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In the
Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Romanum Imperium; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western Western may refer to: Places *Western, Nebraska, a village in the US *Western, New York, a town i ...
, the collective term free and imperial cities (german: Freie und Reichsstädte), briefly worded free imperial city (', la, urbs imperialis libera), was used from the fifteenth century to denote a self-ruling city that had a certain amount of
autonomy In developmental psychology Developmental psychology is the scientific Science () is a systematic enterprise that Scientific method, builds and organizes knowledge in the form of Testability, testable explanations and predictions ...

autonomy
and was represented in the
Imperial DietImperial Diet means the highest representative assembly in an empire, notably: * Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire), general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) * Diet of Japan, Has been going on since 1889 (1889 ...
. An imperial city held the status of
Imperial immediacy Imperial immediacy (german: Reichsfreiheit or ') was a privileged constitutional and political status rooted in German feudal law under which the Imperial estate An Imperial State or Imperial Estate ( la, Status Imperii; german: Reichsstand, plu ...
, and as such, was subordinate only to the
Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emperor of the Romans ( la, Imperator The Latin word "imperator" derives from the stem of the verb la, imperare, label=none, meaning 'to order, to command'. It was originally employed as ...
, as opposed to a territorial city or town (') which was subordinate to a territorial
prince A prince is a Monarch, male ruler (ranked below a king, grand prince, and grand duke) or a male member of a monarch's or former monarch's family. ''Prince'' is also a title of nobility (often highest), often hereditary title, hereditary, in so ...
– be it an ecclesiastical lord (
prince-bishop A prince-bishop is a bishop who is also the civil ruler of some Secularity, secular principality and sovereignty. Thus the principality or Hochstift, prince-bishopric ruled politically by a prince-bishop could wholly or largely overlap with his ...
,
prince-abbot A Prince-abbot (german: Fürstabt) is a title for a cleric Clergy are formal leaders within established religion Religion is a social system, social-cultural system of designated religious behaviour, behaviors and practices, morality, ...
) or a secular prince (
duke Duke is a male title either of a monarch ruling over a , or of a member of , or . As rulers, dukes are ranked below s, s, s, s, and sovereign s. As royalty or nobility, they are ranked below princes of nobility and grand dukes. The title comes ...

duke
('),
margrave Margrave was originally the medieval In the history of Europe The history of Europe concerns itself with the discovery and collection, the study, organization and presentation and the interpretation of past events and affairs of the ...
,
count Count (feminine: countess) is a historical title of nobility Nobility is a social class normally ranked immediately below Royal family, royalty and found in some societies that have a formal aristocracy (class), aristocracy. Nobility ...

count
('), etc.).


Origin

The evolution of some German cities into self-ruling constitutional entities of the Empire was slower than that of the secular and ecclesiastical princes. In the course of the 13th and 14th centuries, some cities were promoted by the emperor to the status of Imperial Cities ('; '), essentially for fiscal reasons. Those cities, which had been founded by the German kings and emperors in the 10th through 13th centuries and had initially been administered by royal/imperial stewards ('), gradually gained independence as their city magistrates assumed the duties of administration and justice; some prominent examples are
Colmar Colmar (, ; Alsatian language, Alsatian: ' ; German language, German during 1871–1918 and 1940–1945: ') is a city and Communes of France, commune in the Haut-Rhin Departments of France, department and Grand Est Regions of France, region of ...

Colmar
,
Haguenau Haguenau (french: Haguenau, ; Alsatian language, Alsatian: ''Hàwenau'' or ''Hàjenöi''; and historically in English: ''Hagenaw'') is a Communes of France, commune in the Bas-Rhin Département in France, department of France, of which it is a ...

Haguenau
and
Mulhouse Mulhouse (; Alsatian: or , ; ; meaning ''mill Mill may refer to: Science and technology * Mill (grinding) * Milling (machining) * List of types of mill * Mill, the arithmetic unit of the Analytical Engine early computer * Textile manufacturi ...

Mulhouse
in
Alsace Alsace (, also ; Low Alemannic German Low Alemannic German (german: Niederalemannisch) is a branch of Alemannic German Alemannic, or rarely Alemannish (''Alemannisch'', ), is a group of High German dialects. The name derives from the ancie ...

