Holy Roman Empire, What and Where It Really Was

For almost a thousand years on the map of Europe there was a large and powerful state. Its emperors waged wars for world domination, its laws were in force in almost all of Europe, its coin was in use in the most remote parts of the earth. This state was called the Holy Roman Empire.

This state was very different from the rest. It was called an empire, but in fact it was a kind of confederation of several kingdoms, as well as small countries of a lower rank. And the management in this medieval confederation was so complicated that it could completely confuse a typical reader. Let's just say, for now, that French philosopher Voltaire once said that the Holy Roman Empire was "neither holy, nor Roman, nor an empire".

The ancestor of the Holy Roman Empire is the Ancient Rome. It became the model of a "universal" state in which subjects live under the rule of one monarch, go to one church and obey the same laws.

The empire was perceived as the embodiment of the kingdom of God. And just as there is one god in heaven, so should there be one emperor on earth. The bearer of supreme authority preserves peace, judges kings and defends the Christian church. So people of the Middle Ages believed.

Idea of the Empire

Although the Roman Empire (known as Byzantium) continued to exist until 1453, when its last capital, Constantinople, fell, its loss of lands in Western Europe in 395 led to a clear sense of emptiness. The central authority, which everyone has become accustomed to over the centuries of Roman rule, has disappeared.

Many barbarian kingdoms appeared in the West: Ostrogoths in Italy, Visigoths in Spain, Franks in France, Burgundians on the Rhine, Angles and Saxons in Britain. The right to power in these countries was based on ancient tribal traditions and belonged to dynasties descended from military leaders. These dynasties during the time of Rome were considered the federals - the junior partners of the empire, associated with the Treaty of Rome.

Surprisingly, the descendants of the federals did not forget to whom their ancestors swore allegiance. Therefore, the idea of ​​a supranational state did not die, but survived. And not in the minds of scientists, but in the minds of barbarian kings.

The political void was bound to fill. This mission was on the shoulder of the Franks - a Germanic tribe that lived in the north of modern France. They turned out to be the most developed, numerous, rich and warlike people among the barbarians who lived on the ruins of the Roman Empire.

Therefore, when in 800 the King of Francs Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the West, everyone in Europe took this event for granted. "Well, we didn't have an emperor for four hundred years, and now we have one again."

The son of Karl Louis divided the state, which occupied most of Western Europe, between his offspring. The communication system of those times did not allow people to effectively manage such a gigantic state.

King Who Became Emperor

At the end of the IX century, the Carolingian dynasty - the descendants of Charlemagne - was interrupted. Their possessions were divided into many kingdoms and duchies, which were constantly at enmity with each other.

This did not add order and calm. So already in 960, Pope John XII wrote to the most powerful ruler of the West - King Otto I of Germany - an appeal for protection from the King of Italy, Berengar II. In return, he promised Otton a coronation in Rome and an imperial title.

Since the pope was considered the most authoritative person in the Christian world, no one doubted his right to return the imperial crown to a worthy ruler.

Otton was an active king, he loved to fight, and his army was not bad. And the invitation to fight was an excellent opportunity for him to expand his state. Therefore, the Saxons and Bavarians Otto went to war with other Germans - the Lombards, who at that time lived in Northern Italy.

Otton quickly defeated Berengar and on February 2, 962 received the title of emperor from the pope. This day was the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire, which was now inextricably linked with the German kingdom, which turned into its foundation.

The first rulers of the state belonged to the Ludolfing dynasty, leading a clan from the first count of the Saxon mark, appointed by Charles the Great.

Why is the Holy Roman Empire?

Holy - because the Catholic Church played a key role in the reconstruction of the empire, became the main ideologist of its restoration. In addition, in the early period of the emperors' power, the church found itself very closely connected with the system of state administration. Monarchs had undeniable power over the popes, and the state used the institutions of the church for their own purposes. The empire became the final embodiment of the idea of ​​one ruler for the entire Christian world.

Roman - because it was conceived as the legitimate and logical successor and successor of the empire of Charlemagne and the old Roman Empire - from the pagans Caesar and Augustus to the Christian rulers Constantine and Theodosius.

Which Countries Were Part of the Empire

In the middle of the XI century, the Holy Roman Empire included three kingdoms. Germany - the original possession of the Ludolphings; the kingdom of Italy taken from the Lombards; and Burgundy - the last acquisition of the German emperors, after the Burgundian branch of the Welsh dynasty that ruled there was cut short. The Bohemian (Czech) kingdom also entered the Empire in 1212. 

In the XIII century, a long process of losing the power over Burgundy began. These lands in the XIV century were transferred to the Burgundian ducal house and the French kingdom.

Thus, the empire at different times included modern Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, part of France, northern Italy, the Czech Republic, Polish Silesia and Slovenia.

Despite the presence of Slavic, Italian and French lands, most of the empire were inhabited by Germans and their kindred peoples.


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