Götz von Berlichingen

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Götz von Berlichingen 1547, glass painting
personal signature ( Götz von Berlichingen zu Hornberg )
Götz in his younger years

Gottfried "Götz" von Berlichingen zu Hornberg , "with the iron hand ", (* around 1480 in Jagsthausen ; † July 23, 1562 at Hornberg Castle in Neckarzimmern ) was a Frankish imperial knight . He was best known for his role in the Swabian Peasants' War and as a role model for the main character of the same name in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's play Götz von Berlichingen . In the play, the so-called Götz quote “he can lick my ass” is attributed to him.


Childhood and youth

Götz came from the family of the Lords of Berlichingen and was the last of ten children of Kilian von Berlichingen from Jagsthausen (1441-30 May 1498) and Margaretha von Thüngen (approx. 1455-1509), married since June 25, 1470. He spent a few years of his childhood at Jagsthausen Castle before, when he was about twelve years old, he began a one-year stay with his relative Kunz von Neuenstein and attended the convent school in Niedernhall am Kocher . In 1494 he entered the service of Konrad von Berlichingen as a "boy". This was a cousin of his father, an experienced knight, court master and councilor of the Margraves of Brandenburg-Ansbach . Götz accompanied his uncle on numerous undertakings, such as B. to the Reichstag to Worms (1495) and to Lindau (1497), where Konrad von Berlichingen died on February 3, 1497.

Apprenticeship as a squire

After the transfer of his uncle's body to Schöntal , Götz returned to Ansbach at Whitsun 1497 , where Margrave Friedrich II initially took him over as “doorkeeper” in court service under Hofmeister Hans Berlin. Since the stubborn boy did not want to submit to courtly protocol, the margrave soon gave him to the knight Veit von Lentersheim as an apprenticeship. At the age of about 17 he turned to the arms trade, which he practiced all his life and which would bring him his dubious fame. With Vitus and the Margrave, he followed the Roman-German King and later Emperor Maximilian I in 1497 to Burgundy , Lorraine and Brabant , which he had since 1478 against the claims of King Louis XI. defended by France. After his return he returned to the court service. In 1498, as a noble boy, he accompanied Georg von Brandenburg-Ansbach , the margrave's son, to the wedding of Landgrave Wilhelm von Hessen in Kassel . However, he immediately asked the margrave for exemption from court service and for knightly training, which he was again granted as a squire by Veit von Lentersheim, whom he accompanied in the Swiss War in 1499 . After the defeat of the emperor Götz returned to Jagsthausen via Ansbach.

Time of feuds

Original armor by Götz von Berlichingen in the Museum Burg Hornberg

Although Götz, according to his own admission in his biography, only wanted to fight for the emperor and defend the rights of all classes as a free knight in the future, he and his brother Philipp soon committed themselves to the robber baron Hans Talacker von Massenbach , who was robbed by robbery and looting and pillage had already acquired a dubious reputation. When the Swabian Confederation went to the field against Talacker to put an end to the trade, Götz withdrew to his cousin Neidhart von Thüngen in the winter of 1501/02 at his Sodenberg castle .

Afterwards he voluntarily participated in the feud between the margraves of Brandenburg-Ansbach and Nuremberg in 1502 . In the spring of 1503 he joined Talacker von Massenbach again with his brother Philipp, whereupon Neidhart intervened again. With this Götz moved in 1504 on the Bavarian side in the Landshut War of Succession between the Rhine Palatinate and Bavaria . Two brothers von Götz fought on the Palatinate side in the same war.

On June 23, 1504 Götz lost his right hand during the siege of Landshut by a cannon shot from a field snake . According to his description, the bullet hit the pommel of the sword, whereupon it splintered, the splinters hit the hand and separated from the arm at about the level of the wrist. An old squire then led him to the end of the camp, where a surgeon, as a precaution against gangrene , relieved his hand, which was only hanging on some skin. Further information about wound treatment is not available. The injury tied Götz to the sick bed until Mardi Gras 1505.

His life was determined by numerous feuds in the years that followed. So many were their numbers that only the most important can be mentioned. In his autobiography he himself names fifteen war and feud events in his own affairs and also states that he served kings, electors and his “masters, friends and good fellows in their own affairs”. During this time chivalry flared one last time. Not yet used to the general peace in the country and jealous of the wealth of the cities and merchants, many knights tried to enforce what was perceived as valid or fictitious right by force of arms in order to obtain ransom and booty - less often to protect the oppressed.