Alsace
or
Memmingen Memmingen () is a town A town is a human settlement. Towns are generally larger than villages and smaller than city, cities, though the criteria to distinguish between them vary considerably in different parts of the world. Origi ...

Memmingen
and
Ravensburg Ravensburg is a city in Upper Swabia in Southern Germany, capital of the Ravensburg (district), district of Ravensburg, Baden-Württemberg. Ravensburg was first mentioned in 1088. In the Middle Ages, it was an Imperial Free City and an important ...
in upper
Swabia Swabia ; german: Schwaben , colloquially ''Schwabenland'' or ''Ländle''; archaic English also Suabia or Svebia is a cultural, historic History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the stud ...

Swabia
. The Free Cities ('; ') were those, such as
Basel , french: link=no, Bâlois(e), it, Basilese , neighboring_municipalities= Allschwil , neighboring_municipalities= Baselland (BL), Binningen, Switzerland, Binningen, Buschwiller (FR-68), Hégenheim (FR-68), Neuwiller (FR-68), Oberwil, Basel- ...

Basel
,
Augsburg Augsburg ( , , ; bar, Augschburg, links=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swabian_German, label=Swabian German) is a city A city is a large .Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, ...

Augsburg
,
Cologne Cologne ( ; german: Köln ; ksh, Kölle ) is the largest city of Germany, Germany's most populous States of Germany, state of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) and the List of cities in Germany by population, fourth-most populous city and one of t ...

Cologne
or
Strasbourg Strasbourg (, , ; german: Straßburg ; gsw, label=Bas Rhin Bas-Rhin (; Alsatian: ''Unterelsàss'', ' or '; traditional german: links=no, Niederrhein; en, Lower Rhine) is a department Department may refer to: * Departmentalization, divi ...

Strasbourg
, that were initially subjected to a prince-bishop and, likewise, progressively gained independence from that lord. In a few cases, such as in Cologne, the former ecclesiastical lord continued to claim the right to exercise some residual feudal privileges over the Free City, a claim that gave rise to constant litigation almost until the end of the Empire. Over time, the difference between Imperial Cities and Free Cities became increasingly blurred, so that they became collectively known as "Free Imperial Cities", or "Free and Imperial Cities", and by the late 15th century many cities included both "Free" and "Imperial" in their name. Like the other Imperial Estates, they could wage war, make peace, and control their own trade, and they permitted little interference from outside. In the later Middle Ages, a number of Free Cities formed City Leagues ('), such as the
Hanseatic League The Hanseatic League (; gml, Hanse, , ; german: label=Modern German New High German (NHG) is the term used for the most recent period in the history of the German language German (: , ) is a mainly spoken in . It is the most widely ...
or the Alsatian , to promote and defend their interests. In the course of the Middle Ages, cities gained, and sometimes — if rarely — lost, their freedom through the vicissitudes of power politics. Some favored cities gained a charter by gift. Others purchased one from a prince in need of funds. Some won it by force of arms during the troubled 13th and 14th centuries and others lost their privileges during the same period by the same way. Some cities became free through the void created by the extinction of dominant families, like the Swabian . Some voluntarily placed themselves under the protection of a territorial ruler and therefore lost their independence. A few, like Protestant , which in 1607 was annexed to the Catholic
Duchy of Bavaria The Duchy of Bavaria (German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * Ger ...
, were stripped by the Emperor of their status as a Free City — for genuine or trumped-up reasons. However, this rarely happened after the Reformation, and of the sixty Free Imperial Cities that remained at the
Peace of Westphalia The Peace of Westphalia (german: Westfälischer Friede, ) is the collective name for two peace treaties signed in October 1648 in the Westphalian cities of Osnabrück Osnabrück (; wep, Ossenbrügge; archaic ''Osnaburg'') is a city in the ...
, all but the ten Alsatian cities (which were annexed by France during the late 17th century) continued to exist until the
mediatization In politics and law, mediatisation () is the loss of immediacy, the status of persons not subject to local lords but only to a higher authority directly, such as the Holy Roman Emperor The Holy Roman Emperor, originally and officially the Emp ...
of 1803.


