Code civil

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First edition of the Civil Code from 1804, first page

The Civil Code (abbreviation CC or C. civ. ), Between 1807 and 1815 and again between 1853 and 1871 under Napoleon III. officially also Napoleonic Code called the French is Code for civil law , that of Napoleon Bonaparte was introduced on 21 March 1804th With the Civil Code, Napoleon created an important piece of legislation in modern times. Its reception, especially during the 19th century, is regarded as a process of world historical importance. In France, the Civil Code is still largely in force today. Napoleon saw the collection of laws as his personal work.

The title was originally Code civil des Français ("French Civil Code"). Like the Prussian and Austrian legislation, the statute belongs to the so-called natural law legislation , more specifically to the law of reason , which was primarily influenced by the enlightener Christian Wolff .

The Code pénal , which regulated criminal law , appeared parallel to the Civil Code . In the areas occupied or at least influenced by Napoleon, mostly both works and also the others of the Cinq codes ("five codes of law") were introduced. Together they resulted in a body of legislation on which much of the global judicial culture is still based today.


Legal jurisdictions in France before the Civil Code came into force: Droit coutumier in the north, droit écrit in the south
Mention of the "Code Napoléon" (from the viewer on the right) in the Invalides near the grave of Napoleon I.

The first drafts of a civil code were made in France between the revolutionary years 1793 and 1797. In 1800, Napoleon convened a four-person commission headed by Jean-Jacques Régis de Cambacérès , which was supposed to unify the law. Jean-Étienne-Marie Portalis (1746-1807), François Denis Tronchet , Félix-Julien-Jean Bigot de Preameneu (1747-1825) and Jacques de Maleville (1741-1824) were also involved in drafting the Civil Code . As in Prussia and Austria, the swiftly elaborated draft was presented to the public, discussed in the Conseil d'État under considerable influence from Napoleon in his capacity as First Consul, and after the alleged passages were cleared up by the legislature, it was accepted and promulgated in the legislative assembly .

Until then, the French-Roman law (known as droit écrit ), common law with French characteristics with many a braid, customary law handed down in the north and east ( droit coutumier ) and, for a few years, transitional law, derived from the French, applied in the center and south of France Revolution . On the one hand, the commission pursued the goal of creating a link between codified and customary law, in order to then make the legal mix applicable to revolutionary law. In order to replace the old legal particularism, the French should have a common law based on reason. In the modern citizenry , the pathos of a hard-won sovereignty of the people that demanded legal participation could manifest itself. The ideas of the French Revolution are now expressed in legal principles such as the equality of all men before the law or the freedom of the male individual and the protection of his property . In particular, the spiritual expression of these achievements was the strict separation of church and state . On the other hand, women's rights were explicitly severely restricted. This is due in part to Napoleon's influence, whose image of women was shaped by his disappointment over Josephine's infidelity.

A five-volume work by the lawyer Jean Domat is considered an important source for the Civil Code. In addition to the influence of Domat, the line from Charles Dumoulin (1500–1566) to Robert-Joseph Pothier should not be underestimated, whose work is closer to the creation of the Civil Code than that of Domat. Pothier's merit lies primarily in the fact that he created the droit civil commune in connection with Roman law , then expanded it and commented on it. When commenting, he committed himself to the method of the lawyers, with the result that numerous quotations from the Corpus iuris civilis were found .


The civil code in the Historisches Museum der Pfalz in Speyer

The Civil Code was not received in its entirety, but in such a way that it had a decisive influence on the private law codifications of a long number of countries. The code was introduced in other states dominated by France between 1807 and 1814 (e.g. the Kingdom of Westphalia , the Duchy of Warsaw , the Kingdom of Holland and the Kingdom of Italy ).

In Germany, the code applied directly to the areas on the left bank of the Rhine annexed by France in 1798 ( Département de la Roer , Département de la Sarre , Département de Rhin-et-Moselle , Département du Mont-Tonnerre ) and in the north-west German areas incorporated into the empire in 1811 ( Département des Bouches de l'Elbe , Département des Bouches du Weser , Lippe-Département and Département Ems-Oriental ). In some states of the Rhine Confederation ( Kingdom of Westphalia , Duchy of Arenberg-Meppen , Grand Duchy of Frankfurt , Grand Duchy of Berg , Duchy of Anhalt-Koethen ) it was introduced without major changes; in others partly in a different form, such as in the Grand Duchy of Baden as "Baden Landrecht" . In still other states, drafts remained, for example in the Kingdom of Bavaria and the Duchy of Nassau .

In the areas of Luxembourg and Belgium , which had belonged to France since the Peace of Campo Formio in 1797 , the code remained in effect even after their subsequent independence.