Götz in front of the Heilbronn council (artist's impression)

The feud that lasted several years and ended in 1511 with the people of Cologne , started because of their refusal to pay a shooter's debt, involved Götz in four others, including one with the Bishop of Bamberg . He also led a bitter feud with Nuremberg and attacked with 130 horsemen on May 18, 1512 between Forchheim and Neuses 95 merchants from Nuremberg, Augsburg , Ulm and other cities who came from the Leipzig trade fair under Bamberg's escort . So imposed Emperor Maximilian on 5 July 1512, the imperial ban on idol and his associates, including Hans von Selbitz . The pseudo sale of the Berlichinger property to Conz (Konrad) Schott von Schottenstein , which took place previously, did not prevent an imperial mandate from denying them the right to fief. In 1513, the estates of the Swabian Federation declared the feud for harming federal members. After several fights and long negotiations, Götz and his comrades were released from the eight on May 27, 1514 against the promise to pay 14,000 guilders . Not long afterwards (1515/1516) a new feud broke out between Götz and the Mainz monastery and Archbishop Albrecht , in which Count Philipp von Waldeck was captured and only released on deposit of a ransom of 8,900 ducats , which resulted in Götz's renewed ostracism Berlichingens on February 11, 1518.

The bulwark tower in Heilbronn 1586

Berlichingen also seems to have been intertwined in many ways in the plans of his friend Franz von Sickingen . In 1515 he took part in his feud against Worms , in 1516 sent him servants and horses to help him on his campaign against the Duke of Lorraine and was also present in his feud with the Landgrave of Hesse and the capture of Umstadt in 1518. But in 1519, when the war broke out between the Swabian Confederation and Duke Ulrich von Württemberg , and Götz helped him, as in 1514 in the uprising of poor Konrad , he was betrayed on May 11, 1519 in return for the promise of free withdrawal, as he himself relates, but more likely wounded and taken prisoner in the event of a failure from the besieged Möckmühl Castle entrusted to him . The Swabian Federation gave him the city of Heilbronn in custody. It was only thanks to the objection of Franz von Sickingen and Georg von Frundsberg that he was allowed to exchange the prison in the Bollwerksturm (not Götzenturm ) in Heilbronn for "knightly imprisonment" in the Gasthaus zur Krone. The efforts of friendly knights to free him were unsuccessful. In 1521 Götz's father-in-law Arnold Geiling von Illesheim died while visiting Heilbronn. The grave slab of Arnold Geiling von Illesheim is preserved in the Heilbronn House of City History . It was not until October 1522 that Götz, who had refused for a long time, despite the threat of physical violence, finally decided to perform the original feud (sworn waiver of feuds) and to provide guarantors for the payment of 2,000 guilders and reimbursement of food costs. He retired to Hornberg Castle, where he escaped the Sickingen catastrophe until the peasant war that broke out in 1525 tore him from his calm again.

Purchase of Hornberg Castle

In 1517 Götz bought his Hornberg Castle

On April 13, 1517 Götz bought Hornberg Castle from his long-time companion and friend Conz (Konrad) Schott von Schottenstein. Götz paid 4,000 guilders immediately and was supposed to pay 2,500 guilders at Petri Stuhlfeier (February 22nd), including interest, one year later. In the meantime, however, Götz declared himself ready to the Count Palatine to take over his feud, which he had just declared against Konrad Schott (1518). Konrad had his follower Georg Rüdt von Bödigheim caught on his journey home when he had settled a debt from his father with Konrad. The takeover of this feud was strongly resented by Götz within the Franconian knighthood. Twice Götz himself narrowly escaped capture by Konrad, once when he handed over the last purchase installment of 2500 guilders to Konrad's wife Dorothea, née von Absberg , in Schweinfurt . Götz had been warned, and so he escaped through the only city ​​gate not guarded by Konrad's captors . The other time in his unsuccessful attempt to capture Konrad with inferior forces at Markt Marktbergel . Finally Götz managed to arrest Veit Schott, the owner of the Eichelsdorf moated castle near Hofheim in Lower Franconia .

Already in his youth he got to know Hornberg Castle through a visit with his uncle and is said to have been enthusiastic about the mighty grounds and the wine growing below the castle. Viticulture, in particular, should have been of considerable economic advantage. Later he bought the nearby Stockbrunner Hof as a farm yard, which is still part of the castle today.

The role in the peasant war

In this house in Gundelsheim , Götz entered into an alliance with the farmers in 1525.

