Imperial Circle
An Imperial Circle comprised a regional grouping of territories of the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

, primarily for the purpose of organizing a common defensive structure and of collecting the imperial taxes, but also as a means of organization within the Imperial Diet and the Imperial Chamber Court
The Reichskammergericht or Imperial Chamber Court was one of two highest judicial institutions in the Holy Roman Empire, the other one being the Aulic Council in Vienna. It was founded in 1495 by the Imperial Diet in Worms...


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

Formation of the Imperial Circles

Initially the 1500 Diet of Augsburg
Diet of Augsburg
The Diet of Augsburg were the meetings of the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire in the German city of Augsburg. There were many such sessions, but the three meetings during the Reformation and the ensuing religious wars between the Roman Catholic emperor Charles V and the Protestant...

 set up six circles as part of the Imperial Reform
Imperial Reform
In 1495, an attempt was made at an Imperial Diet in the City of Worms to give the disintegrating Holy Roman Empire a new structure, commonly referred to as Imperial Reform ....

  • the Bavarian Circle
    Bavarian Circle
    The Bavarian Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire.The most significant state by far in the circle was the Duchy of Bavaria , with the states of the Upper Palatinate, the Archbishopric of Salzburg, and the imperial city of Regensburg having a secondary importance.- Composition...

  • the Swabian Circle
    Swabian Circle
    The Swabian Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire established in 1500 on the territory of the former German stem-duchy of Swabia. However, it did not include the Habsburg home territories of Swabian Austria, the member states of the Swiss Confederacy nor the lands of the Alsace...

  • the Upper Rhenish Circle
    Upper Rhenish Circle
    The Upper Rhenish Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire established in 1500 on the territory of the former Duchy of Upper Lorraine and large parts of Rhenish Franconia including the Swabian Alsace region and the Burgundian duchy of Savoy....

  • the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle
    Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle
    The Lower Rhenish–Westphalian Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire. It comprised territories of the former Duchy of Lower Lorraine, Frisia and the Westphalian part of the former Duchy of Saxony....

  • the Franconian Circle
    Franconian Circle
    The Franconian Circle was an Imperial Circle established in 1500 in the centre of the Holy Roman Empire. It comprised the eastern part of the former Franconian stem duchy — roughly corresponding with the present-day Bavarian Regierungsbezirke of Upper, Middle and Lower Franconia — while western...

  • the Saxon Circle
    Lower Saxon Circle
    The Lower Saxon Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire. Covering much of the territory of the mediæval Duchy of Saxony , firstly the circle used to be called the Saxon Circle , only to be later better differentiated from the Upper Saxon Circle the more specific name prevailed.An...

Originally, the territories held by the Habsburg dynasty and the Electors remained unencircled. In 1512 the Diet at Trier
Trier, historically called in English Treves is a city in Germany on the banks of the Moselle. It is the oldest city in Germany, founded in or before 16 BC....

 and Cologne
Cologne is Germany's fourth-largest city , and is the largest city both in the Germany Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia and within the Rhine-Ruhr Metropolitan Area, one of the major European metropolitan areas with more than ten million inhabitants.Cologne is located on both sides of the...

 organized these lands into four more circles:
  • the Austrian Circle
    Austrian Circle
    The Austrian Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire. It was one of the four Imperial Circles created in 1512, 12 years after the original Reichsreform created six Circles....

    , including the Habsburg territories inherited by Maximilian I
    Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
    Maximilian I , the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and Eleanor of Portugal, was King of the Romans from 1486 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1493 until his death, though he was never in fact crowned by the Pope, the journey to Rome always being too risky...

  • the Burgundian Circle
    Burgundian Circle
    The Burgundian Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire created in 1512 and significantly enlarged in 1548. In addition to the Free County of Burgundy , the circle roughly covered the Low Countries, i.e...

    , including the patrimony of Maximilian's late wife, Mary of Burgundy
    Mary of Burgundy
    Mary of Burgundy ruled the Burgundian territories in Low Countries and was suo jure Duchess of Burgundy from 1477 until her death...

