The Holy Roman Empire was a political association of lands in western and central Europe, which is considered to have been founded by Otto I the Great in the mid-10th century and dissolved by Emperor Francis II in 1806. Although some date the beginning of the Holy Roman Empire from the coronation of Charlemagne in 800, Charlemagne himself more typically used the title King of the Franks and was in fact crowned Roman Emperor. Francis II's family continued to be called emperors. Despite the German ethnicity of most of its rulers, the Holy Roman Empire was from its beginnings a multi-ethnic state. Many of its most important noble families and appointed officials were from outside the German-speaking communities.
After it lost much of its territory, it was renamed "Holy Roman Empire of German Nations," finally recognizing that it was no longer likely to control the Italian peninsula successfully. However, until the 19th century the empire retained considerable possessions in northern Italy.
When the last Holy Roman emperor (Francis II) resigned in 1806, the realm had long matched Voltaire's famous description of it as "neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire." Voltaire's scepticism was matched by the German writer Goethe. In Faust I, in a scene written in 1775, Goethe has one of the drinkers in Auerbachs Cellar in Leipzig ask "Our Holy Roman Empire, lads, What holds it still together?"
The name of the Holy Roman Empire was often written in official documents in Latin as Sacrum Romanum Imperium, abbreviated S.R.I., or in German, Heilig Roemisch Reich, abbreviated H. R. R.
The precise term Sacrum Romanum Imperium dates from 1254. The term Roman Empire started in 1034 to denote the lands under Conrad II, and Holy Roman Empire in 1157. The term Roman emperor is older and started with Otto II, died 983. Charlemagne to Otto I the Great had simply used the phrase 'imperator augustus' ("august emperor").
The three archbishops of Trier, Mainz and Cologne and the king of Bohemia, the Margrave of Brandenburg, the Duke of Saxony and the Count Palatine of the Rhine, held the highest office of electors or Kurfuersten. In 1256 this was regulated by emperor Charles IV. Later on other electors were added. The electors elected the German king, who would then become emperor.
- Ottonian Saxon dynasty
- Salian dynasty
- Hohenstaufen dynasty
- Habsburg dynasty
- Hanover dynasty
- Hohenzollern dynasty
- Luxemburg dynasty
- Wettin dynasty
- Wittelsbach dynasty
Money of the Empire