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An Insight into the 29th Council of Europe Art Exhibition: ‘Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation 962-1806’

An Insight into the 29th Council of Europe Art Exhibition: ‘Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation 962-1806’

By Alexander Schubert

Journal of the Holy Roman Empire, Vol.1 (2006)

Introduction: The Kulturhistorisches Museum Magdeburg and the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin are preparing the joint exhibition project “Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation 962-1806” for the year 2006. The fact that 2006 is the two hundredth anniversary of the end of the empire provides an excellent occasion for the exhibition. Thus from August 28 to December 10, 2006, the entire history of the empire–from its beginnings under Otto the Great in the year 962 until Emperor Franz II gave up the imperial throne in 1806–will be presented simultaneously at the two exhibition centres in Magdeburg and Berlin. Magdeburg will concentrate on the Middle Ages, Berlin on the modern era. Two hundred years after the demise of the empire, the exhibition will look back at a multi-facetted political structure that grew up in the centre of Europe and existed over the course of many centuries.

Yet it is not only a recollection of the end of the empire that makes 2006 an excellent occasion to put on an exhibition about the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. The date also proves to be opportune for another reason: the first decade of a new millennium is an appropriate time to review the history of the past thousand years. After such a turning point, many patterns of interpretation in politics, science, and society are subject to re-evaluation from a modern European perspective. This is especially true as a clear view of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was obscured for a long time. The nationalist and national-patriotic attitudes of the 19th and 20th centuries stylized the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation as the alleged precursor of a “Second” and a “Third Reich,” and medieval and early modern history was ideologically instrumentalized by the National-Socialists to such a degree that the word “Reich” brought to mind only the years from 1933-45, making it almost impossible to deal with the Old Empire in an unbiased way.

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