  • the Upper Saxon Circle
    Upper Saxon Circle
    The Upper Saxon Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire, created in 1512.The circle was dominated by the electorate of Saxony and the electorate of Brandenburg. It further comprised the Saxon Ernestine duchies and Pomerania...

    , including the Electorates of Saxony
    Electorate of Saxony
    The Electorate of Saxony , sometimes referred to as Upper Saxony, was a State of the Holy Roman Empire. It was established when Emperor Charles IV raised the Ascanian duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg to the status of an Electorate by the Golden Bull of 1356...

     and Brandenburg
    Margraviate of Brandenburg
    The Margraviate of Brandenburg was a major principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1157 to 1806. Also known as the March of Brandenburg , it played a pivotal role in the history of Germany and Central Europe....

  • the Electoral Rhenish Circle
    Electoral Rhenish Circle
    The Electoral Rhenish Circle was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire, created in 1512.The circle derived its name from four of the seven prince-electors whose lands along the Middle Rhine comprised the vast majority of its territory....

    , including the ecclesiastical Electorates of Mainz
    Archbishopric of Mainz
    The Archbishopric of Mainz or Electorate of Mainz was an influential ecclesiastic and secular prince-bishopric in the Holy Roman Empire between 780–82 and 1802. In the Roman Catholic Church hierarchy, the Archbishop of Mainz was the primas Germaniae, the substitute of the Pope north of the Alps...

    , Cologne and Trier, and the secular Electoral Palatinate.

In view of French
Early Modern France
Kingdom of France is the early modern period of French history from the end of the 15th century to the end of the 18th century...

 claims raised to Maximilian's Burgundian
Duchy of Burgundy
The Duchy of Burgundy , was heir to an ancient and prestigious reputation and a large division of the lands of the Second Kingdom of Burgundy and in its own right was one of the geographically larger ducal territories in the emergence of Early Modern Europe from Medieval Europe.Even in that...

 heritage, the 1512 Diet initiated the official use of the name Holy Roman Empire of (the) German Nation in its Final Act.

Though the Empire lost several western territories after the secession of the Seven United Netherlands
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

 in 1581 and during the French annexations of the 1679 Peace of Nijmegen
Treaties of Nijmegen
The Treaties of Peace of Nijmegen were a series of treaties signed in the Dutch city of Nijmegen between August 1678 and December 1679...

, the ten circles remained largely unchanged until the early 1790s, when the French Revolutionary Wars
French Revolutionary Wars
The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of major conflicts, from 1792 until 1802, fought between the French Revolutionary government and several European states...

 brought about significant changes to the political map of Europe.

Territories of the Holy Roman Empire outside the Imperial Circles
Territories of the Holy Roman Empire outside the Imperial Circles
Beside the Imperial Circles of the Holy Roman Empire comprising a regional grouping of territories of the Holy Roman Empire there remained many imperial territories unencircled, for instance:...

A number of imperial territories remained unencircled, for instance:
  • the Lands of the Bohemian Crown
    Lands of the Bohemian Crown
    The Lands of the Bohemian Crown , also called the Lands of the Crown of Saint Wenceslas or simply the Bohemian Crown or Czech Crown lands , refers to the area connected by feudal relations under the joint rule of the Bohemian kings...

     (i.e. the Kingdom of Bohemia
    Kingdom of Bohemia
    The Kingdom of Bohemia was a country located in the region of Bohemia in Central Europe, most of whose territory is currently located in the modern-day Czech Republic. The King was Elector of Holy Roman Empire until its dissolution in 1806, whereupon it became part of the Austrian Empire, and...

     with the March of Moravia
    March of Moravia
    The March or Margraviate of Moravia, was a marcher state, sometimes de facto independent and varyingly within the power of the Duchy, later Kingdom of Bohemia...

    , the Duchies of Silesia
    Duchies of Silesia
    The Duchies of Silesia resulted from divisions of the original Duchy of Silesia after 1138.In accordance with the last will and testament of Duke Bolesław III Wrymouth, the Kingdom of Poland was, upon his death in 1138, divided into five hereditary provinces distributed among his sons, including...

