Duchy of Limburg

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Banner of the Holy Roman Emperor with haloes (1400-1806) .svg
Territory in the Holy Roman Empire
coat of arms
Limburg New Arms.svg Armoiries Brabant Limbourg.svg
1400 Limburg.png
Limburg and surrounding territories around 1400
Alternative names Limbourg, Limpurg
Form of rule monarchy
Ruler / government Count , 1165 Duke
Today's region / s BE-WLG , smaller parts in BE-VLI , NL-LI

Reichskreis Burgundian
Capitals / residences Limburg
Dynasties Wigeriche
1289: Reginare (Brabant)
1406: Burgundy
1477: Habsburgs
Language / n Dutch , French , German

Incorporated into 1793: France
1815: United Netherlands

The Duchy of Limburg was a historical territory in the Holy Roman Empire , the core of which is largely in the northeast of what is now Belgium ( province of Liège ).

The Duchy of Limburg was also called from 1839 to 1866 a principality belonging to the German Confederation , which was ruled in personal union by the Dutch king.

The historical origin dates back to the early 11th century when the Limburg Castle of the same name was built. The French sealed its definitive end when they annexed the area in 1793 and attached it to France. Initially, only counts, the Limburg in the 12th century fought due to the multiple received the title Duke of Lower Lorraine to Duke title in the long run.

After the main line of the Limburg dukes had died out, the Limburg succession dispute broke out , which culminated in the battle of Worringen in 1288. Since Limburg was in personal union of the Dukes of Brabant helps rule. Since then, one can hardly speak of a separate history of the duchy. Efforts by the Limburg estates to regain a certain degree of independence in the context of the Brabant Revolution (1789) failed.


Limbourg town and castle

From county to duchy

Presumably around the year 1020, Frederick II from the House of Luxembourg built Limburg Castle in the Weser Valley on the old royal manor of Baelen (near Eupen and Verviers ). Friedrich inherited the manor from his mother.

The castle was the origin of the city of Limbourg and gave the county its name.

Frederick's dominium included possessions between the Maas and Aachen and the area around Sprimont south of Liège . This core area was divided into five judicial districts , called Hochbank or Bank:

The Duchy of Limburg and its five high benches
  1. Hochbank Baelen
    Bank Baelen was located in the southeastern part of the duchy. The castle, now the city of Limburg , Baelen, Bilstain , Eupen , Goé , Henri-Chapelle , Welkenraedt , Herbesthal and Membach belonged to it .
  2. Hochbank Herve
    Bank Herve was west of Bank Baelen. It included Chaineux , Charneux , Dison , Herve , Soiron , Thimister, and Clermont .
  3. Montzen high
    bench The Montzen bench made up the northern part of the duchy. It included Gemmenich , Homburg , Kelmis , Montzen , Moresnet , Sippenaeken and Teuven .
  4. Hochbank Walhorn
    To the northeast was the bank Walhorn with the lordships of Eynatten , Hauset , Hergenrath , Walhorn and Lontzen .
  5. Sprimont high
    bench The Sprimont bench was an exclave in the Principality of Liège around Sprimont .

In addition, the bailiwicks over the Abbey of St. Truiden and the double abbey Stablo - Malmedy belonged to Frederick's domain.

Residence town Limbourg around 1600 in a graphic by Georg Braun
The burial place of the Limburg dukes was the church of the Rolduc Abbey

Judith, Friedrich's only child, married Walram-Udo, Count von Arlon , in 1065 and brought the county with her into their marriage. While his father-in-law was still alive, Walram-Udo was referred to in a document from 1064 as egregius comes Udo de Lemborch (the chosen Count of Limburg).

Friedrich had received the duchy of Lower Lorraine in 1046 . Emperor Heinrich IV appointed Duke Friedrich's grandson (so Walram-Udo's son), Heinrich I of Limburg and Arlon (1081–1119), in 1101 as Duke of Lower Lorraine . In the later power struggle between the emperor and his son ( Heinrich V ), Heinrich von Limburg remained loyal to the old emperor. That cost him the ducal dignity again and Count Gottfried I von Löwen (as Duke Gottfried VI) received the office instead. There was now a constant wrangling between the houses of Limburg and Leuven-Brabant for the title and office of Duke of Lower Lorraine. In 1128 Heinrich I's son, Walram III. of Limburg (1119–1139), the title of Emperor Lothar III. In 1139 Conrad III conferred . him back to the house of Leuven Brabant.

The Counts of Limburg only called themselves Dukes of Limburg since the second enfeoffment with the ducal dignity. Heinrich II., At that time Lord of Limburg (1139–1167), was a frequent guest at the court of Friedrich Barbarossa . It is believed that this was the reason why the emperor officially recognized the title of Duke of Limburg in 1165. But despite all their efforts, the Limburgers did not manage to rise to the rank of imperial prince .

Expansion of the domain

By marriage, Walram II fell to Wassenberg . This made the Limburg vassals of the Archbishop of Cologne . In 1136 he was able to take control of the land of van 's-Hertogenrode ( Herzogenrath ). He and his descendants made generous donations to the Klosterrath Abbey (later called Rolduc ) and chose them as their burial place .

Henry III. von Limburg (ruling 1165-1221) took part in the Third Crusade in 1189, together with his second son and later successor Walram IV . They traveled independently from the main army of Emperor Barbarossa , against whom they rebelled as much as they later against his son Emperor Heinrich VI. , and joined Richard the Lionheart's army in the Holy Land . For his fifth son, who later became Cardinal Simon of Limburg, Heinrich III. the chair of the Prince-Bishop of Liège . His successor, Walram IV of Limburg, married the County of Monschau and the County of Luxembourg through two marriages . In 1217 and 1218 he took part in the Fifth Crusade and fought at the siege of Damiette . His two sons of his first marriage inherited Limburg ( Heinrich IV. ) And Monschau ( Walram ), the son of his second marriage, Heinrich (1216–1281), Luxembourg. This founded the House of Limburg-Luxemburg , which was to provide four Roman-German kings and emperors in the following 14th century.

The eldest son of Walram IV, Heinrich IV , succeeded his father in the Duchy of Limburg. He married Ermengarde (Irmgard) , heir daughter of Count von Berg . Heinrich ruled Limburg and Berg in personal union from 1225 until his death in 1247, after the Cologne Elector Archbishop Engelbert II von Berg , his wife's uncle and lifelong holder of the Berger count's rights, was murdered in 1225, with Heinrich allegedly having a hand in it.

The murder of Engelbert sparked two decades of insecurity and war in Westphalia and the Rhineland, the climax of which was a ten-year armed conflict with a relative of Engelbert from the Altena-Mark sidelines of the Berg-Altena family . Duke Heinrich supported the Isenberg party around his nephew Dietrich von Altena-Isenberg against Adolf I von der Mark . The Isenberg turmoil led after ten years to the loss of the Isenberg lands to Adolf I von der Mark, who now also ruled the County of Altena . However, Heinrich managed to get some of the rights and possessions of his brother-in-law Friedrich von Isenberg - who had been whacked because of the murder of his second uncle, Archbishop Engelbert, in Cologne - to his nephew.

After Heinrich's death the inheritance was divided. Berg passed to his older son Adolf IV. The younger son, Walram V. , ruled the Duchy of Limburg from 1247 to 1280 as the last of his tribe. Due to the division of the estate, the power of the Dukes of Limburg had sunk significantly at a time when all princes were anxious to expand their territorial power and were destined to be taken over by another territorial power after the main line of Limburg had died out.

Transfer to Brabant

The Codex Manesse (f ° 18r) shows the banner of Duke Johann von Brabant in the Battle of Worringen in anticipation of the outcome already quartered with the Limburg and Brabant lions

Ermengard (Irmgard), only child of Walrams V, brought the duchy to her husband, Count Rainald I of Geldern . She died in 1283 without leaving an heir. Immediately made the male descendants of Henry III. Rainald disputed the claim to Limburg, although Limburg had already been enfeoffed with Limburg in 1282 after the death of his father-in-law. It came to the Limburg succession dispute , which reached its bloody warlike climax in the Battle of Worringen in 1288. The dispute ended in 1289 with a peace treaty through which Limburg came to the Duchy of Brabant . The decision made was subsequently approved by King Rudolf . This ended the old competition between Limburg and Leuven Brabant forever.

Limburg subsequently shared the fate of Brabant until the end of the Ancien Régime . Numerous feuds between Brabant and its neighbors repeatedly left scorched earth behind . During the Second Geldrian War, Eupen and Walhorn were completely razed to the ground. Among other things, in the years 1296 and from 1315 to 1317 there were bad harvests and famine after torrential rains and long winters. 1348/1349 and 1362 raged in Limburg plague in a terrible way.

In 1356 the dukes of Brabant conjured up the union of the two duchies with the Joyeuse Entrée . This also guaranteed both autonomy in administration and the judiciary as well as the old customary rights ( wisdoms ).

Limburg under the rule of Burgundy

After contracts in 1382 and 1396, Philip the Bold bought the Duchy of Limburg in 1406. In 1430 the House of Burgundy finally took over the reign. In the meantime serfdom had largely been abolished. In 1406 the compulsory labor in Brabant and Limburg was abolished, and an edict of November 2, 1412 ended the right of the "havestoit", according to which all the property of a farmer who died without a male heir belonged to the duke. It was replaced by the delivery of the " Besthaupt ", also called "Mortement".

Transfer to the Habsburgs

The daughter of Charles the Bold , Maria of Burgundy , married Maximilian von Habsburg in 1477 and brought the Duchy of Limburg into the marriage and thus to the House of Habsburg . The division of 1555 brought it to the Spanish line along with the other Dutch provinces.

Since 1512 Limburg belonged to the Burgundian Empire as a result of the imperial reform .

Jacob Aertsz Colom : De Vyerige Colom, Verthonende de 17 Nederlandsche Provintien , Amsterdam 1635.
here: Ducatus LIMBURG
Wilhelm and Johannes Blaeu (eds.): Theatrum Orbis Terrarum, sive Atlas Novus in quo Tabulæ et Descriptiones Omnium Regionum , four volumes, Amsterdam 1645ff.
here: Germania Inferior ,
Aegidius Martinus: Ducatus Limburgum

The time of the Reformation or the Eighty Years War

The followers of the Reformation were also severely persecuted in Limburg. They are first reliably documented here for the year 1531, when the preacher Wilhelm Kaiskin appeared in Rechain and Dolhain. In the same year the Drossard of the Limburg High Court had a group of psalm singing farmers seized and hung up on the spot and without interrogation. In 1535, Anabaptists who were apprehended in Visé were brought to Limburg, where they were sentenced, tortured and burned.

Philip II of Spain had received the seventeen Dutch provinces in 1556 after his father Charles V renounced it . In the meantime, Calvinism had established itself in the northern provinces, and there were also around four hundred followers of this doctrine in Bank Baelen in 1565.

Duke Alba's actions against the supporters of the Reformation also left clear traces in the Duchy of Limburg. Thousands of people have fallen victim to his blood council since 1567, including in Limburg. In 1568 the Eighty Years War broke out. Limburg was a constant focus of disputes during these years. In the autumn of 1568, Alba had all food and feed confiscated in order to cut off supplies for the troops of William of Orange . His concept worked, but at the expense of the population, who fled hunger and the burden of war.

The following years were marked by devastation, alternating between Spanish and Dutch troops and mercenaries. The armistice that had been signed in 1609 between the now independent seven Dutch provinces and Spain provided only a brief respite. The country was drawn into the resurgent acts of war in the course of the Thirty Years' War . Constant billeting, war taxes, contributions and deliveries of forage had long since exceeded the limits of the resilience of land and people. In 1632 Limburg Castle was taken again by the Dutch troops. Almost all of the country's Catholic priests had fled or were in hiding. Churches and altars were devastated.

In addition, there was a plague wave that cost many people their lives in 1635/1636. In Walhorn alone there were 230 plague victims that year, including many Spanish soldiers.

