World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

German mediatisation

Article Id: WHEBN0009239584
Reproduction Date:

Title: German mediatisation  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Otto von Bismarck, Thurn und Taxis, Wieskirche, History of Hesse, Free imperial city, Fürst, Landgraviate of Hesse-Kassel, Graf, Ochsenhausen, Royal and noble ranks
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

German mediatisation

The German mediatization was the series of mediatizations and secularizations that took place in Germany between 1795 and 1814, which drastically altered the political map of the country under relentless military and diplomatic pressure from revolutionary France and later Napoleon.

"Mediatization" was the process of suppressing the imperial immediacy of a secular or an ecclesiastical state or a free imperial city of the Holy Roman Empire and annexing that entity to another one, usually leaving the dispossessed prince, in the case of a secular principality, with some rights and privileges. The mediatization of an ecclesiastical state is usually called secularization[1] and did not always involve the annexation of the secularised state to another state.[2]

Following the collapse of the Carolingian Empire, due to the equal heritage splitting prescribed by Salic Law, and the rise of feudalism, much of Europe had been reduced to an array of self-governing states of various sizes. Successive Kings of Germany and Holy Roman Emperors vested temporal authority in many bishoprics and abbeys, and also granted free city rights to many cities and villages throughout Germany. Unlike more centralized kingdoms such as England, France, or Spain, the Holy Roman Empire did not coalesce into a centralized entity. On the eve of the French Revolution, Germany still consisted of well over 200 self-governing states.[3]

The lengthy tractations surrounding the mediatization process usually involved the French Foreign Minister Talleyrand. The states that benefited from or were saved from mediatization were expected to pay fees and form alliances with the French Republic, then the new Napoleonic Empire.[4]

Final Recess of February 1803

The Final Recess of the Reichsdeputation (German: Reichsdeputationshauptschluss Latin: Recessus principalis deputationis imperii) was a resolution passed on 25 February 1803 by the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire. It proved to be the last significant law enacted by the Empire before its dissolution in 1806.

Based on a plan agreed in June 1802 between France and Austria, and broad principles outlined in Article 7[5] the Treaty of Lunéville of 1801, the law established a major redistribution of territorial sovereignty within the Empire, to compensate numerous German princes for their possessions to the west of the Rhine that had been annexed by France as a result of the wars of the French Revolution. The Treaty had referred only to the compensation of hereditary princes, which excluded from any claim to compensation the ecclesiastical princes (prince-electors, prince-bishops, imperial abbots), Free Imperial Cities and Imperial Knights who had also been dispossessed.

The Final Recess was ratified unanimously by the Imperial Diet in March, 1803, and was approved by the emperor, Francis II, the following month. However, the emperor made a formal reservation in respect of the reallocation of votes within the Imperial Diet, as the balance between Protestant and Catholic states had been shifted heavily in the former's favour.

The redistribution was achieved by a combination of two processes: secularization of ecclesiastical principalities, and mediatization of numerous small secular principalities and Free Imperial Cities.


From the re-establishment of the Holy Roman Empire by the Salian and Saxon Emperors in the 10th and 11th centuries, the feudal system had turned Germany and northern Italy into a vast network of territories of various sizes each with its own specific privileges, titles and autonomy. To help administer Germany in the face of growing decentralization and local autonomy, many bishoprics, abbeys and convents throughout Germany were granted temporal estates by successive Emperors. The personal appointment of bishops by the Emperors had sparked the investiture controversy, and in its aftermath the emperors were unable to use the bishops for this end. Following this, some of the bishops and abbots had begun to run their territories as temporal lords as opposed to spiritual lords. In the course of the Reformation, several of the prince-bishoprics were secularized, mostly to the benefit of Protestant princes. In the later sixteenth century the Counter-Reformation attempted to reverse some of these secularizations, and the question of the fates of secularized territories became an important one in the Thirty Years War (1618–1648). In the end, the Peace of Westphalia confirmed the secularizations which had already occurred, but also stabilized the situation.

In 1794, the armies of revolutionary France overran the Rhineland, and by the Treaty of Campo Formio in 1797, the Holy Roman emperor, Francis I of Austria, recognized French annexation of all imperial territories west of the Rhine river. By granting them new realms, the emperor sought to compensate the now stateless or diminished monarchs who lost their lands. The only available lands were those held by the Prince-Bishops, so most were secularised and dispersed amongst the monarchs of Germany.

The territory of secularized ecclesiastical principalities was usually annexed whole to a neighboring secular principality or, in the case of several prince-abbeys, granted to one of the princes or imperial counts whose lands on the west bank of the Rhine had been annexed by France. Only three survived for a relatively short time as non-secular states: the Archbishopric of Regensburg, which was raised from a bishopric with the incorporation of part of the Archbishopric of Mainz, and the lands of the Teutonic Knights and Knights of Saint John. Also of note is the former Archbishopric of Salzburg, which was secularised as a duchy with an increased territorial scope, and was also made an electorate.

Monasteries and abbeys lost their means of existence as they had to abandon their lands, and most were closed. The remaining ecclesiastical states were also secularized after the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. The lands of the Order of St. John were secularized in 1806, Regensburg was annexed by Bavaria in 1809, and in the same year Napoleon dissolved the Teutonic Knights and gave their lands to neighboring princes, particularly the King of Württemberg.

The outcome of the Final Recess of 1803 was the most extensive redistribution of property in German history before 1945. Approximately 73,000 km2 of ecclesiastical territory, with some 2,36 million inhabitants and 12,72 million guildens per annum of revenue was transferred to new rulers.[6] The rationale behind the Final Recess had been to compensate those rulers who had lost territory to the French, but considerably more territory was gained through massive secularization: Baden received over seven times the amount of territory it has lost, Prussia nearly five times. Hanover gained the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück, even though it had lost nothing. Austria also did very well.[7]

The position of the established Roman Catholic Church in Germany, the Reichskirche, was not only diminished, it was nearly destroyed. The Church lost its constitutional role in the Empire. Most of the Catholic universities were closed, as well as thousands of monasteries. Myriads of Catholic foundations closed down. The Reichsdeputationshauptschluss did to German land ownership what the Revolution had done to France.[8]

Secularised states

Bishops and archbishops

Abbeys, convents, and provostries

  • Augsburg
  • Bamberg
  • Basel
  • Brixen
  • Chur
  • Cologne
  • Constance
  • Eichstätt
  • Freising
  • Hildesheim
  • Liège
  • Lübeck
  • Mainz
  • Münster
  • Osnabrück
  • Paderborn
  • Passau
  • Regensburg
  • Salzburg
  • Speyer
  • Strasbourg
  • Trent
  • Trier
  • Worms
  • Würzburg
  • Baindt
  • Berchtesgaden
  • Beuron
  • Buchau
  • Corvey
  • Elchingen
  • Ellwangen
  • Essen
  • Fulda
  • Gutenzell
  • Heggbach
  • Heiligkreuztal
  • Herford
  • Kaisheim (Kaisersheim)
  • Kempten
  • Marchtal
  • Niedermünster-in-Regensburg
  • Neresheim
  • Ochsenhausen
  • Obermünster-in-Regensburg
  • Petershausen
  • Quedlinburg
  • Rot an der Rot
  • Rottenmünster
  • Salem (Salmansweiler)
  • Schöntal
  • Schussenried
  • Söflingen
  • Stablo-Malmedy
  • St. Blasien
  • St. Kornelimünster
  • St. Emmeran
  • St. Gall
  • Thorn
  • Weingarten
  • Weissenau
  • Helmstedt
  • Wiblingen
  • Zwiefalten


Although the number of German states had been steadily decreasing since the Thirty Years' War, there still remained approximately 200 states by the advent of the French republic. The defeat of the First Coalition resulted in the secularization of the ecclesiastical states and the annexation by France of all lands west of the Rhine.

Allies of Napoleon obtained gains in both territory and status on a number of occasions in the following years.

Mediatization transferred the sovereignty of small secular states to their larger neighbours. In addition to about 100 principalities, all but a handful of the Imperial cities would also be annexed to their neighbours.

In 1803, most of the free cities in Germany were mediatised. On 12 June 1806, Napoleon established the Confederation of the Rhine to extend and help secure the eastern border of France. In reluctant recognition of Napoleon's dismemberment of imperial territory, on 6 August 1806, the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II declared the Empire abolished, and claimed as much power as he could retain as ruler of the Habsburg realms. To gain support from the more powerful German states, the former Holy Roman Emperor accepted, and Napoleon encouraged, those that remained to mediatise minor neighbouring states.

Before the Battle of Waterloo and the final abdication of Napoleon in 1815, the Congress of Vienna was held from 1814 to 1815 by the Great Powers to redraw the borders of Europe. It was decided the mediatised principalities, free cities and secularised states would not be recreated. Instead their former rulers were to enjoy an improved aristocratic status, being deemed equal to the still-reigning monarchs for marital purposes, and entitled to claim compensation for their losses. But it was left to each of the annexing states to compensate mediatised dynasties, and the latter had no international right to redress if dissatisfied with the new regime's reimbursement decisions.

Mediatized principalities

  • Anhalt-Bernburg-Schaumburg-Hoym: Prince of Anhalt-Bernburg-Hoym 1806
  • Arenberg 1810
  • Aspremont-Lynden: Count of Aspremont-Lynden 1806
  • Auersperg 1806
  • Bentheim-Tecklenburg-Rheda 1806
  • Bentinck 1807
  • Boyneburg-Bömelberg: Baron of Boyneburg-Bömelberg 1806
  • Castell-Rüdenhausen 1806
  • Colloredo-Mansfeld 1806
  • Croÿ-Dulmen 1806
  • Dietrichstein: Prince of Dietrichstein 1806
  • Erbach: Count of Erbach-Erbach 1806; Count of Erbach-Fürstenau 1806; Prince of Erbach-Schönberg 1806
  • Esterházy 1806
  • Fugger: Prince of Fugger-Babenhausen 1806; Count of Fugger-Glött 1806; Count of Fugger-Kirchberg-Weissenhorn 1806; Count of Fugger-Kirchheim 1806; Count of Fugger-Nordendorf 1806
  • Fürstenberg-Pürglitz 1806
  • Giech: Count of Giech 1806
  • Grävenitz: Count of Grävenitz 1806
  • Harrach: Count of Harrach zu Thannhausen 1806
  • Hesse-Homburg 1806
  • Hohenlohe-Waldenburg-Schillingsfürst 1806
  • Isenburg-Wächtersbach 1806
  • Kaunitz-Rietberg: Prince of Kaunitz-Rietberg 1806
  • Khevenhüller-Metsch: Prince of Khevenhüller-Metsch 1806
  • Königsegg-Aulendorf 1806
  • Kuefstein: Count of Kuefstein-Greillenstein 1806
  • Leiningen 1806; Count of Leiningen-Alt-Westerburg 1806; Count of Leiningen-Billigheim 1806; Count of Leiningen-Neudenau; 1806 Count of Leiningen-Neu-Westerburg 1806
  • Leyen 1814
  • Limburg-Styrum-Bronchhorst 1806
  • Lobkowicz 1806
  • Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg 1806
  • Looz und Corswarem: Duke of Looz-Corswarem 1806
  • Metternich: Prince of Metternich 1806
  • Neipperg 1806
  • Nesselrode 1806
  • Orsini and Rosenberg: Prince of Orsini and Rosenberg 1806
  • Ortenburg-Neuortenburg 1806
  • Ostein: Count of Ostein 1806
  • Öttingen-Spielberg 1806
  • Pappenheim 1806
  • Platen-Hallermund: Count of Platen-Hallermund 1806
  • Plettenberg-Wittem 1806
  • Pückler and Limpurg: Count of Pückler and Limpurg 1806
  • Quadt: Count of Quadt-Isny 1806
  • Rechberg and Rothenlöwen 1806
  • Rechteren 1806
  • Salm-Salm 1810
  • Sayn-Wittgenstein: Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg 1806; Prince of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Hohnstein 1806
  • Schaesberg: Count of Schaesberg-Thannheim 1806
  • Schlitz genannt von Görtz 1806
  • Schönborn-Wiesentheid 1806
  • Schönburg-Waldenburg 1806
  • Schwarzenberg 1806
  • Sickingen 1806
  • Sinzendorf 1806
  • Solms-Wildenfels 1806
  • Stadion-Warthausen 1806
  • Starhemberg 1806
  • Sternberg-Manderscheid 1806
  • Stolberg-Wernigerode 1809
  • Thurn und Taxis 1806
  • Törring: Count of Törring-Jettenbach 1806
  • Trauttmansdorff 1806
  • Waldbott von Bassenheim 1806
  • Waldburg-Zeil 1806
  • Waldeck: Count and Countess of Waldeck-Limpurg 1806
  • Wallmoden: Count of Wallmoden-Gimborn 1806
  • Wartenberg: Count of Wartenberg-Roth 1806
  • Wied-Runkel 1806
  • Windisch-Grätz Elder line 1806
  • Wurmbrand-Stuppach 1806

As the Houses of Ostein, Sinzendorf and Wartenberg became extinct after the mediatization but before 1830, they are not always counted among the Mediatised Houses. For varying reasons, Aspremont-Lynden, Bentinck, Bretzenheim, Limburg-Styrum and Waldeck-Limpurg are also sometimes excluded. Hesse-Homburg was never considered sovereign by Hesse-Darmstadt and therefore was not technically mediatised, and Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel) was annexed into the Kingdom of Westphalia but later had its sovereignty restored. The Schönburgs had been mediatised to the Elector of Saxony in the 18th century and were only counted amongst the Mediatised Houses at the Electors' insistence.

