Saxony mirror

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The choice of the king. Above: the three spiritual princes in the election, they point to the king. Middle: the Count Palatinate near Rhine hands over a golden bowl as a stewardess, behind it the Duke of Saxony with the marshal's baton and the Margrave of Brandenburg, who brings a bowl of warm water as a chamberlain. Below: the new king before the greats of the empire ( Heidelberger Sachsenspiegel , around 1300, Heidelberg University Library )
Sachsenspiegel manuscript from 1385 in the Duisburg City Library

The Sachsenspiegel ( Nds . Sassenspegel , Middle Low German : Sassen Speyghel ) is a legal book by Eike von Repgow , created between 1220 and 1235. It is considered the most important and, together with the Mühlhausen Imperial Law Book , the oldest legal book of the German Middle Ages . At the same time, the Sachsenspiegel is the first prose literature to be written in Middle Low German .

The name Sachsenspiegel is based on the fact that it belongs to the mirror literature at the time of its creation. It was primarily under German law, but also contained a few parts of Roman and canon law ; the more recent research emphasizes the canonical influences in this context.

The Sachsenspiegel is preserved in four partly gilded illuminated manuscripts ( Dresdner , Heidelberger , Oldenburger and Wolfenbütteler illuminated manuscript) as well as a total of 435 manuscripts (341 Landrecht, 94 Lehnrecht) and fragments .

Historical background

Every legal historical epoch is characterized by the nature of its legal sources . In the High Middle Ages , which lasted until the 13th century, the law of the individual Germanic tribes was fragmented . An abundance of national and local laws emerged, including the peace of the land as a special group . In the late Middle Ages , in addition to the extensively received Roman law, there were regional source groups: legal books, city ​​rights and rural wisdom .

Medieval law was an orally transmitted common law. It was characterized by age, probation and comprehensibility. Systematic cohesion, conceptual clarity and logical stringency were not or only partially available.

In the 13th century, lay people were responsible for the administration of justice . Territories , cities and villages had different courts and instances . There were also differences in terms of the stands . As a result, a large group of men dealt with the administration of justice ( judges , dingle people, court officers ). So legal knowledge was widespread, but not recorded.

“It (legal knowledge; author's note) lived only in the legal consciousness of the generations, at the same time bound by tradition and shaped by the changing experiences and views of the time in that mysterious process of tradition and assimilation that one calls the concept of development only very imperfectly recorded. "

The legal knowledge was based on a few statutes , documents and oral reports as well as own experience. Only a few Germans had studied at the universities of the time . In law books, the customary law (legal historians nowadays speak more appropriately of legal habits ) of a certain area was recorded in popular language . They were created without an official commission.

The need for such collections, which can be assumed in the first half of the 13th century, is to be seen above all against the background of the regional rulers emerging at that time. The high nobility used the weakness of the central power to create their own, preferably closed, areas of rule. The writing down of individual legal processes has always been important, but now not only individual processes, but principles of action and principles have been summarized. The Sachsenspiegel is the first comprehensive legal book not in Latin , but in Low German, although it was initially written in Latin. The Sachsenspiegel was not a law . The author wanted to put down the traditional law of his tribe and the law as part of the Christian world order in writing. Counteracting injustice and spreading knowledge of the law were Eike von Repgow's goals:

“I didn't think of the right thing myself, but from aldere they brought us our good stores. I like it too, I want to preserve, Daz min treasure under the earth will not be with me. Gotis genaden the lere min sal al der werlt common sin. "

The author wants to reflect the traditional law:

"Spigel der saxen Sal diz book sin called, the turn of the saxenrecht is known to us, Than a spigele de vrouwen ire antlitz schouwen."

Eike von Repgow created new law at most unconsciously and, if necessary, adhered to law that was no longer in use. From this traditionalism the legal book gained its authority, so that it was soon regarded as an official code of law.

In 2005, the canonist Peter Landau compared the book inventory of the Cistercian monastery Altzella with the sources of Eikes von Repgow and came to the conclusion that they were likely to have originated near Altzella. The Middle Low German version of the Sachsenspiegel is based on a Latin version of unknown date and was not created in one litter, but in the period from 1220 to 1235. A feudal law book called "Auctor vetus de beneficiis" served as a template. The Graf Hoyer of Falkenstein asked Eike von Repgow, the Saxons levels elbostfälischen dialect post of Low German. In the preface you can see several authors. Two other editors worked later, so that the first part of the rhyme preface did not come from Eike von Repgow.


The Sachsenspiegel comprises two areas of law, land law and feudal law . It was not until 1300 that it was divided into three.

