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Imperial Circle

The Imperial Diet and the Imperial Chamber Court. Each circle had a Circle Diet, although not every member of the Circle Diet would hold membership of the Imperial Diet as well.

Six Imperial Circles were introduced at the Diet of Augsburg in 1500. In 1512, three more circles were added, and the large Saxon Circle was split into two, so that from 1512 until the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire in the Napoleonic era, there were ten Imperial Circles. The Crown of Bohemia, the Swiss Confederacy and Italy remained unencircled, as did various minor territories which held imperial immediacy.


  • Formation 1
  • Unencircled territories 2
  • References 3
  • Literature 4
  • External links 5


Initially the 1500 Diet of Augsburg set up six Imperial Circles as part of the Imperial Reform:

Originally, the territories held by the Habsburg dynasty and the Electors remained unencircled. In 1512 the Diet at Trier and Cologne organized these lands into three more circles:

Also, the Saxon circle got divided into:

In view of French claims raised to Maximilian's Burgundian heritage, the 1512 Diet initiated the official use of the name Holy Roman Empire of (the) German Nation (Latin: Sacrum Imperium Romanum Nationis Germanicæ) in its Final Act.[1][2]

Though the Empire lost several western territories after the secession of the Seven United Netherlands in 1581 and during the French annexations of the 1679 Peace of Nijmegen, the ten circles remained largely unchanged until the early 1790s, when the French Revolutionary Wars brought about significant changes to the political map of Europe.

Unencircled territories

A number of imperial territories remained unencircled, notably the lands of the Bohemian crown, the Old Swiss Confederacy and the Italian territories. Besides these, there were also a considerable number of minor territories which retained imperial immediacy, such as individual Imperial Village, and the lands held by individual Imperial Knights.


  1. ^ Wilson, Peter Hamish (1999), The Holy Roman Empire, 1495–1806, London: MacMillan Press, p. 2 .
  2. ^ "The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation", German History, The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in London .
  • Winfried Dotzauer: Die deutschen Reichskreise in der Verfassung des alten Reiches und ihr Eigenleben. 1500–1806. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1989, ISBN 3-534-04139-9 [2]
  • Peter Claus Hartmann (ed.): Regionen in der frühen Neuzeit. Reichskreise im deutschen Raum, Provinzen in Frankreich, Regionen unter polnischer Oberhoheit. Ein Vergleich ihrer Strukturen, Funktionen und ihrer Bedeutung. (= Zeitschrift für historische Forschung; Beiheft 17). Duncker und Humblot, Berlin 1994, ISBN 3-428-08078-5.


Contemporary (1500–1806) literature and source material:

  • Wolfgang Wüst (ed.): Die "gute" Policey im Reichskreis. Zur frühmodernen Normensetzung in den Kernregionen des Alten Reiches, edition of primary sources in four volumes, vol. 1: Der Schwäbische Reichskreis, unter besonderer Berücksichtigung Bayerisch-Schwabens, Berlin 2001; vol. 2: Der Fränkische Reichskreis, Berlin 2003; vol. 3: Der Bayerische Reichskreis und die Oberpfalz, Berlin 2004; vol.: Die lokale Policey: Normensetzung und Ordnungspolitik auf dem Lande. Ein Quellenwerk, Berlin 2008.
  • Hernach volgend die Zehen Krayß, 1532.
  • Johannes Alhusius: Politica methodice digesta. 3.Aufl., Herborn 1614.
  • Martin Zeiller: Von den zehn Kreisen. 1660, 1694.
  • Johann Samuel Tromsdorff: Accurate neue und alte Geographie von ganz Teutschland. Frankfurt 1711 (pp. 128ff).
  • "Creiß" in: Zedler, Grosses vollständiges Universallexikon aller Wissenschaften und Künste, vol. 6 (Ci – Cz), 1733.

External links

  • "Imperial Circles in the 16th Century", Historical Maps of Germany, Webs .
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