• Revision History

EN:Golden Bull, 1356

From Historisches Lexikon Bayerns

Copy of the Golden Bull for the Count Palatine of the Rhine, which reached Munich after the Palatine House of Wittelsbacher died out. (bavarikon) (Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv - Main State Archive of Bavaria, Kurpfalz Urkunden 1)
The Golden Bull in the Munich printed edition of 1515. The title page shows the Emperor with the three ecclesiastical (left) and four secular electors (right). (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek - Bavarian State Library, 2 J.publ.g. 99 a)

by Bernd-Ulrich Hergemöller

Collection of laws announced on the Hoftag assemblies in Nuremberg and Metz in 1356. It got its name from the golden seals, which six of the seven copies had. The Golden Bull formed a central component of the Empire's constitution and was valid until the end of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. It regulated the election of the king, partly based on older provisions, determined the number and rights of the electors and finally excluded papal claims to participation. The newly elected king had to hold his first Hoftag assembly in Nuremberg. The Golden Bull ignored the House of Wittelsbach's internal regulations regarding participation in the royal election and reserved this right solely for the Count Palatine of the Rhine. Two of the seven copies are now in Bavarian archives: the one for the Electoral Palatinate in the Bayerische Hauptstaatsarchiv in Munich and the one for the Imperial City of Nuremberg in the Staatsarchiv Nürnberg.


The Golden Bull is a collection of laws by Emperor Karl IV (ruled 1346-1378), which was deliberated and proclaimed at the Hoftag assemblies in Nuremberg 1355/1356 (chapters 1-23) and Metz 1356/1357 (chapters 24-31) and issued in seven copies (Mainz, Trier, Cologne, Palatinate, Bohemian Empire, Frankfurt, Nuremberg). It is written in Latin, stylised according to the laws of the cursus and reinforced with a golden skippet (bulla aurea).

It contains provisions on the election, succession and prerogatives of the seven electors, the prohibition of unjust feuding and citizens living outside the city walls ("Pfahlbürger" or "Ausbürger") as well as (in the Metz part) details on exercising the Arch Offices of the Empire. In doing so, it draws in part on older imperial laws (Friedrich II, ruled in the Empire 1211/12-1250), on the "Sachsenspiegel" and (above all with regard to the principle of majority voting) on canon law. The stylisation of the rhetorical elements probably goes back to the chancellery under Court Chancellor Johann von Neumarkt (Bishop of Leitomischl, ruled 1353-1364) and important basic ideas of state theory (majority vote, concealment of papal claims to nomination and approbation) correspond to the theories of Lupold von Bebenburg (Leopold III von Bebenburg, ruled as bishop of Bamberg 1353-1363) (see below).

Chapter headings
Chapters Latin titles

(according to Fritz, Golden Bull, 1972)

German titles

(according to Munich print edition of 1515)

English titles

(according to Henderson, Select Historical Documents of the Middle Ages, p. 220-262)

The Nuremberg Code of Law dated 10 January 1353.
I. Qualis esse debeat conductus electorum et a quibus Wie vnd wer die kurfürsten glayten sol gen franckfurt zu der küre ains römischen königs. What sort of escort the electors should have, and by whom furnished.
II. De electione Romanorum regis Wenn die kurfürsten/oder jr potte in die Statt zu franckfurt kommen sind/wie sy sich zu der küre ains römischen königs zu ainem künfftigen kaiser schickhen solent Concerning the election of a king of the Romans.
III. De sessione Treverensis, Coloniensis et Maguntini archiepiscoporum Von dem sytzzen/ der gaistlichen Kurfürsten vnd Ertzbischofe/von Mainz/ Trier/ vnd Cöllnn/in kayserlichem oder königklichem hofe. Concerning the seating of the bishops of Treves, Cologne and Maine.
IV. De principibus electoribus in communi Von dem Sitzzen aller Kurfürsten Vnd von dem zurüessen der Kurfürsten/ainen Römischen könig zukiesen/ vnnd von den Ambten der weltlichen Kurfürsten/in kaiserlichem hofe. Concerning the prince electors in common.
V. De iure comitis palatini et eciam Saxonie ducis Von

des Pfalltzgraffen/vnnd des hertzogen von Sachssen Ambten So das reyche on haubt ist.

