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Bralitz , a village in Brandenburg

A village is usually a manageable group settlement with a low division of labor , which is originally characterized by an agricultural settlement, economic and social structure . The basis of prosperity originally arose from the agricultural sector . In the meantime, however, there are also fishing villages , rafting and traveling traders villages . In areas with a pronounced home working structure , there were also Weber villages , for example . However, pottery villages are unique in their respective regions.

Smaller group settlements are traditionally referred to as hamlets or farmers . Scattered settlements are not referred to in some areas as a village, but in North West Germany as the peasantry, on the Lower Rhine as Honnschaft . Even smaller living spaces with only one or two households are referred to as single settlements , single homesteads , in southern Germany and the German-speaking Alpine countries as a wasteland or solitary yard .

Traditionally presented the village - also in contrast to the smaller hamlets - as a community of farmers a political entity represents Before the creation of municipal councils in the 19th century there were. German speaking the mayor , mayor , mayor and village mayor . As a result of the regional reforms of the 1970s to 1990s, most of the villages in Germany are no longer local authorities , but have been combined into rural communities or incorporated into neighboring towns . Some joint and association communities represent a compromise with the remains of the independence of the villages .

In Bavaria, according to the resolution of the State Ministry of the Interior there of October 18, 1950 (No. I B1 - 68a 1), any settlement with ten or more residential buildings that is not a town is considered a village. Larger villages with a stronger division of labor and individual urban functions are called Markt in southern Germany, especially in Bavaria . In northern Germany, especially in Lower Saxony, they are called spots . In Hesse, the term "market town" is used for this.

In Austria a village is also a closed place with ten or more buildings, with a historical structure and certain infrastructure such as a church or an inn. Smaller closed places and places without any infrastructure are classified as hamlets , Rotte or scattered houses , modern new facilities as a group of houses . The term market for larger villages, comparable to southern Germany, is just as common.

In France , Switzerland and Namibia, a great many villages are local authorities.


The oldest evidence for the word village, thaurp , is found in the Gothic translation of the Bible by Wulfila , where it denotes a fenced area. This meaning can also be assumed for the North Frisian terp as well as the Alemannic village , so the word was originally not intended to indicate the difference between an individual and group settlement.

Archeology of the village

Village foundation in the Middle Ages (Heidelberg handwriting of the Sachsenspiegel )

Since the early Neolithic , settlements are known that are characterized by a collection of simultaneous houses, an economic base in agriculture and common facilities. According to a definition of the village that aims at precisely these criteria, the “village” is thus a basic form of settlement in agriculture. The forerunner of the village is the habitat that hunters and gatherers sometimes only visit seasonally . Nevertheless, some changes in the village can be observed in the millennia of prehistory and the Middle Ages . For example, the development from the tell settlement , which was widespread at the beginning of arable farming in south-eastern Europe as far as the Danube region, to row settlement and at the transition to the Middle Neolithic to scattered settlement with loose, uniformly oriented buildings, seems to be significant . Here cultural, social and economic upheavals may be in the background.

The main question to be asked is when the villages that characterize today's Central European settlement landscape were created (problem of “village genesis”). The older doctrine assumed that the "village" was a typically Germanic form of settlement and that in West Germany it was based on the Germanic conquest of the migration period , in the East it was based on the German settlement in the east . Archaeological evidence shows, however, that the rural settlement structure was subject to significant changes well into the Middle Ages. The classic village forms in Central Europe are often only secondary forms that have developed through the concentration and relocation of settlements, the amalgamation of individual farmsteads (better common protection, often downstream because of the safer water supply in the low mountain range), but also through the complete internal restructuring of older settlements. Closely connected with village genesis is the formation of the community, as it can be summarized in written sources and currently primarily in the 12th / 13th centuries. Century is dated.