    , as well as Upper
    Upper Lusatia
    Upper Lusatia is a region a biggest part of which belongs to Saxony, a small eastern part belongs to Poland, the northern part to Brandenburg. In Saxony, Upper Lusatia comprises roughly the districts of Bautzen and Görlitz , in Brandenburg the southern part of district Oberspreewald-Lausitz...

     and Lower Lusatia
    Lower Lusatia
    Lower Lusatia is a historical region stretching from the southeast of the Brandenburg state of Germany to the southwest of the Lubusz Voivodeship in Poland. Important towns beside the historic capital Lübben include Calau, Cottbus, Guben , Luckau, Spremberg, Finsterwalde, Senftenberg and Żary...

  • the territories of the Swiss Confederacy
    Old Swiss Confederacy
    The Old Swiss Confederacy was the precursor of modern-day Switzerland....

  • Imperial territories in northern Italy
    Kingdom of Italy (medieval)
    The Kingdom of Italy was a political entity under control of Carolingian dynasty of Francia first, after the defeat of the Lombards in 774. It was finally incorporated as a part of the Holy Roman Empire in 962....

    : Mantua
    Duchy of Mantua
    The Duchy of Mantua was a duchy in Lombardy, Northern Italy, subject to the Holy Roman Empire.-History:After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Mantua was invaded by Byzantines, Longobards and Franks. In the 11th century it became a possession of Boniface of Canossa, marquis of Toscana...

    , Milan
    Duchy of Milan
    The Duchy of Milan , was created on the 1st of may 1395, when Gian Galeazzo Visconti, Lord of Milan, purchased a diploma for 100,000 Florins from King Wenceslaus. It was this diploma that installed, Gian Galeazzo as Duke of Milan and Count of Pavia...

    , Modena
    Duchy of Modena and Reggio
    The Duchy of Modena and Reggio |Italian]] state that existed from 1452 to 1859, with a break between 1796 and 1814. It was ruled by the noble House of Este, from 1814 Austria-Este.-House of Este:...

    , Montferrat
    March of Montferrat
    The March of Montferrat was frontier march of the Kingdom of Italy during the Middle Ages and state of the Holy Roman Empire...

    , Parma
    Duchy of Parma
    The Duchy of Parma was created in 1545 from that part of the Duchy of Milan south of the Po River, as a fief for Pope Paul III's illegitimate son, Pier Luigi Farnese, centered on the city of Parma....

     and Tuscany
    Grand Duchy of Tuscany
    The Grand Duchy of Tuscany was a central Italian monarchy that existed, with interruptions, from 1569 to 1859, replacing the Duchy of Florence. The grand duchy's capital was Florence...

  • territories of Imperial Knight
    Imperial Knight
    The Free Imperial Knights, or the Knights of the Empire was an organisation of free nobles of the Holy Roman Empire, whose direct overlord was the Emperor, remnants of the medieval free nobility and the ministeriales...

  • minor territories, such as:
    • the County of Montbéliard
      County of Montbéliard
      The County of Montbéliard , also known as County of Mömpelgard , was a feudal county of the Holy Roman Empire based around the city of Montbéliard in the present-day Franche-Comté region of France...

    • the Lordship of Schmalkalden
      - Notable people :*Christoph Cellarius, scholar, born 22 November 1638, died 4 June 1707 in Halle*Christian Karl August Ludwig von Massenbach, colonel, born 16 April 1758, died 21 November 1827 at Białokosz...

    • the Lordship of Jever
      Jever is the capital of the district of Friesland in Lower Saxony, Germany. The name Jever is usually associated with a major brand of beer which is produced here, the city is also a popular holiday resort. Jever was granted city status in 1536. Unofficially Jever is sometimes referred to as...

    • the peasant republic of Dithmarschen
      Dithmarschen is a district in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It is bounded by the districts of Nordfriesland, Schleswig-Flensburg, Rendsburg-Eckernförde, and Steinburg, by the state of Lower Saxony , and by the North Sea.-Geography:The district is located on the North Sea...

       (until incorporated into Holstein
      Holstein is the region between the rivers Elbe and Eider. It is part of Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost state of Germany....

      in 1559)
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