In the Sachsenspiegel, the service law , court law and city law are not regulated, which led to ambiguities with the rise of cities in the Middle Ages. Although the author mentioned the incompleteness of his collection in the prologue and asked for the help of his contemporaries because of the need for improvement, these central points were not added to the Sachsenspiegel.

The legal clauses were designed from life. Court hearings served as a template . Overall, the legal clauses are expressive, clear and graphic. Sometimes solemn sentences and legal proverbs appear (“Whoever kumt to the mulen first, paint the salute first”; “What should one take an inheritance, the oldest part and the youngest kise”). The law of the Sachsenspiegel is a sacred , not profane - secular right. The Sachsenspiegel shows numerous biblical references.

Reason and divine truth are the standards by which Eike measures domestic customary law. Like other specula of the Middle Ages, the Sachsenspiegel shows not just an image, but also a model. "

The norms are not pragmatic, they are based on religion.

The agrarian life of the Middle Ages is described: “Fish ponds are created, forests cleared, houses built. Contracts are concluded, wrongdoers punished. Inheritance and ownership of land and movable property are dealt with comprehensively. ”In addition to inheritance law, family law is also explained, for example the relationship between man and woman and the community of property .

The medieval court process is described in detail. Chief Justice is the King . The central count's court meets three times a year. The chairman is the count or a deputy. The jury will make the verdict. The language of the court is German, but the defendant was entitled to his mother tongue .

Eike von Repgow placed a focus on criminal law. The origins were the numerous peace in the country, which were ultimately not enforceable. Self-defense is allowed. The rules of judicial duel are described in detail. Different death sentences are listed, the requirements and consequences of the eight are explained.

The two-sword theory was also discussed . Eike von Repgow advocated the original idea of ​​equal rights for Pope and Emperor, which led to the Pope's opposition to some parts of the Sachsenspiegel.

He continues to describe the choice of a king. This was the starting point for the later “ Golden Bull ” of 1356. The empire, in contrast to the kingship, is based on the consecration by the Pope.

Military shield order in the Oldenburg illuminated manuscript

The Sachsenspiegel received special attention through the development of the seven army shields :

  1. king
  2. spiritual princes
  3. secular princes
  4. free masters
  5. Free judges , feudal men, free lords, ministerials
  6. Lieutenants of aldermen, etc.
  7. unnamed.

Farmers and urban citizens are not named.

Links to the medieval Sachsenspiegel can also be found in today's German law. Examples of parallels can be found in inheritance law, neighborhood law, road traffic law or environmental law . The best-known example from private law is probably the so-called overhang . The overhanging of trees and the growth of roots over the property lines or the falling of fruit in the neighbor's garden must have led to legal disputes as early as the Middle Ages. A direct comparison of the legal texts of Sachsenspiegel (Ldr. II 52 §§ 1, 2 Heidelberger Manschrift) and BGB (§§ 910 f.) Is interesting here . Important rules of today's law go back to the Sachsenspiegel. So the right of arrest (everyone) on the "handy act" (Ldr. II 35) or the " thirtieth " of § 1969 BGB.

Importance and distribution

The Sachsenspiegel, one of the first prose works in German, is considered to be an important testimony to the incipient standardization of the German (Middle Low German) written language. Although it was only a private collection and recording of Saxon customary law, the Sachsenspiegel soon gained such influence that it was an important basis for the application of law and jurisprudence well into modern times, especially in Saxony and northern Germany . The Sachsenspiegel was commented on mainly through the numerous glosses - some of which served the courts as an aid organization - (e.g. by the Brandenburg court judge Johann von Buch at the beginning of the 14th century). The great closeness to reality (tried and tested law) helped the collection of laws to achieve a high level of acceptance, which then spread relatively quickly over large areas from the Netherlands to the Baltic States . The Sachsenspiegel quickly became a model for other legal books, such as the Augsburg Sachsenspiegel, the Deutschenspiegel , the Schwabenspiegel and, among other things, for numerous Polish prints and the Meißen legal book. Its dissemination was particularly promoted in the so-called Magdeburg Law through the founding of cities during the eastern colonization, and the granting of city rights based on this model well into Eastern Europe ( Poland , Bohemia , Slovakia , the Baltic States, Belarus , Ukraine ).

In the 14th century, the Augustinian hermit Johannes Klenkok turned against various articles in the Sachsenspiegel because he was of the opinion that they contradicted ecclesiastical law. At the end of this dispute, which lasted several years, Pope Gregory XI. in 1374 the bull Salvator Humani Generis , with which he condemned 14 articles in the Sachsenspiegel. Despite the widespread use of the bull, this did not detract from the success of the legal code.

