Imperial Circle

Imperial Circle
A map of the Imperial Circles as in 1560. Unencircled territories appear in white.

An Imperial Circle (Latin: Circulus imperii, plural Circuli imperii German: Reichskreis, plural Reichskreise) comprised a regional grouping of territories of the Holy Roman Empire, 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.

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 set up six circles as part of the Imperial Reform:

Originally, the territories held by the Habsburg dynasty and the Electors remained unencircled. In 1512 the Diet at Trier and Cologne organized these lands into four more circles:

In view of French claims raised to Maximilian's Burgundian heritage, the 1512 Diet initiated the official use of the name Holy Roman Empire of (the) German Nation (Latin: Sacrum Imperium Romanum Nationis Germanicæ) in its Final Act.[1][2]

Though the Empire lost several western territories after the secession of the Seven United Netherlands in 1581 and during the French annexations of the 1679 Peace of Nijmegen, the ten circles remained largely unchanged until the early 1790s, when the French Revolutionary Wars brought about significant changes to the political map of Europe.

Territories of the Holy Roman Empire outside the Imperial Circles

A number of imperial territories remained unencircled, for instance:


  1. ^ Peter Hamish Wilson, The Holy Roman Empire, 1495-1806, MacMillan Press 1999, London, page 2
  2. ^ The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in London website


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