IV. The Early Modern Period, 1500–1800 > B. Early Modern Europe, 1479–1815 > 1. Europe, 1479–1675 > g. The German Empire
  The Encyclopedia of World History.  2001.
(See 1486)
g. The German Empire
1. Overview, to 1618
MAXIMILIAN I, who first took the title Roman Emperor elect.  1
Diet of Worms. Constitutional reform. Attempted modernization of the medieval empire. Perpetual public peace. Imperial chamber (Reichskammergericht), first at Frankfurt, then at Speier, finally at Wetzlar (1689). At the Diet of Köln (1512) the reorganization of the empire was carried further: establishment of ten circles for the better maintenance of public peace (Landfriedenskreise): (1) Austria; (2) Bavaria; (3) Swabia; (4) Franconia; (5) Upper Rhine; (6) Lower Rhine; (7) Burgundy (ceded to the Spanish line of the Habsburgs, 1556); (8) Westphalia; (9) Lower Saxony; (10) Upper Saxony. In all there were 240 states in the empire, exclusive of the imperial knights. Bohemia and the neighboring states (Moravia, Silesia, Lusatia) with Prussia and Switzerland (which was already completely independent) were not included in the circles. Establishment of the Aulic Council, a court more under the control of the emperor than the imperial chamber, and to which a large part of the work of the latter was gradually diverted.  2
The League of Cambrai, among Maximilian, Louis XII, Pope Julius II, and Ferdinand the Catholic (See 1508, Dec. 10).  3
Pope Julius II, Venice, and Ferdinand of Spain formed the Holy League aimed at France; in 1513 Maximilian joined.  4
The genealogical table shows the claim of the Habsburgs to Spain and division of the house into Spanish and German lines. Through these marriages the central European lands of the Habsburgs, the Burgundian lands in what are now France and Belgium, and the united lands of the crowns of Castile and Aragon (Spain, Naples, and the Americas) all came by birth to Charles I of Spain (eldest son of Philip and Joanna). He acquired the empire and his better known title Charles V by election in 1519.  5
BEGINNING OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION. Background: Wiclifite, Hussite, and other preceding rebellions against the Roman church; Babylonian Captivity and the Great Schism, which weakened the prestige of Rome; corruption and worldliness of Church officials during the Renaissance; development of critical scholarship, as represented by Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, whose editions of the Church Fathers and whose Greek text of the New Testament (1516) revealed the scriptural weakness of ecclesiastical writings; rise of national feeling and dislike of foreigners, especially in Germany and England; growth of a middle class and a capitalist economy, which felt Roman Catholicism as a restraint (economic interpretation of the Reformation in modern writings of Max Weber and R. H. Tawney); resentment by civic authorities, as at Zurich, of clerical privileges and exemption from taxation; establishment of endowed preacherships by pious townspeople (such as Stuttgart, Eisenach, Jena) to raise intellectual level of sermons; great landed wealth of the Church available for confiscation by ambitious and unscrupulous princes.  6
Martin Luther (1483–1546), born at Eisleben, the son of a miner; friar in the Augustine convent at Erfurt; priest (1507); professor at Wittenberg (1508); visit to Rome (1511).  7
1517, Oct. 31
Luther nailed on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg his 95 theses (in Latin) against the misuse of absolution or indulgences (especially by the Dominican friar Johann Tetzel); translated into German, the theses soon circulated widely.  8
Summoned to Augsburg by Cardinal de Vio of Gaëta (Cajetanus), Luther refused to abjure but appealed to the pope. Mediation of the papal chamberlain, Karl von Miltitz.  9
Discussion at Leipzig between Andreas Bodenstein (called Karlstadt) and Johann Eck. The latter secured a papal bull against 41 articles in Luther's writings. Luther burned the papal bull and the canon law (1520). Thereupon he was excommunicated.  10
The German electors chose as emperor the grandson of Maximilian, King Charles I of Spain, who as emperor became  11
CHARLES V. He came to Germany for the first time in 1520 to preside at the Diet of Worms (1521). There Luther defended his doctrines, coming under a safe conduct. The ban of the empire having been pronounced against him, he was taken under the protection of Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony. The Edict of Worms prohibited all new doctrines. Luther's translation of the Bible.  12
Hieronymus, envoy of the king of Hungary, pled for Western support against the advancing Ottoman Turks (See 1521). Charles preoccupied with imperial matters and the Lutheran revolt.  13
Aug. 28
The Ottoman Turkish sultan Suleyman the Magnificent conquered Belgrade, gateway to Hungary and Habsburg lands along the Danube.  14
The Encyclopedia of World History, Sixth edition. Peter N. Stearns, general editor. Copyright © 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Maps by Mary Reilly, copyright 2001 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.