First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

This full double-page illustration is among the finest woodcuts in the Nuremburg Chronicle. It represents the German Kaiser as head of the Holy Roman Empire, together with his seven electors (Kurfuersten), three spiritual and four secular. The absence of the emperors from Germany, and the long struggle with the popes, resulted in a serious loss of their power as kings of Germany. By neglecting their duties as German kings, and exerting their main efforts for the empire, the emperors allowed the German princes to seize gradually all the privileges of the German crown and to make themselves practically independent. The German princes had always refused to permit the German crown to be made hereditary and, in the thirteenth century, a change was made in the mode of electing the sovereign. The privilege was vested in the seven electors—three spiritual and four secular princes. The three spiritual electors were the archbishops of Mainz, Cologne, and Treves (Trier)—all in the west of Germany. The four secular princes were the Duke of Saxony, the Margrave of Brandenburg, the Palsgrave of the Rhine, and the King of Bohemia. These seven ranked above all the other German princes, and constituted a separate college in the German Diet. The popes claimed the right to revise the action of the electors and to reject any candidate they considered unsuitable; and this right was usually acknowledged. The king of Germany had the right to the imperial crown, which could be conferred on him by the pope alone. The plan had its origin in a number of conditions. For some time the German kings had again and again left a minor as successor to the throne, or no heir at all. And thus the principle of heredity had begun to fail. Again, the monarchy, which must not be the appanage of any single tribe, but must circulate, as it were, from Franconian to Saxon, Saxon to Bavarian, etc. Finally the fact that German kings were also Roman emperors consolidated the growing tendency toward the elective principle. The principle of heredity had never held any great sway under the Roman Empire; and the medieval empire, instituted as it was by the papacy, came definitely under the influences of the church, favoring election. Heredity might be tolerated in a mere matter of kingship but the precious trust of imperial power could not be allowed to descend according to the accidents of family succession.

The right of the election of the German king rested with these electors until the beginning of the nineteenth century, and as early as the fourteenth century their position, both individually and as a corporate body, had become definite and precise. Individually they were distinguished from all other princes by the indivisibility of their territories and by the custom of primogeniture, which secured that indivisibility; and they were still further distinguished by the fact that their person, like that of the emperor himself, was protected by the law against treason, while their territories were subject only to the jurisdiction of their own courts.

Another important feature of this period was the growth of the German towns; for as the great duchies fell into decay, the towns that had been dependent upon them became independent, although they acknowledged the emperor’s supremacy; and they were therefore called ‘free imperial cities.’ The deputies of these cities at length constituted a third college in the imperial diet, and voted on an equality with the lectors and princes. The free cities usually supported the king’s authority, but were almost constantly at war with the German nobles and bishops. For mutual protection against their enemies, the free cities organized leagues or confederations, the most celebrated being the League of the Rhine in Western Germany, and the Hanseatic League in Northern Germany. Worms, Spire, Mainz, Strasbourg, Basle, and others belong to the former; Hamburg, Bremen, Riga, and eighty other commercial cities, to the latter; and they maintained fleets and armies.

According to Schedel, when the Roman imperial sovereignty devolved upon the Germans, it became founded on a strong foundation, consisting of four pillars, namely four dukes, four margraves, four landgraves, four burgraves, etc., according to this illustration. The German burggraf is the chief of the castle or fortified town, the term corresponding in the general sense to the chatelain. Landgrave (Landgraf) is a German title of nobility, surviving from the times of the Holy Roman Empire. The term originally signified a count (graf) of unusual power or dignity. In later times it was born by the sovereign of Hesse-Homburg, the heads of the various branches of the house of Hesse, and by a branch of the family of Fürstenberg. Margrave (Markgraf) is a German title meaning “count of the March.” The margraves had their origin in the counts established by Charlemagne and his successors to guard the frontier districts of the empire, and for centuries the title was associated with this function. But it lost its original significance, and was born by princes whose territories were in no sense frontier districts.

