Market law (historical)

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Main market in Trier with market cross ; Trier received market rights in 958.

In the Middle Ages, the market right was the right one , i.e. the right to hold a permanent market , a weekly or a fair . Turning the specific place was then Marktfrieden, so a special for the market and its visitors applicable law, and the market master (was King , Prince , Count , Bishop ) protected. This privilege was vital to the urban economy. Market rights had been granted to the king since the Frankish times , and it was not until the 12th century that this shelf was passed on to ecclesiastical and secular princes and allowed them to found cities.

Market traffic

The symbol of market freedom was initially the market cross , often decorated with a glove and sword as the symbols of the king granting market rights. Later, depending on the region, there were also other characteristics, such as flags or stone pillars with signs and symbols. These were set up in front of the entrances to the market square, which was usually entered through lockable gates or gates.

Separate market courts were responsible for maintaining the market peace ( King's Peace ), under which the market and its visitors stood. Disputes arising from market transactions were resolved without the formalism of state law. The market ruler guaranteed the freedom of trade and the security of the roads. He also made trading easier by setting up coins . In return he levied a market duty on the sellers.

From market law to city law

The market law initially only applied for the time of the market, for the market place itself and its visitors. From the 11th century, the time limit ceased and the circle of beneficiaries expanded until finally all citizens were able to share the privileges of a place. This created one of the most important foundations for the special city ​​law .

In contrast to the rural population, the townspeople were unable to provide themselves with food, so the (weekly) market rights were usually granted together with the city rights. Some German cities can already look back on a market tradition of more than 1000 years. Esslingen am Neckar , for example, received market rights as early as 800 under Charlemagne , and in the course of an administrative reform , Emperor Heinrich II granted the Marienstift Prüm in 1016 the first monastery in the Holy Roman Empire to have mint privileges and market rights.

In the event of a change in land or state rule, the market rights had to be confirmed again and paid for by paying a certain amount of money. Depending on the size and importance of the village, the granting of market privileges could be associated with additional freedoms vis-à-vis the landlords and sovereigns. The right of citizenship was included in the market law , which among other things brought the privilege of a better legal position and a lower tax rate.

Market towns: Market rights without city rights

For centuries, Mecklenburg had known so-called market towns, villages with market justice and often the seat of a lordly administrative office, but without local autonomy and special urban privileges. It was only after the fall of the monarchy in 1918 that these market towns achieved city status.

Even today there are municipalities in Bavaria, Austria and South Tyrol that use the designation Markt as a place name and have a municipal legal status as a market municipality . Since it is an unjustified title, it no longer has any practical significance in principle.

In Switzerland's spots Schwyz known, the main town in the same canton , which although on the market, but did not have a city charter. But other Swiss towns such as Appenzell , Herisau , Altdorf (UR) , Langnau im Emmental , Zurzach , Glarus , Meiringen , Hermance , Balsthal , Frutigen or Beromünster also bear the name "Flecken".

Market town in Germany


"Bourg", in the diminutive "bourgade", is the French term for a market town. Many places in France are called Bourg , usually with an addition to their name.

Iberian Peninsula

The term burgo caught on in Spain and Portugal . The city names Burgos and Burgo are reminiscent of the medieval market freedom to this day.


The English boroughs , special administrative units, as in New York, are also derived from this in name.

Web links


  • Ferdinand Seibt : Splendor and misery of the Middle Ages . Wolf Jobst Siedler Verlag, Berlin, special edition 1999, ISBN 3-88680-279-5 , p. 167.
  • Fritz Winzer (ed.): Cultural history of Europe . Georg Westermann Verlag, Braunschweig; Special edition by Naumann & Göbel Verlagsgesellschaft, Cologne, p. 341.
  • Meyer's Encyclopedic Lexicon . Bibliographisches Institut, Lexikonverlag, Mannheim / Vienna / Zurich 1975, Volume 15, p. 646.
  • Rolf Schneider: Everyday Life in the Middle Ages . Weltbild Verlag, Augsburg 1999, ISBN 3-89604-673-X , p. 66.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Langenscheidt's large dictionary Sachs-Vilatte french-german, 7th edition 1991, p. 117