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Reichstag (Institution) (Groß-Deutschland)

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The Reichstag (German for "Imperial Diet") was the general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire, and subsequently the parliament of the North German Confederation, is currently the name of the general assembly of Germany to this day. The main chamber of the German parliament is still called the Reichstag, and the building in which it meets is still called "Reichstag" (see Reichstag (building)).

The term "Reichstag" (German pronunciation: [ˈʁaɪçstaːk]  (Speaker Icon listen)) is a compound of German Reich ("Empire") and Tag ("assembly"; does not mean "day" here, but is derived from the verb tagen "to assemble" (which in turn does mean to gather on an appointed day). The Latin term, a direct translation, was curia imperialis. (Still today, the parliaments on the various federal levels in Germany are called Reichstag, Landtag etc., and the parliament in Sweden is called Riksdag.)

The Reichstag in the Holy Roman Empire

During the period of the Holy Roman Empire which lasted formally until 1806, the Reichstag was never a parliament in today's sense; instead, it was an assembly of the various estates of which the Empire was composed. More precisely, it was the convention of the Reichsstände ("imperial estates"), legal entities that, according to feudal law, had no authority above them besides the Emperor himself (see Holy Roman Empire for details).

The precise role and function of the Reichstag changed over the centuries, as did the Empire itself, in that the estates and separate territories gained more and more control of their own affairs at the expense of imperial power. Initially, there was neither a fixed time nor location for the Reichstag. It started as a convention of the dukes of the old Germanic tribes that formed the Frankish kingdom when important decisions had to be made, and was probably based on the old Germanic law whereby each leader relied on the support of his leading men. For example, already under Charlemagne, the Reichstag of Aachen in 802/803 officially determined the laws of the Saxons and other tribes. The Reichstag of 919 in Fritzlar elected the first king of the Germans who was a Saxon, Henry the Fowler, thus overcoming the longstanding rivalry between Franks and Saxons and laying the foundation for the German Empire. In 1158, the Diet of Roncaglia finalized four laws that would significantly alter the (never formally written) constitution of the Empire, marking the beginning of the steady decline of the central power in favour of the local dukes. In 1356, the Golden Bull cemented the concept of Landesherrschaft ("territorial rule"), the largely independent rule of the dukes over their respective territories, and also limited the number of electors to seven: the Duke of Saxony, the Margrave of Brandenburg, the King of Bohemia, the Elector Palatine (Palsgrave) and the Archbishops of Mainz, Trier and Cologne. The Pope was from this point officially excluded from the electoral process.

However, until the late 15th century, the Reichstag was not actually formalized as an institution. Instead, the dukes and other princes would irregularly convene at the court of the Emperor; these assemblies were usually referred to as Hoftage (from German Hof "court"). Only beginning in 1489 was the Reichstag called as such, and was formally divided into several collegia ("colleges"). Initially, the two colleges were that of the Kurfürsten ("prince-electors") and that of the other dukes and princes. Later, the imperial cities, that is, cities that were reichsunmittelbar and were oligarchic republics independent of a local ruler that were subject only to the Emperor himself, managed to be accepted as a third party.

Several attempts to reform the Empire and end its slow disintegration, notably starting with the Reichstag in 1495, did not have much effect. In contrast, this process was only hastened with the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, which formally bound the Emperor to accept all decisions made by the Reichstag, in effect depriving him of his few remaining powers. From then to its end in 1806, the Reich was not much more than a collection of largely independent states.

Probably the most famous Reichstage were those held in Worms 1495, where the Imperial Reform was enacted, and 1521, where Martin Luther was banned (see Edict of Worms), 1526 and 1529 in Speyer (see Protestation at Speyer), and several in Nuremberg (Diet of Nuremberg).

Only with the introduction of the Immerwährender Reichstag ("permanent Imperial Diet") in 1663 did the Reichstag permanently convene in a fixed location, the city of Regensburg.

For a list of members of the Reichstag from 1792, near the end of the Empire, refer to List of Reichstag participants (1792).

The Reichstag as the German Parliament


The opening of the German parliament in 1894

Bundesarchiv Bild 116-121-007, Mitglieder des Deutschen Reichstag

The Reichstag in 1889

After the collapse of the Empire in 1806, the term was subsequently used for the Parliament of the 1849 Frankfurt constitution draft that never came into effect, the Parliament of the North German Confederation from 1867–1871 and finally that of the 1871 German Empire. In the latter two cases, it was a parliament elected by all males who had attained the age of 25. This made the Reichstag the most democratic parliament in Europe.[citation needed]

In the 1909 German Empire, the Reichskanzler (chancellor, head of government) was responsible to the Reichstag, which was directly elected by the people, and to the Emperor. During the Second World War, without a Kaiser, the Reichstag held the responsibility of running the government and coordinating the war effort with the Allied Forces until the conclusion of the war.

The Reichstag building in Berlin was constructed as the seat of the Reichstag in the German Empire in 1894 and, after a major reconstruction, has been the seat of today's German parliament, the Bundestag, since 1999. After the building was gutted in the Reichstag fire of 1943, the German Reichstag met in the Kroll Opera House until the building was rebuilt after the end of the war.

