The Reichstag was a political institution of the Holy Roman-German Empire, as well as the parliament of the Confederation of the North Germany and, later, of Germany until 1945. Currently one of the chambers of the German parliament is called the Bundestag (the other is called the Bundesrat), but the palace where it meets is still known as the Reichstag

The term Reichstag consists of the German words Reich (“empire”, “country”) and tag (which here does not mean day, but is derived from the verb tagen, “to meet”).

Throughout the existence of the Holy Roman-Germanic Empire, the Reichstag was never a parliament in the modern sense of the word. It was, in fact, the assembly of the various states that made up the empire. More precisely, it was the Reichsstände convention, those political entities which, under feudal law, did not recognize superior authority except the holy emperor.

At first, there was no place or date set for the Reichstag. At the origin, it was a convention of dukes of the ancient Germanic tribes that formed the Frankish Kingdom, summoned when important decisions needed to be made, probably based on the old German law according to which each chief could count on the support of his main men. For example, still in the reign of Charlemagne, the Reichstag of Aachen in 802/803 officially declared the laws of the Saxons and other tribes. The Reichstag of 919 in Fritzlar elected the first king of the Germans of Saxon origin, Henry the Passenger, thereby overcoming the old rivalry between the Franks and Saxons and laying the foundations of the German empire. The one of Roncaglia, in 1158, proclaimed laws that began the long decline of the imperial power to the detriment of the territorial princes. The Golden Bull of 1356 consolidated the concept of Landesherrschaft (“territorial domain”), that is to say, the largely independent administration of the princes over its own territory.

Until the end of the fifteenth century, the Reichstag had not been formalized as an institution. The dukes and princes met without definite frequency, in the court of the emperor. It was only in 1489 that the Reichstag began to be called by this name. It was divided into two collegia, a compound of the Kurfürsten (“prince-electors”) and another, the other dukes and princes. Later, the imperial cities (independent of the territorial princes where they were located and subject directly to the emperor) came to form a third group within the Reichstag.

The Peace of Westphalia of 1648 formally obliged the emperor to fulfill all the decisions of the Reichstag, withdrawing the powers that still remained to him.

The most famous Reichstage may be that of Worms in 1521, when it was decided for the banishment of Martin Luther, and the several in Nuremberg.

It was only with the application of the Immerwährender Reichstag that the assembly began to meet in a certain place, the city of Regensburg.

After the implosion of the Sacro-Empire in 1806, the term was used for the parliament of the Constitution of Frankfurt (1849), which did not come into force, the parliament of the Confederation of North Germany from 1867 to 1871, and finally the German Empire. In all cases, it was a legislative house elected by the people, albeit with varying degrees of authority.

During the Weimar Republic, the Reichskanzler (Chancellor of Germany) was responsible to a Reichstag elected by the people and truly democratic. From 1930, however, the prerogatives of the assembly were gradually ignored because of the extensive powers assigned by the constitution to the president. With the election of Adolf Hitler as Reichskanzler on January 30, 1933, a process of concentration of powers began in the hands of the chancellor, through acts such as the Reichstag (Reichstagsbrandverordnung) Fire Act and the Full Powers Act (Ermächtigungsgesetz ).

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