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Holy Roman Empire

Holy Roman Empire, European empire centered in Germany that endured from medieval times until 1806. It was effectively established in A.D. 962 when the pope crowned Otto I, king of Germany, emperor of Rome. It derived its political claim to the Roman Empire based on Charlemagne's belief that his empire was the legitimate successor to ancient Rome. In theory, the Holy Roman emperor was God's temporal ruler of all christians. In reality, the political control was somewhat different. At its height, it included all the German principalities, Austria, Bohemia, Moravia, Switzerland, the Low Countries, eastern France, and northern and central Italy. Up until 1562 the emperor was crowned by the pope, thereafter the coronation was performed in Frankfurt. The Holy Roman Empire was in constant conflict with the pope and the Italian states over temporal and religious issues. It was seriously weakened by the Reformation which challenged the allegiance of German Protestant princes to the emperor. The Thirty Years War (1618–1648) almost totally destroyed the German people and the Holy Roman Empire. In fact, it never recovered from this conflict. France emerged as a central power from the war and its continued military successes, from the time of Louis XIV to Napoleon I, eradicated the political reality of the Holy Roman emperor. The official end came in l806 when Francis II renounced the title, proclaiming himself Francis I, emperor of Austria.

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