Magdeburg law

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The Magdeburg Law is a form of municipal law that originated in the city of Magdeburg has and from there significant impact on the city rights in East Central Europe and Eastern Europe unfolded, often in his Silesian or Polish version, called Neumarkt law , or the northern variant the Kulmer law , which spread over all of West and East Prussia .

The general city law has its roots in the customary law of merchants, in the privileges granted by the landlord and in rules decided by the respective community itself ("arbitrariness"). Within the city, citizens were guaranteed personal freedom, property rights, the integrity of life and limb and regular economic activity through city law.

Beginnings of Magdeburg city law

The first written source for the existence of Magdeburg city law is the privilege of Archbishop Wichmann in 1188, through which the city court proceedings were to be simplified. Such a change naturally presupposes an existing city charter. In 1294 the citizens of Magdeburg bought the offices of mayor and burgrave from the archbishop so that they could fill them themselves. The archbishop remained formally the judge, but since he could only fill the offices with persons appointed by the city, the jurisdiction was de facto in the hands of the city. In the same year, the division of duties between the council and the lay judge's court was established, in which the lay judge (Schöppenstuhl) was responsible for jurisdiction, while the council was responsible for administration and legislation. From this point in time Magdeburg city law can be spoken of as "Magdeburg law" in the sense of independent self-administration.

The 4th Grand Master of the Teutonic Order , Hermann von Salza , granted a privilege in 1233 for cities in Prussia founded or subject to the order:

“We order that in these cities the Magdeburg rights in their full content be obeyed forever; The following benefit is granted: if a defendant should be punished with 66 shillings, he should be punished here with 30 shillings in Kulmischer Münze. "

- Hermann von Salza

Regulations of the Magdeburg city law

Special features of the procedural rules

A major innovation in Magdeburg law was the elimination of the so-called “litigation risk”. Already in the first paragraph it was excluded that a process could be lost due to incorrect choice of words in the process. This break with tradition strengthened confidence in the court on the one hand and also created greater legal certainty . The so-called “hospitality law” was relevant for merchants traveling through. It stipulated that in the aforementioned cases, the dispute had to be resolved by the court within one day. These regulations for litigation show that Magdeburg law was primarily a matter of commercial law.

Commercial law

In the area of ​​commercial law, Magdeburg City Law regulated commercial law issues such as liability for goods. Furthermore, accounting obligations , questions of orderly bookkeeping and shareholder capital as well as fiduciary activities were regulated.

Marital property and inheritance law

Basically, according to Magdeburg city law, the husband was the guardian of his wife. Today it is assumed that there was a legal separation of property, but that the husband was solely responsible for managing the wife's property. Despite the existing guardianship, the wife was able to go to court independently .

Criminal law

The abolition of clan liability was significant for the criminal law of Magdeburg city law . In the case of physical injuries and homicides , only the perpetrator could be prosecuted and not his family to be held accountable. The procedural law-finding was upgraded by introducing witness evidence , which replaced blood revenge and divine judgment . The statute of limitations on violent crimes has been lifted.

Judicial system

In Magdeburg, the so-called "Schöppenstuhl", which usually consisted of eleven lay judges, was entrusted with reaching a verdict. They were in office for life and could choose their successors themselves. From 1336 a simultaneous membership in the jury responsible for jurisprudence and the council in Magdeburg responsible for legislation was prohibited. In addition to its function as a court of justice for Magdeburg, the jury's chair was also of great importance in the interpretation of the law of other cities that had been constituted under Magdeburg law.

Expansion of Magdeburg law

Already after 1160, before the development of Magdeburg city law as the right of complete city self-government, Stendal received Magdeburg city rights. The Magdeburg law was subsequently awarded to many newly founded cities in the "Neusiedel area" by the respective city lords and in some cases even had an impact in the areas west of Magdeburg (in today's Lower Saxony). Above all, however, it spread to the east in the course of the settlement movement: Mark Brandenburg , isolated in Pomerania , Prussia , Thuringia , Saxony , Silesia , Bohemia , Moravia and Lusatia .

Memorial for the preservation of Magdeburg law. 200 years anniversary in Veiviržėnai Lithuania

The expansion of Magdeburg law to Eastern Europe went hand in hand with the expansion of the Sachsenspiegel as a source of land law in Eastern Europe. When the sources themselves speak of German law , they always mean both. Based on its usage in some sources, earlier research referred to it as ius teutonicum , but in the meantime the designation "Saxon-Magdeburg law" seems to have established itself. In the course of its spread in Eastern Europe, the Sachsenspiegel was translated into Latin (Versio Vratislaviensis between 1272 and 1292) and also adapted to the respective circumstances (Livländischer Spiegel, mid-14th century). Cities that received Magdeburg city rights are, for example, Vilnius (1387) and Kaunas (1408) in Lithuania , Kiev (1492–1497) or Minsk (1499). There is a monument to Magdeburg law in Kiev .

Significance of Magdeburg Law

Significance of Magdeburg law for the Jewish population

Magdeburg law did not apply to the Jewish population as they were not considered part of the original townspeople. The Lithuanian city of Troki can be cited as an exception , in which the Jewish population was granted Magdeburg law as an independent group in 1444, while it had already been granted to the Christian population.

Significance of the Magdeburg jury chair and the jury's sayings for cities of Magdeburg law

In the cases in which the jury's chairs in the cities granted Magdeburg law were not able to find a judgment, they could request legal information from the jury's chair in Magdeburg (“legal move to Magdeburg”). As the so-called "Oberhof", the Magdeburg Schöffenstuhl thus had the authority to interpret the law and thus had a lasting influence on legal education. In most cases, the legal information was not a judgment, but information that should enable the inquiring lay judges to find their judgment. However, individual city constitutions also saw the Magdeburg result as a binding judgment.

End of the Magdeburg Oberhof

While individual rulers tried early on to undermine the supra-territorial importance of the Magdeburg jury's chair by installing their own upper courts, these attempts were only granted resounding success when Germany split up confessionally in the course of the Reformation and areas that remained Catholic were cut off from the legal move to Magdeburg were. The Magdeburg wedding meant the final "end" for Magdeburg as Oberhof. During the devastation of Magdeburg in the Thirty Years' War , the extensive collection of sayings also burned in 1631. With the loss of its “legal library”, the Magdeburg Schöffenstuhl lost the basis of its jurisprudence, and as a result it went under as an institution.

End of Magdeburg law

In Poland , Magdeburg law only lost its validity in the course of the Napoleonic and Josephine reforms (in Galicia ) and in the Ukraine, Saxon-Magdeburg law only lost its legal force with the entry into force of the "Collection of Laws of the Russian Empire" in 1840 in left-bank Ukraine and two Years later in the right bank of Ukraine . In Kiev , Magdeburg law was in effect until 1834. Latvian civil law from 1937 can still be viewed as influenced by Saxon-Magdeburg law.


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Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hermann Conring : The origin of German law (OT: De origine iuris Germanici , 1643), trans. by Ilse Hoffmann-Meckenstock, ed. by Michael Stolleis , Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt / M. [u. a.] 1994, ISBN 3-458-16653-X , pp. 187-191.