Distinction between free imperial cities and other cities

There were approximately four thousand towns and cities in the Empire, although around the year 1600 over nine-tenths of them had fewer than one thousand inhabitants. During the late Middle Ages, fewer than two hundred of these places ever enjoyed the status of Free Imperial Cities, and some of those did so only for a few decades. The Imperial military tax register (') of 1521 listed eighty-five such cities, and this figure had fallen to sixty-five by the time of the Peace of Augsburg in 1555. From the
Peace of Westphalia The Peace of Westphalia (german: Westfälischer Friede, ) is the collective name for two peace treaties signed in October 1648 in the Westphalian cities of Osnabrück Osnabrück (; wep, Ossenbrügge; archaic ''Osnaburg'') is a city in the ...
of 1648 to 1803, their number oscillated at around fifty.This figure does not include the ten cities of the , which, while still formally independent from 1648 to 1679, had been placed under the heavy-handed "protection" of the French king. Unlike the Free Imperial Cities, the second category of towns and cities, now called "territorial cities""Territorial city" is a term used by modern historians to denote any German city or town that was not a Free Imperial City. were subject to an ecclesiastical or lay lord, and while many of them enjoyed self-government to varying degrees, this was a precarious privilege which might be curtailed or abolished according to the will of the lord. Reflecting the complex constitutional set-up of the Holy Roman Empire, a third category, composed of semi-autonomous cities that belonged to neither of those two types, is distinguished by some historians. These were cities whose size and economic strength was sufficient to sustain a substantial independence from surrounding territorial lords for a considerable time, even though no formal right to independence existed. These cities were typically located in small territories where the ruler was weak.Examples of such cities were
Lemgo Lemgo (; nds, Lemge, Lemje) is a small university town in the Lippe Lippe () is a ''Kreis'' (district A district is a type of that, in some countries, is managed by the . Across the world, areas known as "districts" vary greatly in size, s ...

Lemgo
(
county of Lippe Lippe (later Lippe-Detmold and then again Lippe) was a historical state in Germany, ruled by the House of Lippe. It was located between the Weser river and the southeast part of the Teutoburg Forest. History The founder of what would become ...
),
Gütersloh Gütersloh () is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia North Rhine-Westphalia (german: Nordrhein-Westfalen, ; Low Franconian Low Franconian, Low Frankish, NetherlandicSarah Grey Thomason, Terrence Kaufman: ''Language Contact, Creoli ...
(
county of Bentheim The County of Bentheim (''Grafschaft Bentheim'', Low German , , (in a stricter sense) nl, Nedersaksisch da, Plattysk, , , (rarely) , states = Northern Germany, Northern and Western Germany, western GermanyEastern NetherlandsSouther ...
) and
Emden Emden () is an Independent city (Germany), independent city and seaport in Lower Saxony in the northwest of Germany, on the river Ems (river), Ems. It is the main city of the region of East Frisia and, in 2011, had a total population of 51,528. ...

Emden
(
county of East Frisia The County of East-Frisia (Frisian Frisian usually refers to: *Frisia, a region on the western coasts of Germany and the Netherlands **Frisians, the medieval and modern ethnic group inhabiting Frisia ***Frisii, the ancient inhabitants of Frisia pr ...
).
They were nevertheless the exception among the multitude of territorial towns and cities. Cities of both latter categories normally had representation in territorial
diets The Low Countries The term Low Countries, also known as the Low Lands ( nl, de Lage Landen, french: les Pays-Bas) and historically called the Netherlands ( nl, de Nederlanden), Flanders, or Belgica, refers to a coastal lowland region in N ...
, but not in the Imperial Diet.


Organization

Free imperial cities were not officially admitted as own
Imperial Estates An Imperial State or Imperial Estate ( la, Status Imperii; german: Reichsstand, plural: ') was a part of the Holy Roman Empire The Holy Roman Empire ( la, Sacrum Imperium Romanum; german: Heiliges Römisches Reich) was a multi-ethnic complex o ...
to the
Imperial DietImperial Diet means the highest representative assembly in an empire, notably: * Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire), general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) * Diet of Japan, Has been going on since 1889 (1889 ...
until 1489, and even then their votes were usually considered only advisory (') compared to the Benches of the electors and princes. The cities divided themselves into two groups, or benches, in the Imperial Diet, the
Rhenish The Rhineland (german: Rheinland, french: Rhénanie, nl, Rijnland, Latinised name: ''Rhenania'') is the name used for a loosely defined area of Western Germany The old states of Germany (german: die alten Länder) are the ten States of Germ ...