The illustration may be analyzed as follows:

(A) First Row

Center: The ‘glorious’ emperor (Latin Imperator gloriosus) in imperial robes with orb and scepter is seated on his throne. At his feet is a shield emblazoned with the black imperial double eagle in a field of gold. The throne rests on a dais supported by “Four Pillars” representing the Four Dukedoms (Latin Duces) of Swabia, Braunschweig, Palatine, and Lorraine. Each pillar is faced with a coat of arms: That of Swabia is emblazoned with three black crowned lions in a field of gold; that of Braunschweig with two golden leopards in a red field; that of Palatine with a golden lion in a black field; while Lorraine has three maimed silver eagles on a red diagonal bar crossing a field of gold.

On the left: The three spiritual (Latin Spirituales) princes, each in a voluminous robe, sable cape, and sable cap:

  1. Archbishop of Treves (Trier). In his left hand he holds a document with pendant seals, probably his authority or commission as an elector. A shield with red cross rests at his feet; field silver.
  2. Archbishop of Cologne. He is looking down upon a document held in both hands. A shield with a lack cross stands at his feet; field silver.
  3. Archbishop of Mainz, holding a scroll in his left hand, also probably emblematical of his commission. A shield emblazoned with a wheel rests on his feet; wheel silver; field, red.

NOTE: Although the composition of the electoral body was uncertain in the beginning, the Golden Bull of 1356 settled the disputed questions. After 1356 the seven electors are regularly the three Rhenish archbishops, Mainz, Cologne, and Trier, and the four lay magnets mentioned afterwards in these notes; the three former being vested with the three arch-chancellorships, and the latter with the four offices of the royal household.

On the right are the four secular (Latin Seculares) princes:

  1. King of Bohemia in royal robes, crowned, scepter in hand. With his right hand he is extending to the emperor a huge cup or goblet, emblematic of his theoretical office of Schenk (or cup-bearer) in the imperial household. At his feet, a shield emblazoned with a crowned lion with a forked tail, rampant, lion, silver (crown, tongue and paws in gold); field red.
  2. Rhenish Phalzgraf or Count Palatine, in robe, sable cape and cap. He carries a table service, covered with a napkin, symbolic of his theoretical office of Truchsesz (or steward). At his feet is a shield with a crowned lion rampant; which faces left; lion in gold (red crown) in black field.
  3. Duke of Saxony, also in embroidered robe, sable cape and cap. He carries a long sword, symbolic of his theoretical office of Marshall in the emperor’s household. Coat of arms: ten horizontal bars, alternately gold and black, beginning with gold; Rautenkranz, in green, diagonally superimposed.
  4. Margrave of Brandenburg, likewise clad. He holds a large key, emblematical of his theoretical office of Kämmerer, or chamberlain, in the imperial household. At his feet, a shield emblazoned with an eagle, wings outspread; eagle red, field silver.

(B) Second Row

On the left: The four Margraves (Latin, Quatuor marchides), represented by four long-haired, beardless youths in short jackets, tight hose, and pointed shoes. Their limbs are in various positions of activity, as though about to “dance attendance” upon the emperor. Each holds a shield. The margraviates represented are:

  1. Meissen (Misne), one of the most ancient towns of Saxony, and the seat of the margraves of that town down to 1090. Meissen is situated at the influx of the Triebisch and the Meise into the Elbe. Arms: Black lion (should face right) in field of gold.
  2. Moravia (Moravie), also called ‘The March of Morava,’ frontier of Austria and Hungary. The earliest recorded inhabitants of Moravia were the Boii, who are remembered today in the name of Bohemia. These were succeeded about 15 BCE by the Germanic Quadi, a Suabian tribe. The Germanic races were pushed back from the Middle Danube with the coming of the Avars in 567 CE. The exact date of the arrival of the Slavs in Moravia, as in Bohemia, is uncertain, but by the end of the 8th century Moravia was filled with Slavonic settlers who took the name of Moravians (German Mähren) from the river Morava. When Charlemagne destroyed the Avar empire, about 796, Moravia became tributary to the German empire. After being long disputed between Poland, Hungary, and Bohemia, Moravia was incorporated in Bohemia in 1029, thus becoming part of the German empire. In 1182, it was made a separate margravate. In 1918, Moravia became part of the Czech Republic in 1993. Arms: Crowned eagle (should face left), checkered red and gold; blue field.
  3. Baden (Padue), a republic lying in southwestern Germany, bounded by Bavaria and Hesse on the north, the Rhine on the west, Switzerland on the south, and by Württemberg and part of Bavaria on the east. The history of Baden as a State began in 1112, when Hermann, grandson of Bertold, duke of Carinthia and count of Zähringen assumed the title of Margrave of Baden. At the time the Chronicle was written Baden was still ruled by a margrave. The city of Baden (also called Baden-Baden) was known for the efficacy of its waters even in the early Roman days. The name Aurelia Aquensis was given it in honor of Aurelius Severus. For six centuries it was the seat of the margraves, of whom Henry IV, who died at the Crusades in 1190, first resided in the old castle. The new castle, above the town, was created by the Margrave Christopher, who died in 1527. Both town and castle suffered severely in the Thirty Years’ War, and the War of the Palatinate in 1689, and the margraves soon thereafter transferred their residence to Rastatt. Arms: Diagonal red bar in field of gold.
  4. Brandenburg, on the Havel, occupies the site of Brennaber, a stronghold of the Slavonic Helvelli, which was taken by the emperor Henry I in 927. It afterwards fell into the hands of the Wends, it was taken in 1153 by Albert the Bear, Count of Ascania, who from that point on styled himself Margrave of Brandenburg. The town was the seat of an Episcopal see (949-1544), and was long the chief place in the Mark. Arms: Red eagle in silver field.

In the center are the four burgraves (Latin, Quatuor Burgravii)—bust portraits, each with a shield.

  1. Magdeburg (Meidburg, or Maidburg), a capital of the Prussian province of Saxony. It was a small trading settlement in the ninth century and owed its prosperity to Otto the Great. (See Folios CLXXIX verso and CLXXX recto, and notes.) Shield: Divided vertically: left, 8 horizontal bars alternately red and silver; right, red eagle in silver field.
  2. Nuremberg (see Folios C verso and CI recto). The first authentic mention of Nuremberg occurs in a document dated 1050, at which time it received permission of the emperor to establish a mint and market. In 1127 the emperor Lothair took it from the duke of Swabia and assigned it to the duke of Bavaria. An imperial officer, styled the burgrave of Nuremberg received the rights of a free imperial city. In 1806 it was annexed to Bavaria. Arms of the burgrave: Black lion in field of gold.
  3. Rieneck (Renech). On the boundary of East and Rhenish Franconia arose a house—the counts of Rieneck. The first of the line was Gerhard, who probably took over or purchased the barony of Rieneck, which Otto III had given to the bishopric of Würzburg. Through marriage of his daughter (who had the right of inheritance) with Count Arnold of Los it passed to the Lorraine family. The counts of Rieneck were hereditary stewards of the high bishopric of Würzburg. Arms: Nine horizontal bars alternately red and gold. The Bavarian city of Rieneck, on the Sinn, Lower Franconia, was formerly the Earldom of Rieneck, which became extinct in 1559.
  4. Stromberg (Strumburg). The name of a city in Prussia, near Bingen. The ruined castle of Goldenfels rises on a height. Beyond the village are the extensive ruins of the Fustenburg. Arms: Divided horizontally: upper half, three crows or black birds in a silver field; lower half, red.

On the right, the four landgraves (Latin, Quatuor Landgravii), long-haired beardless youths in short jackets, tight hose, and pointed shoes, “dancing attendance” on the emperor:

  1. Thueringia (Durgen), at one time ruled by landgraves. Arms: Same as Hesse, which follows:
  2. Hesse (Hassie). The heads of the various branches of this house once bore the title of landgrave. Arms: Double-tailed crowned lion striped alternately in cross-bars of red and silver, in a blue field.
  3. Leuchtenberg, formerly a landgraviate in Operphalz, in Nordgau, on the river Rab. It has its name form the landgraves whose ancestral seat was in the mountain castle of Leuchtenberg. Arms: Three horizontal bars of blue, silver, and blue.
  4. Alsace, which in the 5th and 6th centuries had become a purely German country in consequence of the invasions and penetrations of the Alemanni. As a portion of the duchy of Swabia or Alemanni, it formed a part of the Germanic world from 870 or 887 to 1648, or seven and one-half centuries. Arms: Diagonal golden bar (embroidered edges) in red field.

(C) Third Row

On the left are the Four Freemen (Latin, Quatuor Liberi), represented by bust portraits, each with a shield.

  1. Limburg (Limperg), a town in the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau, on the Lahn, here crossed by a bridge dating from 1315, and on the main railway line from Coblenz to Lollar and Cassel; seat of a Roman Catholic bishop. The cathedral was founded in the 10th century and consecrated in 1235. It flourished during the Middle Ages and had its own line of counts until 1414 when it was purchased by the elector of Trier. It passed to Nassau in 1803. Arms quartered: upper left and lower right serrated (four points), upper red, lower silver (Franken). Upper right and lower left fields blue, with 5 silver battle-clubs (Limburg).
  2. Tusis—may have some relation to Thusis (Roman Tuseun), a marketplace in the Swiss canton of Graubünden; principal town of the district of Heinzenberg, at the mouth of the Nolla; near it is the ruin of Burg Hohen Raetien. Arms: Single eagle, facing right, in plain field.
  3. Westerburg. An old noble family of counts, whose house later became known as that of Leiningen-Westerburg. Arms quartered by a cross; 5 crosslets in each quarter.
  4. Aldenwalden, -- not identified. Arms: Crowned and collared lion rampant in plain field.

In the center are the four knights (Latin, Quatuor milites) represented by another group of four young men in short jackets, tight hose and pointed shoes, performing steps resembling a dance. Each holds a shield:

  1. Andlau (Andelau). Small town about ten miles north of Schlettstadt, on the river Andlau, in the Rhine country. It has Romanesque Abbey Church of the 12th century, with Gothic additions. The crypt (11th century) is borne by pillars. Arms: Red cross in filed of gold.
  2. Meldingen. Arms: Red diagonal bar (with two golden eagles) in field of gold.
  3. Strück. Arms: Red lion rampant, in silver field.
  4. Frauenberg, the name of a city in Prussia, which received the rights of a town in 1310. The celebrated astronomer, Copernicus, died here as a canon in 1543. Arms divided vertically into three bars, red, silver, and red.

On the right are four counts (Latin, Quatuor comites), represented by bust portraits, each holding a shield:

