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The imperial ban (German: Reichsacht) was a form of outlawry in the Holy Roman Empire. At different times, it could be declared by the Holy Roman Emperor, by courts like the Vehmgericht or the Reichskammergericht, or by the Reichstag.

People under imperial ban, known as Geächtete or Vogelfreie, lost all their rights and possessions. They were legally considered dead and anyone was allowed to rob, injure or kill them without legal consequences. The imperial ban automatically followed the excommunication of a person, as well as extending to anyone offering help to a person under the imperial ban.

Vogelfreie could reverse the ban by submitting to the legal authority. The Aberacht, a stronger version of the imperial ban, could not be reversed.

The imperial ban was sometimes imposed on whole Imperial Estates. In that case, other estates could attack and possibly conquer them. For the banned state that meant that they would lose their Reichsunmittelbarkeit and in the future have a second overlord in addition to the emperor.

Famous people under the imperial ban included:

The imperial ban by Emperor Rudolf II against the city of Donauwörth after an anti-catholic riot was one of the incidents leading to the Thirty Years' War.



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