Quirini: An account of Germany in 1507


From: James Harvey Robinson Readings in European History, The Athenaeum Press, Boston , 1906

SINCE, most serene prince [namely, the doge], and most sage and weighty council, all the discord which is now to be observed among Christian peoples appears to be due to the most serene king of the Romans [namely, Maximilian] and to the Empire, it seemed to me my duty to report to your excellencies concerning affairs in Germany with such fullness as to enable you in the present emergencies and in those which you will have to face from, let us say, to-day the better to reach your wise decisions.

First, to proceed in an orderly fashion, I will endeavor to narrate all that I have been able to learn of the extent of that country, its government and resources of his Majesty the emperor, and the relations which have existed and now exist between him and the princes and estates of the Empire, and between him and the Swiss; lastly, of the disposition of the Empire and the king toward this republic and the rest of the Christian rulers, and what his Majesty may be able to accomplish at this juncture.

Enumeration of the chief German princes

This country of Germany is large and populous, full of principalities, towns, cities, burgs, and castles. … Among the temporal rulers there are two kings, about thirty dukes and an archduke, four landgraves, and a great number of counts.

The ecclesiastical princes

Of those in Germany who are at once spiritual and temporal princes, there are five archbishops -Mayence, Cologne, Treves, Mechlenburg, and Salzburg- and about twenty-five bishops. Of these latter, the chief are Wurzburg, Bamberg, Strasburg, , Augsburg, Freising, Eichstadt, Liege, Constance, and Trent. Beside these, there are twenty abbots, five masters of religious orders, and priors,- all princes of the Empire, who combine spiritual and temporal powers like the bishops.

The free towns

Besides the above-mentioned principalities there are in Germany about a hundred free towns, on which twenty-eight belong to the Swabian League, sixty-two to the great league of Dantzig and Lubeck [namely, the Hanseatic League],while the rest lie in the region of the Rhine. The principal members of the great league are Danzig, Stolp, Colberg, Lubeck, Limburg, Hamburg, and Stade; of the Swabian League, Nuremberg, Augsburg, Ulm, Memmingen, and Strasburg. The chief of the Rhine district are Cologne, Speyer, Worms, Frankfort, and Constance. And this ends what I have to say about the size of Germany.

Limited power

The authority over the Empire vested in the emperor, or king of the Romans,, goes no further than the laws and justice permit, and he cannot despotically force the princes and free towns to obey any particular desire of his unless he first convoke all the Empire to diet.

How the diet is summoned

The king of the Romans, or emperor, who proposes in the interest of the Empire to have a careful deliberation, sends a summons to each prince, whether ecclesiastical or secular, and to each of the free towns, that they should all within two months, or three, or whatever time may seem good to him, come together in a certain place, either in person or through representatives or substitutes, on business of importance to the Empire. And all those who are summoned are obliged to come within the limit set; and if they do not come, they incur whatever penalty the king shall impose upon them; and if they do not pay the penalty, they may be excommunicated by the emperor, just as one is excommunicated by the pope. In this case it is free to all to rob and kill the person excommunicated. For this reason every one takes care to come to the diet or send a representative, and not to disobey the emperor in any matter in which, with the consent of the Empire, he may command.

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