  1. Schwartzburg, a town in Thüringia; seat of an old house of the same name. Arms: Golden lion rampant (should face left) in blue field.
  2. Cleve, or Cleves (here called Klefen), a town of Germany, in the Prussian Rhine provinces, formerly a capital of the duchy of the same name, 46 miles northwest of Düsseldorf. It was the seat of the counts of Cleve as early as the 11th century, but did not receive municipal rights until 1242. The duchy, which lay on both sides of the Rhine, passed in 1368 to the counts of LaMarck, and was made a duchy in 1417. By the treaty of Xanten, in 1614, Cleve passed to the elector of Brandenburg, being afterward incorporated with the electorate by the elector Frederick William. The part of the duchy on the left bank of the Rhine was ceded to France in 1795, the remaining portion in 1805. In 1815, it was restored to Prussia, except a small portion given to Holland. The old castle of Schwanenburg is associated with the “Knights of the Swan,” immortalized in Wagner’s opera Lohengrin. Arms: small blue shield surmounted with a golden lily-reel in red field.
  3. Cilli (Zilie) is situated in Styria (Steiermark). It lies picturesquely with remains of walls and towers on the river Saan, on the Austrian frontier Probably a Celtic settlement, the Romans took it in 15 BCE, and Claudius made it a Roman municipium in 50 CE, naming it Claudia (Slovene, Celeja). It prospered greatly, and its temple of Mars was widely famed. Its museum contains many Roman remains and the Roman sewage system was rediscovered in the second half of the 19th century and is now in use. It was incorporated with Aquileia under Constantine, and was destroyed by Slavs at the end of the 6th century. The counts of Cilli, at one time in authority in Croatia, at another in Bosnia, had their castle, Ober Cilli on the Schlossberg (1320 feet) southeast of the town. Its ruins, the Cilli throne, and the family tomb remain. Under the Cilli (1350-1455) the town prospered; on their extinction it became subject to Austria. The standing of the house of Cilli was enhanced through the espousal of Barbara of Cilli by the emperor Sigismund. The house died out in 1456 with Ulrich III; whereupon the city, burg and surroundings passed to the house of Austria.

    Ulrich III was born in 1406, the son of Frederick II, count of Cilli, and Elizabeth Frangepan. About 1432 he married Catherine, daughter of George Brankovich, despot of Serbia. His influence in the troubled affairs of Hungary and the Empire, of which he was made a prince by the Emperor Sigismund in 1436, led to feuds with the Hapsburgs, the overlords of Cilli. Finally he made an alliance with the Hapsburg king Albert II, and after his death in 1439 Ulrich took up the cause of his widow, Elizabeth, and presided at the coronation of her infant son Ladislaus V, Posthumus (1440). A feud with Hunyadis followed, embittered by Janos Hunyadi’s attack on George Brankovich of Serbia (1444) on his refusal to recognize Ulrich’s claim to Bosnia on the death of Stephen Tvrtko (1443). In 1446 Hunyadi, then governor of Hungary, harried the Cilli territories in Croatia-Slavonia; but his power was broken at Kosovo (1448), and Count Ulrich was able to lead a successful crusade, nominally in the Hapsburg interest, into Hungary in 1450. In 1452, he forced the emperor Frederick III to hand over the boy king Ladislaus V to his keeping, and thus became virtual ruler of Hungary, of which he was named lieutenant by Ladislaus in 1456. The Hunyadis now conspired to destroy him. On November 8th, in spite of warnings, he entered Belgrade with the king; the next day he was attacked by Laszlo Hunyadi and his friends, and put to death; and so ended the male line of the counts of Cilli.

    Arms: Quartered shield; left upper and right lower quarters, 3 golden stars in blue field. Right upper and left lower quarters, 4 horizontal bars, alternately red and silver.

  4. Savoy (here called Sopheii); a house which ruled over Savoy and Piedmont for nine centuries, and now reigns over the kingdom of Italy. The name Savoy (Sabaudia) was known to the Romans. In the fifth century the territory was conquered by the Burgundians, forming part of their kingdom. Nearly a century later it was occupied by the Franks. It was included in Charlemagne’s empire, and was divided by him into countries, which evolved into hereditary fiefs. On the dissolution of the Carlovingian monarchy, the Burgundian kingdom revived, and Savoy was again absorbed in it as a part of Lower Burgundy, which in 933 was united with Upper Burgundia. After the collapse of that monarchy, its territories passed to the German kings (1032).

    The name Sabaudia is preserved in Saboia or Savoy. Sabaudia extended northward into the country of the Helvetii and southward into the territory of the Allobroges, a Gallic people whose lands lay on the east side of the Rhone.

    Arms: Silver cross in red field.