District Court (Middle Ages)

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The district court , also known as the state parliament in Switzerland , has been the high court of a count responsible for a county since Franconian times . There were usually several Dingstätten (courts of law) at which it was held. It was a rallying point of land law .

There were regionally very different interpretations of the term regional court. It corresponds to the term land law, with which it is also used synonymously, in order to distinguish it from town law , feudal law , etc. In the course of its development, the term encompassed both royal courts and courts of other gentlemen with relatively small areas of responsibility. A distinction can be made between imperial, royal, princely, monastic and other regional courts.

In the Middle Ages, the regional courts played an enormous role in the organization and exercise of rule, especially if one considers the proportion of around 90% of the rural population around the year 1300. There was a great variety of manifestations of the regional courts in the Middle Ages. It was only with the emergence of instances of justice in the 16th century and the reorganization as part of the bourgeois reforms of the 19th century that certain basic types of regional courts could be identified and described.

The word regional court was also used to designate territories over which the jurisdiction of a regional court extended. It can also refer to the building that houses a district court.


At the regional court, all free people residing in the hundreds , in the Go and in care, or wealthy , from the middle of the 13th century also ministerials were liable. The count's court under king's spell met every 18 weeks and should be attended by all lay judges . Every prince and lord who had received courts from the king should hold his district court every 18 weeks, which had to be attended by all over 24-year-olds who lived in the respective court district or owned a house.

The regional court was responsible for ownership (property, landed property) and inheritance, freedom proceedings and unjudicial actions ( unjudgment ) of the princes and princely members against free people. For the most part, the court staff consisted of the judge, the presiding judge (representing the judge), a group of assessors and a court messenger as an assistant.

Regional developments of the regional courts


In the 13th century the regional courts in Bavaria were already fully trained. They were considered relics of the old county constitution. In many cases, the name was synonymous with county. The district court was to a certain extent an “accessory” to the castle. Until the end of the electorate, the regional court remained the foundation of the Bavarian state organization as the lowest administrative district. Originally, both high and low jurisdiction lay with the regional courts. Later they ceded lower jurisdiction to court brands and village courts. The regional court was subordinate to the court court , knights enjoyed exemption from the regional court. The regional courts later also kept mortgage books and issued mortgage letters.


In the course of the repeal of the old county courts, the lower (or lower) regional courts emerged from the 13th century. These originally had jurisdiction over all legal matters, but over time they were limited to criminal matters and actions relating to freedom and property. The lower regional courts exercised jurisdiction over non-knightly populations, the higher classes fell under the jurisdiction of the higher regional courts. Monasteries received exemption from the regional court. In the 15th century the lower regional courts lost their character as sovereign courts and often fell to noble landlords. These were able to acquire regional courts and to be enfeoffed with the blood spell by the respective sovereign .

Mark Brandenburg

For the regions of Neumark , Lebus , Sternberg , Teltow , Barnim , Havelland , Zauche and Uckermark there was a regional court in the 15th century, which included several bailiwicks and arose from the amalgamation of several sovereign bailiwick courts . Also for the Mittelmark there was probably only one district court around 1450. The regional court was responsible for all civil jurisdiction. One third of the income of the regional court was accounted for by the judge and two thirds by the sovereign. Also in the 15th century, the district courts were granted an expansion of competence by the elector . They were now also responsible for denial of justice by aristocratic village courts. Cities were not subject to the jurisdiction of the regional courts.

Mark Meissen / Saxony

The constitution in the late medieval Markmeissnian or Wettin dominion - and thus the regional courts - were significantly influenced by the conditions in the eastern settlement . The origins of the regional courts are predominantly seen in burgrave courts and in the Burgward organization . The originally royal burgraves were gradually ousted in their judicial function by the margraves of Meissen, who established themselves as sovereigns. In the 12th century, the subdivision of the margravial domain into state districts began, with the burgraves as well as those castle guards that had never been related to a burgrave. This development included the amalgamation of several Burgwarde to form a regional district and the orientation towards the sovereign's already existing territories.

As a result, the trademark area was covered by a network of regional courts with significantly smaller districts. In addition to the relatively small number of regional courts that the margrave could preside personally, there was also a large number of regional courts which only the local bailiff could preside as the margrave's judge. The bailiffs took over the sovereign jurisdiction in their official district. The official seat was usually the place where the regional court was held. As territorial units, the terms bailiwick, district court, court and care appear synonymous since the 15th century at the latest, until these were finally replaced by the administrative division of office .

Imperial regional courts

The imperial regional courts in Swabia and Franconia were originally courts with extensive jurisdiction for free and retained both support and connection to the empire. They were imperial fiefdoms and pronounced justice by virtue of imperial authority. The judgment finders (lay judges) were usually recruited from the nobility or knighthood. Imperial regional courts emerged largely from two different roots. On the one hand from royal imperial estate courts, older imperial bailiffs and younger provincial bailiffs, on the other hand from public district courts of real counties dependent on imperial fiefdoms. Würzburg took on a special position. Its regional court was identical to the Duchy of Eastern Franconia , embodied a princely high court and was the appeal instance of the Bishop of Würzburg. It has its origins in a district court of the Würzburg bailiwicks, which is attested to in 1140.

Imperial regional courts were factually responsible for property and freedom matters , respect and guidance. However , not all regional courts exercised criminal jurisdiction . The district judges of these district courts had a simple imperial eagle in their seal several times .


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Schweizerisches Idiotikon , Volume XII, Column 908-914, Article Land Tag Meaning b ( digitized version ).
  2. Instructions from the Medieval Lexicon . Anleit (mhd. Anleite = instruction, establishment; lat. Immissio) meant the introduction of an acquirer, leaseholder or landholder into an acquired or leased property (e.g. a farm, a piece of land, an urban property). Also the judicial instruction of a plaintiff into the possession of his debtor or of a person suing for damages in the goods of the defendant.