Rhenish
and the
Swabia Swabia ; german: Schwaben , colloquially ''Schwabenland'' or ''Ländle''; archaic English also Suabia or Svebia is a cultural, historic History (from Greek , ''historia'', meaning "inquiry; knowledge acquired by investigation") is the stud ...

Swabia
n Bench.All the cities of Southern Germany (located in the Swabian, and Bavarian circles) belonged to the Swabian bench, while all the others belonged to Rhenish bench, even cities such as
Lübeck Lübeck (; Low German Low German or Low Saxon (in the language itself: , and other names; german: Plattdeutsch, ) is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language variety spoken mainly in Northern Germany and the northeastern part of the ...

Lübeck
and
Hamburg en, Hamburgian(s) , timezone1 = Central (CET) , utc_offset1 = +1 , timezone1_DST = Central (CEST) , utc_offset1_DST = +2 , postal_code_type = Post ...

Hamburg
that were quite far from the Rhineland.
These same cities were among the 85 free imperial cities listed on the ''
ReichsmatrikelThe Imperial Register (german: Reichsmatrikel, nl, rijksmatrikel) was a list of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire that specified the precise numbers of troops they had to supply to the Army of the Holy Roman Empire, Imperial Army and/or ...
'' of 1521, the imperial civil and military tax-schedule used for more than a century to assess the contributions of all the Imperial Estates in case of a war formally declared by the Imperial Diet. The military and monetary contribution of each city is indicated in parenthesis (for instance Cologne (30-322-600) means that Cologne had to provide 30 horsemen, 322 footmen and 600 gulden). These numbers are equivalent to one ''simplum''. If need be, the Diet could vote a second and a third ''simplum'', in which case each member's contribution was doubled or tripled. At the time, the Free imperial cities were considered wealthy and the monetary contribution of Nuremberg, Ulm and Cologne for instance were as high as that of the Electors (Mainz, Trier, Cologne, Palatinate, Saxony, Brandenburg) and the Dukes of Württemberg and of Lorraine. The following list contains the 50 Free imperial cities that took part in the Imperial Diet of 1792. They are listed according to their voting order on the Rhenish and Swabian benches.


Rhenish Bench


Swabian Bench

By the time of the Peace of Westphalia, the cities constituted a formal third "college" and their full vote (') was confirmed, although they failed to secure parity of representation with the two other colleges. To avoid the possibility that they would have the casting vote in case of a tie between the Electors and the Princes, it was decided that these should decide first and consult the cities afterward. Despite this somewhat unequal status of the cities in the functioning of the Imperial Diet, their full admittance to that federal institution was crucial in clarifying their hitherto uncertain status and in legitimizing their permanent existence as full-fledged Imperial Estates. Constitutionally, if in no other way, the diminutive Free Imperial City of Isny was the equal of the
Margraviate of Brandenburg The Margraviate of Brandenburg (german: link=no, Markgrafschaft Brandenburg) was a major principality A principality (or sometimes princedom) can either be a monarchical A monarchy is a form of government in which a person, the ...
.


Development

Having probably learned from experience that there was not much to gain from active, and costly, participation in the Imperial Diet's proceedings due to the lack of empathy of the princes, the cities made little use of their representation in that body. By about 1700, almost all the cities with the exception of Nuremberg, Ulm and Regensburg (where by then the
Perpetual Imperial Diet Perpetual, meaning "eternity, eternal", may refer to: *Perpetual bond, a bond that pays coupons forever *Perpetual curacy, a type of Christian priesthood *Perpetual Entertainment, an American software development company *Perpetual Limited, an Austr ...
was located), were represented by various Regensburg lawyers and officials who often represented several cities simultaneously. Instead, many cities found it more profitable to maintain agents at the
Aulic Council The Aulic Council ( la, Consilium Aulicum, german: Reichshofrat, literally meaning Court Council of the Empire) was one of the two supreme court The supreme court is the highest court A court is any person or institution, often as a govern ...
in Vienna, where the risk of an adverse judgment posed a greater risk to city treasuries and independence. The territory of most Free Imperial Cities was generally quite small but there were exceptions. The largest territories formed in what is now Switzerland with cities like Bern, Zürich and Luzern, but also cities like Ulm, Nuremberg and Hamburg in what is now Germany possessed substantial hinterlands or fiefs that comprised dozens of villages and thousands of subject peasants who did not enjoy the same rights as the urban population. At the opposite end, the authority of Cologne, Aachen, Worms, Goslar, Wetzlar, Augsburg and Regensburg barely extended beyond the city walls. The constitution of Free and Imperial Cities was
republic A republic () is a form of government A government is the system or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a month ...

