Village court

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The village court was a lower court limited to a village from the 13th to the 19th century with reduced competence.

The law (village law) according to which the judgment was made was recorded in village regulations . The landlord or village lord was the court lord . Since the late Middle Ages, jurisdiction has been primarily in the hands of the territorial lord . Since the 14th century, the village court has also been an ordinary court for personally free farmers.

In the High and Late Middle Ages there was an extraordinary variety of jurisdictions in personal, local and factual respects, which changed greatly from the early 10th to the late 15th century. The village courts in the former Electoral Palatinate in the Reich and in Saxony, in the Neusiedel area east of the Elbe, are examples.

Remnants of a communal jurisdiction can still be found today in the local courts in Hesse and in communal arbitration .

Electoral Palatinate

The landlord court was originally responsible for all matters relating to property. This court under private law merged with the public court of the territorial lord in the late Middle Ages. The Electoral Palatinate had often succeeded in uniting the entire jurisdiction over a village in their hands. In the village court, she not only exercised the lower jurisdiction over all residents, but now also handled the real estate transactions of other local landlords there.

Every quarter the mayor, appointed by the court lord, held a court assembly intended for all residents, an open (public) court. It was a necessary court because the mayor had to announce the date. The minority members of the community also took part; they were members of the village judicial community. Everyone had to denounce violations of the village rules that he had seen or heard of, hidden from the public, to the mayor, who investigated the case and gave the result to the court. In a closed session, the accused was charged by the jury (lay judges). The mayor had to collect the fine if necessary.

On the open court day, not only the complaint court took place, but the day was also intended for civil court proceedings, an oral, public dispute between the plaintiff and the defendant. The plaintiff divided the material into the assertion of individual facts, against which the defendant defended himself in each individual point; He had to prove what he disputed, and if necessary he was given two eight-day postponements. The plaintiff had to prove allegations that the accused denied. The respective party turned to the judge (Schultheiß) with their statements, who asked the judges (lay judges) to reach a verdict for each individual position. The process developed through the judge's question of judgment and the interim judgments of the judges up to the final judgment announced by the mayor. Not all lay judges were always preoccupied with one thing; in lighter cases and things of little value, sometimes only a few took part.

The mayor could sign witnesses. (You owe this a mas wine and two pfennig bread .) The court testimony also became common, as was the information from the Oberhof (upper court) after a request for legal assistance from the village court. In the case of a lawsuit to restore the damaged honor, property matters or fraud, the parties should turn to the judge via an auditor , a legally experienced layperson appointed by the court.

Four weeks after the bid, there was a self-made court if necessary , to which there was no invitation, as the day was determined by the previous court day. In addition to the bid and the self- bid there was the purchase court , a court hearing that you had to pay for. Anyone who did not belong to the judicial community could “buy” a court day as a plaintiff. This option was also open to local residents as plaintiffs against strangers or if they did not want to wait for the general court day. A lawsuit, once brought, had to be carried out after the defendant was summoned, with all the risks for the plaintiff. This ensured that nobody complained lightly.


Around 1300, the colonization of the 12th and 13th centuries associated with the clearing of huge forests . Century completed in Saxony ; in a uniform process, it was carried by a village community. Largely free of manorial interference, the farmers created a certain self-administration for the regulation of life in the village and the orderly land use . There were as yet no dispossessed lower classes.

The village rulers had reserved jurisdiction over minor disputes and offenses in the village court. The law used was older than the municipality: the settlers had brought it with them from their home areas, Flemish and Upper Franconian law. The right of the old German tribes also involved in the colonization, the (Lower) Saxons and the Thuringians , is less clear in the sources. The dish was first called a village court in the early modern times, before there were different names. The village chief was called the mayor, master builder, home citizen or judge, whereby judges generally prevailed in the early modern period. He and four to six farmers as Schöppen (aldermen) formed the village court, which held the annual courts once or several times a year in front of the assembled community at certain times . The judge had to direct the court act, cherish it (ceremonially open it) and ensure that it was carried out properly. According to peasant law, fellow villagers could judge fellow villagers on their own authority.

In the late Middle Ages, the legal functions of the village court were pushed back by the advance of the patrimonial courts of the landlords; the court was now entirely limited to regulating village community life and land use. For this purpose, community meetings were held two to four times a year, usually with community beer, and the participation of all farmers was compulsory. These Kühr days (Kurtag, Kürtag) served the accounting (settlement) of the judge and the regulation of village matters, in particular the fire show and the border inspection.

In modern times the church had lost its share of jurisdiction; However, it still called the judges together, whose participation in the annual judges still taking place was limited to a purely formal participation. The old village court, an institution for the self-administration of village life, had become the organ of the judge.


  • Gerhard Kiesow (arrangement): In: Schluchtern. An Electoral Palatinate village in the 16th century. Source texts edited and commented. Books on Demand , Norderstedt 2004, ISBN 978-3-8334-0518-1 , pp. 89-108.
  • Karlheinz Blaschke: Village municipality and town municipality in Saxony between 1300 and 1800 . In: Peter Blickle (Hrsg.): Landgemeinde and Stadtgemeinde in Central Europe . R. Oldenburg, Munich 1991, pp. 119-143. ISBN 978-3-486-55886-9
  • Georg Ludwig von Maurer: History of the village constitution in Germany . tape 2 . Enke, Erlangen 1866, p. 115–152 ( Textarchiv - Internet Archive ).

Individual evidence

  1. see for example ALR , Part II, Title 7 (PDF) §§ 79–86; Art. 104 ff. Of the Prussian law on voluntary jurisdiction of September 21, 1899
  2. Jurisdiction. In: Wilhelm Volkert (ed.): Nobility to guild. A lexicon of the Middle Ages. Beck, Munich 1991. ISBN 978-3-406-35499-1
  3. a b c d e Gerhard Kiesow: Schluchtern. A village in the Electoral Palatinate (see literature)
  4. a b c Karlheinz Blaschke: Dorfgemeinde and Stadtgemeinde (see literature)
  5. a b c Annual Judgment . In: Former Academy of Sciences of the GDR, Heidelberg Academy of Sciences (Hrsg.): German legal dictionary . tape 6 , issue 3 (edited by Hans Blesken, Siegfried Reicke ). Hermann Böhlaus successor, Weimar 1963 ( ). (Jahrding, complaint court)