Golden Bull of 1356

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The golden seal that earned the decree the name Golden Bull.


The Golden Bull of 1356 was a decree issued by a Reichstag in Nuremberg headed by Emperor Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor (see Diet of Nuremberg) that fixed, for a period of more than four hundred years, important aspects of the constitutional structure of the Holy Roman Empire. It was named the Golden Bull for the golden seal it carried.

Background

According to the written text of the Golden Bull of 1356, "We have promulgated, decreed and recommended for ratification the subjoined laws for the purpose of cherishing unity among the electors, and of bringing about a unanimous election, and of closing all approach to the aforesaid detestable discord and to the various dangers which arise from it.”[1] Charles IV felt that it was necessary to change the current system of electing the "King of the Romans." He thought that without this new decree the world would never be rid of envious and ambitious politicians.[2]

The Golden Bull explicitly named the seven Kurfürsten or prince-electors who were to choose the King of the Romans, who would then usually be crowned Holy Roman Emperor by the Pope later. The seven prince-electors were, "Three prelates were archchancellors of Germany, Gaul and Burgundy, and Italy respectively: the Bohemia cupbearer, the Palsgrave seneschal, Saxony marshal, and Brandenburg chamberlain.”[3] Consequently, the Bull speaks of the rex in imperatorem promovendus, the "king to be promoted emperor" — although the distinction between the two titles would become increasingly irrelevant (and virtually nonexistent after 1508).

Even though the practice of election had existed earlier and most of the dukes named in the Golden Bull were involved in the election, and although the practice had mostly been written down in an earlier document, the declaration at Rhense from 1338, the Golden Bull was more precise in several ways. For one, the dukeships of the Electors were declared indivisible, and succession was regulated for them to ensure that the votes would never split. Secondly, the Bull prescribed that four votes would always suffice to elect the new King; as a result, three Electors could no longer block the election, and the principle of majority voting was explicitly stated for the first time in the Empire. Finally, the Bull cemented a number of privileges for the Kurfürsten to confirm their elevated role in the Empire. It is therefore also a milestone in the establishment of largely independent states in the Empire, a process to be concluded only centuries later, notably with the 1648 Peace of Westphalia.

The bull regulated the whole election process in great detail, listing explicitly where, when, and under which circumstances what should be done by whom, not only for the prince-electors but also (for example) for the population of Frankfurt, where the elections were to be held, and also for the counts of the regions the prince-electors had to travel through to get there. The significance for having the elections in Frankfurt, Germany were that it was a tradition dating from East Frankish days preserved the feeling that both election and coronation ought to take place on Frankish soil. [4] However, the election location was not the only specified location, they specified that the coronation would take place in Aachen, and Nuremberg would be the place where the first diet of a reign should be held.[5] The elections were to be concluded within thirty days; failing that, the bull prescribed that the prince-electors were to receive only bread and water until they had decided:

Latin: Quod si facere distulerint infra triginta dies, a die prestiti juramenti prefati continuo numerandos, extunc transactis eisdem triginta diebus amodo panem manducent et aquam et nullatenus civitatem exeant antedictam, nisi prius per ipsos vel majorem partem ipsorum rector seu temporale caput fidelium electum fuerit, ut prefertur. [1]


English: But if they shall fail to do this within thirty days, counting continuously from the day when they took the aforesaid oath: when those thirty days are over, from that time on they shall live on bread and water, and by no means leave the aforesaid city unless first through them, or the majority of them, a ruler or temporal head of the faithful shall have been elected, as was said before. [2]
Chapter 2, §3. The city referred to, emboldened here, is Frankfurt.


Besides regulating the election process, the Golden Bull in its 31 chapters contained a lot of minor decrees. For instance, it also defined the order of marching when the emperor was present, both with and without his insignia. A relatively major decision was made in chapter 15, where Charles IV outlawed any conjurationes, confederationes, and conspirationes, meaning in particular the city alliances (Städtebünde), but also other communal leagues that had sprung up through the communal movement in mediæval Europe. Most Städtebünde were subsequently dissolved, sometimes forcibly, and where refounded, their political influence was much reduced. Thus the Golden Bull also strengthened the nobility in general to the detriment of the cities.

