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As noble-free ( noble-free or noble ) those Germanic aristocrats were initially referred to, who differed from the other free by the payment of three times Wergeld . From the noble free the dynasties developed in the course of the 12th century in the Holy Roman Empire .


Landowners who differed from other free (farmers or large farmers) in that they had to pay three times the wergeld (see Wergeld tariffs in the Sachsenspiegel ) were originally referred to as "noble-free" ( noble free or noble ) .

In the Middle Ages , noble or high free meant that a person was of dynastic origin. The Edelfreien were a country legal status and had their nobility not through a service - or Lehnsverhältnisses . So they were not subordinate to any other dynasties (apart from the king or emperor ) and with their allod (property) were not subject to any feudal lords. After the old Gau constitution collapsed in the 11th century, its territories were considered to be imperial-free , royal- free or imperial-direct .

They formed a middle class between the owners of real old counties and the mere knightly middle free . Their titles were often only lord, occasionally baron (in the original sense of the title), in the late Middle Ages or in the early modern period many of them achieved the status of count . In the Sachsenspiegel and in the Schwabenspiegel they are referred to as Semperfrei , whose place of jurisdiction was not the lay judge of the counts appointed by the king, but the spiritual sending court of the bishops. They were thus on an equal footing with the princely high nobility, in contrast to the service nobility that was mostly unfree in its origins , the so-called ministerials .

Many noble families submitted to more powerful feudal lords during the High Middle Ages ; For these families the term "originally noble-free" is common in scientific literature. This submission was not always done under duress. Many feudal holders reached high positions at the court of their liege lords, and the service team was often very lucrative. Especially at the time of territorial expansion and the emergence of the monetary economy, many noble freemen were dependent on the protection and support of a more powerful secular or spiritual liege lord. Conversely, there was also a relationship of dependency insofar as larger territories could only be secured and administered with the help of loyal servants.

The number of noble families was limited and many died out early. A new class of society quickly emerged, the ministerials . These upstarts - mostly unfree according to their origin - managed to rise to the lower nobility within a century . The differences to the old noble sexes began to blur increasingly; soon some ministerials had amassed far larger complexes of feudal property than the original allodial possessions of the noble free ones; if they wanted to enlarge their property, they also had to accept fiefs and thus go into vassal service . Weddings between the two classes increased. Many originally noble noble families lack reliable evidence of their dynastic origin. Lists of witnesses often give clues and allow conclusions, since the noble free were always listed before the ministerials.

The Reichsministerialen , who received their fiefs directly from the German king or emperor, consisted partly of noble free, partly of originally unfree ; many of them formed territories immediately after the empire through enfeoffment and inheritance. From 1495 onwards, the high nobility in the modern sense of the word were those families who remained imperial and who managed to obtain a seat and vote in the Reichstag and thus the imperial estate. Some noble freemen, who did not attain the imperial estate but had become dependent on feudal feuds, nonetheless built up domains in which they exercised certain sovereign rights (such as the Gans zu Putlitz or the noble von Plotho as a tenant of the Havelberg bishops in the Prignitz ).

The term primeval nobility must not be confused with the term noble-free , because it is much broader: all genders that can be shown to have belonged to the knightly nobility by 1400 at the latest (regardless of whether originally noble-free or ministerial) are now referred to as primitive nobility.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. Wergeldtarife in Sachsenspiegel , Book 3: Article 45 and Article 51 (Text Archive of the German Legal Dictionary)
  2. ^ A b Karl Bosl : Society in the history of the Middle Ages. 4th edition. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1987, ISBN 3-525-33389-7 , p. 56.