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Holy Roman Empire

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Holy Roman Empire[1]
Imperium Romanum Sacrum
Heiliges Römisches Reich


Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor Coat of arms of Maximilian II
The size of the Holy Roman Empire around the year 1600, coloured purple over the present-day country borders.
Capital No official capital; the capital city for everyday purposes changed over time
Language(s) Latin, Germanic, Romance and Slavic dialects
Religion Roman Catholicism (emperor and other imperial princes)
Lutheranism[2] and Calvinism[3] (several imperial princes)
Government Elective monarchy
Emperor For the full list of Holy Roman Emperors, see Holy Roman Emperor.
Legislature Reichstag
Historical era Middle Ages
 - Otto I crowned
    Emperor of the Romans
2 February, 962 AD 962
 - Conrad II assumes
    crown of Burgundy
 - Peace of Augsburg 1555
 - Peace of Westphalia 24 October 1648
 - Disestablished 1806
Preceded by
Succeeded by
East Francia
Middle Francia
Old Swiss Confederacy
Dutch Republic
Confederation of the Rhine 20px
Austrian Empire
First French Empire
Kingdom of Prussia
United States of Belgium
Principality of Liechtenstein
The Holy Roman Empire should not be mistaken for the Roman Empire.

The Holy Roman Empire (German: Heiliges Römisches Reich, or in the 15th century: Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation) was a group of regions and free cities in central Europe which all came under the rule of an emperor who was elected by the princes and magistrates of the regions and cities within the 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 Holy 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 16th century the Holy Roman Empire (HRE) had to deal with the rebellion of the Frisians lead by Pier Gerlofs Donia and Wijerd Jelckama. This lasted from 1515 until 1523.

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.

Until the 13th century, the Holy Roman Empire was powerful. Later, all the duchies and counties inside the Empire started to get more power. At the end, the Emperors did not have a lot of real power any more, and the country existed only in name.

Voltaire, a French philosopher in the 18th century, once joked that the nation was neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.

A map of the empire.


  1. Names of the Holy Roman Empire in other languages:
    • Latin: Imperium Romanum Sacrum
    • German: Heiliges Römisches Reich
    • Italian: Sacro Romano Impero
    By 1450 the Holy Roman Empire was known as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (German: Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nationen, Latin: Imperium Romanum Sacrum). Google Books
  2. officially recognized since the Peace of Augsburg 1555
  3. officiallly recognozed since the Peace of Westphalia 1648