Historically grown village forms

Villages are classified according to their layout, location, socio-economic function and economy. A rough distinction is made between unregulated and regulated village facilities, the latter only occurring with controlled and well thought-out planning ( colonization ). The most common forms of village are cluster , row and street villages . Special features and parallels are discussed in the individual sections. Pure village forms are rarely found.

The corridor forms are related to the village forms . In the 20th century at the latest, urban sprawl began in German villages , corridors were cleared and fields were merged into large areas (“ coupling ”).

Closed village forms

The clustered village of Heudorf near Meßkirch , around 1575


A clustered village is a closed built village with irregular plot of land and often differently sized courtyards, mostly surrounded by a local setters . Clustered villages differ from most other forms of village in that they were laid out on an unscheduled basis. A large part of the clustered villages arose in connection with the medieval Gewanneflur , where each farmer cultivated strips of different fields and the position of these strips of fields changed again and again. The demarcation of such villages was divided into the village center, arable land and common land .

Compact village

A compact village is the extreme case of a clustered village. The houses were built close together or next to each other in order to save space in precarious topographical conditions. Typically, compact villages can be found in the Romansh-speaking parts of the Alps, for example in the northern canton of Ticino .

Example of a street village

Street village

A street village is a linear, mostly two-line village, the houses or farmsteads of which line a street (previously a route) in a dense arrangement. Typically, today's single houses or farmsteads are arranged at the gable facing the street. A street that branches off the main street is often a dead end.


An anger village is a village, the most prominent feature of which is the anger , a central, stretched, round square that is owned by the municipality and usually has a pond (extinguishing water pond) or a well. Angerdörfer occur in Central Europe mainly on ground moraine plates and in loess areas, in Germany especially in East and East-Central Germany.

Goldenbow, Angerdorf in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Street green village

The street green village is a street village, the village street of which widens at one point or in a greater length to a meadow and then continues. In the German-speaking area, Angerdörfer are typical for northeast Austria and parts of the Mark Brandenburg. There are also anger villages in northern England and in France in the Barrois . The layout of the Brandenburg street-green villages in the Frederician era is characterized by the row of residential buildings along the street, usually with a central entrance or passage and, if necessary, an additional side driveway.

Rundling, Rundplatzdorf, Rundweiler

Example of a round with two access roads

A Rundling , Rundplatzdorf or regionally called Rundweiler , is a rural settlement in the shape of a round, the distribution of which is essentially on the former German-Slavic border area, i.e. west and east of the Saale and Elbe , z. B. limited in the Hanoverian Wendland . They all belong to the square villages . Round lumps often lie on spurs that protrude into the lowlands of the glacial valleys . The square in the middle was originally only connected to the general transport network via one path. There are a few farms around the square . This is followed by a striped corridor. It is unclear whether the round shape was chosen for safety reasons or to adapt to the predominant livestock industry.

A typical example is Bugk , ( slav. "Bug" or "buk" , German "beech" ), in the Oder-Spree district in Brandenburg. The center of the village is a Slavic round-square village, which emerged from a star of paths , on a barely noticeable hill in damp, swampy terrain .

The Wurtendorf is a specialty . It is one of the settlements whose farmsteads are oriented towards a central (village) square. The Wurtendorf was usually built on a mound of earth raised by people, which serves as a settlement area for individual or group settlements. The hill should protect the village from storm surges and floods. This type of settlement occurs mainly on the marshland coasts, sometimes also on rivers. Wurtendörfer emerged mainly in the 7th and 8th centuries. See: History of the Settlement of the Marshes .

Rundlinge are of Slavic origin and are often found in East Germany .

The row village Surrein in the Surselva (valley) follows the Vorderrhein


Row villages are created by building a settlement along an elongated topographical object such as a stream, ditch or dike. If, on the other hand, the settlement is along a street or a path, it is called a street village .

Row villages and street villages often offer the opportunity to expand the settlement at both ends.


A row village consists of a row of houses or courtyards that are regularly and linearly strung together.