In 1646 over a hundred houses in Eupen had been razed to the ground and most of the residents had fled. Two thirds of the population at Bank Walhorn had emigrated, many of them to the nearby Münsterländchen , the area of ​​the Reichsabbey Kornelimünster . The Peace of Westphalia initially meant the end of the war, but as in many places in the Duchy of Limburg, marauding mercenaries continued to roam the country for a few years.

The Peace of Westphalia - consequence for the Duchy of Limburg

The lordship of Valkenburg Faulquemont , the county of Dalhem and the lordship of Herzogenrath ( Rode le Duc, Rolduc ) were combined under the name Les pays d'Outre-Meuse ( Landen van Overmaas ) and were ruled by the Dukes of Limburg. After the end of the Thirty Years' War this country was divided (it is often erroneously claimed that the whole Duchy of Limburg was divided).

In the Treaty of Munster , concluded on January 30, 1648 between Spain and the United Netherlands, the parts of the territory of the Landen van Overmaas which they had occupied were assigned to the States General . The final division took place in The Hague on December 26, 1661 in the so-called Partage Treaty between King Philip IV of Spain and the States General. On November 7, 1785, the division of the territory was changed again by the Treaty of Fontainebleau (Articles 18 and 19).

Later, on the basis of an ordinance of January 29, 1778, the Austrian shares in the County of Dalhem and in the dominions of Valkenburg and Herzogenrath were firmly linked to the Duchy of Limburg.

Limburg under Austrian rule

Due to the provisions of the Pragmatic Sanction of April 19, 1713, Limburg finally came under the rule of Austria in 1740 . The following time was determined by the enlightened, absolutist reform efforts, which were carried out very carefully under the reign of Maria Theresa , but which came into strong contradiction to the traditional rights of Limburg under her son.

Limburg and the Brabant Revolution

Joseph II pursued the reform policy, which his mother had always advanced amicably with the estates, with a lot of energy and little foresight. Because of this, a revolution finally took place in Brabant, which most of the Austro-Dutch provinces joined. In this conflict, the Estates in Limburg took a more reserved and moderate position towards Joseph's policy. The exposed geographical location, between Limburg and Brabant, was the prince-bishopric of Liège , which was probably one of the reasons, but the hope for new independence was also the driving force behind it.

The Limburg estates had granted the emperor taxes in the years before 1789 and even granted him the right to levy a fixed tax rate annually without the consent of the estate. The Joyeuse Entrée in Limburg retained its validity, and Limburg even received its own Provincial Council. Josef's advantage lay in the weakening of the Brabant position in this conflict.

It was only after long pressure from the Brabanters that the Limburg estates signed the union treaty on March 25, 1790 . They only published their declaration of independence on June 24th of that year. And in the summer of 1790, Matthias Josef Wildt, pensioner of the Limburg estates , was conducting negotiations with Jan Frans Vonck , one of the leading figures of the revolution, on behalf of the governor-general who was in exile in Bonn. At the end of 1790, the old conditions in the Austrian Netherlands were completely restored.

The end of the duchy

In the spring of 1792 French revolutionary troops marched into the southern Dutch provinces. Hopes for state independence were dashed with a decree of December 15, 1792, and contrary to promises to the contrary, a vote on the annexation to France took place at the beginning of 1793 , which ended with a positive result. Following the French model, the country was divided into departments and arrondissements. Most of the Duchy of Limburg was part of the Département l'Ourthe . The peace of Campo Formio sealed his fate on October 17, 1797.

The core area of ​​the old duchy has been part of the province of Liège since 1815 and, after the Belgian Revolution (1830), divided its path into the newly founded Kingdom of Belgium. The German-speaking area came to Prussia as the district of Eupen in the Rhine Province . After the Treaty of Versailles in 1920, the territory was assigned to Belgium. Eupen has been the political and cultural center of the German-speaking community since 1983 .

In 1815 the province of Limburg was created. It emerged from the department of Meuse-Inférieure while largely maintaining French administrative structures . The naming should help to preserve the memory of the names of the seventeen provinces from the Burgundian-Habsburg period. This often leads to the fallacy that this province, which was divided into a Belgian and a Dutch part in the course of the Belgian Revolution in 1839 , emerged from the old Duchy of Limburg. This Duchy of Limburg was also a member of the German Confederation from 1839 to 1866 .

