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The Reichstag (German for "Imperial Diet") was the parliament of the Holy Roman Empire, and subsequently of the North German Confederationmarker, and of Germanymarker until 1945. The main chamber of the German parliament is now called Bundestagmarker ("Federal Diet"), but the building in which it meets is still called "Reichstag" (see Reichstag marker).

The term "Reichstag" ( ) is a compound of German Reich ("Empire") and Tag ("assembly"; does not mean "day" here, but is derived from the verb tagen "to assemble"). The Latin term, a direct translation, was curia imperialis. (Still today, the parliaments on the various federal levels in Germany are called Bundestagmarker, Landtag etc., and the parliament in Swedenmarker is called Riksdagmarker.)

The Reichstag in the Holy Roman Empire

The period of the Holy Roman Empire which lasted formally until 1806, the Reichstag was never a parliament in today's sense; instead, it was an assembly of the various estates of which the Empire was composed. More precisely, it was the convention of the Reichsstände ("imperial estates"), legal entities that, according to feudal law, had no authority above them besides the Emperor himself (see Holy Roman Empire for details).

The precise role and function of the Reichstag changed over the centuries, as did the Empire itself, in that the estates and separate territories gained more and more control of their own affairs at the expense of imperial power. Initially, there was neither a fixed time nor location for the Reichstag. It started as a convention of the dukes of the old Germanic tribes that formed the Frankish kingdom when important decisions had to be made, and was probably based on the old Germanic law whereby each leader relied on the support of his leading men. For example, already under Charlemagne (Charlemagne), the Reichstag of Aachenmarker in 802/803 officially determined the laws of the Saxons and other tribes. The Reichstag of 919 in Fritzlarmarker elected the first king of the Germans who was a Saxon, Henry the Fowler, thus overcoming the longstanding rivalry between Franks and Saxons and laying the foundation for the German Empire. In 1158, the Diet of Roncaglia finalized four laws that would significantly alter the (never formally written) constitution of the Empire, marking the beginning of the steady decline of the central power in favour of the local dukes. In 1356, the Golden Bull cemented the concept of Landesherrschaft ("territorial rule"), the largely independent rule of the dukes over their respective territories, and also limited the number of electors to seven: the Duke of Saxony, the Margrave of Brandenburg, the King of Bohemia, the Elector Palatine (Palsgrave) and the Archbishops of Mainz, Trier and Cologne. The Pope was from this point officially excluded from the electoral process.

However, until the late 15th century, the Reichstag was not actually formalized as an institution. Instead, the dukes and other princes would irregularly convene at the court of the Emperor; these assemblies were usually referred to as Hoftage (from German Hof "court"). Only beginning in 1489 was the Reichstag called as such, and was formally divided into several collegia ("colleges"). Initially, the two colleges were that of the Kurfürsten ("prince-electors") and that of the other dukes and princes. Later, the imperial cities, that is, cities that were reichsunmittelbar and were oligarchic republics independent of a local ruler that were subject only to the Emperor himself, managed to be accepted as a third party.

Several attempts to reform the Empire and end its slow disintegration, notably starting with the Reichstag in 1495, did not have much effect. In contrast, this process was only hastened with the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, which formally bound the Emperor to accept all decisions made by the Reichstag, in effect depriving him of his few remaining powers. From then to its end in 1806, the Reich was not much more than a collection of largely independent states.

Probably the most famous Reichstage were those held in Wormsmarker 1495, where the Imperial Reform was enacted, 1521, where Martin Luther was banned (see Edict of Worms), 1529 in Speyermarker (see Protestation at Speyer), and several in Nurembergmarker; see Diet of Worms, Second Diet of Speyer and Diet of Nuremberg for details.

Only with the introduction of the Immerwährender Reichstag ("permanent Imperial Diet") in 1663 did the Reichstag permanently convene in a fixed location, the city of Regensburgmarker.

For a list of members of the Reichstag from 1792, near the end of the Empire, refer to List of Reichstag participants .

The Reichstag as the German Parliament

The opening of the German parliament in 1894
The Reichstag in 1889
After the collapse of the Empire in 1806, the term was subsequently used for the Parliament of the 1849 Frankfurtmarker constitution draft that never came into effect, the Parliament of the North German Confederationmarker from 1867-1871 and finally that of the 1871 German Empiremarker. In the latter two cases, it was a parliament elected by all males who had attained the age of 25. This made the Reichstag the most democratic parliament in Europe.

In the 1919 Weimar Republicmarker, the Reichskanzler (chancellor, head of government) was responsible to the Reichstag, which was directly elected by the people. From 1930 on, however, the Reichstag was practically circumvented with the use of the extensive powers that were granted to the president under the Emergency Decree in Article 48 of the constitution. After Adolf Hitler was appointed Reichskanzler on January 30, 1933 the process of Gleichschaltung ("marching in step", "synchronization") commenced with the Reichstag Fire Decree (Reichstagsbrandverordnung) and the Enabling Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz), in which the Reichstag formally dispensed from itself exclusive responsibility for the exercise of the legislative power. From then on it only functioned as a body of ratification by acclamation, for the action(s); legislative; minsterial; and executive, of the dictatorship. Even for this almost purely ceremonial role, the Third Reich, Reichstag held its last session on April 26, 1942.

The Reichstag buildingmarker in Berlinmarker was constructed as the seat of the Reichstag in the German Empire in 1894 and, after a major reconstruction, has been the seat of today's German parliament, the Bundestagmarker, since 1999. After the building was gutted in the Reichstag fire of 1933, the Nazi Reichstag met in the Kroll Opera Housemarker.

