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Harden in Denmark in the Middle Ages
Islands and Harden in North Friesland before 1840 reconstructed by the cartographer Mejer
Harden (Herrit) of Zealand 1665
Harden in Schleswig until 1865

As Harden , formerly herds called one called in Scandinavia , especially later in Denmark (including the Duchy of Schleswig ) and in parts of the later Sweden and Norway , the lower counties. The term originally meant something like "hundred" and in the Scandinavian languages ​​is Swedish: härad (old Swedish hæraþ ), Icelandic hérað, Danish / Norwegian ( Bokmål / Riksmål ) herred, nine-Norwegian ( Nynorsk ) herad .


The etymology of the word Harde is controversial. Mostly it is assumed that the word consists of two parts: hær "Schar" and a word that is related to ride "to ride" ( ahd. Hariraida, heriraita). The development of meaning can thus have run from “horse group” to “group that rides to the same place” to “area of ​​a common meeting place, thing place , place of sacrifice” - or from “horse group” as a military unit to “settlement area” of a horse group.

The Danish Harde consisted of one to four ships in the Middle Ages . Since the ship size was much more uniform than the size of a harde, the division into Harden is to be regarded as older than the ship division, which dates back to the Viking Age. An old German law shows that a heriraita consisted of 42 men. In the oldest Anglo-Saxon and Frisian laws, hær is used for 36 men. Since the ship's crew was about 42 men according to medieval sources, it is assumed that in the Iron Age and afterwards a harde comprised an area that could man such a ship.


middle Ages

In historical times, the Harden were no longer military districts, but were given the meaning of legal circles around a Hardenthing . A harde comprised several settlements , which together had to make their contribution to national defense. The assembly of the inhabitants , the Hardesting, became more and more important as an ordinary lower court. The same guide was a appointed by the sovereign magistrate , which was usually provided from among the inhabitants.

In the course of Christianization , a first Hardes church was built in each Harde, from which further parishes were then placed. These developed into subordinate administrative units, but were of no importance as police and judicial districts.

In Jutland including the Duchy of Schleswig (= Sønderjylland ), which developed around 1200, several Harden were combined in Syssel , which are probably just as old and whose original meaning is also difficult to interpret. These were supplanted in the 14th century by the feudal districts or offices that developed around the lordly castles that had been built in the meantime.

The hardness division was introduced by King Eric of Pomerania in his great reform in the Finnish administration 1405-1407 in Finland .

The Harden came to Norway as a legal term from Denmark via the then still Norwegian Bohuslän . Since the word can also be found elsewhere in Norway, two meanings can be assumed:

  1. a specific legal organization and
  2. a small settlement.

The latter meaning was the most common. The legal term Harden, which is linked to the Hardenthing, spread across Eastern Norway , Oppland and Gudbrandsdalen .

The position of the Harden was weakened from the late Middle Ages onwards by the fact that cities with city ​​rights , aristocratic estates , ecclesiastical possessions and, from the 17th century onwards, also obeyed kings (a specialty in the Duchy of Schleswig ) became separate judicial and police districts. Nevertheless, the Harden retained their function as subordinate judicial and police districts.

Originally the Hardesvögte were established farmers. Although appointed by the sovereign, the office was not infrequently inherited. From the 17th century onwards, the legal situation became more complicated and there was an increasing trend towards employing learned jurists as Hardes bailiffs. This posed certain problems, as old customary laws often had more authority than newly issued ordinances and laws. Nevertheless, the sovereign administration gradually asserted itself here.

Modern times

In modern times , all administrative borders in Denmark were reorganized in 1791, so that the Harden there became rounded territories. A reform of the offices and Harden in Schleswig did not take place. It was not until 1850 that some official, Hardes and parish boundaries were unified, and with the ordinance of June 3, 1853, the noble estates, the imposed kings and the remaining ecclesiastical possessions were reintroduced into the Harden.

After the end of the German-Danish War and the founding of the Prussian province of Schleswig-Holstein , a new court system was introduced on June 22, 1867: The local courts , which in principle still exist today, replaced the old Hardes and city courts. The Harden only functioned as police districts, and from then on they were called Hardesvogteien . There followed a renewed separation of the noble estates. From January 1, 1889, the Hardesvogteien were replaced by smaller administrative districts .

In Denmark, the Harden formed the lower right and police districts until 1919. In that year the Hardes bailiffs were finally replaced by police chiefs and lower court judges with separate posts. The Harden remained as districts until the legal reform in 1956. Until 1970 they formed the basis for the division of Denmark into Protestant priests .

Even if the Harden have disappeared today, some of their names still live on as landscape or (former) official district names, especially in North Friesland ( Karrharde , Wiedingharde and Bökingharde ), fishing ( Husbyharde , Nieharde and Schliesharde ), in North Jutland ( Han Herred ) and Zealand ( Hornsherred , Odsherred ). The name Hohner Harde has also survived to this day on the Geestrücken north of the Eider .

Some Norwegian municipalities still use the term “herad” instead of “Kommune” in their official name.

See also


  • Herred. In: Kulturhistorisk leksikon for nordisk middelalder fra vikingetid til reformationstid. Volume 6: Gästning - hovedgard. Rosenkilde og Bagger, København 1961.
  • Dieter Strauch : Medieval Nordic law until 1500. A source study (=  Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde - supplementary volumes , volume 73). Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2011, ISBN 978-3-11-025076-3 .

Web links

Commons : Harde  - collection of images, videos and audio files
  • Harde. Society for Schleswig-Holstein History, accessed on October 25, 2010 .