Free imperial city

In the Holy Roman Empire, the collective term free and imperial cities (German: Freie und Reichsstädte), briefly worded free imperial city (Freie Reichsstadt, Latin: urbs imperialis libera), was used from the fifteenth century to denote a self-ruling city that had a certain amount of autonomy and was represented in the Imperial Diet.[1] An imperial city held the status of Imperial immediacy, and as such, was subordinate only to the Holy Roman Emperor, as opposed to a territorial city or town (Landstadt) which was subordinate to a territorial prince – be it an ecclesiastical lord (prince-bishop, prince-abbot) or a secular prince (duke (Herzog), margrave, count (Graf), etc.).

Free Imperial Cities 1792
The free imperial cities in the 18th century


The evolution of some German cities into self-ruling constitutional entities of the Empire was slower than that of the secular and ecclesiastical princes. In the course of the 13th and 14th centuries, some cities were promoted by the emperor to the status of Imperial Cities (Reichsstädte; Urbes imperiales), essentially for fiscal reasons. Those cities, which had been founded by the German kings and emperors in the 10th through 13th centuries and had initially been administered by royal/imperial stewards (Vögte), gradually gained independence as their city magistrates assumed the duties of administration and justice; some prominent examples are Colmar, Haguenau and Mulhouse in Alsace or Memmingen and Ravensburg in upper Swabia.

The Free Cities (Freie Städte; Urbes liberae) were those, such as Basel, Augsburg, Cologne or Strasbourg, that were initially subjected to a prince-bishop and, likewise, progressively gained independence from that lord. In a few cases, such as in Cologne, the former ecclesiastical lord continued to claim the right to exercise some residual feudal privileges over the Free City, a claim that gave rise to constant litigation almost until the end of the Empire.

Over time, the difference between Imperial Cities and Free Cities became increasingly blurred, so that they became collectively known as "Free Imperial Cities", or "Free and Imperial Cities", and by the late 15th century many cities included both "Free" and "Imperial" in their name.[2] Like the other Imperial Estates, they could wage war, make peace, and control their own trade, and they permitted little interference from outside. In the later Middle Ages, a number of Free Cities formed City Leagues (Städtebünde), such as the Hanseatic League or the Alsatian Décapole, to promote and defend their interests.

Reichsstadt Rottweil.jpeg
Rottweil, c. 1435. Swabian Rottweil maintained its independence up to the mediatization of 1802–03.

In the course of the Middle Ages, cities gained, and sometimes — if rarely — lost, their freedom through the vicissitudes of power politics. Some favored cities gained a charter by gift. Others purchased one from a prince in need of funds. Some won it by force of arms[1] during the troubled 13th and 14th centuries and others lost their privileges during the same period by the same way. Some cities became free through the void created by the extinction of dominant families,[1] like the Swabian Hohenstaufen. Some voluntarily placed themselves under the protection of a territorial ruler and therefore lost their independence.

A few, like Protestant Donauwörth, which in 1607 was annexed to the Catholic Duchy of Bavaria, were stripped by the Emperor of their status as a Free City — for genuine or trumped-up reasons. However, this rarely happened after the Reformation, and of the sixty Free Imperial Cities that remained at the Peace of Westphalia, all but the ten Alsatian cities (which were annexed by France during the late 17th century) continued to exist until the mediatization of 1803.

Distinction between free imperial cities and other cities

There were approximately four thousand towns and cities in the Empire, although around the year 1600 over nine-tenths of them had fewer than one thousand inhabitants.[3] During the late Middle Ages, fewer than two hundred of these places ever enjoyed the status of Free Imperial Cities, and some of those did so only for a few decades. The military tax register (Reichsmatrikel) of 1521 listed eighty-five such cities, and this figure had fallen to sixty-five by the time of the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. From the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 to 1803, their number oscillated at around fifty.[notes 1]

Zehn Krayse - Seite7
Partial list of the Free Imperial Cities of Swabia based on the Reichsmatrikel of 1521. It indicates the number of horsemen (left hand column) and infantry (right hand column) which each Imperial Estate had to contribute to the defence of the Empire

Unlike the Free Imperial Cities, the second category of towns and cities, now called "territorial cities"[notes 2] were subject to an ecclesiastical or lay lord, and while many of them enjoyed self-government to varying degrees, this was a precarious privilege which might be curtailed or abolished according to the will of the lord.[4]