Economy in the Duchy of Limburg

High Fens

The Duchy of Limburg consisted to a large extent of wooded area (Hertogenwald in the southeast), also of heather and moorland ( Hohes Venn ). Since the 12th century, the Lords of Limburg strengthened the state development. The duchy did not become a rich agricultural land, but was able to support itself. Mainly pasture and arable farming for personal use determined the landscape.


In the 15th century, the rich mineral resources ( iron ore , lead and calamine ) began to be mined . The particularly rich occurrence of lead and calamine was very sought after by both Prussia and the Netherlands after the end of the Ancien Regime and, as there was no agreement, led to the establishment of Neutral Moresnet . Galmei was mined mainly in Aachen, in neighboring Burtscheid and in the Eschweiler-Stolberg area and processed by local copper masters . Iron ore was, among other things, the starting product for the manufacture of the Aachen sewing needles, which have been market leaders since the 16th century at the latest. The Museum Zinkhütter Hof in Stolberg (Rhld.) Documents the history of these two branches of industry.

The weaver fountain in Eupen

Another branch of the economy was the cloth trade, which was already practiced in the city of Limburg as early as the 14th century, but Verviers and Eupen also owe their flourishing to the production and trade in cloth. English, but especially Spanish wool was processed, which was considered to be of very high quality. The cloth industry was still an important branch of the economy in the area of ​​the former duchy in the 19th century. A fountain in Eupen today commemorates the " weavers and shearers who established the worldwide reputation of Eupener cloths ". In Verviers , the “Center de la Laine et de la Mode”, a museum located in the building of the former Dethier factory, is dedicated to the memory of the important role wool processing played in the city.

Pottery Museum in Raeren (Raeren Castle)

In the Walhorn Bank, especially in Raeren and Eynatten , the pottery has flourished since the 15th century and gained recognition far beyond the Duchy. The pottery made there changed from being used purely to become valuable art objects that are still exhibited in the Raeren Pottery Museum, the Hetjesmuseum Düsseldorf and other museums in Europe. During the time of religious unrest, Raeren potters emigrated to Siegburg. There they could process white clay. These products were soon preferred to red Raeren stoneware by customers . The advent of porcelain did the rest. At the end of the 18th century, pottery in the Walhorn Bank was reduced to the production of the simplest utensils and was fighting for its existence.

The assertion that is sometimes made that the duchy was also of particular importance because of two important trade routes that led from the Rhine to Brabant and vice versa is probably not tenable. These roads were not in Limburg territory. But important customs offices such as Wassenberg, Gulpen and Herzogenrath, and a profitable escort law, promised the sovereign of the duchy not inconsiderable income.

Overall, trade was strongly oriented towards the west. Well-documented trade and family relationships, especially to Aachen and Cologne, bear witness to this.

Languages ​​in the Duchy of Limburg

The area of ​​the former Duchy of Limburg is crossed by the Germanic - Romance language border . In the Germanic language area it falls into the area of ​​the Rhenish fan . The so-called Benrath line (maken-making limit) begins at Eupen .

The banks Walhorn, Baelen and Montzen were called the three "Duytschen banks". Here Middle Dutch or Limburgish - Ripuarian was the dominant written language and dialect . Bank Herve was the "Wallon district". There, as in the Sprimont bank, “au-delà des bois” was written and spoken in Walloon . The language geography of the area has as steadily changes in the rest of Belgium in the last centuries in favor of the Walloon and French, the former so that, for example, places "duytschen Bank" Baelen as the city Limbourg at least officially count even today the French-speaking area. Numerous former Ripuarian or Lower Franconian places today only use their Walloon form of name, the local Limburgish-Ripuarian is, as far as it still exists, threatened with extinction.

The coat of arms of the Dukes of Limburg

Like many other dynasts, the Dukes of Limburg had a lion in their coat of arms. The Limburg lion is red on a silver shield, gold armored (it has gold claws) and crowned and has a double tail.