republic
an in form, but in all but the smallest cities, the city government was
oligarchic Oligarchy (; ) is a form of power structure A power structure is an overall system of influence between any individual and every other individual within any selected group of people. A description of a power structure would capture the way in w ...
in nature with a governing town council composed of an elite, hereditary patrician class, the so-called town council families ('). They were the most economically significant burgher families who had asserted themselves politically over time. Below them, with a say in the government of the city (there were exceptions, such as
Nuremberg Nuremberg ( ; german: link=no, Nürnberg ; in the local East Franconian dialect: ''Nämberch'' ) is the second-largest city of the Germany, German States of Germany, state of Bavaria after its capital Munich, and its 518,370 (2019) inhabitants ...
, where the patriciate ruled alone), were the citizens or burghers, the smaller, privileged section of the city's permanent population whose number varied according to the rule of citizenship of each city. To the common town dweller – whether he lived in a prestigious Free Imperial City like Frankfurt, Augsburg or Nuremberg, or in a small market town such as there were hundreds throughout Germany – attaining burgher status (') could be his greatest aim in life. The burgher status was usually an inherited privilege renewed pro-forma in each generation of the family concerned but it could also be purchased. At times, the sale of burgher status could be a significant item of town income as fiscal records show. The ' was local and not transferable to another city. The burghers were usually the lowest social group to have political power and privilege within the Holy Roman Empire. Below them was the disenfranchised urban population, maybe half of the total in many cities, the so-called "residents" (') or "guests": smaller artisans, craftsmen, street venders, day laborers, servants and the poor, but also those whose residence in the city was temporary, such as wintering noblemen, foreign merchants, princely officials, and so on. Urban conflicts in Free Imperial Cities, which sometimes amounted to class warfare, were not uncommon in the Early Modern Age, particularly in the 17th century (Lübeck, 1598–1669; Schwäbisch Hall, 1601–1604; Frankfurt, 1612–1614; Wezlar, 1612–1615; Erfurt, 1648–1664; Cologne, 1680–1685; Hamburg 1678–1693, 1702–1708). Sometimes, as in the case of Hamburg in 1708, the situation was considered sufficiently serious to warrant the dispatch of an Imperial commissioner with troops to restore order and negotiate a compromise and a new city constitution between the warring parties. The number of Imperial Cities shrank over time until the Peace of Westphalia. There were more in areas that were very fragmented politically, such as Swabia and Franconia in the southwest, than in the North and the East where the larger and more powerful territories, such as Brandenburg and Saxony, were located, which were more prone to absorb smaller, weaker states. In the 16th and 17th century, a number of Imperial Cities were separated from the Empire due to external territorial change.
Henry II of France Henry II (french: Henri II; 31 March 1519 – 10 July 1559) was King of France from 31 March 1547 until his death in 1559. The second son of Francis I of France, Francis I, he became Dauphin of France upon the death of his elder brother Francis ...
seized the Imperial Cities connected to the
Three Bishoprics The Three Bishoprics (french: les Trois-Évêchés ) constituted a Provinces of France, government of the Kingdom of France consisting of the dioceses of Bishopric of Metz, Metz, Bishopric of Verdun, Verdun, and Bishopric of Toul, Toul within the ...
of
Metz Metz ( , , lat, Divodurum Mediomatricorum, then ) is a city in northeast France located at the confluence of the Moselle (river), Moselle and the Seille (Moselle), Seille rivers. Metz is the Prefectures in France, prefecture of the Moselle (de ...

Metz
,
Verdun Verdun (, , , ; official name before 1970 ''Verdun-sur-Meuse'') is a city in the Meuse (department), Meuse departments of France, department in Grand Est, northeastern France. It is an arrondissement of the department. Verdun is the biggest ...