Reflecting the extraordinarily complex constitutional set-up of the Holy Roman Empire, a third category, composed of semi-autonomous cities that belonged to neither of those two types, is distinguished by some historians. These were cities whose size and economic strength was sufficient to sustain a substantial independence from surrounding territorial lords for a considerable time, even though no formal right to independence existed. These cities were typically located in small territories where the ruler was weak.[notes 3] They were nevertheless the exception among the multitude of territorial towns and cities. Cities of both latter categories normally had representation in territorial diets, but not in the Imperial Diet.[5][6]


Free imperial cities were not officially admitted as own Imperial Estates to the Imperial Diet until 1489, and even then their votes were usually considered only advisory (votum consultativum) compared to the Benches of the electors and princes. The cities divided themselves into two groups, or benches, in the Imperial Diet, the Rhenish and the Swabian Bench.[1][notes 4]

The following list contains the 50 Free imperial cities that took part in the Imperial Diet of 1792. They are listed according to their voting order on the Rhenish and Swabian benches.[7]

These same cities were among the 85 free imperial cities listed on the Reichsmatrikel of 1521[8] : the federal civil and military tax-schedule used for more than a century to assess the contributions of all the Imperial Estates in case of a war formally declared by the Imperial Diet. The military and monetary contribution of each city is indicated in parenthesis (for instance Cologne (30-322-600) means that Cologne had to provide 30 horsemen, 322 footmen and 600 gulden).[9] These numbers are equivalent to one simplum. If need be, the Diet could vote a second and a third simplum, in which case each member's contribution was doubled or tripled. At the time, the Free imperial cities were considered wealthy and the monetary contribution of Nuremberg, Ulm and Cologne for instance were as high as that of the Electors (Mainz, Trier, Cologne, Palatinate, Saxony, Brandenburg) and the Dukes of Württemberg and of Lorraine.

Rhenish Bench

  1.  Cologne (30-322-600)
  2. Aachen Aachen (20-90-260)
  3. Wappen Lübeck.svg Lübeck (21-177-550)
  4. DEU Worms COA.svg Worms (10-78-325)
  5. DEU Speyer COA.svg Speyer (3-99-325)
  6. Wappen Frankfurt am Main.svg Frankfurt (20-140-500)
  7. Wappen Goslar.svg Goslar (0-130-205)
  8. Wappen Bremen Nur Schild.svg Bremen (unlisted)
  9.  Hamburg (20-120-325)
  10. Esc Muehlhausen-Thueringen.png Mühlhausen (0-78-180)
  11. Wappenschild der Stadt Nordhausen.svg Nordhausen (0-78-180)
  12.  Dortmund (20-100-180)
  13. Wappen Friedberg-Hessen.svg Friedberg (0-22-90)
  14. Wappen Wetzlar.svg Wetzlar (0-31-40)

Swabian Bench

  1. Wappen Regensburg.svg Regensburg (20-112-120)
  2. Wappen Augsburg 1811.svg Augsburg (25-150-500)
  3.  Nuremberg (40-250-600)
  4. Coat of arms of Ulm.svg Ulm (29-150-600)
  5. DEU Esslingen am Neckar COA.svg Esslingen am Neckar (10-67-235)
  6. Wappen Stadt Reutlingen.svg Reutlingen (6-55-180)
  7. Wappen Noerdlingen.svg Nördlingen (10-80-325)
  8. Wappen von Rothenburg ob der Tauber.svg Rothenburg ob der Tauber (10-90-180)
  9. Wappen Schwaebisch Hall.svg Hall (today Schwäbisch Hall) (10-80-325)
  10. Wappen Rottweil.svg Rottweil (3-122-180)
  11. DEU Überlingen COA.svg Überlingen (10-78-325)
  12. Wappen Heilbronn.svg Heilbronn (6-60-240)
  13. Schwäbisch Gmünd Wappen.svg Gmünd (today Schwäbisch Gmünd) (5-45-150)
  14. Wappen Memmingen.svg Memmingen (10-67-325)
  15. Wappen Lindau (Bodensee).png Lindau (6-72-200)
  16. Dinkelsb.jpg Dinkelsbühl (5-58-240)
  17. Wappen Biberach.svg Biberach an der Riß (6-55-180)
  18. Wappen Ravensburg.svg Ravensburg (4-67-180)
  19. DEU Schweinfurt COA.svg Schweinfurt (5-36-120)
  20. Wappen Kempten.svg Kempten im Allgäu (3-36-120)
  21. Wappen Bad Windsheim.png Windsheim (4-36-180)
  22. Wappen Kaufbeuren.svg Kaufbeuren (4-68-90)
  23. Coat of Arms of Weil der Stadt.svg Weil (2-18-120)
  24. Wappen Wangen im Allgäu.svg Wangen im Allgäu (3-18-110)
  25. Wappen Isny.svg Isny im Allgäu (4-22-100)
  26. Wappen Pfullendorf.svg Pfullendorf (3-40-75)
  27. DEU Offenburg COA.svg Offenburg (0-45-150)
  28. DEU Leutkirch im Allgäu COA.svg Leutkirch im Allgäu (2-18-90)
  29. Wappen Bad Wimpfen.svg Wimpfen (3-13-130)
  30. DEU Weißenburg COA.svg Weißenburg im Nordgau (4-18-50)
  31. Wappen Giengen an der Brenz.svg Giengen (2-13-60)
  32. DEU Gengenbach COA.svg Gengenbach (0-36-0)
  33. DEU Zell am Harmersbach COA.svg Zell am Harmersbach (0-22-0)
  34. Wappen Friedrichshafen.svg Buchhorn (today Friedrichshafen) (0-10-60)
  35. Coa Aalen.svg Aalen (2-18-70)
  36. DEU Bopfingen COA.svg Bopfingen (1-9-50)

By the time of the Peace of Westphalia, the cities constituted a formal third "college" and their full vote (votum decisivum) was confirmed, although they failed to secure parity of representation with the two other colleges. To avoid the possibility that they would have the casting vote in case of a tie between the Electors and the Princes, it was decided that these should decide first and consult the cities afterward.[10][11]

Despite this somewhat unequal status of the cities in the functioning of the Imperial Diet, their full admittance to that federal institution was crucial in clarifying their hitherto uncertain status and in legitimizing their permanent existence as full-fledged Imperial Estates. Constitutionally, if in no other way, the diminutive Free Imperial City of Isny was the equal of the Margraviate of Brandenburg.


Having probably learned from experience that there was not much to gain from active, and costly, participation in the Imperial Diet's proceedings due to the lack of empathy of the princes, the cities made little use of their representation in that body. By about 1700, almost all the cities with the exception of Nuremberg, Ulm and Regensburg (where by then the Perpetual Imperial Diet was located), were represented by various Regensburg lawyers and officials who often represented several cities simultaneously.[12] Instead, many cities found it more profitable to maintain agents at the Aulic Council in Vienna, where the risk of an adverse judgment posed a greater risk to city treasuries and independence.[13]

Weissenburg im Nordgau Prospect
Weissenburg-im-Nordgau in 1725
Audienz Reichskammergericht
Audience of the Reichskammergericht in Wetzlar, 1750. The Imperial city was saved from oblivion in 1689 when it was decided to move the Imperial Chamber Court to Wetzlar from Speyer, too exposed to French aggression.
Mühlhausen, Free Imperial City in Thuringia
Territory of the free imperial city of Mühlhausen
Imperial City of Hamburg
Hamburg with its outlying exclaves
Württemberg more than doubled its size when it absorbed some 15 Free Cities (in orange) and other territories during the mediatisations of 1803 and 1806.

The territory of most Free Imperial Cities was generally quite small but there were exceptions, such as Ulm, Nuremberg and Hamburg, which possessed substantial hinterlands or fiefs that comprised dozens of villages and thousands of subject peasants who did not enjoy the same rights as the urban population. At the opposite end, the authority of Cologne, Aachen, Worms, Goslar, Wetzlar, Augsburg and Regensburg barely extended beyond the city walls.

The constitution of Free and Imperial Cities was republican in form, but in all but the smallest cities, the city government was oligarchic in nature with a governing town council composed of an elite, hereditary patrician class, the so-called town council families (Ratsverwandte). They were the most economically significant burgher families who had asserted themselves politically over time.

Below them, with a say in the government of the city (there were exceptions, such as Nuremberg, where the patriciate ruled alone), were the citizens or burghers, the smaller, privileged section of the city's permanent population whose number varied according to the rule of citizenship of each city. To the common town dweller – whether he lived in a prestigious Free Imperial City like Frankfurt, Augsburg or Nuremberg, or in a small market town such as there were hundreds throughout Germany – attaining burgher status (Bürgerrecht) could be his greatest aim in life. The burgher status was usually an inherited privilege renewed pro-forma in each generation of the family concerned but it could also be purchased. At times, the sale of burgher status could be a significant item of town income as fiscal records show. The Bürgerrecht was local and not transferable to another city.