The Pope's involvement with the Golden Bull of 1356 was basically nonexistent, but important. When Charles IV laid down the norms to the procedures of electing a King of the Romans, he never mentioned anything about receiving papal confirmation of the election. However, Pope Innocent VI did not protest this because he needed Charles’s support against the Visconti. [6] Pope Innocent continued to have good relations with Charles IV after the Golden Bull of 1356. He remained Pope from 1352-1362. [7]

See also

References

1. ^ Charles IV, Golden Bull of 1356. <http://www.yale.edu/lawweb/avalon/medieval/golden.htm>, translated into English
2. ^ Heer, Friedrich, trans. Janet Sondheimer, The Holy Roman Empire (New York: Federick A. Praeger Publishers, 1968), 117
3. ^ Bryce, James, The Holy Roman Empire (London: The Macmillan Company, A New Edition, 1978), 243.
4. ^ Bryce, James, The Holy Roman Empire (London: The Macmillan Company, A New Edition, 1978), 243
5. ^ Heer, Friedrich, trans. Janet Sondheimer, The Holy Roman Empire (New York: Federick A. Praeger Publishers, 1968), 117
6. ^ Renouard, Yves, The Avignon Papacy 1305-1403 (Connecticut : Archon Books, 1970), 127
7. ^ Chambers. D.S., Popes, Cardinals and War (London: I.B. Tauris, 2006), 28

External links

Literature

  • Bryce, James, The Holy Roman Empire (London: The Macmillan Company, A New Edition, 1978), 243.
  • Chambers. D.S., Popes, Cardinals and War (London: I.B. Tauris, 2006), 28.
  • Renouard, Yves, The Avignon Papacy 1305-1403 (Connecticut : Archon Books, 1970), 127.
  • Heer, Friedrich, trans. Janet Sondheimer, The Holy Roman Empire (New York: Federick A. Praeger Publishers, 1968), 117.
The Reichstag (German for "Imperial Diet") was the parliament of the Holy Roman Empire, the North German Confederation, and of Germany until 1945. The main chamber of the German parliament is now called Bundestag ("Federal Diet"), but the building in which it meets is still called
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Charles IV (Czech: Karel IV., German: Karl IV, Hungarian: IV. Károly; 14 May 1316 – 29 November 1378), born Wenceslaus (Václav), of the House of Luxembourg, was Holy Roman Emperor from 1355 until his death.
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The Diet of Nuremberg is often called the Imperial Diet at Nuremberg.

There were several of them because, according to the Golden Bull of 1356, each Holy Roman Emperor had to hold his first diet in Nuremberg after his election.
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Holy Roman Empire (Latin: Sacrum Romanum Imperium, German: Heiliges Römisches Reich, Italian: Sacro Romano Impero
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Golden Bull or chrysobull was a golden ornament representing a seal (a bulla aurea or "golden seal" in Latin), attached to a decree issued by monarchs in Europe and the Byzantine Empire during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
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Prince-Electors (or simply Electors) of the Holy Roman Empire — German: Kurfürst ( listen   ), pl.
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King of the Romans (Latin: Rex Romanorum) was the title used in the Holy Roman Empire by an Imperator futurus ("Emperor to-be", i.e. an elected Emperor not yet crowned by the Pope, and hence unable to use the title Emperor
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Holy Roman Emperor (German: Römischer Kaiser, Latin: Romanorum Imperator) was the elected monarch ruling over the Holy Roman Empire, a Central European state in existence during the Middle
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The Declaration of Rhense (or the Treaty of Rhense) was a decree issued on July 16, 1338 and initiated by the Archbishop of Trier, Baldwin of Luxembourg, brother of the late Emperor Henry VII.
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Gregorian calendar 1338
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Ab urbe condita 2091
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Primogeniture is the common law right of the first born son to inherit the entire estate, to the exclusion of younger siblings. It is the tradition of inheritance by the first-born of the entirety of a parent's wealth, estate or office; or in the absence of children, by collateral
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Peace of Westphalia refers to the pair of treaties, the Treaty of Osnabrück and the Treaty of Münster, signed on May 15 and October 24 of 1648 respectively, which ended both the Thirty Years' War and the Eighty Years' War.
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Prince-Electors (or simply Electors) of the Holy Roman Empire — German: Kurfürst ( listen   ), pl.
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Frankfurt am Main
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Insignia (the plural of Latin insigne: emblem, symbol) is a symbol or token of personal power, status or office, or of an official body of government or
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A league of towns (in German: Städtebund) is an alliance of two or more, usually geographically close, towns and/or cities for the protection of their political and/or economic interests.
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Communes in Europe in the Middle Ages were sworn allegiances of mutual defense (both physical defense and of traditional freedoms) among community members of a town or city. They took many forms, and varied widely in organization and makeup.
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Golden Bull or chrysobull was a golden ornament representing a seal (a bulla aurea or "golden seal" in Latin), attached to a decree issued by monarchs in Europe and the Byzantine Empire during the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
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English}}} 
Writing system: Latin (English variant) 
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Official language of: 53 countries
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ISO 639-1: en
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Latin}}} 
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Official language of: Vatican City
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Language codes
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