Concerning the right of the Count palatine and also of the duke of Saxony.
VI. De comparatione principum electorum ad alios principes communes Von der Kurfürsten wirdikait/ an sytzeen geen/ vnd steen/gen andern gemainen fürsten in kaiserlichem oder königklichem hofe. Concerning the comparison of prince electors with other, ordinary princes.
VII De successione principum Von der welltlichen Kurfürsten nachkommen. Concerning the successors of the princes.
VIII. De regis Boemie et regnicolarum eius immunitate Von der freyhait des königreychs vnd königs zu Beheym. Concerning the immunity of the king of Bohemia and his subjects.
IX. De auri, argenti et aliarum specierum mineris Von den Golltgruben/ in dem königreych zu Beheym. Concerning mines of gold, silver and other specie.
X. De monetis Von den Müntzzen/ vnnd anndern gnaden des königreychs zu Beheym. Concerning money.
XI. De immunitate principum electorum Von freyhait der Kurfürsten des römischen reychs etc. Concerning the immunity of the prince electors.
XII. De congregatione principum Von der Samnung der Kurfürsten. Concerning the coming together of the princes.
XIII. De revocatione privilegiorum Von widerrüeffung der freyhait. Concerning the revocation of privileges.
XIV. De hiis, quibus ut indignis auferuntur bona feudalia Von den die jren aygen herzen bößlichen widersagendt. Concerning those from whom, as being unworthy, their feudal Possessions are taken away.
XV. De conspirationibus Von den bösen einhelligen/ die sych verainen/ wider die den sypillich en vnnttertänig sind. Concerning conspiracies.
XVI. De pfalburgeriis Von den Pfullburgern Concerning pfalburgers.
XVII. De diffidationibus Von widersagen. Concerning challenges of defiance.
XVIII. Littera intimationis Von dem briefe der küre an die Kurfürsten. Letter of intimation.
XIX. Forma procuratorii mittendi per eum principem electorem, qui nuncios suos ad eletionem faciendam duxerit destinandum Von der formm des gewallts briefes des Kurfürsten der sein potten senndet zu der küre. Formula of representation sent by that prince elector who shall decide to send his envoys to carry on an election.
XX. De unione principatuum electorum et iurium eis connexorum Von aynigkait der Fürstentumb vnd rechtten die zugehörendt Concerning the Laity of the electoral principalities and of the rights connected with them.
XXI. De ordine processionis inter archiepiscopos Von der ordnung des fürgangs der Ertzbischofe. Concerning the order of marching, as regards the archbishops.
XXII. De ordine processionis principum electorum, et per quos insignia deportentur Von der ordnung des fürgangs der welltlichen Kurfürsten/ vnd wer die kaiserlichen oder königklichen wappen sölle dem kaiser oder könig vortragen. Concerning the order of proceeding of the prince electors, and by whom the insignia shall be carried.
XXIII. De benedictionibus archiepiscoporum in presentia imperatoris Von dem segen der Ertzbischofe In der messe vnd zu tische/ in des kaisers od königs gegenwertigkait Concerning the benedictions of the archbishops in the presence of the emperor.
The Metz laws from 25 December 1353.
XXIV. (no title) Von den auffsetzzigen/ wider die Kurfürsten leib vnd leben/ vnd der auffsetziggen pusse/jren nachkommen/ vnnd aller der die jn zu gehörendt. (no title)
XXV. (no title) Von den nachkommen der welltlichen Kurfürsten. (no title)
XXVI. (no title) Wie die Kurfürsten zu dem kayserlichem oder königklichem hofe kommen sölltent. (no title)
XXVII. De officiis principum electorum in solempnibus curiis imperatorum vel regum Romanorum Von den Ambten der Kurfürsten in kaiserlichem oder königklichem hofe. Concerning the offices of the prince electors in the solemn courts of the emperors or kings of the Romans.
XXVIII. (no title) Wie des Kaisers/oder des römischen königs Tisch/ Auch der kayserinn oder königinn/ vnnd der Kurfürsten Tisch söllen beraitet vnd geordennt sein. (no title)
XXIX. (no title) Wo die Küre ains römischen königs geschehen/ wo er sein erste krone empfahen/ vnnd seinen ersten hofe hallten sol. (no title)
XXX. De iuribus officialium, dum principes feuda sua ab imperatore vel rege Romanorum recipiunt Wenn die Kurfürsten lehen empfahen/ was sy dann geben söllen/ deßgleichs die anndern Fürsten. Concerning the rights of the officials when princes receive their fiefs from the emperor or king of the Romans.
XXXI. (no title) Was sprach der Kurfürsten kinder vnd nachkommen anfahen zu lernen vnd können söllen. (no title)

The Places of Origin Nuremberg and Metz

The negotiations in Nuremberg probably took place in the private house "Zum güldenenen Schild" belonging to the (Bertold) Haller merchant family (today: Schildgasse 24); the solemn acts in Metz also outdoors. Johann II von Zollern, Burgrave of Nuremberg (1332-1357), served as the Emperor’s Lord Stewart.

