The empire called itself "Roman" because it claimed succession to The Ancient Roman Empire, and "holy" because it held control over mainstream European Christianity. It was as much political as it was religious - the church was the state.
On February 2, 962, Pope John XII crowned Otto I as the Holy Roman Emperor. When Otto succeeded his father Heinrich (Henry) as German king in 936, the people raised their right hand to show approval and shouted "Sieg und heil" ("victory and salvation"). Most historians view 962 as the beginning of what would later officially be known as the Sacrum Romanum Imperium Nationis Germanica ("the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation") - the First Reich.
The octagonal imperial crown of the Holy Roman Empire, made especially for the coronation of Otto, became the very symbol of European unity for centuries to come. In recent years, Otto von Habsburg (whose ancestors were some of the Holy Roman emperors, and whose oldest son, Karl, is the now the potential heir to that heritage) called attention to the possible role of that crown of the Holy Roman Empire in the New Europe - which will actually be an extremely powerful reawakening of the old Europe.
Over the centuries, there has been a see-saw struggle between the German, or Austrian, Holy Roman emperor and the Pope as to who was the actual ruler of the empire. To summarize their respective claims of superiority -
Many students of Bible Prophecy (see also Daniel's Statue) believe that the new Europe is going to play a very big part in events leading the The Return of Jesus Christ. Are they right? Time will soon tell.
Fact Finder: What title will be written on the robe of Jesus Christ on the day of His Return?