Abolished free and imperial cities

  • Stadtwappen der kreisfreien Stadt Aachen.svg Aachen
  • Aalen
  • Augsburg
  • Biberach an der Riß
  • Bopfingen
  • Buchau
  • Buchhorn (Friedrichshafen)
  • Wappen Koeln.svg Cologne (Köln)
  • Dinkelsbühl
  • Coat of arms of Dortmund.svg Dortmund
  • Esslingen am Neckar
  • Coats of arms of None.svg Frankfurt am Main
  • Friedberg
  • Gengenbach
  • Giengen
  • Goslar
  • Heilbronn
  • Isny im Allgäu
  • Kaufbeuren
  • Kempten im Allgäu
  • Leutkirch im Allgäu
  • Lindau
  • Memmingen
  • Mühlhausen
  • Nordhausen
  • Nördlingen
  • Wappen von Nürnberg.svg Nuremberg
  • Offenburg
  • Pfullendorf
  • Ravensburg
  • Regensburg
  • Reutlingen
  • Rothenburg ob der Tauber
  • Rottweil
  • Schwäbisch Gmünd
  • Schwäbisch Hall
  • Schweinfurt
  • Speyer
  • Überlingen
  • Ulm
  • Wangen im Allgäu
  • Weil
  • Weißenburg
  • Wetzlar
  • Wimpfen
  • Windsheim
  • Worms
  • Zell am Harmersbach

Most of the mediatizations occurred in 1806 after the creation of the Confederation of the Rhine. Also mediatised 1806–1814 were several states created by Napoleon for his relatives and close allies. These include:

  • Prince of Aschaffenburg 1806
  • Grand Duke of Frankfurt 1814
  • King of Westphalia 1813
  • Grand Duke of Würzburg 1814

The only free cities in Germany not abolished in 1803 were:

  • Augsburg (abolished 1805)
  • Bremen
  • Frankfurt (abolished 1866)
  • Coat of arms of Hamburg.svg Hamburg
  • Lübeck (abolished 1937)
  • Wappen von Nürnberg.svg Nuremberg (abolished 1806)

Later mediatizations were:

  • Arenberg (annexed to France in 1810, and not re-established in 1814)
  • Congress of Vienna for being too loyal to Napoleon)
  • Salm (several states of Salm survived to 1811 and 1813)
  • Prussia in 1815).


The mediatization brought about a massive change to the political map of Germany. Literally hundreds of states were eliminated, with only around forty surviving. A number of the surviving states made significant territorial gains (most notably Baden, Bavaria, and Hesse-Darmstadt); and Baden, Hesse-Kassel, and Württemberg gained status by being made electorates (to replace three that had been lost in the changes). Of the imperial cities, only Augsburg, Bremen, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Lübeck, and Nuremberg survived as independent entities.

Area and population losses or gains (rounded)
Losses Gains
 Prussia 2,000 km²
140,000 people
12,000 km²
600,000 people
 Bavaria 10,000 km²
600,000 people
14,000 km²
850,000 people
 Baden 450 km²
30,000 people
2,000 km²
240,000 people
 Württemberg 400 km²
30,000 people
1,500 km²
120,000 people

See also



  • Arenberg, Jean Engelbert. The Lesser Princes of the Holy Roman Empire in the Napoleonic Era. Dissertation, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., 1950 (later published as Les Princes du St-Empire a l'epoque napoleonienne., Louvain: Publications universitaires de Louvain, 1951).
  • Gollwitzer, Heinz. Die Standesherren. Die politische und gesellschaftliche Stellung der Mediatisierten 1815–1918. Stuttgart 1957 (Göttingen 1964)
  • Reitwiesner, William Addams. "The Meaning of the Word Mediatized".
  • Fabianek, Paul: Folgen der Säkularisierung für die Klöster im Rheinland - Am Beispiel der Klöster Schwarzenbroich und Kornelimünster, 2012, Verlag BoD, ISBN 978-3-8482-1795-3

References and notes

External links

  • (German) Full text, including the preamble
  • (German) The full text of the mediatization PDF of 25 February 1803
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from World eBook Library are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.