The burghers were usually the lowest social group to have political power and privilege within the Holy Roman Empire. Below them was the disenfranchised urban population, maybe half of the total in many cities, the so-called "residents" (Beisassen) or "guests": smaller artisans, craftsmen, street venders, day laborers, servants and the poor, but also those whose residence in the city was temporary, such as wintering noblemen, foreign merchants, princely officials, and so on.[14]

Urban conflicts in Free Imperial Cities, which sometimes amounted to class warfare, were not uncommon in the Early Modern Age, particularly in the 17th century (Lübeck, 1598–1669; Schwäbisch Hall, 1601–1604; Frankfurt, 1612–1614; Wezlar, 1612–1615; Erfurt, 1648–1664; Cologne, 1680–1685; Hamburg 1678–1693, 1702–1708).[15] Sometimes, as in the case of Hamburg in 1708, the situation was considered sufficiently serious to warrant the dispatch of an Imperial commissionner with troops to restore order and negotiate a compromise and a new city constitution between the warring parties.[16]

The number of Imperial Cities shrank over time until the Peace of Westphalia. There were more in areas that were very fragmented politically, such as Swabia and Franconia in the southwest, than in the North and the East where the larger and more powerful territories, such as Brandenburg and Saxony, were located, which were more prone to absorb smaller, weaker states.

In the 16th and 17th century, a number of Imperial Cities were separated from the Empire due to external territorial change.[1] Henry II of France seized the Imperial Cities connected to the Three Bishoprics of Metz, Verdun and Toul. Similarly, Louis XIV seized many cities based on claims produced by his Chambers of Reunion. That way, Strasbourg and the ten cities of the Décapole were annexed. Also, when the Old Swiss Confederacy gained its formal independence from the Empire in 1648 (it had been de facto independent since 1499), the independence of the Imperial Cities of Basel, Bern, Lucerne, St. Gallen, Schaffhausen, Solothurn, and Zürich was formally recognized.

Obernstraße - Bremen - 1843
Obernstraße, Free City of Bremen, 1843
Frankfurt Am Main-Fay-BADAFAMNDN-Heft 26-Nr 303-1911-Bruecke mit dem Denkmal Kaiser Karl des Grossen
Frankfurt, c. 1911. After more than 600 years as a Free City, Frankfurt am Main was annexed to Prussia in 1866

With the rise of Revolutionary France in Europe, this trend accelerated enormously. After 1795, the areas west of the Rhine were annexed to France by the revolutionary armies, suppressing the independence of Imperial Cities as diverse as Cologne, Aachen, Speyer and Worms. Then, the Napoleonic Wars led to the reorganization of the Empire in 1803 (see German Mediatisation), where all of the free cities but six — Hamburg, Bremen, Lübeck, Frankfurt, Augsburg, and Nuremberg — lost their independence and were absorbed into neighboring territories. Finally, under pressure from Napoleon, the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved in 1806. By 1811, all of the Imperial Cities had lost their independence — Augsburg and Nuremberg had been annexed by Bavaria, Frankfurt had become the center of the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt, a Napoleonic puppet state, and the three Hanseatic cities had been directly annexed by France as part of its effort to enforce the Continental Blockade against Britain. Hamburg and Lübeck with surrounding territories formed the département of Bouches-de-l'Elbe, and Bremen the Bouches-du-Weser.

When the German Confederation was established by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Hamburg, Lübeck, Bremen, and Frankfurt were once again made Free Cities,[1] this time enjoying total sovereignty as all the members of the loose Confederation. Frankfurt was annexed by Prussia in consequence of the part it took in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866.[1] The three other Free Cities became constituent states of the new German Empire in 1871 and consequently were no longer fully sovereign as they lost control over defence, foreign affairs and a few other fields. They retained that status in the Weimar Republic and into the Third Reich, although under Hitler it became purely notional. Due to Hitler's distaste for Lübeck[17] and its liberal tradition, the need was devised to compensate Prussia for territorial losses under the Greater Hamburg Act, and Lübeck was annexed to Prussia in 1937. In the Federal Republic of Germany which was established after the war, Bremen and Hamburg became constituent states, a status which they retain to the present day. Berlin, which had never been a Free City in its history, also received the status of a state after the war due to its special position in divided post-war Germany.

