German History 101: The Mystical Holy Roman Empire In 13 Minutes Flat!

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Want to learn the history of Germany but don’t want to spend years pouring over books? We have the solution for you!

In our bite-sized history lessons, you can learn important parts of Germany’s long, varied and super interesting history.

In this lesson, we’re talking about the Holy Roman Empire – an empire that existed in the region that is now Germany and some lands around it from around 800 to 1806. It played a pivotal part in the history of Germany.

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When I first heard about the Holy Roman Empire, I was confused about exactly what it was and whether it was still the original Roman Empire. However, the empire was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire in the strictest sense.

It originated with the coronation of Charlemagne as Emperor in 800 AD, symbolizing the fusion of Roman, Germanic, and Christian traditions. Learn more about Charlemagne here.

Over centuries, it evolved into a decentralized conglomerate of territories that covered what is now Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Czech Republic, Italy, and parts of France and Poland. The empire was characterized by its elective monarchy, where the emperor was selected by a group of electors, reflecting the empire’s fragmented and federated nature.

The Holy Roman Empire holds significant importance in Germany’s history, serving as the medieval framework for the German nation’s early development. It fostered a distinct German identity, though not in the modern nation-state sense, by providing a collective political and cultural heritage.

The Empire was a melting pot of various cultures and languages, yet it facilitated the spread of ideas, trade, and legal standards across Central Europe. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648, marking the end of the Thirty Years’ War, significantly altered the empire’s structure by granting more autonomy to its constituent states, laying foundational principles for modern state sovereignty.

The eventual dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, prompted by the reforms and military campaigns of Napoleon Bonaparte, paved the way for the rise of a unified Germany in the 19th century. Thus, the Holy Roman Empire played a pivotal role in shaping the historical trajectory and cultural identity of Germany and Central Europe.

Watch the video below for far more information on this interesting part of history:

You may want to watch this more than once because it’s a lot to take in!

Want to learn more about Germany’s history? Find the previous lesson here specifically about Charlemagne. It will help you understand the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire. You can also find this lesson about how Otto the Great rose to become the Holy Roman Emperor, this lesson about the Hanseatic League or fast forward in time to the Weimar Republic here. You can also find all our history lessons here.

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Sharon Gourlay in the Rhina Valley

By Sharon Gourlay

Sharon first fell in love with Germany back in 2000 on her first visit. She loves the long history, the picturesque Old Towns, the castles, the food, everything really! Since then, she has visited many times and loves writing about Germany here so you can enjoy it too. In fact, Sharon loves German culture so much that she sent her kids to a German primary school in Australia. She especially loves Berlin and towns with charming Old Towns like Celle and Quedlinburg. Sharon also has a Certificate III in International Travel Sales and understands the nitty gritty of travel planning. Through this site, she'll help you have the perfect trip to Germany whether it's your first or tenth time!

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