Friday, 13 July 2012

History Nerd Facts: Elections in Medieval History

If one thinks of the medieval times one thinks of a whole bunch of thing: The plague, crusades, castles, knights... What one does not think of are elections. In fact there were elections in various parts of society and I thought I could tell you about some of them in more detail.

The election of the pope:

The pope of the catholic church has always been elected. In the early medieval times the pope always had to be a Roman and basically every person of importance in Rome was allowed to vote. This changed at the Third Lateran Council in 1179 where new rules were set. Since that point on every male catholic is theoretically able to become pope but only cardinals are allowed to vote. Also you need 2/3 of all votes to become pope now, before the council the "smaller but wiser part" could also choose who should become pope. Unfortunatel, nobody knows how the "wiser part" was defined. It was and is still important that en the end everyone agrees on the new pope because one needs the unanimitas (lat. unanimity) because it represents God's will. Social status and family backround has since then not been a real issue for the election of a new pope.

The election of the kings of the Holy Roman Empire:

Yes, the kings of the Holy Roman Empire were elected! At least theoretically. The only ones that were allowed to vote were the seven electors (germ. Kurf├╝rst from the Old German word kur = Wahl (election)). The archbishop of Mainz first used to have what was called the prima vox (lat. first voice) which means that he could say who should become king and then the other six could only agree or...leave. Yup, seriously.Again the unanimitas was necessary. This rule was later changed with the Golden Bull of 1356, a decree which set rules for the election of the kings. Since then the archbishop of Mainz had the last vote because now 4 out of 7 votes were enough to elect a king so the last vote was the most important one.

There were many more elections in medieval times such as the election of abbots, bishops, mayors or in guilds but I am not going to describe them all because the two mentioned above are by far the most interesting ones. At least to me.

Let me know how you liked this post, do you want to read more things like that or does history bore you?

Good night,
The Countess


  1. Thank you for this post, I found it really interesting because Medieval history isn't a period I've studied as much as I would like.

    I've tagged you for the Liebster award =]

    1. Aww, thanks, I plan on doing more about Medieval history soon because many people haven't learned alot about it in school whcih is a shame because it's an amazing period. Also thank you :)