Regensburg was, apart from hosting the Imperial Diet, a most peculiar city: an officially Lutheran city that nevertheless was the seat of the Catholic prince-bishopric of Regensburg, its prince-bishop and cathedral chapter. The Imperial City also housed three Imperial abbeys: St. Emmeram, Niedermünster and Obermünster. They were five immediate entities fully independent of each other existing in the same small city.

Image gallery

Braun Regensburg UBHD


Braun Rothenburg ob der Tauber UBHD

Rothenburg in 1572

Lubeka kolorowa litografia książkowa XIVw

Lubeca urbs imperialis libera – Free Imperial City of Lübeck

See also


  1. ^ This figure does not include the ten cities of the Décapole, which, while still formally independent from 1648 to 1679, had been placed under the heavy-handed "protection" of the French king.
  2. ^ "Territorial city" is a term used by modern historians to denote any German city or town that was not a Free Imperial City.
  3. ^ Examples of such cities were Lemgo (county of Lippe), Gütersloh (county of Bentheim) and Emden (county of East Frisia).
  4. ^ All the cities of Southern Germany (located in the Swabian, Franconian and Bavarian circles) belonged to the Swabian bench, while all the others belonged to Rhenish bench, even cities such as Lübeck and Hamburg that were quite far from the Rhineland.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Wikisource Holland, Arthur William (1911). "Imperial Cities or Towns" . In Chisholm, Hugh (ed.). Encyclopædia Britannica. 14 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 342.
  2. ^ Whaley, vol.1, p. 26.
  3. ^ John G. Gagliardo, Germany under the Old Regime, 1600–1790, Longman, London and New York, 1991, p. 4.
  4. ^ Gagliardo, p. 5
  5. ^ Joachim Whaley, Germany and the Holy Roman Empire, Oxford University Press, 2012, vol. 1, pp. 250, 510, 532.
  6. ^ Gagliardo, pp 6–7.
  7. ^ G. Benecke, Society and Politics in Germany, 1500–1750, Routledge & Kegan Paul and University of Toronto Press, London, Toronto and Buffalo, 1974, Appendix III.
  8. ^ The Reichsmatrikel contained errors. Some of the 85 cities listed were not free imperial cities (for instance Lemgo) while some cities were omitted (Bremen). Among cities on the list, Metz, Toul, Verdun, Besançon, Cambrai, Strasburg, and the 10 cities of the Alsatian Dekapolis were to be absorbed by France, while Basel, Schaffhausen and St. Gallen would join the Swiss Confederacy.
  9. ^ G. Benecke, Society and Politics in Germany, 1500–1750, Routledge & Kegan Paul and University of Toronto Press, London, Toronto and Buffalo, 1974, Appendix II.
  10. ^ Whaley, vol. 1, pp. 532–533.
  11. ^ Peter H. Wilson, The Holy Roman Empire, 1495–1806, Palgrave Macmillan, 1999, p. 66
  12. ^ Whaley, vol. 2, p. 210.
  13. ^ Whaley, vol. 2, p. 211.
  14. ^ G. Benecke, p. 162.
  15. ^ Franck Lafage, Les comtes Schönborn, 1642–1756, L'Harmattan, Paris, 2008, vol. II, p. 319.
  16. ^ Franck Lafage, p. 319–323
  17. ^ Lubeck, Europe à la Carte



Augsburg (German pronunciation: [ˈaʊ̯ksbʊʁk] (listen); Austro-Bavarian: Augschburg) is a city in Swabia, Bavaria, Germany. It is a university town and regional seat of the Regierungsbezirk Schwaben. Augsburg is an urban district and home to the institutions of the Landkreis Augsburg. It is the third-largest city in Bavaria (after Munich and Nuremberg) with a population of 300,000 inhabitants, with 885,000 in its metropolitan area.After Neuss and Trier, Augsburg is Germany's third oldest city, founded in 15 BC by the Romans as Augusta Vindelicorum, named after the Roman emperor Augustus. It was a Free Imperial City from 1276 to 1803 and the home of the patrician Fugger and Welser families that dominated European banking in the 16th century. The city played a leading role in the Reformation as the site of the 1530 Augsburg Confession and 1555 Peace of Augsburg. The Fuggerei, the oldest social housing complex in the world, was founded in 1513 by Jakob Fugger.