In Switzerland, the Civil Code was initially in force in the canton of Geneva (until 1912) and in the Bernese Jura . It was or is also based on the civil codes of the cantons of Neuchâtel , Vaud , Friborg , Valais and Ticino .

Within a few years it was valid from Lisbon to Warsaw and from Holland to the Adriatic coast. With the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo , its successful spread was by no means slowed: especially in western and southern Europe (1865 Romania ), but also in North and South America (1808/1825/1870 Louisiana , 1825 Haiti , 1830 Bolivia , 1845 Dominican Republic , 1866 Lower Canada , 1867 Québec , 1869 Argentina , 1870 Mexico , 1876 Paraguay ) or Africa (1875 Egypt , also in the Maghreb and the former French colonies), the law books were based on the Civil Code. Even the country of classical Roman law , Italy, based its Codice civile of 1865 on French law, and the Spanish Código Civil , established in 1889 , was also based on it. In Congress Poland , the successor state to the Duchy of Warsaw, the Civil Code remained in force regardless of membership of the Russian Empire (from 1826 with the exception of personal and family law ). In the Second Polish Republic it was still valid on the territory of the former Congress Poland. It is true that some regulations based on revolutionary roots also represented weaknesses: The same inheritance claim of all children led in many areas to the division of property into unprofitable parcels; Women were placed under a male guardian and thus worse off than before; the (now state guaranteed) divorce unilaterally favored the man. Nevertheless, a better set of laws, written in the spirit of the Enlightenment , was far from in sight in Germany - the Prussian General Land Law (ALR) was also not on a par with the Civil Code.

In 1898 a civil code was created in Japan which, despite the influence of the German civil code, shows important traces of the civil code.

Continued validity

As "Rhenish law" in German countries

Spatial scope of the Civil Code as "Rhenish Law" (colored purple) in Germany at the end of the 19th century

After Napoleon's defeat, the code initially continued to apply in many German areas (especially on the left bank of the Rhine ). In Prussia, the ALR was only reintroduced in the Old Prussian areas on the right bank of the Rhine on January 1, 1815 (but not in the Old Prussian part of the Duchy of Kleve on the left bank of the Rhine and in the Old Prussian county of Moers ). Based on the recommendation of a so-called Rhenish Immediate Justice Commission , in 1818 Friedrich Wilhelm III. that the existing legislation in the Rhine provinces should essentially be retained.

German edition of the Civil Code, Museum Hambacher Schloss

During the 19th century, the code continued to apply in Germany as so-called "Rhenish law", in particular:

When a Prussian criminal law reform was pending in 1843, citizens of the Rhine Province united in the Cologne-Düsseldorf fraternization festival and demonstrated their interest in maintaining Rhenish law.

From 1871 the realm of Alsace-Lorraine ( Colmar High Court ) was added as the area of ​​validity .

After 1871, about one sixth of the territory of the Reich belonged to the scope of "Rhenish law". From 1879 onwards, the second civil senate at the Imperial Court in Leipzig was known as the "Rhenish Senate".

In Louisiana / USA

Unlike the rest of the United States , which is based on Anglo-American law , Louisiana is based on Continental European law based on the Napoleonic Code. A lawyer accredited in Louisiana is therefore not licensed outside of the state - and vice versa. The right to vote in Louisiana also follows the French model: in most elections there is therefore a runoff between the two leading applicants if neither of them was able to achieve an absolute majority in the first round. In almost all other states of the USA, a simple majority vote always applies, in which the candidate with the most votes wins immediately and no absolute majority is required.

Replacement by the BGB

It was not until 1900 that the Civil Code was replaced by the Civil Code (BGB) where it still applied in the German Reich .

As a particular law , parts of the Civil Code could continue to apply in some German areas. Until the enactment of the neighboring laws in North Rhine-Westphalia from April 15, 1969 and in Rhineland-Palatinate from January 1, 1971, the neighborhood law of the Civil Code continued to apply in areas. For old legal relationships, the earlier law applicable at the time of their creation is sometimes still to be applied today, for example in 2008 the OLG Zweibrücken resorted to the old legal regulations of the Civil Code in a right of way dispute in the former Bavarian Palatinate.

The civil code in Neutral-Moresnet (today's Belgian municipality of Kelmis ) remained in force for the longest - until the First World War . After the Congress of Vienna, it was controversial between Prussia and Belgium because of its ore deposits . A provisional regulation applied here, which only ended when the German troops marched in in 1914.