When the so-called Odenwälder Haufen under the leadership of Georg Metzler came near his castle in Gundelsheim , Götz, like many of his peers, was forced to conclude a contract with the farmers and to undertake, with reservations, to serve the Swabian Federation and in to accept the “Christian brotherhood” of the peasants (April 24, 1525). Since there was no other war-experienced leader, the farmers forced Götz to take over the leadership of the Odenwälder Haufen and appointed him their captain ( winery in Buchen (Odenwald) ). Although he besieged the Würzburg "Frauenberg" (now Marienberg ), four weeks later he used his deployment against the Swabian armed forces to return to his castle in May. Under his, Hans Berlins von Heilbronn and Wendel Hiler's influence, a "Declaration" of the Twelve Articles was issued on May 4th in the Amorbach Monastery , which significantly mitigated them. The dissemination of this declaration was received very badly by the majority of the peasants and its authors threatened, so that it is not known whether Götz was not more of a prisoner of the peasants than their captain during these weeks. While he had approved of the occupation of Amorbach and the plundering of the Benedictine abbey there, the destruction of the Wildenburg and other acts of violence on the train to Würzburg happened against his will.

After the end of the Peasants' War, Götz was charged and justified himself personally before the Truchsess von Waldburg and the Reichstag in Speyer in 1526 on the grounds that he had only accepted the forced leadership to prevent worse things from happening. Although the Imperial Court of Justice declared him innocent on October 17, 1526, he was attacked at the instigation of his enemies in the Swabian Federation on May 7, 1528 on a trip to Stuttgart in Blaufelden in the inn of Georg von Eisesheim, a servant of the Swabian Federation forced to vow to submit to the covenant. Despite warnings from his friends, he followed the invitation to appear in Augsburg on November 27, 1528. There he was arrested and held from November 30, 1528 to March 1, 1530 in the cross gate tower . He was released from prison on March 4th only against the performance of an original feud . Götz had to swear that he would only stay in the area of ​​his Hornberg Castle for the rest of his life, never again mount a horse and not spend a night outside the castle. In addition, he had to pay the bishops of Mainz and Würzburg compensation and - with the provision of guarantors - vow a fine ( penalty stipulation ) of 25,000 guilders.

The last few years

In accordance with the agreement, Götz stayed within the boundaries of his castle for the next few years and was claimed due to quarrels with the Würzburg monastery over disputed fiefdoms and a lawsuit for compensation payment to Mainz, which he won in 1534.

Around 1540 the emperor released the already 60-year-old from his eighties and took him under his protection and protection because he needed the services of the experienced warrior in the fight against the Turks . Götz complied with the request to bring a hundred knights together within fourteen days, and with them he got as far as Vienna, where he spent one or two months, but was released back home in winter because of the generally unhappy outcome of this war campaign. Once again he went with Charles V against the French, fell ill with the Ruhr in front of St. Dizier and moved into the interior of the country after the city was surrendered. After the Peace of Crépy in 1544, he returned to Hornberg, where he spent the last few years in peace. The heyday of the knights and Götz von Berlichingen was over. He died on July 23, 1562, "over eighty and more years old" and was buried in the cloister of the Schöntal monastery.

The "Iron Hand"

The younger iron hand of the knight Götz von Berlichingen

Götz himself reports in his autobiography that while he was still on the sick bed (1504/1505) he remembered a rider named "Kochle" who had an iron hand. In any case, in the course of time he had two such Iron Hands made: the older one was made around 1510, the younger and much better known around 20 years later. His nickname "with the iron hand" is mentioned for the first time in 1518.

With both prostheses, the fingers could be locked with the help of an internal ratchet mechanism, and at the push of a button they jumped back into the open starting position under spring pressure . Hand prostheses based on this design principle were widespread in the 16th century. The younger of the two "Götzhands" is, however, next to the Balbronn hand, which is probably from the same manufacturer, by far the most complex of its kind. The fingers can be moved in 3 joints (the thumb in 2 joints), and the wrist can also be angled and be rotated in relation to the arm cuff.

Works and reception

Epitaph Götz von Berlichingens in the cloister of the Schöntal monastery

In old age, half blind, he dictated his autobiography in the style of a chivalric novel. He himself glorified the unscrupulous feuding economy of the notorious robber baron with allegedly altruistic motives that show him as a defender of the disenfranchised and insulted. Despite its awkwardness and some inadequacies, the representation is a true reflection of the values ​​of that time, especially of the nobility. Goethe processed the material for his famous play Götz von Berlichingen with an iron hand , in which, however, the historical fidelity is by no means preserved. Goethe instrumentalized the "Götz" in his Sturm und Drang drama because of the many disputes with imperial princes as a fighter against feudalism. Gerhart Hauptmann , on the other hand, portrays Götz in his drama Florian Geyer (1896) as a traitor.

