Free Cities

Scattered throughout the Holy Roman Empire were urban districts holding Charters of Liberties issued by the Emperor. These quasi-republics (governed for the most part by councils and guilds, but having the Emperor as a theoretical Chief-of-State) were miniscule in area but relatively large in population and of great influence in Imperial affairs. A few of them survived the Napoleonic interruptions to retain their autonomy until the collapse of the German Empire in 1918 - two of these latter (Bremen and Hamburg) constitute small states within the Bundesrepublik to this day.

Currently this has: Aachen(Aix-la-Chapelle), Aalen, Augsburg, Biberach, Bopfingen, Bremen, Buchau, Buchhorn, Dinkelsbuhl, Dortmund, Esslingen, Frankfurt-am-Main, Friedberg, Gengenbach, Giengen, Gmund, Goslar, Hall, Hamburg, Heilbronn, Hildesheim, Isny, Kaufbeuren, Kempten, Köln (Cologne), Leutkirchen, Lindau, Lorch (Flaschenhals), Lübeck, Memmingen, Mühlhausen, Mulhouse, Nordhausen, Nördlingen, Nürnberg, Offenburg, Pfullendorf, Ravensburg, Regensburg, Reutlingen, Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Rottweil, Schweinfurt, Speyer, Überlingen, Ulm, Wangen, Weil, Weissenburg-im-Nordgau, Wetzlar, Wimpfen, Windheim, Worms, Zell.

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Aachen (Fr. Aix-la-Chapelle) Built as a spa in Roman times, it was Charlemagne's capital as Holy Roman Emperor. Ever afterward, it was closely associated with the Empire - successive Emperors were normally crowned here until the 16th century, and the city saw many Imperial Diets.


AugsburgAn important Roman colony (Augusta Vindelicorum) in southern Germany, and the site of a powerful bishopric. Augsburg is known as the site where Luther defied the Papal legate in 1518, and where the treaty of Augsburg (1555) was formulated and signed, acknowledging the status quo ante of religious division in Germany.



BremenAn important North Sea port founded c. 787 as a bishopric, and later becoming one of the larger and more significant members of the Hanseatic League.


Buchhorn (mod. Friedrichshafen)On Lake Constanz; the site of the old Zeppelin manufacturing yards. There is alsp a lordship associated with the district, closely tied to Bregenz, also on the lake in what is now Austria.


Dortmund A large and important industrial center within the Ruhr, first mentioned in the late 9th century. Note also the county in this district.


Frankfurt-am-MainA very large and important city in central Germany, the effective capital of Germany 1356-1806 and 1815-1866 inasmuch as Imperial elections took place here, successive emperors were crowned here from 1526 on, and the parliament of the German Confederation met here after the Napoleonic interlude. It was very well known both as the premier financial center of Germany and as a printing center associated with a large annual book fair.



Gersau A town in central Switzerland, within Schwyz Canton. It is located on the north shore of Lake Lucerne, about 6 miles (10 km.) west of Schwyz city, and about 11 miles (17 km.) southeast of Lucerne city.


Gmund (Schwäbisch)


Hall (Schwäbisch)

Hamburg Germany's largest port, and a major European city as well.


Hildesheim A town in northern Germany, originally a fort on the route between Köln and Magdeburg. The seat of a Prince-bishopric, founded early in the 9th century.



Kempten A Bavarian city associated with an important monastery of the same name, which the City had much struggle with regarding relative autonomy, particularly after the town became largely Protestant in the 16th century.

Köln (Fr. Cologne) A major Rhenish city, one of the earliest Roman settlements in the region (53 BCE, named Colonia [Claudia Ara] Agrippinensium from 50 CE), and the seat of one of the three Archbishop-Electorates of the Empire.


Lindau On a peninsula jutting out into the southwest corner of Lake Constanz.

Lorch A small town in western Germany, located in an isolated valley just east of the Rhine about 20 miles (32 km.) west of Mainz, the center of a geopolitical anomaly in the early 20th century.

Lübeck A large and important port in northwestern Gerrmany, the chief city in the Hanseatic League during the Middle Ages.


Mühlhausen In central Germany, 20 miles (32 km.) northwest of Gotha. Not to be confused with the Free City of essentially the same name in Alsace, listed just below.

Mulhouse Located in Alsace about 18 miles (28 km.) northwest of Basel, Switzerland, and about 21 miles (33 km.) south of Colmar. Not to be confused with the Free City of essentially the same name in Thuringia, listed just above.



Nürnberg A strategically important city in northern Bavaria, the birthplace of Albrecht Dürer. Although the city itself was chartered from the early 13th century, and fully independent by c. 1260, a Burggraviate associated with the surrounding countryside proved to be a steppingstone to national influence on the part of the Swabian dynasty of Hohenzollern.




Regensburg An important Bavarian bishopric. The last Prince-Bishop, Karl von Dalberg, was nominated as "Prince-Primate, leader of the Confederation of the Rhine, during Napoleon's hegemony, and gained control over the free city in his capacity of Prince of Aschaffenburg.


Rothenburg (ob der Tauber) A town in northwestern Bavaria, 40 miles (64 km.) west of Nürnburg. Noted for an incident during the Thirty-Years War when it was beseiged and captured by Catholic forces under Tilly (1631) - the town was saved from sacking when a citizen accepted a bet to drink more than 3 quarts of wine in a single gulp. The occasion is commemorated each Whitsuntide by a play and festival.

Rottweil A city in southwestern Württemberg. The town is perhaps best-known as the point of origin for a particular breed of guard dog, based on a type of war mastiff abandoned by retreating Roman troops in the 4th century CE.


Speyer An important city in the Palatinate, the seat of a bishopric.

Überlingen On the northwestern shore of Lake Constanz.

Ulm A large city in southern Germany, the premier city of the Swabian League, and a primary commercial center, particularly in textiles. As Free States went, Ulm acquired an unusually large territory in the surrounding area.






Windheim A small town in northern Bavaria.

Worms An ancient city, of remote Celtic origins and later a Roman settlement (Civitas Vangionum). Capital of the Burgundians in the early Dark Ages, it's destruction at the hands of Attila is an integral part of the Nibelungenlied cycle. An important bishopric in the Middle Ages, the town was often the site of Imperial councils and Diets - it was here, in April of 1521, that Martin Luther, summoned under safe-conduct to answer and recant, made his final break ("Here stand I, I cannot  do otherwise. God help me, Amen").

Zell (mod. Radolfzell)