Since the 1300s, Prague was the biggest city in the Holy Roman Empire (1300–1350: 77,000 people; 1500: 70,000 people; 1600: 100,000 people). The Empire had no official capital, though there were a number of imperial seat cities, which varied throughout history: e.g. Vienna (Continuous Imperial Residenz City, 1483–1806), Regensburg (Eternal Diet, 1663–1806), and Prague (1346–1437, 1583–1611). Administrative seats of the emperor were in Prague 1355–1437 and 1576–1611. According to the Golden Bull of 1356 the sons of prince-electors were recommended to learn German, Latin, Italian and Czech.
The Kingdom of Bohemia was a significant regional power during the Middle Ages. In 1212, King Ottokar I (bearing the title "king" since 1198) extracted a Golden Bull of Sicily (a formal edict) from the emperor Frederick II, confirming the royal title for Ottokar and his descendants and the Duchy of Bohemia was raised to a kingdom. Bohemian kings would be exempt from all future obligations to the Holy Roman Empire except for participation in the imperial councils. Charles IV set Prague to be the seat of the Holy Roman Emperor.
History of The Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterized by government headed by emperors and large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, Africa and Asia. The city of Rome was the largest city in the world c. 100 BC – c. AD 400, with Constantinople (New Rome) becoming the largest around AD 500, and the Empire's populace grew to an estimated 50 to 90 million inhabitants (roughly 20% of the world's population at the time).
The 500-year-old republic which preceded it was severely destabilized in a series of civil wars and political conflict, during which Julius Caesar was appointed as perpetual dictator and then assassinated in 44 BC. Civil wars and executions continued, culminating in the victory of Octavian, Caesar's adopted son, over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and the annexation of Egypt. Octavian's power was then unassailable and in 27 BC the Roman Senate formally granted him overarching power and the new title Augustus, effectively marking the end of the Roman Republic.
The imperial period of Rome lasted approximately 1,500 years compared to the 500 years of the Republican era. The first two centuries of the empire's existence were a period of unprecedented political stability and prosperity known as the Pax Romana, or "Roman Peace". Following Octavian's victory, the size of the empire was dramatically increased. After the assassination of Caligula in AD 41, the Senate briefly considered restoring the republic, but the Praetorian Guard proclaimed Claudius emperor instead. Under Claudius, the empire invaded Britannia, its first major expansion since Augustus. After Claudius' successor, Nero, committed suicide in AD 68, the empire suffered a series of brief civil wars, as well as a concurrent major rebellion in Judea, during which four different legionary generals were proclaimed emperor. Vespasian emerged triumphant in AD 69, establishing the Flavian dynasty, before being succeeded by his son Titus, who opened the Colosseum shortly after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. His short reign was followed by the long reign of his brother Domitian, who was eventually assassinated. The Senate then appointed the first of the Five Good Emperors. The empire reached its greatest extent under Trajan, the second in this line.
A period of increasing trouble and decline began with the reign of Commodus. Commodus' assassination in 192 triggered the Year of the Five Emperors, of which Septimius Severus emerged victorious. The assassination of Alexander Severus in 235 led to the Crisis of the Third Century in which 26 men were declared emperor by the Roman Senate over a fifty-year time span. It was not until the reign of Diocletian that the empire was fully stabilized with the introduction of the Tetrarchy, which saw four emperors rule the empire at once. This arrangement was ultimately unsuccessful, leading to a civil war that was finally ended by Constantine I, who defeated his rivals and became the sole ruler of the empire. Constantine subsequently shifted the capital to Byzantium, which was renamed "Constantinople" in his honor. It remained the capital of the east until its demise. Constantine also adopted Christianity which later became the official state religion of the empire. This eastern part of the empire (modernly called "Byzantine Empire") remained one of the leading powers in the world alongside its arch-rival the Sassanid Empire, which had inherited a centuries-old Roman-Persian conflict from its predecessor the Parthians.