Colonist villages in Brandenburg

The Brandenburg colonist villages emerged after 1157 as part of the settlement policy pursued by Albrecht the Bear and his son Otto I. The first two Brandenburg Margrave tried successfully with this policy, the conquered in 1157 and founded the Mark Brandenburg , which still in many parts of Slavs to Christianize was inhabited and stabilize. The colonists came mainly from Altmark and Flanders . The villages were usually laid out as a row village or circular with forest, meadow and arable hooves, there were isolated triangular dead-end villages such as Gröben near Ludwigsfelde . A typical example is Elsterwerda .

Open village forms

With open village forms the possibility of mutual protection of the villagers, but also the risk of a fire disaster was lower than with closed ones. Where every farmer cultivates as coherent usable area as possible, the distances associated with everyday work are shortened if the homestead is on the edge or in the middle of the usable area.

During the planned reclamation of areas that were not or hardly used for agriculture, often forested areas, each farmer was permanently allocated a contiguous area, the hooves . So z. B. the Waldhufendörfer east of the Saale.

Scattered settlement

Simplified example of a scattered settlement

A scattered settlement is a non-closed settlement that consists of far apart farms and hamlets without an actual town center. A typical scattered settlement area is the Münsterland. Furthermore, scattered settlements often occur in the Black Forest and often came about through spontaneous settlement. A scattered settlement is not organized according to plan. Scattered settlements are also the typical form of settlement of the Walser colonies in the Alps . Between the Weser and Ems, scattered settlements have always been common. In parts of the Allgäu, on the other hand, it was only introduced in the early modern period in order to improve agricultural yields.

Large parts of Canada and the USA consist of scattered settlements.


simplified example of a forest hoof village

Hufendörfer are special forms of the row village as Hagenhufendorf , Marschhufendorf , Moorhufendorf , Waldhufendorf and Straßendorf .

The latter limits the topographical objects to streets and paths. The definition of the term is not clearly defined.

Settlements at crystallization points

Church Village

In areas with traditional scattered settlements, people who did not earn their living, or not only from agriculture, liked to sit next to a church. If the church is a parish church , the term parish village applies .

Market town

Wherever markets regularly took place in a convenient location , which in the feudal era was only possible with the permission of the authorities, tradespeople were also happy to settle here. This resulted in settlements that were often larger than purely farming villages. Several of these minor cities were later given city rights.

Railroad settlement

The railway settlements emerged mainly in the second half of the 19th century to the beginning of the 20th century. An essential prerequisite was the existence of railway stops and their network expansion as a component of the infrastructure.

Since the middle of the 20th century

As a result of the rationalization of agriculture and other industries, greater mobility and as a reaction to the territorial reform, the village has lost much of its former importance in the past few decades. Nevertheless, many communities and districts like to emphasize their village character, both for their residents and for non-residents. Many new housing estates in villages today hardly differ from those in large cities. In addition, some new settlements or facilities are referred to as villages in order to emphasize their manageability or their demarcation from a surrounding city .

Traditional villages with (tourist) marketing of a special tradition, a political claim or other peculiarities
“Villages” for the temporary stay of certain groups of people
Construction separated from the environment
Mostly not inhabited (anymore)

Social structures, sociological issues

Characteristic for many villages: war memorial, here Biesenbrow in the Uckermark

Hierarchy (historical)

In the social village hierarchy, the wealthy peasants (also the pastor and the judge or the teacher) were at the top. Owning horses represented the greatest wealth (almost luxury: the horse eats what it brings in ), so that one differentiates the team owners from the cow farmers. Usually only the so-called full farmers (Hufner) could afford horses . In addition, there were small farms (Häusler, Kötter, Seldner ...) that provided free labor for full farmers beyond the use of their own land, as well as the traditional village craft and service professions miller, blacksmith , wheelwright (processed the horizontal surfaces of a transport unit - wooden frame), Wagner (usually only deals with the manufacture of the wheels of a car), innkeeper (Krüger), but also bakers, butchers, joiners, carpenters, roofers. In 2004 some of them practically disappeared from the village in the Federal Republic of Germany, together with the village shop , the post office (halterei). That as well as the rural servants ( servants and maidservants ), and at the bottom of the hierarchy, the poor and the poor in the village. The majority of employees work outside of agriculture and mostly in the nearest cities or central locations. In return, new craft and service businesses (electrician and repair workshops, haulage companies, petrol stations) emerged in the villages.

The Brandenburg village of Gömnigk presents a detailed history of the farms of the Hüfner (full farmers), Kossäts (gardeners) and Büdner (cottagers) as well as the development of the two village water mills, the blacksmiths, brickworks and small businesses .

Village community

A village community is characterized by social relationships (neighborhood relationships, social control), fixed structures and norms (customs, customs, festivals, associations) through to rural architecture, clothing, food, etc. The development of the population also remained tied to the available usable area which - for example in the Alpine region with its narrowly defined settlement area - often led to internal and inter-community conflicts. The balance was maintained by the fact that part of the population did not raise families or emigrate. With the beginning of industrialization , the non-rural part of the village population found an additional source of income through home work . In southwest Germany, a large number of non-agricultural permanent jobs was created relatively early on through the widespread settlement of smaller industrial companies. Today the agricultural village is the exception.

Sociologically, the village is empirically examined primarily in community and agricultural sociology (partly in development sociology ), conceptually, reference should be made to the term “community”.

In anthropology and ethnology, village community is a technical term that specifically describes the social groups of traditional soil farmers .

In the early 19th century, when a fire broke out in the villages, certain residents had to fetch the fire engine immediately . A fire walker had to request another fire pump if necessary. In many villages, when a fire was detected, the local teachers had to ring the bell and sound the alarm for the committee drum. All residents able to work had to rush to the scene of the fire with the bucket full and line up in double rows after the nearest water (e.g. stream, fire pond): "The bucket flew through the chain between my hands."

Village development and security

Villages are currently subject to major structural change. Due to the extinction of smallholder village culture, there is no need to maintain the landscape, especially in more remote places. While the mostly older agricultural generation is dying out, the majority of the villagers earn their income as commuters in the more or less nearby metropolitan areas. Therefore, various efforts are made to secure the natural landscape. With the European Village Renewal Prize and the federal competition “Our village has a future” , the inhabitants of the villages are supposed to maintain or improve the quality of life by encouraging civic engagement. These efforts are supported, for example, through programs for village renewal . With regard to Agenda 21, it is hoped that this will at least preserve the appearance of the landscape.

The village in literature and the history of ideas

While there has been a flourishing form of literature since the 19th century that focuses on the village community and village conflicts ( village history ), the village has more recently come into the focus of research as a place for generating and processing ideas. Of particular interest is how urban and village forms of communication and thought differ.

