The German city of Nürnberg was one of the largest and most important cities in the Holy Roman Empire*. It was a major economic and political center as well as a focal point for Renaissance art. Throughout the 1400s and early 1500s, Nürnberg grew in wealth and population. New construction and the expansion of older buildings provided work for architects and artists, and the town's churches and monasteries served as important sources of patronage*. Among the important artists to live in Nürnberg was Albrecht DÜrer, a native of the city.
By the 1500s Nürnberg was the second largest German town, after Cologne. More than 40,000 people lived within the city walls, and a similar number dwelled in the surrounding area. Twelve important trade routes came together near Nürnberg, linking the city to the commerce of the Rhine River valley and far beyond.
Nürnberg's leaders made sure that local products were part of the commercial traffic that flowed around the city. Important privileges—such as toll-free trading zones—helped its economy. The city's craft workers earned fame for the quality of their goods, especially metal products such as cannons, clocks, and armor.
The city's political life was closely tied to the Holy Roman Empire. Nürnberg's Great Charter freed it from all authority except that of the Holy Roman Emperor or his agent. In the late 1300s, Emperor Charles IV granted Nürnberg the honor of holding the first diet, or legislative assembly, for each newly elected emperor. In 1424 Emperor Sigismund moved the imperial regalia* from Prague to Nürnberg, where they remained for the next 300 years.
Emperor Charles V made Nürnberg the seat of the Imperial Chamber of Justice, the empire's highest court of law. However, the city's support for the Protestantism of Martin Luther led Charles V, a Catholic, to move the imperial offices to another German city in 1524. Although Nürnberg adopted the Lutheran faith, it remained loyal to the emperor. The city continued to send money and troops to support the wars between the Holy Roman Empire and the Ottoman Turks*.
- * Holy Roman Empire
political body in central Europe composed of several states; existed until 1806
- * patronage
support or financial sponsorship
- * regalia
symbols or ornaments of royalty
- * Ottoman Turks