Holy Roman Empire: Glossary

The Byzantine Empire
The eastern legacy of the Roman Empire. It was established in 330CE by the first Christian Roman Emperor, Constantine, who moved the government of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople.

Council of Constance
The Council of Constance was summoned to end the Great Western Schism which resulted in the simultaneous reigns of three popes. The election of Martin V marked the end of the Schism. The Council condemned John Wyclif and Jan Hus on the grounds of heretical writings and teachings. Hus was burned at the stake, but this only served to give the Hussite movement in Bohemia a martyr.

Declaration of Rense (1338)
A formal declaration by the German princes that proclaimed that the German king would be elected by the princes and did not require papal sanction for validity.

Golden Bull of 1356
Prior to 1356, the rules governing the election of Holy Roman Emperors had not been clearly defined. Disputes over electoral rights increased as princely houses were divided among heirs. The Golden Bull, issued by Charles IV in 1356, stated that henceforth only seven electors were to choose the emperor: the archbishops of Cologne, Trier and Mainz, the king of Bohemia, the duke of Saxony, the margrave of Brandenburg and the count Palatine of the Rhine. In this electoral process, the pope was totally ignored. The Bull did not increase the existing independence of the electoral princes, but merely recognized it. It was a very important factor in preventing German decentralization in those German territories it directly affected, as electoral principalities were made indivisible and succession was strictly by primogeniture, unlike other German principalities.

Great Schism
The period between 1378 and 1417 during which there were multiple claimants to the papal office.

Holy Roman Empire
A geographical Empire comprised of present-day Germany as well as, at any one time, Prussia, Hungary, Bohemia, Switzerland and Italy. It arose in the tenth century from the ashes of the eastern Carolingian Empire.

Hus, John
The Czech leader of the Hussites situated in Bohemia, he was called before the Council of Constance in 1414 to debate his beliefs. Instead, he was charged and convicted of heresy and was burned at the stake as a heretic. This action created a martyr for the Czechs and flamed the already existing tension between the Germans in Bohemia and the Czechs.

Followers of John Hus who espoused the religious ideology of John Wyclif.

Wyclif, John (1325-1384)
John Wyclif, a professor at Oxford University, was an English religious reformer. While stressing scripture's priority over the traditional customs and teachings of the Church, Wyclif also saw that wealth was corrupting the Church and was outspoken in his criticism of it. Wyclif also denied the doctrine of transubstantiation and in the end attacked the entire administrative structure of the Church as being corrupt and unauthorized by scripture. He taught that the Church hierarchy had no absolute authority, that the pope was fallible, and that secular rulers should assume responsibility for the Church's welfare in their respective domains. Wyclif's ideas were developed and spread in England by his followers, the Lollards. The Wyclif English Bible and memories of Lollard beliefs lasted until the sixteenth century, and in Bohemia his ideas had a great influence on the Hussite movement.

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