Participants in the Nürnberg Hoftag Assembly from today's Bavaria

The electors of the Wittelsbach family who were present in Nuremberg (and confirmed in their offices) included: Ruprecht der Ältere, Count Palatine of the Rhine and Duke of Bavaria (Elector 1353-1390), (his nephew) Ruprecht der Jüngere (Elector 1390-1398), Ludwig VI der Römer, Margrave of Brandenburg (1351-1362). The Count Palatine of the Rhine is expressly confirmed in both letters of intention and the Golden Bull (Chapter V) in his capacity as imperial vicar. Ludwig V, Margrave of Brandenburg (1324-1351) and Duke of Bavaria (1349-1361), as well as his brother Stephan II of Lower Bavaria, Duke of Bavaria (1349-1375) "stayed away for fear's sake" (as Heinricus Surdus de Selbach [died 1364] notes). At the turn of the year 1355/56 they concluded the Treaty of Ingolstadt, which confirmed the status quo ante as laid down in the House of Wittelsbach's Treaty of Pavia.

Furthermore, the bishops of Regensburg (Friedrich von Zollern, ruled 1342-1365), Würzburg (Albrecht II von Hohenlohe, ruled 1345-1372), Bamberg (Lupold) and Eichstätt (Berthold von Zollern, Burgrave of Nuremberg, ruled 1351-1365), who all were on good terms with Karl IV, are documented as participants. Along with them, Imperial Chief of Forestry Konrad Waltstromayr (also Waltstromer, died 1372), Ulrich V (died 1361) and Ulrich VI (died 1372), bailiffs in Upper Swabia, and Ulrich II Landgrave of Leuchtenberg (1334-1378) were present. Among the cities represented were Rothenburg o. d. T., Windsheim, Dinkelsbühl, Nuremberg, the "Free City" of Regensburg and Würzburg. Lastly, two Bavarian notaries should not be forgotten: Johannes Eystetensis (Zufraß), custos of the cathedral of Eichstätt (notary 1353-1371, died 1387) and long-serving Henricus Thesauri (Schatz) of Nuremberg (notary 1330-1363).

Tradition and Reception

Distribution of copies of the Golden Bull based on its first owners. (from: Heckmann, Zeitnahe Wahrnehmung und internationale Ausstrahlung, 936)
Publication places of prints of the Golden Bull from the 15th to the 18th century. (from: Heckmann, Zeitnahe Wahrnehmung und internationale Ausstrahlung, 974)

The Nuremberg part of the Bohemian copy (B/1) was issued in writing in Prague in accordance with the draft resolution 10 January 1356 before the middle of 1356 and sealed with the golden bull that gave it its name. The fair copies for the four Rhenish electorates were probably still made in Metz, taking into account the newly created chapters XXIV-XXXI. The copy for the imperial city of Nuremberg (today: StA Nürnberg, Rep. O, Reichsstadt Nürnberg, Urkunden vor 1401, no. 938), which is to be dated between 1366 (Frankfurt copy) and 1378 (death of Karl IV), was written on the basis of B/1 and a lost copy of the Metz part and was the only one of all to be closed with a wax seal. It contains the complete text (including the preface and table of contents), shows no breaks or corrections and testifies to the clear handwriting of a practiced scribe.

The Golden Bull was frequently used around 1400 to regulate the election of the king, to determine (and extend) the electors' rights and to clarify issues of feudal law and private feuding. So far, 173 late medieval copies and 20 more from modern times have been found. Most of them follow the Bohemian or Palatinate version. These texts predominantly come from the Franconian, Swabian and Bavarian regions but in individual cases also from Saxony, Thuringia, Westphalia or the territory of the Teutonic Order.

Provisions on Nuremberg as a Hoftag Venue

In addition to Aachen (as the city of the king's coronation) and Frankfurt (as the city of the king's election), Nuremberg is also expressly highlighted in the Golden Bull: Chapter XXIX states that the first Hoftag assembly of the newly elected king and future Emperor (prima regalis curia) is to be held there. Five of the seven kings elected between 1356 and 1487 complied with these regulations: Wenzel (1383), Ruprecht (1401), Albrecht II. (1438), Friedrich III. (1443), Maximilian I. (1487).

Provisions on the Role of Bavaria in the Electoral System

The Golden Bull ignored the older regulations of the House of Wittelsbach on alternating participation in the king's election and only conceded the position of elector to the Palatine line. Due to this affront, the Bavarian Wittelsbach line strived for another position of elector from now on.

