- This page is about the generic term. For specific and other meanings see Imperial City.
An imperial city (German: Reichsstadt) was a township in the Holy Roman Empire, which held the status of Imperial immediacy and was directly subordinate to the emperor. Their citizens enjoyed a certain autonomy, mainly judiciary power, equivalent to the Princes, and as an Imperial State held a vote in the Reichstag. Later imperial cities were often grouped with those "free cities" (Freie Städte) that had freed themselves from the ecclesiastical rule of a Prince-bishop, and this grouping was then called "free and imperial city", which over time changed into free imperial city.
The imperial cities arose from the town foundings of the Imperial House of Hohenstaufen in the 12th and 13th century, mainly in their home territories in Swabia (then including Alsace) and in Thuringia. Their citizens declared themselves directly answerable to the emperor, a status they retained after the downfall of the Hohenstaufen dynasty in 1268. From about 1489, free and imperial cities were represented by a separate college (Reichsstädtekollegium) in the Imperial Diet, subdivided into a Swabian and Rhenish bench: