Chain of office

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The former Lord Mayor of Hanover Stefan Schostok with a chain of office .

A chain of office is a heavy necklace made of precious metals or ceramics , decorated with medals , coats of arms and emblems , which represents the official insignia and thus part of the official costume of mayors , some of other high city officials and university rectors . Chains of office are worn on festive occasions.


Office chains are made of silver-plated steel , full silver , gold-plated silver and, in very rare cases, full gold or even Meissen porcelain . The nature of the chain depends - depending on the regulation - u. a. on the size of the city and its importance. Relevant symbols of the city or university, coats of arms and portraits of important personalities on medals are attached and incorporated . The chain itself can consist of round, oval or rectangular plate links that give it a ribbon-like appearance. The chain is worn around the jacket or costume collar or over both shoulder centers on appropriate (official) clothing. Velvet casings are provided for storage , which often contain a reference to the manufacturer.

Chain of office - symbol and insignia

The Lord Mayor of Cologne Jürgen Roters at a reception.

The chain of office, worn in clothing appropriate to the occasion and protocol, legitimizes the wearer as what he is as the holder of office and represents (as mayor) the first citizen and representative of his city or (as rector) the first member and responsible person of the university . Chains of office are thus insignia of urban or university self-administration and independence. They are to the bearer and incumbent what the crown and crosier are to secular rulers and high ecclesiastical dignitaries.

The chain of office of the Lord Mayor of Bonn - the third Rhenish-Prussian city after Düsseldorf and Duisburg with this insignia since 1895 - contains, for example, seven medals, two with the city ​​coat of arms (in front (with crown) and one in the back), one with the image of the founder of the city ​​order of King Friedrich Wilhelm III. with a crown, two with the imperial coat of arms and one each with the portraits of Ludwig van Beethoven and that of the imperial baron vom Stein based on the Duisburg chain of office. Other chains of office, such as that of Stralsund , do not contain any imperial symbolism, but underline the independence of this Hanseatic city and its city ​​charter from 1234 by the Prince of Rügen ( Wizlaw I. ).

Since wearing a chain of office can also be viewed as a display of a hierarchy or as a bond with the monarchy - until the end of the First World War , chains of office were approved by the regent and these chains usually carry an image of the monarch - was and will be created by Chains of office sometimes rejected. For example, the first social democratic mayor of Vienna, Jakob Reumann, decided not to wear the city chain of office. After the end of the Second World War , the Viennese mayor chain was basically no longer worn.


The origin of the idea for the introduction of chains of office probably comes from the end of the 18th century, when, under the influence of a transfigured enthusiasm for the Middle Ages, roles of venerable people in theater plays were equipped with knight chains . Mayors are said to have benevolently adopted this classification by interpreting the chain of office "as an insignia from the time of a self-confident medieval urban society, as viewed by the liberal bourgeoisie as an ideal". In view of the ubiquitous uniforms and medals, especially at ceremonies, the bourgeois officials could now also optically stand out with a visible award.

Mayoral chains in Germany

Franz Paul von Mittermayr is considered the first mayor to create a chain of office in Germany.

The Mayor of Munich , Franz Paul von Mittermayr , first put on a chain on November 9, 1818, which was undoubtedly perceived as a chain of office. In May 1818, the King of Bavaria Maximilian II issued the ordinance on the constitution and administration of the municipalities in the Kingdom of Bavaria , which gave larger cities the right to self-government. The ordinance allowed the respective mayors "to wear a gold medal on a gold chain [...] in their office and on all public occasions on their necks". Such medals showed the bust of the Bavarian regent on the front, while the coat of arms of the respective city or market was depicted on the back .

The Bavarian ordinance of 1818 was based on an order drawn up by Heinrich Friedrich Karl vom und zum Stein in 1808 for all cities of the Prussian monarchy . This should relieve the strained state apparatus as a result of the Napoleonic wars and place the city administration in the hands of the citizens. In order to express the sovereignty of the bourgeoisie, certain official signs were already provided, depending on the size of the city. In large cities this was “golden chains with gold medals” for members of the magistrate and city councilors. However, it was not until 1839 that Berlin became the first Prussian city to receive a chain of mayors. The appearance of the chains and medals was only specified in 1840 under Friedrich Wilhelm IV with the guidelines for the design of the chains and medals . Further edicts regarding appearance and awarding followed in 1847 and 1851.

Rector chains

Hermann Kokenge in his function as rector of the TU Dresden with gown and chain of office.

Universities led next to a seal since the Middle Ages and the early modern period Insignen how scepter or rings. When a chain of office was first worn by a university rector is unclear. The rector of Charles University in Prague , who began to wear a chain of office in the 16th century, is an option. At that time it was still the sole right of the high nobility to wear chains with medals; occasionally, however, high officials were also awarded one. The rector of the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg is also considered to be one of the first to support a rector chain in the 18th century. In 1804 the rector of the University of Vienna was given a chain of office following the abolition of the robes .

The widespread distribution of rector chains of office coincides with that of mayors. The Prussian court medalist Johann Ludwig Jachtmann designed, among other things, the official decorations of the Prussian universities for two decades from 1816. For example, in 1817 the University of Berlin received a gold-plated chain with a medallion on which the university donor Friedrich Wilhelm III. is shown, awarded.

The Mayor of London's Collar of Esses

Sir Thomas More with the Collar of Esses .

The chain of the Lord Mayor of London is an exception in the history of the chains of office . This is called the Collar of Esses (also Collar of SS ) because of its 28 golden, S -shaped links - the meaning of the S-shape has not yet been clarified. The chain is believed to belong to Sir Thomas More , whose insignia passed to the crown as a result of his execution in 1535. It is known that the chain was passed on from the then Lord Mayor Sir John Aleyn to his successor in office and that the chain from then on had the status of an insignia of the City of London.

Chain of Hans Waldmann as Mayor of Zurich

A chain left by Hans Waldmann , who lived in the 15th century, is also known as the mayor 's chain . This chain of the Zurich mayor, who was executed in 1489, did not remain in office, but went missing after Waldmann's death until it was rediscovered in 1879 and is now owned by the city of Zurich.

International distribution

At about the same time as the appearance of chains of office, which began in the German-speaking region, they were also widespread in Great Britain and Ireland and, subsequently, in the Netherlands . Through the Commonwealth , the chain of office became a globally widespread insignia, which is worn by mayors in Australia , Jamaica , Canada , Kenya , Namibia , New Zealand and South Africa , among others .

Mayoral chains are not typically worn in the United States . However, chains of office at universities became widespread in the second half of the 20th century. These are mostly foundations of graduates.

Sashes are worn by mayors or other dignitaries in some states where chains of office are not common . These include France , Italy and Belgium , among others .

Loss of chains of office

The Birmingham chain of office, laid out here by Shafique Shah (Lord Mayor 2014-2015), has been missing a diamond worth £ 100,000 since 1974.

Because of their material value, chains of office are regularly the target of theft or embezzlement. In Germany in 1945 some chains were lost in the course of the occupation and in the post-war chaos; including those of Brandenburg an der Havel . The mayor's chain of Nordhausen was bought again in 2014 by a collector from the United States for € 3,500.

In recent times, too, chains of office have been and are being lost in Germany: For example, the chain of office of the Goethe University Frankfurt was stolen in 1968 . In 1970 the mayor of Münster decided to purchase a "travel chain" after the actual chain of office was briefly lost during a visit to Orléans . When the mayor of Hamm's official car was stolen in 1991, the chain of office stored in it was lost. In 2016 the chain of office of the mayoress of Gera was stolen; however, the insignia was found a few weeks later during a house search.

After mayoral chains have rarely been worn in South Africa since the first democratic local elections in 2000, chains were increasingly embezzled. In Kenya, too, many chains of office that should have been handed over to a transitional authority in the course of an administrative restructuring in 2010 disappeared. The chain of office in the Kenyan capital Nairobi was stolen back in 2002 . She was seized ten months later in Paris .

As a result of the theft of the chain of office of the Mayor of the English city ​​of Marlborough in 2013, a new chain was made with an insurance sum of just under £ 100,000 (at that time approx. € 118,000).

Instead of stealing official chains as a whole, sometimes only individual chain links are detached and stolen. Or parts are simply lost: in 1974, the Lord Mayor of Birmingham dropped a diamond worth £ 100,000 from his chain of office while viewing a flower exhibition. The jewel has since disappeared.

See also

Web links

Commons : Chains of office  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. The chains of the mayors, but no longer the original medal, have been preserved in Munich: The chain of office of the mayors of Munich, members of the city council . State capital Munich . Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  2. ↑ In 1844, in accordance with the order of 1808, chains of office for members of the magistrate, city councilors and district heads were made in Berlin .


  • Horst Richter: City History in Gold and Steel - Chains of Office of the Rhenish Lord Mayors . In: New Rhineland . No. 32 , 1963, ISSN  0342-9830 .
  • Dr. Gunter Stemmler: A brilliant mistake . In: Back then . tape 34 , no. 11 , 2002, ISSN  0011-5908 , p. 59 .

