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Parish originally denotes a Parish (Parish) , in which the places of a particular Parish and their pastors are assigned. According to the Etymological Dictionary of the German Language , a parish is a district in which a pastor is allowed to preach and to exercise church duties.

In some regions - for example in the duchies of Schleswig and Holstein or in the Hanseatic cities of Bremen and Hamburg - a parish was also an administrative district , a judicial district as in Central Hesse or a district for the military .


The word parish originated in the 13th century from the Rhenish northwest , where the Dutch dingspel was also used to denote a legal area ( Ding is the continental Germanic sound of Thing ). The compound noun “parish” actually means a church preaching district. The basic word does not contain “game”, but Old High German  spël or Middle High German  spël, spil with the meaning “speech, story” or “ sermon ” in the theological context . The basic word spël is also included in the word example .

In the old Frisian language the word was kerspel , in West Friesland in the variant karspel (e.g. Bovenkarspel and Hoogkarspel ).

Regional importance in Germany


In the democratization of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, the four parishes of the 15th and 17th centuries (named and subdivided after the four main churches of the city at that time) played a decisive role as city and administrative districts: they were the electoral districts of underprivileged craftsmen and citizens who operated the uprising of 104 men (1530–1532) against the mayor, Bremen council , merchants (especially the parents ) and cathedral chapters of the city.

The 104 were four times 26 craftsmen and citizens from the individual parishes. Frustrated by the kleptocratic behavior of the city leaders and motivated by the Reformation that had spread since 1517 , they formed the first de facto parliamentary representation of the citizens of Bremen. After parliamentary, legal, ecclesiastical and violent clashes that resulted in deaths and the occasional expulsion of various members of the upper class from the city, but also divided the city's citizens, the revolt was put down in 1532. The city leaders promised a reform of the city law (drastic reforms in favor of the citizens did not exist until 1816 after the French era in Bremen ), and the ringleaders were persecuted, expropriated, expelled or even executed - sometimes under fabricated allegations.

In retrospect, the 104 are regarded as the first Bremen citizenship (this is the current name of the Bremen parliament). During the uprising, the 104 stormed the Bremen Cathedral (which gave up its parish function in the previous century), drove out the cathedral chapter, which was also involved in secular rule, and ensured that only Protestant and German preaching was carried out, which greatly encouraged the Reformation in the city was done; because just two years after the uprising was put down, Bremen received a new ecclesiastical constitution in 1534.


In the peasant republic of Dithmarschen , the parishes formed independent units. The first parish arose in the parish of Meldorf. They not only formed the catchment area of ​​the parish church, but were also administrative areas. They were ruled by a college of twelve large farmers, the Schlütern . At the time of their greatest power around 1350, they were responsible for dykes , judicial authority, fire police, army mobilization and the conclusion of contracts with foreign powers. The parish land parishes were later formed from them, and two offices there still bear the designation "Office parish land parish".

Several parishes formed a " Döfft ", which was subordinate to a " Vogt ". This carried out an annual army show and led the armed contingent in the conflict.


In Hamburg, the parishes of the first four and later five main churches in Hamburg had since the Reformation, in addition to their traditional tasks of caring for the poor and the sick, increasingly taken on political and administrative functions: the residents of the parishes elected representatives to various “colleges” who participated in the legislative process , monitored compliance with the law, had the right to complain to the council or senate and could indict councilors. At the head of these committees was the college of the senior elders (3 elders per parish), who were supplemented by the election of further "deacons" and "sub-deacons" to the college of the 60s and 180s . After the constitution of 1860 these colleges were dissolved or replaced by the elected citizens . Only the College of the Elderly exists to this day as an honorary board member of the Hospital of the Holy Spirit .

Duchy of Lauenburg, West Mecklenburg

For the district of the Duchy of Lauenburg and West Mecklenburg , the Ratzeburg tithe register gives an overview of the parochial communities around 1230, including the parish villages there.

Regional importance outside of Germany


As in the northern Rhineland, the parish districts in the medieval Netherlands became virtually identical to the judicial districts and then formed parts of the lower administrative level. The determination of the parish boundaries mostly dates from the 11th or 12th century. A parish master (" kerspelmeester ") was usually employed for secular administrative tasks . After the Reformation , the parishes were converted into Protestant parishes with official functions until they were only indicated as parishes (" gemeente ") from the Batavian Revolution in 1795 .

In North Holland and Friesland there are still several communities and places with “ karspel ” or “ kerspel ” in the place name.


In Denmark , the evangelical parishes ( sogn ) formed the uniform administrative basis at the local level since 1791. They were headed from 1842 by a parish council, initially elected by the local landowners, and from 1901 by the entire local population. Only the cities and in northern Schleswig the spots formed separate communities. The rural parishes of town churches also formed their own parishes. Only in a few cases were parishes divided into several rural parishes. From the 1960s onwards, more and more municipalities joined forces in view of an imminent municipal reform. In 1970, the parishes were combined with the cities and towns to form larger municipalities . In their function as a parish, the so- called are still preserved today.

Norway and Sweden

In Sweden and Norway , too , the parishes (Swedish socken , Norwegian sogn or sokn ) were the lowest territorial units of the state and are still the lowest ecclesiastical unit today.

Iberian Peninsula and Latin America

In Portugal , parishes today form secular administrative units at the municipal level under the name Freguesias , as well as in some regions of Spain and in Ecuador under the Spanish-language name Parroquia and in Andorra ("parròquia", plural "parròquies").

England and North America

The same applies to parishes in English-speaking countries, including the United Kingdom , Canada and the US state of Louisiana , where the parish, in contrast to the usual usage for parish as a lower municipal unit , is equivalent to the county in other states.

See also


Web links

Wiktionary: Parish  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Fritz Bolle : Knaurs Lexikon. Droemer, Munich 1956, Lemma parish .
  2. a b c Friedrich Kluge: Etymological dictionary of the German language. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1975, Lemma Kirchspiel .
  3. Klaus-Joachim Lorenzen-Schmidt , Ortwin Pelc (Ed.): The new Schleswig-Holstein Lexicon. Wachholtz, Neumünster 2006, Lemma parish .
  4. a b Herbert Black Forest : History of the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen. Volume I. Edition Temmen , Bremen 1995, ISBN 3-86108-283-7 , pp. 184-206.
  5. Duden: The dictionary of origin. Etymology of the German language. Mannheim 2007, Lemmata parish and example .
  6. Cf. Bürgerliche Kollegien und Kirchspiele , in: Franklin Kopitzsch , Daniel Tilgner (ed.): Hamburg-Lexikon, Ellert & Richter Hamburg 2010, pp. 120 and 390 f.
  7. Dominik Nagl: No Part of the Mother Country, but Distinct Dominions - Legal Transfer, State Building and Governance in England, Massachusetts and South Carolina, 1630–1769. LIT, Berlin 2013, p. 133 ff. ( ; English).