Götz von Berlichingen as a character

In 2010, Playmobil produced Götz von Berlichingen as a play figure on behalf of the Germanic National Museum for its exhibition “Mythos Burg”.

Götz von Berlichingen is also part of the "Germany Catan - miniatures" made of tin, which Kosmos-Verlag had produced in a limited edition of 500 for promotional purposes.

Family and offspring

Götz von Berlichingen was married twice: with Dorothea von Sachsenheim and since November 17, 1517 in his second marriage with Dorothea Gailing von Illesheim. From these marriages there were three daughters and seven sons. He lived with his family at Hornberg Castle, after which he named himself, as did his sons and grandchildren, with the name of Berlichingen zu Hornberg (this is how he signed his biography). His descendants form the so-called Hornberg-Rossacher main line, which around 1900 still bore the name Berlichingen-Rossach . The Berlichingen-Jagsthausen line comes from his brother Hans von Berlichingen. Friedrich Wolfgang von Berlichingen-Rossach (1826–1887), major and member of the First Chamber of Baden, raised to the rank of Count of Württemberg in 1859, wrote the story of the knight Götz v. Berlichingen with the Iron Hand and his family (Leipzig 1861, Brockhaus Verlag).


  • Friedrich Wolfgang Götz Graf von Berlichingen-Rossach: History of the knight Götz von Berlichingen with the iron hand and his family . Brockhaus, Leipzig 1861.
  • Jakob Renz : Detailed life story of the knight Götz von Berlichingen , Eiermann, Mosbach 1939.
  • Alfred SternBerlichingen, Gottfried von . In: Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie (ADB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1875, pp. 405-408.
  • Günther FranzBerlichingen, Gottfried von. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 2, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1955, ISBN 3-428-00183-4 , p. 98 ( digitized version ).
  • Helgard Ulmschneider: Götz von Berlichingen: An aristocratic life of the German Renaissance , Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1974, ISBN 3-7995-6013-0 .
  • Helgard Ulmschneider (ed.): Götz von Berlichingen My feud and actions (edition of the original edition of the biography). Thorbecke, Sigmaringen 1981, ISBN 3-7995-7614-2 ( digitized version ).
  • Götz von Berlichingen: Life description of the knight Götz von Berlichingen with the iron hand . Unchanged reprint of the edition Nürnberg, Felssecker, 1731. With foreword by Hans Freiherr von Berlichingen and Heinz-Eugen Schramm. Weidlich-Reprints, Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-8035-1084-8 .
  • Gottlob Herbert Bidermann: Hornberg Castle, residence of the knight Götz von Berlichingen, armaments show 1980. Journal-Verlag Schwend, Schwäbisch Hall 1980.

Web links

Commons : Götz von Berlichingen  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Götz von Berlichingen  - sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. Günter Quasigroch: The prosthetic hands of the Frankish kingdom knight Götz von Berlichingen - The Landshut accident. In: weapons and costume studies. Vol. 22, 1980, pp. 108-112.
  2. See: Reinhard Scholzen : Franz von Sickingen. A noble life in the field of tension between cities and territories. Kaiserslautern 1996.
  3. Götz von Berlichingen: My Gottfriden von Berlichingen between Hornberg vhedt vnd ​​actions. Text of the Rossach manuscript (before 1567), f . 33 v . In: Helgard Ulmschneider (Ed.): Götz von Berlichingen My feud and actions. P. 26.
  4. Liebhard Löffler: The substitute for the upper extremity: the development from the first evidence to today. Enke, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-432-94591-4 .
  5. Günter Quasigroch: The hand prostheses of the Frankish imperial knight Götz von Berlichingen. 1. Continuation: The first hand. In: weapons and costume studies. Vol. 24, 1982, pp. 17-33.
  6. Jörg-Uwe Albig : The lord of the castle with the iron hand . In: GEO epoch . No. 70 Charlemagne and the Empire of the Germans. Gruner & Jahr, Hamburg 2014, ISBN 978-3-652-00347-6 , pp. 97 .
  7. Mini-Götz storms the museum on abendzeitung-muenchen.de