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A map of the Imperial Circles as in 1512. Unencircled territories are shown in white.

An Imperial Circle (German: Reichskreis, plural Reichskreise) comprised a regional grouping of territories of the Holy Roman Empire, primarily for the purpose of organizing a common defensive structure and of collecting the imperial taxes, but also as a means of organization within the Reichstag (Imperial Diet) and the Reichskammergericht.

Each circle had a Kreistag (Circle Diet), although not every member of the Kreistag would hold membership of the Reichstag as well.

Formation of the circles

Initially the 1500 Diet of Augsburg set up six circles as part of the Reichsreform (Imperial Reform):

Originally, the territories held by the Habsburg dynasty and the Electors remained unencircled. In 1512 the Diet of Trier organized these lands into four more circles:

In this year, the Empire also received its new title, the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation (German: Heiliges Römisches Reich Deutscher Nation). These ten circles remained largely unchanged until the early 1790s, when the Wars of the French Revolution brought about significant changes to the political map of the Empire.

Territories outside the circles

A number of imperial territories never became encircled:

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