Golden Bull of 1356

The Golden Bull of 1356 was the most important of the " fundamental laws " of the Holy Roman Empire and set out the procedure of the election and coronation of the Holy Roman kings by the electors until the end of the Old Kingdom, 1806.

The name refers to the golden seal of the deed, however, he was only in the 15th century in use. Charles IV, in whose reign the written in the Latin language of law was announced, she called our keizer real right book.

The first 23 chapters are known as the Nuremberg Code and were developed in Nuremberg and promulgated on January 10, 1356 at the Nuremberg court day. Chapters 24 to 31 carry the designation Metzer Code and announced on December 25, 1356 in Metz. The Golden Bull is the most important constitutional document of the medieval empire.

In 2013, the Golden Bull for the World Soundtrack Awards, the corresponding obligations for Germany and Austria was declared.


Originally, it was not the task of the medieval rulers to create a new right within the meaning of the legislative process. Since the time of the Hohenstaufen but sat increasingly considered by that of the king and future emperor was to be regarded as the source of the old law, and it therefore importance at a legislative function. This resulted from the fact that the empire stood in the tradition of the ancient Roman Empire, and from the increasing influence of Roman law on the legal opinions in the kingdom.

Accordingly, Ludwig could IV (1281/1282-1347) unchallenged as above the law standing designate; he is entitled to make law and to interpret laws. Charles IV continued this legislative competence for granted, as he issued the Golden Bull. Nevertheless, the late medieval emperor renounced largely on this power tool.

After returning from his expedition to Italy (1354-1356) of Charles IV appointed a court day one to Nuremberg. During this turn, Charles was crowned in Rome on April 5, 1355 to the emperor. On the court day basic things should be discussed with the princes of the empire. Karl, it was all about, to stabilize the structures of the empire, after it had been repeated power struggles for the kingship. Such disturbances should be excluded in the future by a precise control of the throne and of the electoral process. At this point the Emperor and the Elector were quick to agree. The rejection of a voice of the Pope in the royal elections was decided largely by consensus. In other points, Karl -bought the consent of the princes, however, several projects to strengthen the central power of the empire, he could not prevail. On the contrary, he had the prince concessions to their power in the territories make and secured at the same time many privileges in his own center of power Bohemia. The result of the Nuremberg proceedings was solemnly proclaimed on 10 January 1356. This later as the "Golden Bull" designated Act was extended and supplemented the end of 1356 another court day in Metz. Accordingly, the two parts are referred to as Nuremberg and Metz Code.

Not in all respects, that wanted control Karl, the court day but made ​​decisions. Thus, in the peace question little and decided on matters of coin, escort and customs matters were able to prevent the Rhenish electors a decision.


Overall, was created in the Golden Bull in large parts not create new law, but were written down those procedures and principles that had previously emerged in the hundred years in the royal elections.

The " imperial legal book" regulated in detail the arrangements for the election of a king. The right to elect the king was alone with the Elector. The Archbishop of Mainz had the electors in Frankfurt am Main summon as Chancellor of Germany within 30 days after the death of the last king to crown in the church of St. Bartholomew, the modern cathedral, the successor. The electors were to take an oath to make their decision " without any collusion, reward or remuneration ."

The vote was carried by rank:

Comprehensive and on time, the rights and obligations of the electors were sealed at the election of the king. The royal election was thus formally, as already explained in the Kurverein of Rhense, detached from the approbation of the pope and the new king granted the full right to rule. A significant revision of the Golden Bull was that ever the king was elected by the votes of a majority for the first time and was not altogether dependent on the consent of all ( spa ) princes. For this purpose, but had to leave so there would be no king first or second class, be faked, that the minority be abstaining from the vote and yet ultimately " all agreed " had. An elector could be chosen from among the electors with their own voice.

After their election, the kings were crowned usually emperor by the pope, as the last Charles V. Even his predecessor Maximilian I called with the consent of the Pope since 1508 " Chosen Roman Emperor ". Instead of the coronation in Aachen found in 1562, starting with Maximilian II to Emperor Franz II in 1792, almost all coronations in Frankfurt Cathedral after the election instead.

Moreover, the Golden Bull laid down an annual meeting of all electors. There, discussions should be held with the Emperor.

The bull forbade alliances of all kinds with the exception of the peace associations, as well as the burgesses ( citizens of a city, which probably had a town charter, but lived outside the city ).

They regulated the immunity of the Electors, and the inheritance of this title. In addition, an elector received the right of coinage, customs law, the right to exercise the unlimited jurisdiction and the duty to protect the Jews against payment of protection money ( Jews shelf ).