See also


  • Philip Ajouri , Wolfert von Rahden, Andreas Urs Sommer : The village. (= Magazine for the history of ideas. Issue IX / 2, summer 2015). CH Beck, Munich 2015, ISBN 978-3-406-67382-5 )
  • Herbert Jankuhn , Rudolf Schützeichel , Fred Schwind (ed.): The village of the Iron Age and the early Middle Ages. Form of settlement - economic function - social structure. (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences Göttingen, Phil.-Hist. Class 3. 101). Vandenhoeck & Rupprecht, Göttingen 1977.
  • Anneliese Krenzlin : Contributions to the genesis of cultural landscapes in Central Europe. Collected essays from four decades (edited by Hans-Jürgen Nitz and Heinz Quirin). Steiner, Wiesbaden 1983, ISBN 3-515-04035-8 .
  • W. Rösener among others: village . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 3, Artemis & Winkler, Munich / Zurich 1986, ISBN 3-7608-8903-4 , Sp. 1266-1312.
  • Gerhard Stenzel: The village in Austria. With photos by Lothar Beckel and Lorenz Schönemann. Kremayr & Scheriau, Vienna 1985.
  • Henning Schöpke-Papst: Villages in Germany . Braunschweig 1989.
  • Werner Rösener : Farmers in the Middle Ages . 4th, unchanged. Edition. CH Beck, Munich 1993, ISBN 3-406-30448-6 .
  • Cay Lienau: The rural settlements. 3. Edition. Braunschweig 1997.
  • Rainer Schreg : Village genesis in southwest Germany. The Renninger Basin in the Middle Ages. (= Material booklets on archeology in Baden-Württemberg. 76/2006). Theiss, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-8062-2066-2 .
  • Rainer Schreg: The archeology of the medieval village in southern Germany. Problems - paradigms - desiderata. In: settlement research. Archeology - History - Geography. 24/2007, pp. 141-162.
  • Marco Bellabarba, Hannes Obermair , Hitomi Sato (eds): Communities and Conflicts in the Alps from the Late Middle Ages to Early Modernity (= Fondazione Bruno Kessler. Contributi / contributions. 30). Il mulino - Duncker & Humblot, Bologna-Berlin 2015. ISBN 978-88-15-25383-5 or ISBN 978-3-428-14821-9 .
  • Hansjörg Küster : Does the village model still have a future? In: Yearbook for the Oldenburger Münsterland 2012. (Ed .: Heimatbund für das Oldenburger Münsterland), Vechta 2011, ISBN 978-3-941073-10-4 , pp. 204-216.
  • Werner Troßbach, Clemens Zimmermann: The history of the village. From the beginnings in the Franconian Empire to the West German present. Ulmer Verlag, Stuttgart 2006.
  • Gisbert Strotdrees : There are no more remote places . Notes on the present and future of rural areas. Lecture on the “Future of Villages” series at the University of Vechta 2019/20. In: Heimat Westfalen. Issue 1 (2020) ( Link to PDF, 11 MB ).

Web links

Commons : Village  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Village  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Statistics Austria (Ed.): Ortverzeichnis 2001. Wien 2005, joint introduction to the country volumes, p. 20 (e.g. Tyrol ; pdf, 3.2 MB,
  2. Rudolf Schützeichel: 'Village'. Word and concept. In: Herbert Jankuhn, Rudolf Schützeichel, Fred Schwind (eds.): The village of the Iron Age and the early Middle Ages: form of settlement, economic function, social structure. Report on the colloquia of the commission for the antiquity of Central and Northern Europe in 1973 and 1974. (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class 3rd Part No. 101). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1977, pp. 25-27.
  3. Rudolf Schützeichel: 'Village'. Word and concept. In: Herbert Jankuhn, Rudolf Schützeichel, Fred Schwind (eds.): The village of the Iron Age and the early Middle Ages: form of settlement, economic function, social structure. Report on the colloquia of the commission for the antiquity of Central and Northern Europe in 1973 and 1974. (= Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class 3rd Part No. 101). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1977, p. 31.
  4. Enno Bünz (Ed.): Ostsiedlung and Landesausbau in Sachsen, The Kührener deed of 1154 and its historical environment. Leipzig 2008, ISBN 978-3-86583-165-1 .
  5. Marco Bellabarba, Hannes Obermair, Hitomi Sato (eds): Communities and Conflicts in the Alps from the Late Middle Ages to Early Modernity . Bologna-Berlin 2015.
  6. ^ Franz-Josef Sehr : The fire extinguishing system in Obertiefenbach from earlier times . In: Yearbook for the Limburg-Weilburg district 1994 . The district committee of the Limburg-Weilburg district, Limburg-Weilburg 1993, p. 151-153 .
  7. Philip Ajouri, Wolfert von Rahden, Andreas Urs Sommer : Das Dorf. (= Magazine for the history of ideas. Issue IX / 2, summer 2015). CH Beck, Munich 2015 elaborate philosophical, literary historical, ethnographic and anthropological aspects of the village; See also Jochen Hieber: Come! open, friend! In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. November 24, 2014,