Verdun
and
Toul Toul () is a commune A commune is an intentional community of people sharing living spaces, interests, values, beliefs, and often property Property (''latin: Res Privata'') in the Abstract and concrete, abstract is what belongs to or ...
. Similarly,
Louis XIV Louis XIV (Louis Dieudonné; 5 September 16381 September 1715), also known as Louis the Great () or the Sun King (), was King of France from 14 May 1643 until his death in 1715. His reign of 72 years and 110 days is the List of longest-reigning mo ...

Louis XIV
seized many cities based on claims produced by his
Chambers of Reunion{{Unreferenced, date=January 2008 The Chambers of Reunion (''Chambres des Réunions'') were French courts established by King Louis XIV , house = Bourbon , father = Louis XIII of France , mother = Anne of Austria , birth ...
. That way,
Strasbourg Strasbourg (, , ; german: Straßburg ; gsw, label=Bas Rhin Bas-Rhin (; Alsatian: ''Unterelsàss'', ' or '; traditional german: links=no, Niederrhein; en, Lower Rhine) is a department Department may refer to: * Departmentalization, divi ...

Strasbourg
and the ten cities of the were annexed. Also, when the
Old Swiss Confederacy The Old Swiss Confederacy or Swiss Confederacy (Modern German New High German (NHG) is the term used for the most recent period in the history of the German language German (: , ) is a mainly spoken in . It is the most widely spoke ...
gained its formal independence from the Empire in 1648 (it had been de facto independent since 1499), the independence of the Imperial Cities of
Basel , french: link=no, Bâlois(e), it, Basilese , neighboring_municipalities= Allschwil , neighboring_municipalities= Baselland (BL), Binningen, Switzerland, Binningen, Buschwiller (FR-68), Hégenheim (FR-68), Neuwiller (FR-68), Oberwil, Basel- ...

Basel
,
Bern ,german: Berner(in),french: Bernois(e), it, Bernese , neighboring_municipalities = Bremgarten bei Bern Bremgarten bei Bern is a municipality A municipality is usually a single administrative division having Municipal corporation, corpor ...

Bern
,
Lucerne , neighboring_municipalities= Adligenswil Adligenswil is a municipality A municipality is usually a single administrative division having Municipal corporation, corporate status and powers of self-government or jurisdiction as granted by na ...

Lucerne
,
St. Gallen , neighboring_municipalities = Eggersriet Eggersriet is a Municipalities of Switzerland, municipality in the ''Wahlkreis'' (constituency) of St. Gallen (Wahlkreis), St. Gallen in the Cantons of Switzerland, canton of St. Gallen (canton), St. Ga ...
,
Schaffhausen Schaffhausen (; gsw, Schafuuse; french: Schaffhouse; it, Sciaffusa; rm, Schaffusa; en, Shaffhouse) is a town with historic roots, a municipality A municipality is usually a single administrative division Administrative division ...

Schaffhausen
,
Solothurn Solothurn ( , ; french: Soleure ; it, Soletta ; rm, ) is a List of towns in Switzerland, town, a Municipalities of Switzerland, municipality, and the Capital (political), capital of the canton of Solothurn in Switzerland. It is located in the ...

Solothurn
, and
Zürich Zürich () is the in and the capital of the . It is located in north-central Switzerland, at the northwestern tip of . As of January 2020, the municipality has 434,335 inhabitants, the urban area (agglomeration) 1.315 million (2009), and the 1. ...

Zürich
was formally recognized. With the rise of
Revolutionary France The French Revolution ( ) was a period of radical political and societal change in France France (), officially the French Republic (french: link=no, République française), is a spanning and in the and the , and s. Its ...

Revolutionary France
in Europe, this trend accelerated enormously. After 1795, the areas west of the Rhine were annexed to France by the revolutionary armies, suppressing the independence of Imperial Cities as diverse as Cologne, Aachen, Speyer and Worms. Then, the
Napoleonic Wars The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major World war, global conflicts pitting the First French Empire, French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon, Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of Coalition forces of the Napoleonic W ...
led to the reorganization of the Empire in 1803 (see
German Mediatisation German mediatisation (; german: deutsche Mediatisierung) was the major territorial restructuring that took place between 1802 and 1814 in Germany and the surrounding region by means of the mass mediatisation and secularisation of a large number ...
), where all of the free cities but six —
Hamburg en, Hamburgian(s) , timezone1 = Central (CET) , utc_offset1 = +1 , timezone1_DST = Central (CEST) , utc_offset1_DST = +2 , postal_code_type = Post ...

