Church and state
Henry V (1086–1125), great-grandson of Conrad II, becameHoly Roman Emperor in 1106 in the midst of a civil war. Hoping to gain complete control over the church inside the Empire, Henry V appointed Adalbert of Saarbrücken as the powerfularchbishop of Mainz in 1111. Adalbert began to assert the powers of the Church against secular authorities, that is, the Emperor. This precipitated the "Crisis of 1111", part of the long-term Investiture Controversy. In 1137 the magnates turned back to the Hohenstaufen family for a candidate, Conrad III. Conrad III tried to divest Henry the Proud of his two duchies –Bavaria and Saxony – leading to war in southern Germany as the Empire divided into two factions. The first faction called themselves the "Welfs" or "Guelphs" after Henry the Proud's family, which was the ruling dynasty in Bavaria; the other faction was known as the "Waiblings." In this early period, the Welfs generally represented ecclesiastical independence under the papacy plus "particularism" (a strengthening of the local duchies against the central imperial authority). The Waiblings, on the other hand, stood for control of the Church by a strong central Imperial government.
Between 1152 and 1190, during the reign of Frederick I (Barbarossa), of the Hohenstaufen dynasty, an accommodation was reached with the rival Guelph party by the grant of the duchy of Bavaria to Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony. Austria became a separate duchy by virtue of the Privilegium Minus in 1156.Barbarossa tried to reassert his control over Italy. In 1177 a final reconciliation was reached between the emperor and the Pope in Venice.
In 1180, Henry the Lion was outlawed; Saxony was divided, and Bavaria was given to Otto of Wittelsbach. (Otto founded the Wittelsbach dynasty, which was to rule Bavaria until 1918.)
From 1184 to 1186, the Hohenstaufen empire under Frederick I Barbarossa reached its peak in theReichsfest (imperial celebrations) held at Mainz and the marriage of his son Henry in Milan to the Normanprincess Constance of Sicily. The power of the feudal lords was undermined by the appointment of "ministerials" (unfree servants of the Emperor) as officials. Chivalry and the court life flowered, leading to a development of German culture and literature (see Wolfram von Eschenbach).
Between 1212 and 1250 Frederick II established a modern, professionally administered state from his base in Sicily. He resumed the conquest of Italy, leading to further conflict with the Papacy. In the Empire, extensive sovereign powers were granted to ecclesiastical and secular princes, leading to the rise of independent territorial states. The struggle with the Pope sapped the Empire's strength, as Frederick II was excommunicated three times. After his death, the Hohenstaufen dynasty fell, followed by an interregnum during which there was no Emperor.
The failure of negotiations between Emperor Louis IV and the papacy led in 1338 to the declaration at Rhense by six electors to the effect that election by all or the majority of the electors automatically conferred the royal title and rule over the empire, without papal confirmation. As result, the monarch was no longer subject to papal approbation and became increasingly dependent on the favour of the electors. Between 1346 and 1378 Emperor Charles IV of Luxembourg, king of Bohemia, sought to restore the imperial authority. The Golden Bull of 1356 stipulated that in future the emperor was to be chosen by four secular electors and three spiritual electors. The secular electors were the King of Bohemia, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Duke of Saxony, and the Margrave of Brandenburg; the three spiritual electors were the Archbishops of Mainz, Trier, and Cologne.
Around 1350 Germany and almost the whole of Europe were ravaged by the Black Death. Jews were persecuted on religious and economic grounds; many fled to Poland. The Black Death is estimated to have killed 30–60 percent of Europe's population in the 14th century.
Change and reform
After the disasters of the 14th century – war, plague, andschism – early-modern European society gradually came into being as a result of economic, religious, and political changes. A money economy arose which provoked social discontent among knights and peasants. Gradually, a proto-capitalistic system evolved out of feudalism. The Fugger family gained prominence through commercial and financial activities and became financiers to both ecclesiastical and secular rulers. The knightly classes found their monopoly on arms and military skill undermined by the introduction of mercenary armies and foot soldiers. Predatory activity by "robber knights" became common.
From 1438 the Habsburgs, who controlled most of the southeast of the Empire (more or less modern-day Austria and Slovenia, and Bohemia and Moravia after the death of King Louis II in 1526), maintained a constant grip on the position of the Holy Roman Emperor until 1806 (with the exception of the years between 1742 and 1745). This situation, however, gave rise to increased disunity among the Holy Roman Empire's territorial rulers and prevented sections of the country from coming together to form nations in the manner ofFrance and England.
During his reign from 1493 to 1519, Maximilian I tried to reform the Empire. An Imperial supreme court (Reichskammergericht) was established, imperial taxes were levied, and the power of the Imperial Diet(Reichstag) was increased. The reforms, however, were frustrated by the continued territorial fragmentation of the Empire.
Towns and cities
The German lands had a population of about 5 or 6 million. The great majority were farmers, typically in a state of serfdom under the control of nobles and monasteries. A few towns were starting to emerge. From 1100, new towns were founded around imperial strongholds, castles, bishops' palaces, and monasteries. The towns began to establish municipal rights and liberties (see German town law). Several cities such asCologne became Imperial Free Cities, which did not depend on princes or bishops, but were immediately subject to the Emperor. The towns were ruled by patricians: merchants carrying on long-distance trade.Craftsmen formed guilds, governed by strict rules, which sought to obtain control of the towns; a few were open to women. Society was divided into sharply demarcated classes: the clergy, physicians, merchants, various guilds of artisans, and peasants; full citizenship was not available to paupers. Political tensions arose from issues of taxation, public spending, regulation of business, and market supervision, as well as the limits of corporate autonomy.
Cologne's central location on the Rhine river placed it at the intersection of the major trade routes between east and west and was the basis of Cologne's growth. The economic structures of medieval and early modern Cologne were characterized by the city's status as a major harbor and transport hub upon the Rhine. It was the seat of the archbishops, who ruled the surrounding area and (from 1248 to 1880) built the greatCologne Cathedral, with sacred relics that made it a destination for many worshippers. By 1288 the city had secured its independence from the archbishop (who relocated to Bonn), and was ruled by its burghers.
Science and culture
In the 12th century, German Benedictine abbess Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179) wrote several influential theological, botanical, and medicinal texts, as well as letters, liturgical songs, poems, and arguably the oldest surviving morality play, while supervising brilliant miniature Illuminations. About 100 years later, Walther von der Vogelweide (c. 1170 - c. 1230) became the most celebrated of the Middle High German lyric poets.
Around 1439, Johannes Gutenberg, a citizen of Mainz, was the first European to use movable type printing and became the global inventor of the printing press, thereby starting the Printing Revolution. Gutenberg's inventions and works (such as the Gutenberg Bible) would play key roles for the development of theReformation and the Scientific Revolution.
Around the transition from the 15th to the 16th century, Albrecht Dürer from Nuremberg established his reputation across Europe as painter, printmaker, mathematician, engraver, and theorist when he was still in his twenties and secured his reputation as one of the most important figures of the Northern Renaissance.
The addition Nationis Germanicæ (of German Nation) to the emperor's title appeared first in the 15th century: in a 1486 law decreed by Frederick III and in 1512 in reference to the Imperial Diet in Cologne by Maximilian I. By then, the emperors had lost their influence in Italy and Burgundy. In 1525, the Heilbronn reform plan – the most advanced document of the German Peasants' War (Deutscher Bauernkrieg) – referred to the Reich as von Teutscher Nation (of German nation).