The areas of the electors were declared indivisible territories in order to avoid that the tuning rate could be shared or would have to be increased, which implied that to succeed in the electoral dignity in the secular electors was always provided the firstborn legitimate son. The ultimate goal of this bull was to prevent succession feuds, and the establishment of counter- kings. This was finally achieved.

The second part of the Bull, the " Metzer Code ," dealt primarily with questions of protocol, the collection of taxes and the penalties for conspiracies against electors.

Immediate effects and long-term consequences

The Golden Bull documented, formalized and codified an emerging educated in centuries practice and development towards the territorialization. The establishment of both the secular and the spiritual principalities approximately from the 11th to the 14th century and parallel to the gradual loss of power of the king in the course of territorialisation be committed. Norbert Elias speaks concerning these long-term development of the conflict between " central authority " and the " centrifugal forces " during the development of the feudal association of persons for administrative- legalized state.

The privileges of the electors, which emerged in the course of time and had almost solidified by customary law to be codified:

  • The Elector territories are undivided inherited by the firstborn.
  • Privilege de non evocando: subjects may only be charged to the electoral court.
  • Privilege de non appellando: subjects may call any other court.
  • Regalia fall of electors.

The extensive sovereignty of the individual territories no central government, such as in England or France, by a powerful monarchical court and thus a political and cultural center of the field was the Holy Roman Empire reigns. There is no linguistic uniformity and standardization, but the respective territories retain their Regiolekte and evolve largely autonomously. The territories to build their own universities who teach independently and play an important role in the attraction of special " state officials ". Territorialisation proceeds in the following centuries on, the Peace of Westphalia of 1648 the division of Germany was sealed into independent territories, the central power will lose even more of skills until terminated formally in 1806.

Until today Germany is a federal state, take in the political influence which countries significant.


Usually bulls are made of lead, only for very special occasions tion modifiers leads and in small numbers, there are bulls of gold, representing therefore of exceptional importance and preciousness. The 6 cm wide and 0.6 cm high capsules of the cops are made of sturdy gold plate. The obverse shows the emperor enthroned with orb and scepter, flanked by the ( single-headed ) Imperial Eagle on the right and from the Bohemian lion left. The inscription reads: KAROLVS QVARTVS DIVINA FAVENTE Clemencia ROMANOR (UM) IMPERATOR SEMP (ER) AUGUSTUS ( Charles IV, Holy Roman Emperor grace of God, at all times of the Empire ). In the infield is: REX ET BOEMIE ( and King of Bohemia). The reverse shows a stylized image of the city of Rome, stands on the portal: AVREA ROMA (Golden Rome). The inscription reads: ROMA CAPVT MVNDI, REGIT ORBIS FRENA ROTVNDI (Rome, the head of the world, guiding the reins of the globe ).

Copies and their whereabouts

From the Golden Bull Today, seven copies are preserved. There is no evidence that it has we have also received additional copies. All copies consist of two parts: the first consisting of the resolved on Diet of Nuremberg chapters 1-23, and the second with the Metz laws in chapters 24-31. Due to the scope of the copies do not have the appearance of documents, but is bound dragonfly. It is noteworthy that the Saxon and Elector of Brandenburg, probably for lack of money, have renounced their own copy.

The Bohemian copy is now in the Austrian State Archives in Vienna, Department House, Court and State Archives. It comes from the imperial chancery, with only the first part is a sealed copy with gold bull, the second part is an un-sealed copy of an earlier second part of the Bohemian copy, but probably was just a concept. Already 1366-1378 the transcript was tied with the first part.

Even the Mainz copy is located in the Austrian State Archives in Vienna, Department House, Court and State Archives. It comes from the imperial chancery. The golden seal and the sealing cord no longer exist.

The Cologne-based copy is in the University and State Library. The writer is unknown, maybe there is a hack writer.

The Palatine copy, which also originates from the imperial chancery, is now in the Bavarian State Archives.

When Trier copy in the Central State Archive Stuttgart, which originates from the imperial chancery, the bull lies with the remains of silk cord with only loose.

The Frankfurt copy is a copy of the original Bohemian copy, so the second part has the same template as the second part of today's Bohemian copy. It is located in the Institute of the History of the Carmelite monastery (Frankfurt am Main ), the former Frankfurt City Archives. There is a copy at the expense of the city, as they had in the context of their guaranteed rights in the election of the king and the first Reichstag, an interest in a complete copy. Although it is similar in character to a copy, they had the same legal status as the other copies

The Nuremberg copy, which is kept in the State Archives of Nuremberg, wax - sealed and not only with a with a gold seal. There is a transcript of today's Bohemian copy and originated 1366-1378.

