An Imperial Free City and the secret capital of the Holy Roman Empire, Nuremberg saw its privileged status officially sealed with Charles IV's Golden Bull of 1356, which stipulated that the first diet of a new emperor be held in this city. Nuremberg's central geographic position in the Empire not only contributed to its prestige among Germany's cities but it also placed the city at a nodal point in European commerce: the great overland trading routes connecting Northern Europe with Italy converged on Nuremberg.
The city's role as a cultural hub in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries has been well documented, but the foundations for Nuremberg's many lasting contributions to the dissemination of printed books and Humanist learning were laid in the preceding century, when the city emerged as a powerful centre of international banking and commerce. Late medieval writing in Nuremberg ranges from the vibrant dramatic tradition of the Shrovetide plays, or Fastnachtspiele, over religious works and monastic rules, to the sober city chronicle, the Nürnberger Bürgerbuch. But above all, the fourteenth century saw the remarkable urban literary institution of the Meistersinger, a guild of poets and singers drawn from a cross-section of the population, gain a foothold in Nuremberg.