Electorate of Cologne

The Electorate of Cologne (German: Kurfürstentum Köln), sometimes referred to as Electoral Cologne (German: Kurköln), was an ecclesiastical principality of the Holy Roman Empire that existed from the 10th to the early 19th century. It consisted of the Hochstift — the temporal possessions — of the Archbishop of Cologne and ruled by him in his capacity as prince-elector. There were only two other ecclesiastical prince-electors in the Empire: the Electorate of Mainz and the Electorate of Trier. The Archbishop-Elector of Cologne was also Arch-chancellor of Italy (one of the three component titular kingdoms of the Holy Roman Empire, the other two being Germany and Burgundy) and, as such, ranked second among all ecclesiastical and secular princes of the Empire, after the Archbishop-Elector of Mainz, and before that of Trier.

The capital of the electorate was Cologne. Conflicts with the citizens of Cologne caused the Elector to move to Bonn. The Free Imperial City of Cologne was recognized after 1475, thus removing it from even the nominal secular authority of the Elector. Cologne and Bonn were occupied by France in 1794. The right bank territories of the Electorate were secularized in 1803 during the German mediatization.

The Electorate should not be confused with the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cologne, which was larger and included suffragant bishoprics such as Liège and Münster over which the Elector-Archbishop exercised only spiritual authority (see map below).

Free City of Frankfurt

For almost five centuries, the German city of Frankfurt was a city-state within two major Germanic entities:

The Holy Roman Empire as the Free Imperial City of Frankfurt (German: Freie Reichsstadt Frankfurt) (until 1806)

The German Confederation as the Free City of Frankfurt (Freie Stadt Frankfurt) (1815–66)Frankfurt was a major city of the Holy Roman Empire, being the seat of imperial elections since 885 and the city for imperial coronations from 1562 (previously in Free Imperial City of Aachen) until 1792. Frankfurt was declared an Imperial Free City (Reichsstadt) in 1372, making the city an entity of Imperial immediacy, meaning immediately subordinate to the Holy Roman Emperor and not to a regional ruler or a local nobleman.

Due to its imperial significance, Frankfurt survived mediatisation in 1803. Following the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, Frankfurt fell to the rule of Napoleon I, who granted the city to Karl Theodor Anton Maria von Dalberg; the city became known as the Principality of Frankfurt. The Catholic clergy Dalberg emancipated the Catholics living with the city boundary. In 1810 Dalberg merged Frankfurt with the Principality of Aschaffenburg, the County of Wetzlar, Fulda, and Hanau to form the Grand Duchy of Frankfurt. After the defeat of Napoleon and the collapse of the Confederation of the Rhine, Frankfurt was returned to its pre-Napoleonic constitution via the Congress of Vienna of 1815 and became a sovereign city-state and a member of the German Confederation.

During the period of the German Confederation, Frankfurt continued to be a major city. The confederation's governing body, the Bundestag (officially called the Bundesversammlung, Federal Assembly) was located in the palace of Thurn und Taxis in Frankfurt's city centre. During the Revolutions of 1848, the Frankfurt Parliament was formed in an attempt to unite the German states in a democratic manner. It was here that Prussian king, Frederick William IV refused the offer of the crown of "Little Germany".

In 1866 the Kingdom of Prussia went to war with the Austrian Empire over Schleswig-Holstein, causing the Austro-Prussian War. Frankfurt, remaining loyal to the German Confederation, did not join with Prussia. Following Prussia's victory, Frankfurt was annexed by Prussia, becoming part of the newly formed province of Hesse-Nassau.

Free Imperial City of Aachen

The Free Imperial City of Aachen, also known in English by its French name of Aix-la-Chapelle, was a Free Imperial City and spa of the Holy Roman Empire west of Cologne and southeast of the Low Countries, in the Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle. The pilgrimages, the Coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor, flourishing industries and the privileges conferred by various emperors made it one of the most prosperous market towns of the Holy Roman Empire.

Free Imperial City of Besançon

The Free Imperial City of Besançon was a self-governing city that was part of the Holy Roman Empire.

From 1184 until 1654 the City of Besançon was a free imperial city (Freie Reichsstadt) as shown by the coat of arms until today and called Bisanz. The city was first separated from the governance of the County of Burgundy in 1034 as a prince-bishopric, an ecclesiastical state in the Holy Roman Empire. The city was governed by the Prince-Archbishopric of Besançon, although later most of his power would devolve to a council within the town. The free imperial city enclosed only the city of Besançon in the Franche-Comté so for a large part of the time it was controlled those who controlled access across the surrounding land, first by the dukes of Burgundy, and then by the Habsburgs. Finally, it lost its imperial status, but remained a free city.