Following the death of Theodosius I, the last emperor to rule a united Roman Empire, the dominion of the empire was gradually eroded by abuses of power, civil wars, barbarian migrations and invasions, military reforms and economic depression. The Sack of Rome in 410 by the Visigoths and again in 455 by the Vandals accelerated the Western Empire's decay, while the deposition of the emperor, Romulus Augustulus, in 476 by Odoacer, is generally accepted to mark the end of the empire in the west. However, Augustulus was never recognized by his Eastern colleague, and separate rule in the Western part of the empire only ceased to exist upon the death of Julius Nepos, in 480. The Eastern Roman Empire endured for another millennium, eventually falling to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.
The Roman Empire was among the most powerful economic, cultural, political and military forces in the world of its time. It was one of the largest empires in world history. At its height under Trajan, it covered 5 million square kilometers. It held sway over an estimated 70 million people, at that time 21% of the world's entire population. The longevity and vast extent of the empire ensured the lasting influence of Latin and Greek language, culture, religion, inventions, architecture, philosophy, law and forms of government on the empire's descendants. Throughout the European medieval period, attempts were even made to establish successors to the Roman Empire, including the Empire of Romania, a Crusader state, and the Holy Roman Empire. By means of European colonialism following the Renaissance, and their descendant states, Greco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian culture was exported on a worldwide scale, playing a crucial role in the development of the modern world.
Holy Roman Empire (Svatá říše římská)
The Holy Roman Empire (Latin: Sacrum Imperium Romanum, German: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.
On December 25, 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 Western Roman Empire. 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, in 924.
The title was revived 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 precise term "Holy Roman Empire" was not used until the 13th century, but the concept of translatio imperii,[d] the notion that he held supreme power inherited from the 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 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 formed in France, evolving instead into a decentralized, limited elective monarchy composed of hundreds of sub-units, principalities, duchies, counties, 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, after the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine by Napoleon.
The difficulties in electing the king eventually led to the emergence of a fixed college of prince-electors (Kurfürsten), whose composition and procedures were set forth in the Golden Bull of 1356, which remained valid until 1806. This development probably best symbolizes the emerging duality between emperor and realm (Kaiser und Reich), which were no longer considered identical. The Golden Bull also set forth the system for election of the Holy Roman Emperor. The emperor now was to be elected by a majority rather than by consent of all seven electors. For electors the title became hereditary, and they were given the right to mint coins and to exercise jurisdiction. Also their sons were to know the imperial languages – German, Latin, Italian, and Czech.
Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles IV (Czech: Karel IV.; 14 May 1316 – 29 November 1378), born Wenceslaus, was a King of Bohemia and the first King of Bohemia to also become Holy Roman Emperor. He was a member of the House of Luxembourg from his father's side and the House of Přemyslid from his mother's side, which he emphasised, because it gave him two saints as direct ancestors. He received French education and was literate and fluent in five languages: Latin, Czech, German, French, and Italian. In the present Czech Republic, he is still regarded as Pater Patriae (father of the country or otec vlasti), a title first coined by Adalbertus Ranconis de Ericinio at his funeral.
He was the eldest son and heir of King John of Bohemia, who died at the Battle of Crécy on 26 August 1346. Charles inherited the County of Luxembourg from his father and was elected king of the Kingdom of Bohemia.
On 2 September 1347, Charles was crowned King of Bohemia. On 11 July 1346, the prince-electors chose him as King of the Romans (rex Romanorum) in opposition to Emperor Louis IV. Charles was crowned on 26 November 1346 in Bonn. After his opponent died, he was re-elected in 1349 and crowned King of the Romans. In 1355 he was crowned King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor. With his coronation as King of Burgundy in 1365, he became the personal ruler of all the kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire.
Charles IV was born to King John of the Luxembourg dynasty and Queen Elizabeth of Bohemia of the Czech Premyslid Dynasty in Prague. He was originally named Wenceslaus (Václav), the name of his maternal grandfather, King Wenceslaus II. He chose the name Charles at his confirmation in honor of his uncle, King Charles IV of France, at whose court he was resident for seven years.
Charles initially worked to secure his power base. Bohemia had remained untouched by the plague. Prague became his capital, and he rebuilt the city on the model of Paris, establishing the New Town (Nové Město). In 1348, he founded the Charles University in Prague, which was later named after him and was the first university in Central Europe. This served as a training ground for bureaucrats and lawyers. Soon Prague emerged as the intellectual and cultural center of Central Europe.