Collection of Reichstag records

After the 1871 formation of the German Empiremarker the Historical Commission of the Bavarian Academy of Sciencesmarker started to collect imperial records (Reichsakten) and imperial diet records (Reichstagsakten). In 1893 the commission published the first volume. At present the years 1524 – 1527 and years up to 1544 are being collected and researched. A volume dealing with the 1532 Reichstag in Regensburg, including the peace negotiations with the Protestants in Schweinfurtmarker and Nurembergmarker, by Rosemarie Aulinger of Viennamarker was published in 1992. A list of the records of several European countries can be found here.

Reichstag places

Note: this list is incomplete
Year Place President Theme
754 Quierzy-sur-Oisemarker    
777 Paderbornmarker    
782 Lippspringemarker   division of Saxony into counties
788 Ingelheim am Rheinmarker   deposition of Tassilo III
799 Paderbornmarker   Charlemagne clears with Pope Leo III his installation as Emperor
806 Diedenhofenmarker   Division of the Empire
817 Aachenmarker    
826 ?   Inviting of the Sorbs;
829 Wormsmarker    
831 Aachenmarker    
835 Diedenhofenmarker    
872 Forchheimmarker Louis II, the German  
874 Forchheimmarker Louis II, the German Discussion and regulation of inheritance
887 Triburmarker    
889 Forchheimmarker Arnulf of Carinthia  
892 Forchheimmarker Arnulf of Carinthia Preparing a War against the Slavs
896 Forchheimmarker Arnulf of Carinthia  
903 Forchheimmarker Louis the Child Execution of the Babenberg Rebel Adalhard
907 Forchheimmarker Louis the Child Council about the Magyar attacks
911 Forchheimmarker   Election of Conrad of Franconia King
914 Forchheimmarker Conrad of Franconia War against Arnulf I of Bavaria
919 Fritzlarmarker    
926 Wormsmarker Henry the Fowler  
952 on the Lech meadows near Augsburgmarker Otto I the Great  
961 Forchheimmarker Otto I the Great  
967 Ravennamarker Otto II  
972 Quedlinburgmarker    
976 Regensburgmarker    
978 Dortmundmarker Otto II War against France in the Autumn
983 Veronamarker   Election of Otto III
985     End of the usurpation of Henry the Wrangler
993 Dortmundmarker Otto III  
1066 Triburmarker    
1076 Wormsmarker Henry IV  
1077 Augsburgmarker    
1098 Mainzmarker Henry IV.  
1105 Ingelheimmarker Henry IV.  
1119 Triburmarker Henry IV.  
1122 Wormsmarker Henry V  
1147 Frankfurtmarker Conrad III
1152 Dortmundmarker/Merseburgmarker Frederick I Barbarossa  
1154 Goslarmarker  
1157 Bisanzmarker Frederick I Barbarossa  
1158 Diet of Roncaglia near Piacenza Frederick I Barbarossa  
1165 Würzburgmarker Frederick I Barbarossa  
1168 Bambergmarker Frederick I Barbarossa / Henry VI  
1180 Gelnhausenmarker Frederick I Barbarossa / Henry VI Investiture of the Archbishop of Cologne with the Duchy of Westphalia
1181 Erfurtmarker Henry VI Exile of Henry the Lion
1188 Mainzmarker Henry VI  
1196 Frankfurtmarker Henry VI  
1235 Mainzmarker Frederick II  
1287 Würzburgmarker Adolf of Nassau-Weilburg  
1338 Frankfurtmarker    
1379 Frankfurtmarker    
1356 Nurembergmarker Charles IV Issuance of the Golden Bull
1389 Egermarker Wenzel of Luxemburg Peace of Egermarker
1487 Nurembergmarker Frederick III  
1488 Esslingenmarker Frederick III Formation of the Swabian League
1495 Wormsmarker Maximilian I Imperial Reform; Gemeiner Pfennig in the wake of the Swabian War
1496/97 Lindaumarker    
1497/98 Freiburgmarker    
1500 Augsburgmarker    
1505 Cologne   Schiedsspruch im Landshuter Erbfolgekrieg
1507 Konstanzmarker    
1512 Triermarker/Cologne   10 Reichskreis
1518 Augsburgmarker    
1521 Wormsmarker Charles V Diet of Worms, ban of Martin Luther, Edict of Worms
1522 Nurembergmarker I    
1522/23 Nurembergmarker II    
1524 Nurembergmarker III    
1526 Speyermarker I   Suspension of the Edict of Worms
1529 Speyermarker II   Second Diet of Speyer, Reinstatement of the Edict of Worms, Protestation at Speyer. Proclamation of the Wiedertäufermandat condemning Anabaptists
1530 Augsburgmarker   Diet of Augsburg presentation of the Augsburg Confession
1532 Regensburgmarker Ferdinand I Constitutio Criminalis Carolina
1541 Regensburgmarker    
1542 Speyermarker    
1542 Nurembergmarker    
1543 Nurembergmarker    
1544 Speyermarker    
1548 Augsburgmarker   Augsburg Interim
1550/51 Augsburgmarker    
1555 Augsburgmarker   Peace of Augsburg
1556/57 Regensburgmarker    
1559 Augsburgmarker    
1566 Augsburgmarker    
1567 Regensburgmarker    
1570 Speyermarker    
1576 Regensburgmarker    
1582 Augsburgmarker    
1594 Regensburgmarker    
1597/98 Regensburgmarker    
1603 Regensburgmarker    
1608 Regensburgmarker    
1613 Regensburgmarker    
1640/41 Regensburgmarker    
1653/54 Regensburgmarker Ferdinand III. Jüngster Reichsabschied (recessus imperii novissimus)
1663-1806 in the Reichssaal of the Regensburgmarker town hall
als Immerwährender Reichstag (permanent diet)
   


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