Free Imperial City of Kempten

The Free Imperial City of Kempten was a Free Imperial City in the Swabian Circle.

Free Imperial City of Nuremberg

The Imperial City of Nuremberg (German: Reichsstadt Nürnberg) was a free imperial city — independent city-state — within the Holy Roman Empire. After Nuremberg gained piecemeal independence from the Burgraviate of Nuremberg in the High Middle Ages and considerable territory from Bavaria in the Landshut War of Succession, it grew to become one of the largest and most important Imperial cities, the 'unofficial capital' of the Empire, particularly because Imperial Diets (Reichstage) and courts met at Nuremberg Castle. The Diets of Nuremberg were an important part of the administrative structure of the Empire. The Golden Bull of 1356, issued by Emperor Charles IV (reigned 1346–78), named Nuremberg as the city where newly elected kings of Germany must hold their first Imperial Diet, making Nuremberg one of the three highest cities of the Empire.The cultural flowering of Nuremberg, in the 15th and 16th centuries, made it the center of the German Renaissance. Increased trade routes elsewhere and the ravages of the major European wars of the 17th and 18th centuries caused the city to decline and incur sizeable debts, resulting in the city's absorption into the new Kingdom of Bavaria on the signing of the Confederation of the Rhine in 1806, becoming one of the many territorial casualties of the Napoleonic Wars in a period known as the German mediatisation.

Free Imperial City of Ulm

The Free Imperial City of Ulm was a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire. It is situated on the left bank of the Danube, in a fertile plain at the foot of the Swabian Jura.


Giengen (full name: Giengen an der Brenz) is a former Free Imperial City in eastern Baden-Württemberg near the border with Bavaria in southern Germany. The town is located in the district of Heidenheim at the eastern edge of the Swabian Alb, about 30 kilometers northeast of Ulm on the Brenz River.

Giengen is the hometown of the Margarete Steiff corporation, who invented the teddy bear.

Positioned on the Nuremberg-Ulm-Constance route, one of the main feeder routes of the Compostella Trail, Giengen is visited each year by an increasing number of walking pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostella.

History of Cologne

The German city of Cologne was founded in the 1st century as the Roman Colonia Claudia Ara Agrippinensium.

It was taken by the Franks in the 5th century and became an important city of Medieval Germany, the seat of an Archbishop and a Prince-Elector. As the Free Imperial City of Cologne it was one of the centers of the Hanseatic League in the early modern period.

Most of the city was destroyed in the bombing of Cologne in World War II, so it was of limited importance in post-war West Germany. It had returned to its pre-war population by 1959, by which time Düsseldorf was the political center of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, and Bonn was the (provisional) capital of the Federal Republic. In the late 20th century, Cologne grew into a center of the sprawling Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area, with some 12 million inhabitants, just over one million of whom live in Cologne proper (as of 2012), making the city the fourth largest in Germany (after Berlin, Hamburg and Munich).

Leutkirch im Allgäu

Leutkirch im Allgäu is a former Free Imperial City located in south-eastern Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It is part of the district of Ravensburg, in the western Allgäu region and belongs to the administrative region (Regierungsbezirk) of Tübingen.

Since the municipal reform of 1972, the consolidated Leutkirch urban area comprises the town of Leutkirch im Allgäu itself and the former municipalities of Diepoldshofen, Friesenhofen, Gebrazhofen, Herlazhofen, Hofs, Reichenhofen, Winterstetten and Wuchzenhofen.

List of republics

This is a list of republics. For antiquity (or later in the case of societies that did not refer to modern terminology to qualify their form of government) the assessment of whether a state organisation is a republic is based on retrospective analysis by historians and political theorists. For more recent systems of government, worldwide organisations with a broad political acceptance (such as the United Nations), can provide information on whether or not a sovereign state is referred to as a republic.


Pfullendorf is a small town of about 13,000 inhabitants located 25 km (16 mi) north of Lake Constance in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It was a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire for nearly 600 years.

The town is in the district of Sigmaringen south of the Danube valley and therefore on the continental divide between the watersheds of the Rhine and the Danube. The area is known as the Linzgau.