Hamburg
,
Bremen Bremen (, also ; Low German : : : : : , minority = (70,000) (30,000) (8,000) , familycolor = Indo-European , fam2 = Germanic Germanic may refer to: * Germanic peoples, an ethno-linguistic group identified by t ...
,
Lübeck Lübeck (; Low German Low German or Low Saxon (in the language itself: , and other names; german: Plattdeutsch, ) is a West Germanic languages, West Germanic language variety spoken mainly in Northern Germany and the northeastern part of the ...

Lübeck
,
Frankfurt Frankfurt, officially Frankfurt am Main (; Hessian dialects, Hessian: , "Franks, Frank ford (crossing), ford on the Main (river), Main"; french: Francfort-sur-le-Main), is the most populous city in the States of Germany, German state of Hess ...

Frankfurt
,
Augsburg Augsburg ( , , ; bar, Augschburg, links=https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swabian_German, label=Swabian German) is a city A city is a large .Goodall, B. (1987) ''The Penguin Dictionary of Human Geography''. London: Penguin.Kuper, A. and Kuper, ...

Augsburg
, and
Nuremberg Nuremberg ( ; german: link=no, Nürnberg ; in the local East Franconian dialect: ''Nämberch'' ) is the second-largest city of the Germany, German States of Germany, state of Bavaria after its capital Munich, and its 518,370 (2019) inhabitants ...

Nuremberg
— lost their independence and were absorbed into neighboring territories. Finally, under pressure from Napoleon, the Holy Roman Empire was dissolved in 1806. By 1811, all of the Imperial Cities had lost their independence — Augsburg and Nuremberg had been annexed by
Bavaria Bavaria (; German German(s) may refer to: Common uses * of or related to Germany * Germans, Germanic ethnic group, citizens of Germany or people of German ancestry * For citizens of Germany, see also German nationality law * German language ...

Bavaria
, Frankfurt had become the center of the
Grand Duchy of Frankfurt The Grand Duchy of Frankfurt was a German satellite state of Napoleonic creation. It came into existence in 1810 through the combination of the former territories of the Archbishopric of Mainz along with the Free City of Frankfurt itself. Histor ...
, a Napoleonic
puppet state A puppet state, puppet régime or puppet government or dummy government is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State ( ...
, and the three Hanseatic cities had been directly annexed by France as part of its effort to enforce the
Continental Blockade Image:Continental Blockade (1812).svg, 300px, The First French Empire, French Empire in 1812 The Continental Blockade (), or Continental System, was the foreign policy of Napoleon, Napoleon Bonaparte against the United Kingdom during the Napoleon ...
against Britain. Hamburg and Lübeck with surrounding territories formed the département of , and Bremen the . When the
German Confederation The German Confederation (german: Deutscher Bund) was an association of 39 predominantly German-speaking sovereign states in Central Europe, created by the Congress of Vienna in 1815 as a replacement of the former Holy Roman Empire, which had ...

German Confederation
was established by the
Congress of Vienna The Congress of Vienna (, ) of 1814–1815 was an international diplomatic conference to reconstitute the European political order after the downfall of the French Emperor Napoleon I Napoléon Bonaparte (15 August 1769 – 5 May 1821) w ...

Congress of Vienna
in 1815, Hamburg, Lübeck, Bremen, and Frankfurt were once again made Free Cities, this time enjoying total sovereignty as all the members of the loose Confederation. Frankfurt was annexed by
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europ ...