The Sachsenspiegel was valid in Prussia until the General Land Law from 1794, in Saxony until 1865 (introduction of the Saxon Civil Code ), in Holstein , Anhalt and Thuringia as a subsidiary source of law until it was replaced by the Civil Code in 1900. The feudal right did not expire in Prussia until 1850. Appointed under private law Judges of the Reichsgericht in individual cases even after 1900 on the Sachsenspiegel. Even today, the Sachsenspiegel is occasionally used to make decisions, most recently by the Federal Court of Justice in 1989.

The Sachsenspiegel influenced Central , Eastern and Southeastern Europe with its legal ideas. This shows the extraordinary position of the Sachsenspiegel in the entire legal history. No German legal book has ever achieved such a long and geographically widespread legal validity again. A project at the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig is devoted to the influence of German law on Eastern European legal systems in the form of the Sachsenspiegel and Magdeburg law . The Sachsenspiegel has left striking traces in the German language; Even today some common expressions can be traced back to him. One of the best-known examples is Standard II 59 § 4, which says: "First come, first served."

In 2010, a copy of a Saxon mirror from 1481 was found in the city library in Sundsvall , Sweden . A librarian discovered the book, which was written in Middle Low German, while clearing it out in a cellar storage room.


  • Käthe Ingeborg Beier: The systematics of the Sachsenspiegel (Landrecht) . Kiel 1961, DNB 481160558 (Dissertation University of Kiel, Faculty of Law and Political Science May 11, 1961, 107 pages).
  • Christa Bertelsmeier-Kierst : Communication and Domination. On the vernacular process of writing law in the 13th century. Hirzel, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-7776-1524-0 .
  • Gerhard Dilcher u. a .: Customary law and legal habits in the Middle Ages. Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-428-07500-5 .
  • Ulrich Drescher: Spiritual forms of thought in the illuminated manuscripts of the Sachsenspiegel. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-631-41714-4 .
  • Friedrich Ebel: Sachsenspiegel. In: Adalbert Erler , Ekkehard Kaufmann (Hrsg.): Concise dictionary for German legal history . IV. Volume: Protonotarius apostolicus - Code of Criminal Procedure. Berlin 1990, ISBN 3-503-00015-1 , Sp. 1228-1237.
  • Friedrich Ebel (Ed.): Sachsenspiegel. Land law and feudal law (= Reclams Universal Library . Volume 3355). Reclam, Stuttgart 1993, ISBN 3-15-003355-1 ; Through and additional edition, edited by Friedrich Ebel. Reclam, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-15-003355-1 (The land law was edited by Claudius Frhr. Von Schwerin, the feudal law by Friedrich Ebel.).
    • earlier edition: Cl. Baron von Schwerin (Ed.): Sachsenspiegel (Landrecht) (= Reclams Universal Library . Volume 3355/56). Introduced by Hans Thieme, Stuttgart 1953 ff., OCLC 10286597 (text of the Sachsenspiegel [Middle High German] with an extensive introduction to von Repgow).
  • Karl August Eckhardt : Law book studies. Booklet 2: The time of origin of the Saxon mirror and the Saxon world chronicle. Contributions to the constitutional history of the 13th century (= Society of Sciences (Göttingen). Philological-Historical Class: Treatises of the Society of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class. NF, Volume 23.2). Weidmannsche Buchh., Berlin 1931, DNB 365568147 .
  • Ernst Eichler, Heiner Lück, Wieland Carls (eds.): Legal and language transfer in Central and Eastern Europe. Sachsenspiegel and Magdeburg Law: International and interdisciplinary conference in Leipzig (= … saxonico-maideburgense in Oriente, Volume 1). De Gruyter, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-89949-428-0 .
  • Bernd Feicke: The meaning of the Altmansfeld diamond and the Querfurt coat of arms in the Heidelberg illuminated manuscript of the Sachsenspiegel. In: Harz magazine for the Harz association for history and antiquity. 62 [= 143] (2010), ISSN  0073-0882 , pp. 186-199.
  • Julius Ficker : About the time when the Sachsenspiegel was created and how the Schwabenspiegel was derived from the Deutschenspiegel. A contribution to the history of German legal sources. Verlag der Wagner'schen Buchhandlung, Innsbruck 1859, OCLC 2204009 ; Nabu Press, [o. O.] 2010, ISBN 978-1-141-43820-4 .
