Imperial Circle

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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.


Initially the 1500 Diet of Augsburg set up six Imperial 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 three more circles:

Also, the Saxon circle got divided into:

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.

Unencircled territories[edit]

A number of imperial territories remained unencircled, for instance:


  1. ^ Wilson, Peter Hamish (1999), The Holy Roman Empire, 1495–1806, London: MacMillan Press, p. 2 .
  2. ^ "The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation", German History, The Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in London .