Prince-Bishopric of Speyer

The Prince-Bishopric of Speyer, formerly known as Spires in English, (German: Hochstift Speyer, Fürstbistum Speyer, Bistum Speyer) was an ecclesiastical principality in what are today the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg. It was secularized in 1803. The prince-bishop resided in Speyer, a Free Imperial City, until the 14th century when he moved his residence to Uddenheim (Philippsburg), then in 1723 to Bruchsal, in large part due to the tense relationship between successive prince-bishops and the civic authorities of the Free City, officially Protestant since the Reformation. The prince-provostry of Wissemburg in Alsace was ruled by the prince-bishop of Speyer in a personal union.


A prince-bishop is a bishop who is also the civil ruler of some secular principality and sovereignty. Thus the principality or prince-bishopric ruled politically by a prince-bishop could wholly or largely overlap with his diocesan jurisdiction, since some parts of his diocese, even the city of his residence, could be exempt from his civil rule, obtaining the status of free imperial city. If the episcopal see is an archbishopric, the correct term is prince-archbishop; the equivalent in the regular (monastic) clergy is prince-abbot. A prince-bishop is usually considered an elected monarch.

In the West, with the decline of imperial power from the 4th century onwards in the face of the barbarian invasions, sometimes Christian bishops of cities took the place of the Roman commander, made secular decisions for the city and led their own troops when necessary. Later relations between a prince-bishop and the burghers were invariably not cordial. As cities demanded charters from emperors, kings, or their prince-bishops and declared themselves independent of the secular territorial magnates, friction intensified between burghers and bishops.

In the Byzantine Empire, the still autocratic Emperors passed general legal measures assigning all bishops certain rights and duties in the secular administration of their dioceses, but that was part of a caesaropapist development putting the Eastern Church in the service of the Empire, with its Ecumenical Patriarch almost reduced to the Emperor's minister of religious affairs.

Reutlingen (district)

Reutlingen, nicknamed "The Gate to the Swabian Alb" (German: "Das Tor zur Schwäbischen Alb"), is a Landkreis (district) in the middle of Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

The former free imperial city (until 1802) reached the limit of 100,000 residents in 1989. It is the ninth-largest city in Baden-Württemberg. Reutlingen district's neighboring districts are (from north clockwise) Esslingen, Göppingen, Alb-Donau, Ostalbkreis, Biberach, Sigmaringen, Zollernalbkreis and Tübingen

Treaty of Drohiczyn

The Treaty of Drohiczyn was concluded on 14 January 1581, during the Livonian War, between the city of Riga and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The former Free imperial city Riga was added to Polish-Lithuanian Livonia. Its freedoms and privileges were in part confirmed in the Corpus Privilegiorum Stephanorum, but also limited. One of its burgomasters was to be appointed Burggraf, the Polish-Lithuanian official in town. Changes to the city's statutes required Royal approval. The Augsburg Confession was tolerated, but the city was deprived of the means to veto Royal interventions in its ecclesiastical affairs.

Weißenburg in Bayern

Weißenburg in Bayern (formerly also Weißenburg im Nordgau) is a town in Middle Franconia, Germany. It is the capital of the district Weißenburg-Gunzenhausen. In 2010 its population was 17,513.

Weißenburg was a Free Imperial City for 500 years.


Wetzlar is a city in the state of Hesse, Germany. It is a former free imperial city that owed much of its fame to being the seat of the Imperial Supreme Court (Reichskammergericht) of the Holy Roman Empire. Located at 8° 30′ E, 50° 34′ N, Wetzlar straddles the river Lahn and is on the German Timber-Frame Road which passes mile upon mile of half-timbered houses. Historically, the city has acted as the hub of the Lahn-Dill-Kreis on the north edge of the Taunus. The city is known for its ancient town and its medieval cathedral.

Notable architectural features include the Eisenmarkt and the steep gradients and tightly packed street layout of a medieval town. The sandstone cathedral of St. Mary was commenced in the 12th century as a Romanesque building. In the later Middle Ages the construction was continued under a master plan in Gothic style. The church was never finished, as one steeple still remains uncompleted. The cathedral suffered heavy damage in the Second World War from aerial bombing, but was restored in the 1950s. On the outskirts of town along the river are the ruins of several stone towers.

In 1975, the town hosted the 15th Hessentag state festival, and in 2012 the 62nd.

Founding cities
Other cities
Free imperial cities of the Holy Roman Empire Holy Roman Empire
and Lords
Freeimperial cities
Designations for types of administrative territorial entities

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