In addition to these seven originals, there are numerous copies (also in German) and later prints, go back to each one of these templates. Particularly noteworthy is the native of the year 1400 luxury manuscript of King Wenceslas (see picture above), which is now in the Austrian National Library.


There were 174 copies of the Golden Bull from the late Middle Ages and at least twenty other textual witnesses of the modern era be identified that increase the number of listed in the most recent edition copies by more than a quarter. Most Latin copies follow the Bohemian copy of the Golden Bull, a greater number instead of the Palatine version. Few pieces are the Mainz or Cologne, and only a very few copies of the Trier version assign. The background to this is, first, the Roman-German king or emperor dignity of Luxembourg and the Habsburgs; secondly, the long-standing claims of the Bavarian Wittelsbach on the electoral dignity; and third, the fact that the copies of Frankfurt and Nuremberg represent diplomatic transcriptions of the Czech version and have thus contributed indirectly to its further dissemination. The copies come from the Rhineland, the Southwest, Franks and later Switzerland, from the wittelbachischen and the Habsburg south and the south-east of Bohemia, also from the Margraviate of Brandenburg, Prussia and Livonia, as well as cities in Saxony, Thuringia and Westphalia. More duplicates come from the office of the French kings from the Kingdom of Norway and the Margraviate of Moravia, from the port city of Venice and the Roman Curia. Most copies came 1435-1475. , The first Latin duplicates were made even in the late 14th century in the offices of the Elector of Cologne, Mainz, Germany and Bohemia and the viscount of Nuremberg. The well-known luxury edition of King Wenceslas IV of Bohemia was built shortly after 1400. Your follow in the 15th century copies for the Duke of Brabant, the Count Palatine of the Rhine, the Archbishop of Trier and the Habsburg emperor. One can also expect to duplicate for the Bavarian Wittelsbach, the dukes of Brunswick- Lüneburg, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order and the Saxon Wettin. Other recipients Latin editions were high clerics like the bishops of Eichstätt and Strasbourg or even prominent members of the Roman Curia. Even the low clergy and the patrician class can be found as a user Latin collections. Bilingual specimens were mainly on Central and Upper Rhine, but also in Franconia. All French versions are from the imperial city of Metz. They have been documented only since the end of the 15th century. Much younger is the only Spanish translation, which belongs to the 18th century. From the pressure age originate transfers into Dutch and Italian. Therefore, a Czech translation exists probably not, because there was no more need in the 15th century in Bohemia.


We can distinguish five phases of the reception. In the reign of Charles IV Rich and territories were the focus of interpretation. The Golden Bull was primarily seen as privileges collection or as a total privilege. Rules for the feud and the immunity of Kurlande came here in the crossfire of criticism. During the Great Western Schism the Golden Bull was mostly interpreted as imperial decree. They put the text now in regard to the election of a king in Frankfurt, which was understood as a Kaiser survey, without consideration of the papal approbation claims. The competing claims to power of the kings Wenzel and Ruprecht featured this current political background dar. Under Ruprecht next to the Emperor and the Elector were taken in the view, but it summed up the Golden Bull like a Weistum the electors. This corresponded to their share of the kingdom gestiegenem events. In the reign of Sigismund the Golden Bull enlisted as imperial law in the center of interest. The quaternions introduced at least since the Council of Constance all stands as full members of the Empire, and thus modified is the dualism of the Emperor and the Elector. They understood the emperor at this stage primarily as the highest judge, peacemaker, Vogt of the Church and protectors of the law. Time Historical background for this was the ecclesiastical and imperial reform. After the election of Frederick III. was the Golden Bull increasingly synonymous with the imperial law, but also won the imperial coronation for the Habsburgs again in importance. The cure in Frankfurt, which would shape the modern view of the Golden Bull significantly, and the mutual relationship of the two universal powers, to the mainly Protestant ignited the debate about the Golden Bull, were even the subject of university teaching for the first time. The canon law and Roman law were doing a whole new compounds for which the Golden Bull was an essential node.

The print age caused different reception conditions. It can be for this new European accents, find a cluster to the (usually Protestant ) University and publisher varieties as well as a concentration of expenditure and comments on the election and coronation site of Frankfurt am Main.


On 2 January 2006 the 650 -year anniversary of the Golden Bull, the Federal Republic of Germany brought out a stamp of 1,45 €.

UNESCO has added the " Golden Bull " as the German - Austrian joint nomination in the "Memory of the World". The admission was decided at a conference in the South Korean city of Gwangju on 18 June 2013.