In accordance with the essential requirements of the French Revolution ( Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité - freedom, equality, fraternity ) - the Civil Code guaranteed all male citizens:

Division and structure

When it came into force in 1804, the Civil Code was divided into three books:

  • Livre I er : Des personnes / About persons (Art. 7–515-8 Code civil)
  • Livre II: Des biens et des différentes modifications de la propriété / On things and the various restrictions on property (Art. 516–710 Code civil)
  • Livre III: Des différentes manières dont on acquiert la propriété / Of the different ways of acquiring property (Art. 711–2283 Code civil)

The three books are preceded by a titre préliminaire ("De la publication, des effets et de l'application des lois en général / On the publication, the effect and the application of the law", Art. 1–6 Code civil), which specifies the Comes into force, contains basic principles ( prohibition of retroactive effects , prohibition to refuse justice , ineffectiveness of immoral legal transactions) and conflict of laws ( international private law ). In 2002, a fourth book ("Dispositions applicables à Mayotte / Auf Mayotte applicable regulations", Art. 2284–2285 Code civil) was systematically attached at a questionable point, which regulates the application of the Code civil to the overseas territory of Mayotte . Ordonnance of March 23, 2006 replaced this book with a new fourth book on collateral (sûretés) , so that the code today consists of the following five books:

  • Titre préliminaire: Articles 1 to 6
  • Livre premier. Des personnes: Art. 7 to 515-8 (contains family law and some non-classical areas of civil law such as nationality law)
  • Livre deuxième. Des biens et des différentes modifications de la propriété: Art. 516 to 710 (contains property law )
  • Livre troisième. Des différentes manières dont on acquiert la propriété: Art. 711 to 2283 (contains inheritance law , parts of marriage law and law of obligations )
  • Livre quatrième. Des sûretés: Articles 2284 to 2488
  • Livre cinquième. Dispositions applicables à Mayotte: Art. 2489 to 2534


Of the 2,285 articles of the Civil Code currently valid in France, around 1,200 still match the original. For this reason, and in view of the German law of obligations reform in 2002, a comprehensive reform of the civil code has been increasingly discussed since the 2000s. This initially resulted in two reform proposals: the (more conservative) Projet Catala and the (more innovative) Projet Terré .

In 2015, the French parliament finally passed a law authorizing the French government “to take the necessary measures by way of regulation to revise the structure and content of the third book of the Civil Code, as well as the general law of contracts and obligations (including the law of evidence). The focus was on measures to simplify the legal framework; the legal certainty needed to ensure the effectiveness remain and should be increased. "Immediately after the adoption of the law, the Justice Department issued a comprehensive proposal, which has been much discussed in jurisprudence. On this basis, a final ordinance was issued on February 10, 2016, which reformed the Civil Code with effect from October 1, 2016.

The reform contains far- reaching changes such as the abolition of the legally permissible legal basis as a prerequisite for the conclusion of a contract (Art. 1128) and the introduction of a provision on the discontinuation of the business basis, which was previously unregulated in France (Art. 1195).


In 2004, the 200th anniversary of the Civil Code was celebrated in public in 22 countries.


“I give you six months; make me a civil code! "

- Napoleon Bonaparte : Arrêté consulaire of the 24th Thermidor of the year VIII (13th August 1800)

"My fame is not to have won forty battles [...] Waterloo will erase the memory of so many victories […] But what will not be erased by anything, what will live forever, that is my Code civil, [...]"

- Napoleon Bonaparte : saying on St. Helena on September 26, 1816

"When I was writing the Charterhouse , to get in the mood, I read two or three pages of the Civil Code every morning."

