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December 29, 2006

A lesson in European History

Spent a fascinating day yesterday in the company of Mausi and her husband, exploring the city of Frankfurt am Main. I certainly had not realized that this city was, for several centuries, the Imperial heart of the Holy Roman Empire, the Emperor, or Kaiser, being elected here in the Chapel of the Electors which is situated alongside the Dom Cathedral in the ancient heart of the city. It was here too that the Kaisers were crowned in an acient ritual whose nearest parallel is the making and enthronement of an Archbishop.

The Carolingian Emperors came to an end in 1806 and the city became a "Free City" briefly, but saw a revival of its fortunes briefly during 1848-49 when a special parliament was held here to try to create a constitution based on universal suffrage. The Iron Chancellor, Otto von Bismarck, however, had other plans, and the city saw the rise of the Hohernzollern family to the the status of Emperors in the Second Reich, which, even at its height could not match the extent of that founded by Charlemagne or Karl der Große as he is titled here.

A fascinating document preserved in the museum here - the "Golden Bull" of Charles IV (Karl IV) which is, in effect, a pact between the Kaiser and the individual states he is overlord too. It sets out the manner in which the Kaiser is to be elected and the procedure for his annointing, crowning and enthronement and a great deal on what he may impose and what he may not impose upon his "vassals" who are, in fact, also his electorate!

Amazing how little we know about the history of so much that is right on the doorstep. If only the Iron Chancellor's plans and those of the Paulkirche parliament had been able to combine, I rather think the history of much of the twentieth century would have been a very different story. But that, as they asy, is history!

Posted by The Gray Monk at December 29, 2006 10:07 AM

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