Collection of Reichstag records

After the 1871 formation of the German Empire the Historical Commission of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences started to collect imperial records (Reichsakten) and imperial diet records (Reichstagsakten). In 1893 the commission published the first volume. At present the years 1524 – 1527 and years up to 1544 are being collected and researched. A volume dealing with the 1532 Reichstag in Regensburg, including the peace negotiations with the Protestants in Schweinfurt and Nuremberg, by Rosemarie Aulinger of Vienna was published in 1992. A list of the records of several European countries can be found here.

Reichstag places

Note: this list is incomplete
Year Place President Theme
754 Quierzy-sur-Oise    
777 Paderborn    
782 Lippspringe   division of Saxony into counties
788 Ingelheim am Rhein   deposition of Tassilo III
799 Paderborn   Charlemagne clears with Pope Leo III his installation as Emperor
806 Diedenhofen   Division of the Empire
817 Aachen    
826 ?   Inviting of the Sorbs;
829 Worms    
831 Aachen    
835 Diedenhofen Louis the Pious  
838 Speyer Louis the Pious  
872 Forchheim Louis II, the German  
874 Forchheim Louis II, the German Discussion and regulation of inheritance
887 Tribur    
889 Forchheim Arnulf of Carinthia  
892 Forchheim Arnulf of Carinthia Preparing a War against the Slavs
896 Forchheim Arnulf of Carinthia  
903 Forchheim Louis the Child Execution of the Babenberg Rebel Adalhard
907 Forchheim Louis the Child Council about the Magyar attacks
911 Forchheim   Election of Conrad of Franconia King
914 Forchheim Conrad of Franconia War against Arnulf I of Bavaria
919 Fritzlar    
926 Worms Henry the Fowler  
952 on the Lech meadows near Augsburg Otto I the Great  
961 Forchheim Otto I the Great  
967 Ravenna Otto II  
972 Quedlinburg    
976 Regensburg    
978 Dortmund Otto II War against France in the Autumn
983 Verona   Election of Otto III
985     End of the usurpation of Henry the Wrangler
993 Dortmund Otto III  
1030 Minden Conrad II  
1066 Tribur    
1076 Worms Henry IV  
1077 Augsburg    
1098 Mainz Henry IV.  
1105 Ingelheim Henry IV.  
1119 Tribur Henry IV.  
1122 Worms Henry V  
1146 Speyer Conrad III
1147 Frankfurt Conrad III
1152 Dortmund/Merseburg Frederick I Barbarossa  
1154 Goslar  
1157 Bisanz Frederick I Barbarossa  
1158 Diet of Roncaglia near Piacenza Frederick I Barbarossa  
1165 Würzburg Frederick I Barbarossa  
1168 Bamberg Frederick I Barbarossa / Henry VI  
1180 Gelnhausen Frederick I Barbarossa / Henry VI Investiture of the Archbishop of Cologne with the Duchy of Westphalia
1181 Erfurt Henry VI Exile of Henry the Lion
1188 Mainz Henry VI  
1196 Frankfurt Henry VI  
1235 Mainz Frederick II  
1287 Würzburg Adolf of Nassau-Weilburg  
1309 Speyer Henry VII, Holy Roman Emperor
1338 Frankfurt    
1379 Frankfurt    
1356 Nuremberg Charles IV Issuance of the Golden Bull
1389 Eger Wenzel of Luxemburg Peace of Eger
1444 Speyer Frederick III
1487 Nuremberg Frederick III  
1488 Esslingen Frederick III Formation of the Swabian League
1495 Worms Maximilian I Imperial Reform; Gemeiner Pfennig in the wake of the Swabian War
1496/97 Lindau    
1497/98 Freiburg    
1500 Augsburg    
1505 Cologne   Schiedsspruch im Landshuter Erbfolgekrieg
1507 Konstanz    
1512 Trier/Cologne   10 Reichskreise
1518 Augsburg    
1521 Worms Charles V Diet of Worms, ban of Martin Luther, Edict of Worms
1522 Nuremberg I    
1522/23 Nuremberg II    
1524 Nuremberg III    
1526 Speyer I   Suspension of the Edict of Worms
1529 Speyer II   Second Diet of Speyer, Reinstatement of the Edict of Worms, Protestation at Speyer. Proclamation of the Wiedertäufermandat condemning Anabaptists
1530 Augsburg   Diet of Augsburg presentation of the Augsburg Confession
1532 Regensburg Ferdinand I Constitutio Criminalis Carolina
1541 Regensburg    
1542 Speyer    
1542 Nuremberg    
1543 Nuremberg    
1544 Speyer    
1548 Augsburg   Augsburg Interim
1550/51 Augsburg    
1555 Augsburg   Peace of Augsburg
1556/57 Regensburg    
1559 Augsburg    
1566 Augsburg    
1567 Regensburg    
1570 Speyer    
1576 Regensburg    
1582 Augsburg    
1594 Regensburg    
1597/98 Regensburg    
1603 Regensburg    
1608 Regensburg    
1613 Regensburg    
1640/41 Regensburg    
1653/54 Regensburg Ferdinand III. Jüngster Reichsabschied (recessus imperii novissimus)
1663–1806 in the Reichssaal of the Regensburg town hall
als Immerwährender Reichstag (permanent diet)

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