperiyasi
Piemontèis: Imperi Roman Sacrà
Simple English: Holy Roman Empire
slovenščina: Sveto rimsko cesarstvo
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Sveto Rimsko Carstvo
татарча/tatarça: İzge Rim imperiäse
West-Vlams: Illig Rôoms Ryk
kriyòl gwiyannen: Sent-Ampir romen jermanik