Already a seal of Heinrich III. from 1208 showed the lion. The double-tailed variant is known for the first time from 1221. Perhaps this was intended to indicate the double rule over Luxembourg and Limburg.

The colors of the coat of arms are known for the first time from the year 1227 through a drawing of a coat of arms. It has not been changed since then.

The Limburg lion still appears today in a number of current municipal coats of arms, e.g. B .:

The counts and dukes of Limburg until 1288

(Preceded are the times of the reign; deeper indentation marks a dynasty change over an heir daughter; the ordinal numbers of the Walrame are based on the Arlon count)


  • Bruno Dumont (ed.): Le Duché de Limbourg et les pays d'Outre-Meuse. Actes du colloque international tenu à Liège et à Maastricht les 23 et 24 may 2016. Archives générales du Royaume, Brussels 2019. ISBN 978-94-6391-015-6 ( Miscellanea archivistica. Studia 217)
  • Franz-Reiner Erkens : On the constitutional position of the dukes of Limburg in the 12th and 13th centuries. In: Rheinische Vierteljahrsblätter. 43, 1979, ISSN  0035-4473 , pp. 169-195.
  • Wilhelm Fabricius : Explanations for the historical atlas of the Rhine province. Volume 2: The map of 1789. Division and development of the territories from 1600 to 1794. Behrendt, Bonn 1898 ( Publications of the Society for Rheinische Geschichtskunde 12, 2, ISSN  0930-8822 ), (Fabricius provides a precise representation of the territorial division into judicial districts and also a detailed description of the various partition treaties between Spain and the States General.)
  • Johannes Koll: "The Belgian Nation". Patriotism and National Consciousness in the Southern Netherlands in the Late 18th Century. Waxmann, Münster et al. 2003, ISBN 3-8309-1209-9 ( Netherlands Studies 33), (At the same time: Cologne, Univ., Diss., 1999).
  • Jean-Louis Kupper: Limburg (Limbourg), formerly Gft. And Hzm. (Limbourg-sur-Vesdre), today Belgium, Prov. Liege. In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages . Study edition in 9 volumes. Volume 5. Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-423-59057-2 , Sp. 1986–1988.
  • Ulrich Lehnart: The battle of Worringen 1288. Warfare in the Middle Ages. The Limburg War of Succession with special consideration of the Battle of Worringen, 5.6.1288. Afra, Frankfurt am Main et al. 1993, ISBN 3-923217-66-8 .
  • Alois Meisen: Brabant, Limburg and the Übermaasländer - A study of the territorial financial history up to the end of the 14th century . Dissertation Aachen 2003 (PDF 1.2 MB).
  • Guy Poswick: Les Délices du Duché de Limbourg . Plumhans, Verviers 1951 (March 28, 2006), (French; the work provides information on the building history and owners of castles, palaces and manors in the area of ​​the Duchy of Limburg, and thus also the local history background).
  • Leo Wintgens: Basics of the history of language in the area of ​​the Duchy of Limburg. Contributions to the study of the language landscape between Meuse and Rhine. Grenz-Echo-Verlag, Eupen 1982, ISBN 3-923099-11-8 ( Ostbelgische Studien 1), (At the same time: Lüttich, Univ., Diss., 1979: Writing-language interactions in the area of ​​the Duchy of Limburg from circa 1536-1636. ) .
  • Leo Wintgens: Wisdoms and legal texts in the area of ​​the Duchy of Limburg. Sources on the history of religion 14. – 18. Century. Grenz-Echo-Verlag, Eupen 1988, ISBN 3-923099-49-5 ( Ostbelgische Studien 3).
  • Hermann Wirtz: Eupener Land. Contributions to the history of the Eupen district. Volk und Reich Verlag, Berlin 1936 (reprint. Grenz-Echo-Verlag et al., Eupen et al. 1981).

Web links


  1. Sometimes one finds in the literature the statement that the castle was only built around 1064. But that cannot be true if it was besieged in 1050, as one also reads.
  2. Cf. on this: Heimatblätter des Landkreis Aachen . 1938, issue 2–3 (Herzogenrath)
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 28, 2006 .