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ Chains of office of the Lord Mayor of the Saxon major district town of Meißen in the Free State of Saxony, made of Meißner porcelain.
  2. ^ Richter: City history in gold and steel
  3. ^ Chain of mayors in the Vienna History Wiki of the City of Vienna
  4. a b c d Stemmler: A brilliant mistake , p. 59
  5. ^ Constitution and administration of the communities in the Kingdom of Bavaria . In: Law and General Intelligence Journal . Munich 1818, p. 26–27 ( ).
  6. Friedrich Wilhelm I., Friedrich Leopold von Schrötter, Heinrich Friedrich Karl vom und zum Stein: Order for all cities of the Prussian monarchy with associated instructions, requested by the management of the city councils at their regular meetings . In: Collection of the laws and ordinances published for the Royal Prussian States from 1806 to October 27, 1810, excluding the ordinances from 1806 already contained in the first section of the twelfth volume of the Mylius Edicts Collection . Berlin 1822, p. 356–357 ( [PDF; 2,3 MB ; accessed on September 20, 2016]).
  7. From the Reformation to the French Revolution (1500-1800) . In: Walter Rüegg (Hrsg.): History of the universities in Europe . tape 2 . Beck, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-406-36953-7 , pp. 177 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  8. ^ The chains of office of the rector of the Berlin University and the Humboldt University . University library of the Humboldt University of Berlin. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  9. The plate collection ( English ) City of London. Archived from the original on October 1, 2016. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
  10. ^ Dieter Salzmann: Cheap chain of office for mayoress . Berliner Morgenpost . December 4, 2006. Retrieved on April 10, 2017: “The chain of office made in the 1970s was much shorter in use […]. Its predecessor from the 19th century was lost in the war and post-war chaos in 1945. "
  11. Angelo Glashagel: A piece of identity returns - Part 1 . nnz-online . September 12, 2014. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  12. Angelo Glashagel: A piece of identity returns - part 2 . nnz-online . September 12, 2014. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  13. Johann Osel: A little bit of class struggle . Süddeutsche Zeitung . April 14, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  14. Wolfgang Schemann: The Lord of Chains - Munster's Lord Mayor is spoiled for choice . Westphalian news . May 2, 2011. Retrieved on April 10, 2017: “The third chain of mayors in Munster dates from the 1970s and is a duplicate of the second. Because the historic jewel disappeared at short notice during a visit to Orléans, Mayor Dr. Werner Pierchalla to purchase a "travel chain". "
  15. Jörn Funke: 25 years ago the OB company car was stolen - in Poland . Westfälischer Anzeiger . June 26, 2016. Retrieved on April 10, 2017: “25 years ago, the service limousine was stolen by Hamm's Lord Mayor Sabine Zech in Kalisz. The car turned up again, but not the chain of office. "
  16. Found a chain of office between drugs . n-tv . July 22, 2016. Accessed April 10, 2017: “The Lord Mayor of Gera has her golden chain of office back. Thanks to a coincidence, police officers found the chain that had been searched for since the end of June after Mayor Viola Hahn had broken into his office during a search in the drug environment. "
  17. Phalane Motale, Don Makatile: Chain of graft hits mayoral offices ( English ) Daily Nation . May 24, 2015. Retrieved on April 10, 2017: “A new phenomenon of corruption has been uncovered in some local municipalities in South Africa, where municipal officials, in collaboration with councillors, allegedly enrich themselves by stealing the mayoral chains […] Most mayors since the first democratic local government elections in 2000 are no longer donning their chains of honor. "
  18. ^ Justus Wanga: Gold chains gone with the mayoral wind ( English ) Independent Online . May 31, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2017: “Almost all gold chains worth hundreds of millions of shillings worn by mayors and chairmen in the defunct local governments cannot be traced. [...] It turns out that in the affected Authorities - the former town clerks - never handed over to the county governments when they left office. "
  19. Elias Makori, Tom Matoke: Ex-clerks risk Sh10m fine if they don't return chains ( English ) Daily Nation . May 9, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2017: "In 2002, the Nairobi City Council mayor's golden chain worth Sh150 million was stolen and recovered 10 months later in Paris."
  20. ^ Katie Smith: Marlborough's new chains 'ready for mayor-making' ( English ) Gazette & Herald . February 4, 2014. Retrieved April 10, 2017: “The insurance agreed to pay out £ 96,550. Needless to say our councillors have needed to be sure they were going to get value for money. It is about replacing it for its value. That is the figure we are working with to replace what was stolen. "
  21. Patrick Sawer: The mystery of the mayor's chain and its missing gold links ( English ) The Telegraph . December 4, 2015. Retrieved April 10, 2017: "The historic gold chain worn by generations of mayors in the Kent town of Gillingham is thought to have shrunk to half its original size as a result of suspected pilfering."
  22. Claire Carter: Council offers reward for diamond missing for 40 years ( English ) The Telegraph . April 6, 2014. Retrieved on April 10, 2017: “A council is to renew its efforts to hunt for a precious rare diamond that fell from the chain of their Lord Mayor as he attended an event 40 years ago […] The four- carat gem went missing after dropping unnoticed from the Lord Mayor of Birmingham's civic chain as he inspected springtime flowers. "