Having made good use of the difficulties of his opponents, Charles was again elected in Frankfurt on 17 June 1349 and re-crowned at Aachen on 25 July 1349. He was soon the undisputed ruler of the Empire. Gifts or promises had won the support of the Rhenish and Swabian towns; a marriage alliance secured the friendship of the Habsburgs; and an alliance with Rudolf II of Bavaria, Count Palatine of the Rhine, was obtained when Charles, who had become a widower in 1348, married Rudolph's daughter Anna.
In 1350 the king was visited at Prague by the Roman tribune Cola di Rienzo, who urged him to go to Italy, where the poet Petrarch and the citizens of Florence also implored his presence. Turning a deaf ear to these entreaties, Charles kept Cola in prison for a year, and then handed him as a prisoner to Clement at Avignon.
After dividing his lands between his three sons and his nephews, he died in November 1378 at Prague, where he was buried, and where a statue was erected to his memory in 1848.
Prague became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire during the reign of Charles IV. The name of the royal founder and patron remains on many monuments and institutions, for example Charles University, Charles Bridge, Charles Square. High Gothic Prague Castle and part of the cathedral of Saint Vitus by Peter Parler were also built under his patronage. Finally, the first flowering of manuscript painting in Prague dates from Charles' reign. In the present Czech Republic, he is still regarded as Pater Patriae (father of the country or otec vlasti), a title first coined by Adalbertus Ranconis de Ericinio at his funeral.
Czech Castles Built by Charles IV
- Karlstein Castle, 1348–55 in Central Bohemian Region for safekeeping the Imperial Regalia, especially the Imperial Crown of the Holy Roman Empire (later the Czech Crown Jewels were also kept there)
- Kašperk Castle (Karlsberg), 1356 in Klatovy District
- Lauf (Wenzelsburg) - built on the way connecting Prague and Nuremberg in Bohemian Palatinate, inside survived 112 coats of arms of the Czech Kingdom
- Radyně (Karlskrone) – around 1360 in Plzeň Region
- Hrádek u Purkarce (Karlshaus) - around 1357
- Tepenec (Twingenberg, Karlsburg)
- Karlsfried Castle
Named after Charles IV:
- Karlštejn castle, Czech Republic
- Karlštejn (town), Czech Republic
- Charles Bridge, Prague (Karlův most)
- Charles University, Prague (Karlova Univerzita)
- Charles Square, Prague (Karlovo náměstí)
- Karlovy Vary Spa, Czech Republic
- Carlsbad (several cities in the United States)
An Imperial State or Imperial Estate (Latin: Status Imperii; German: Reichsstand, plural: Reichsstände) was a part of the Holy Roman Empire with representation and the right to vote in the Imperial Diet (Reichstag). Rulers of these Estates were able to exercise significant rights and privileges and were "immediate", meaning that the only authority above them was the Holy Roman Emperor. They were thus able to rule their territories with a considerable degree of autonomy.
The system of imperial states replaces the more regular division of Germany into stem duchies in the early medieval period. The old Carolingian stem duchies were retained as the major divisions of Germany under the Salian dynasty, but they became increasingly obsolete during the early high medieval period under the Hohenstaufen, and they were finally abolished in 1180 by Frederick Barbarossa in favor of more numerous territorial divisions. From 1489, the imperial Estates represented in the Diet were divided into three chambers, the college of prince-electors (Kurfürstenkollegium/den Kurfürstenrat), the college of imperial princes (Reichsfürstenrat) and the college of imperial cities. Counts and nobles were not directly represented in the Diet in spite of their immediate status, but were grouped into "benches" (Grafenbänke) with a single vote each. Imperial knights had immediate status but were unrepresented in the Diet.
Until 1582 the votes of the Free and Imperial Cities were only advisory. None of the rulers below the Holy Roman Emperor ranked as kings, with the exception of the Kings of Bohemia.
From 1648 onwards, inheritance of the Estate was limited to one family; a territory inherited by a different family ceased to be an Estate unless the Emperor explicitly allowed otherwise. Finally, a territory could cease to be an imperial Estate by being subjected to the Imperial ban (the most notable example involved the Elector Palatine Frederick V, who was banned in 1621 for his participation in the Bohemian Revolt).