- Stendhal : Letter to Honoré de Balzac dated October 30, 1840

See also


  • Codex Napoleon , translated by F. Lassaulx , Pauli and Comp., Koblenz 1807, ( digitized version )
  • Alfons Bürge: French private law in the 19th century - between tradition and pandect science, liberalism and statism , 2nd edition, Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-465-02815-5
  • Elisabeth Fehrenbach : The influence of the "Code Napoléon" on the legal consciousness in the countries of the Rhenish law . In: Joseph Jurt (Hrsg.): Change of law and legal consciousness in France and Germany . Berlin-Verlag, Berlin 1999, ISBN 3-87061-806-X , pp. 133-141.
  • Barbara Dölemeyer, Heinz Mohnhaupt and Alessandro Somma (eds.): Judicial application of the civil code in its European areas of application outside France . Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 978-3-465-03456-8 (= case law , volume 21).
  • Elisabeth Fehrenbach: Traditional society and revolutionary law - the introduction of the Code Napoléon in the federal states of the Rhine . Göttingen 1974, ISBN 3-525-35964-0
  • Murad Ferid, Hans Jürgen Sonnenberger: The French civil law , Volume 1–4, 2nd edition, Heidelberg 1993 ff.
  • Thomas Gergen : Le Code civil en Allemagne: genèse et rôle du Code civil en Bade (1809), in: C. Witz: Le Bicentenaire du Code civil - 200 years of Code civil. Saarbrücken Colloquium on the 50th anniversary of the CJFA , Baden-Baden 2006, pp. 39–55, ISBN 3-8329-1749-7
  • Jan Jelle Kähler: French civil law and French judicial constitution in the Hanseatic cities of Hamburg, Lübeck and Bremen (1806-1815) . Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 3-631-55876-7 .
  • Laurent Pfister: Bicentenary of the Civil Code. Sketch of a structured legal historical bibliography. In: Journal for recent legal history 31 (2011), pp. 241–283. ISSN  0250-6459 .
  • Hans-Jürgen Puttfarken, Judith Schnier: The Code Napoléon then and now - a consideration from a German perspective. In: Journal for Comparative Law (ZVglRWiss), 105th Vol. (2006), pp. 223–242
  • Werner Schubert (Ed.): 200 years of the Civil Code. The Napoleonic Codification in Germany and Europe . Böhlau, Cologne 2005. ISBN 3-412-35105-9 .
  • Werner Schubert (Ed.): French law in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. Civil law, judicial constitutional law and civil procedural law . Böhlau, Cologne 1977, ISBN 3-412-04976-X
  • Eckhard Maria Theewen: Napoleon's share in the civil code , Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1991, ISBN 3-428-07048-8 In: Writings on European legal and constitutional history. Volume 2 (At the same time dissertation at the University of Cologne , 1989)
  • Hans-Joachim Vergau: The replacement of immaterial damage in the jurisprudence of the 19th century on the French and German tort law , Universitätsverlag Potsdam 2006 ISBN 3-939469-38-6
  • Karl D. Wolff (ed.): Code Napoléon - Napoleon's law book . Stroemfeld Verlag , Frankfurt / M. 2001, ISBN 3-87877-573-3 , ( facsimile of the Strasbourg 1808 edition).

Web links

Wiktionary: Code civil  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

On the importance in other countries

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Heinrich Mitteis , in SZ , German Department (GA, ISSN  0323-4045 ), 63, 176.
  2. ^ Duden online: Code civil
  3. ^ A b Franz Wieacker : History of private law in the modern age with special consideration of the German development. Vandenhoeck u. Ruprecht, Göttingen 2nd edition 1967, pp. 322–347.
  4. On the question of the separation of droit écrit and droit coutumier : The areas of law go back to the different relationship between the Franconian and Visigoth state foundations to the Roman Empire.
  5. In particular through Art. 213, which provided for the duty of obedience of wives. As a matter of course, women were not given any participation rights. Cf. Christoph Sorge: The bondage of the wife. History and lines of development of Art 213 Civil Code 1804 as well as criticism of the French women's movement. In: Stephan Meder u. Christoph-Eric Mecke (ed.): Reform demands on family law international. Vol. 1: Western Europe and the USA (1830–1914). Cologne u. a. 2015, pp. 126–187.
  6. ^ Adam Zamoyski: Napoleon: One life . CH Beck, 2018, ISBN 978-3-406-72497-8 , pp. 352 .
  7. a b c d Paul Koschaker : Europe and Roman law . 4th edition, CH Beck'sche Verlagbuchhandlung. Munich, Berlin 1966. pp. 105 ff. (121).
  8. The French Civil Code was introduced in Belgium on March 21, 1804 (published on September 3, 1807, entered into force on September 13, 1807), Law No: 1804032150. The Belgian Code civil has the designation in the Flemish part of Belgium : " Burgerlijke Wetboek ". The Belgian Civil Code has a structure that is very similar to the French Civil Code.
  9. OLG Zweibrücken, Az .: 7 U 9/08; similar to OLG Zweibrücken, Az .: 3 W 79/03; see. also OLG Cologne Az .: 27 U 223/92 et al
  10. Loi n ° 2015-177 du 16 février 2015 relative à la modernization et à la simplification du droit et des procédures dans les domaines de la justice et des affaires intérieures .
  11. Loi n ° 2015-177 du 16 février 2015, Art. 8 .
  12. ^ Projet d'ordonnance portant réforme du droit des contrats, du régime général et de la preuve des obligations .
  13. Ordonnance n ° 2016-131 du 10 février 2016 portant réforme du droit des contrats, du régime général et de la preuve des obligations .
  14. Ordonnance n ° 2016-131 du 10 février 2016, Art. 9 .
  15. See René Savatier: L'art de faire les lois. Bonaparte et le Civil Code . Dalloz, Paris 1927, p. 5 ( Google Books ; limited preview).
  16. Cf. Charles-Tristan de Montholon : Récits de la captivité de l'empereur Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène , Vol. I, Paris: Paulin 1847, p. 401 ( Google Books ).
  17. See Winfried Engler (Ed.): Texts on the French theory of romance in the 19th century . (Collection of Romance exercise texts 56). Max Niemeyer, Tübingen 1970, p. 32f ( Google Books ; limited preview).