Prussia
in consequence of the part it took in the
Austro-Prussian War The Austro-Prussian War or Seven Weeks' War, known in Germany as ("German War") and by a variety of other names, was fought in 1866 between the Austrian Empire The Austrian Empire (german: Kaiserthum Oesterreich, modern spelling ') was ...
of 1866. The three other Free Cities became constituent states of the new
German Empire The German Empire or the Imperial State of Germany,, officially '.Herbert Tuttle Herbert Tuttle (1846–1894) was an American historian. Biography Herbert Tuttle was born in Bennington, Vermont Bennington is a New England town, town ...
in 1871 and consequently were no longer fully sovereign as they lost control over defence, foreign affairs and a few other fields. They retained that status in the
Weimar Republic The Weimar Republic (german: Weimarer Republik ) was the German state from 1918 to 1933 when it functioned as a federal constitutional republic. The state was officially named the German Reich (german: Deutsches Reich, link=no, label=none), ...
and into the
Third Reich Nazi Germany, (lit. "National Socialist State"), ' (lit. "Nazi State") for short; also ' (lit. "National Socialist Germany") officially known as the German Reich from 1933 until 1943, and the Greater German Reich from 1943 to 1945, was ...
, although under
Hitler Adolf Hitler (; 20 April 188930 April 1945) was an Austrian-born German politician who was the dictator of Nazi Germany, Germany from 1933 to 1945. Adolf Hitler's rise to power, He rose to power as the leader of the Nazi Party, becoming Cha ...

Hitler
it became purely notional. Due to Hitler's distaste for LübeckLubeck
and its liberal tradition, the need was devised to compensate
Prussia Prussia, , Old Prussian Distribution of the Baltic tribes, circa 1200 CE (boundaries are approximate). Old Prussian was a Western Baltic language belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages The Indo-Europ ...

Prussia
for territorial losses under the
Greater Hamburg Act The Greater Hamburg Act (german: Groß-Hamburg-Gesetz), in full the Law Regarding Greater Hamburg and Other Territorial Readjustments (german: Gesetz über Groß-Hamburg und andere Gebietsbereinigungen), was passed by the government of Nazi German ...
, and Lübeck was annexed to Prussia in 1937. In the
Federal Republic of Germany ) , image_map = , map_caption = , map_width = 250px , capital = Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inh ...
which was established after the war, Bremen and Hamburg, but not Lübeck, became constituent
states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, Un ...

states
, a status which they retain to the present day.
Berlin Berlin (; ) is the Capital city, capital and List of cities in Germany by population, largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,769,495 inhabitants, as of 31 December 2019 makes it the List of cities in the European Union by ...

Berlin
, which had never been a Free City in its history, also received the status of a state after the war due to its special position in divided post-war Germany.
Regensburg Regensburg or is a city in eastern Bavaria, at the confluence of the Danube, Naab and Regen River, Regen rivers. It is capital of the Upper Palatinate subregion of the state in the south of Germany. With more than 150,000 inhabitants, Regens ...

Regensburg
was, apart from hosting the
Imperial DietImperial Diet means the highest representative assembly in an empire, notably: * Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire), general assembly of the Imperial Estates of the Holy Roman Empire (962–1806) * Diet of Japan, Has been going on since 1889 (1889 ...
, a most peculiar city: an officially Lutheran city that nevertheless was the seat of the Catholic prince-bishopric of Regensburg, its prince-bishop and cathedral chapter. The Imperial City also housed three Imperial abbeys: St. Emmeram, and . They were five immediate entities fully independent of each other existing in the same small city.


Image gallery


See also

*
Free city (antiquity)A free city ( la, civitas libera, urbs liberae condicionis; el, ) was a self-governed city during the Hellenistic and Roman Empire, Roman Imperial eras. The status was given by the king or emperor, who nevertheless supervised the city's affairs thr ...
*
Imperial immediacy Imperial immediacy (german: Reichsfreiheit or ') was a privileged constitutional and political status rooted in German feudal law under which the Imperial estate An Imperial State or Imperial Estate ( la, Status Imperii; german: Reichsstand, plu ...
* List of Free Imperial Cities *
Lübeck law The Lübeck law (german: Lübisches (Stadt)Recht) was the family of codified municipal law developed at Lübeck Lübeck (; Low German also ; da, Lybæk ), officially the Hanseatic City of Lübeck (german: Hansestadt Lübeck), is a city in North ...
*
Royal free city Royal free city or free royal city (Latin: libera regia civitas) was the official term for the most important cities in the Kingdom of Hungary The Kingdom of Hungary was a monarchy A monarchy is a form of government ...


Notes


Citations


References

* {{Authority control Legal history of the Holy Roman Empire Types of administrative division