Overall Assessment and Summary

The Golden Bull was repeatedly reissued in publications on Imperial law. Here you can see the first page from Johann Christian Lünig's (1661-1740) Teutsches Reichs-Archiv. Fig. from: Johann Christian Lüning, Das Teutsche Reichs-Archiv. 1st volume, Leipzig 1710. (Bayerische Staatsbibliothek - Bavarian State Library, 2 J.publ.g. 243-1)

The Golden Bull is a collection of laws proclaimed in Nuremberg and Metz, of which seven copies were made. Its emphasis is on detailed provisions on the election of the king (according to the majority voting system) and on granting of the most important privileges to the electors. The House of Wittelsbach is represented in the new electoral college by two princes (Louis VI of Brandenburg, Ruprecht der Ältere of the Palatinate), but not the Bavarian Wittelsbachs. The included statements on the prohibition of citizens living outside the city walls, unjust feuding and alliances among members of one of the estates of the realm probably represent only partial solutions from larger plans for reform by the Emperor. Some of the reform provisions, such as the stipulation to hold annual Hoftag assemblies (in Chapter 12), were never implemented. The text therefore has the nature of a compromise, which is due to divergences between the Emperor and the electors (in particular the Rhenish archbishops). The interests of the cities were only insufficiently taken into account despite some individual measures (prohibition of unjustified customs duties, etc.).

As the high number of copies shows, the Golden Bull was frequently consulted on questions of imperial and feudal law in the late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period. As a central component of the Imperial Constitution, it remained in force until the end of the Old Empire (1806).


  • Karl Härter, Frankfurt - Aachen - Nürnberg - Regensburg. Politische Zentren des Reiches zwischen 1356 und 1806, in: Bernd Heidenreich/Frank-Lothar Kroll (Hg.), Wahl und Krönung, Frankfurt am Main 2006, 175-188.
  • Marie-Luise Heckmann, Der Deutsche Orden und die Goldene Bulle Kaiser Karls IV., in: Jahrbuch für die Geschichte Mittel- und Ostdeutschlands 52 (2006), 171-226.
  • Marie-Luise Heckmann, Zeitnahe Wahrnehmung und internationale Ausstrahlung. Die Goldene Bulle Karls IV. im ausgehenden Mittelalter mit einem Ausblick auf die frühe Neuzeit (mit einem Anhang: Nach Überlieferungszusammenhang geordnete Abschriften der Goldenen Bulle), in: Ulrike Hohensee/Mathias Lawo/Michael Lindner (Hg.), Die Goldene Bulle. Politik - Wahrnehmung - Konzeption. Band II (Berichte und Abhandlungen der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften. Sonderband 12), Berlin 2009, 933-1042.
  • Bernd-Ulrich Hergemöller, Der Abschluß der "Goldenen Bulle" zu Metz 1356/57, in: Friedrich Bernward Fahlbusch/Peter Johanek (Hg.), Studia Luxemburgensia. Festschrift Heinz Stoob zum 70. Geburtstag (Studien zu den Luxemburgern und ihrer Zeit 3), Warendorf 1989, 123-232.
  • Bernd-Ulrich Hergemöller, Cogor adversum te. Drei Studien zum literarisch-theologischen Profil Karls IV. und seiner Kanzlei (Studien zu den Luxemburgern und ihrer Zeit 7), Warendorf 1999.
  • Bernd-Ulrich Hergemöller, Fürsten, Herren und Städte zu Nürnberg 1355/56 die Entstehung der "Goldenen Bulle" Karls IV. (Städteforschung A 31), Köln 1983.
  • Evelyn Hils-Brockhoff/Michael Matthäus (Hg.), Die Kaisermacher: Frankfurt am Main und die Goldene Bulle, 1356-1806. Eine Ausstellung des Instituts für Stadtgeschichte, des Historischen Museums, des Dommuseums und des Museums Judengasse (Dependance des Jüdischen Museums), Frankfurt am Main 30. September 2006 bis 14. Januar 2007, 2 Bände, Frankfurt am Main 2006.
  • Ulrike Hohensee/Mathias Lawo/Michael Lindner u. a. (Hg.), Die Goldene Bulle. Politik - Wahrnehmung - Rezeption. 2 Bände (Berichte und Abhandlungen der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften 12), Berlin 2009.
  • Jenny Rahel Oesterle, Kodifizierte Zeiten und Erinnerungen in der Goldenen Bulle Kaiser Karls IV., in: Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung 35 (2008), 1-29.


  • Wolfgang D. Fritz (Bearb.), Constitutiones et acta publica imperatorum et regum. Dokumente zur Geschichte des Deutschen Reiches und seiner Verfassung. 11. Band: 1354-1356. 2 Teilbände, hg. von der Akademie der Wissenschaften der DDR, Weimar 1978, hier Band 1, 355-633.
  • Armin Wolf (Hg.), Die Goldene Bulle. König Wenzels Handschrift. Vollständige Faksimilie-Ausgabe im Originalformat des Codex Vindobonensis 338 der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek. 2 Bände, Graz 1977.

Further research

External links

Related articles

Alternative titles!


Bernd-Ulrich Hergemöller, Golden Bull, 1356, published 8 March 2010, english version published 27 February 2020 ; in: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns, <https://www.historisches-lexikon-bayerns.de/Lexikon/EN:Golden_Bull,_1356>(16.04.2024)