  • Sven Frotscher: Falkenstein Castle and Meisdorf Castle. Edition Leipzig, Leipzig 1995, ISBN 3-361-00434-9 .
  • Alexander Haentjes: German law exegesis of the Sachsenspiegel land law. Text presentation and interpretation. GRIN Verlag, Munich 2015, DNB 1074476506 [print on demand and / or as an e-book].
  • Christian Hetz: The role of the Sachsenspiegel in the judicature of the German Reich Court in civil matters. Solivagus-Verlag, Kiel 2010, ISBN 978-3-9812101-5-6 .
  • Alexander Ignor: About general legal thinking by Eikes von Repgow (= Görres Society for the Care of Science: Legal and Political Science Publications of the Görres Society. NF, H. 42). Schöningh, Paderborn u. a. 1984, ISBN 3-506-73342-2 .
  • Peter Johanek : Eike von Repgow, Hoyer von Falkenstein and the creation of the Sachsenspiegel. In: Helmut Jäger , Franz Petri , Heinz Quirin (eds.): Civitatum Communitas. Studies on the europ. Urbanism. Festschrift Heinz Stoob (= urban research / series A / representations. Volume 21). Volume 2, Böhlau, Cologne 1984, ISBN 3-412-05884-X .
  • Paul Kaller: The Sachsenspiegel. Transfer into standard German. Beck, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-406-48921-4 .
  • Bernd Kannowski: The transformation of the Saxon mirror law through the Buch'sche gloss (= writings of the MGH . Volume 56). Hahn, Hannover 2008, ISBN 978-3-7752-5756-5 .
  • Walter Koschorrek: The Sachsenspiegel. The Heidelberg illuminated manuscript Cod. Pal. Germ. 164. Insel, Frankfurt am Main 1989, ISBN 3-458-16044-2 .
  • Karl Kroeschell : The Sachsenspiegel in a new light. In: Heinz Mohnhaupt (ed.): Legal history in the two German states (1988–1990). Examples, parallels, positions (= studies on European legal history. Volume 53). Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 1991, ISBN 3-465-02271-8 , pp. 232-244.
  • Hiram Kümper: Saxony law. Studies on the history of Saxon land law in the Middle Ages and early modern times . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-428-13093-1 .
  • Hiram Kümper: Sachsenspiegel. A bibliography - with an introduction to tradition, impact and research. Bautz, Nordhausen 2004, ISBN 3-88309-148-0 .
  • Eberhard Freiherr von Künßberg (ed.): Der Sachsenspiegel. Pictures from the Heidelberg manuscript (= Insel-Bücherei . No. 347). Insel, Leipzig 1933, OCLC 1003438 .
  • Peter Landau : The place of origin of the Sachsenspiegel. Eike von Repgow, Altzella and the Anglo-Norman canon. In: German Archives (DA) . 61, 2005, ISSN  0012-1223 , pp. 73-101.
  • Adolf Laufs : Legal developments in Germany. 6th edition. De Gruyter, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-89949-301-X .
  • Rolf Lieberwirth : The history of the impact of the Sachsenspiegel. In: Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand: Sachsenspiegel. The Wolfenbüttel illuminated manuscript of the Sachsenspiegel. Essays and Investigations. Akad.-Verlag, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-05-002359-7 , pp. 63-86. (Commentary on Cod. Guelf. 3.1. Aug. fol. 2 °); ( online; fee-based, ISBN 978-3-05-006909-8 ).
  • Rolf Lieberwirth: Eike von Repchow and the Sachsenspiegel. (= Meeting reports of the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 122, No. 4). Akad.-Verlag, Berlin 1982, DNB 830028587 [presented in the public. Meeting of April 18, 1980].
  • Rolf Lieberwirth: About the gloss to the Sachsenspiegel (= session reports of the Saxon Academy of Sciences in Leipzig, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 132, No. 6). Akad.-Verlag, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-05-002421-6 .
  • Heiner Lück : About the Sachsenspiegel. Origin, content and effect of the legal code. 2nd Edition. Janos Stekovics, Dößel (Saalkreis) 2005, ISBN 3-89923-093-0 .
  • Heiner Lück: The Sachsenspiegel. The most famous German legal book of the Middle Ages . Lambert Schneider, Darmstadt 2017, ISBN 978-3-650-40186-1 .
  • Walter Möllenberg : Eike von Repgow and his time. Law, Spirit and Culture of the German Middle Ages. Hopfer, Burg 1934, DNB 575152974 .
  • Dieter Pötschke: The illuminated manuscripts of the Sachsenspiegel and the relationship between their coats of arms and the Harz region. In: Dieter Pötschke: Ilsenburg Monastery. History, architecture, library. (= Harz research. Research and sources on the history of the Harz region. Volume 19). Published by the Harz Association for History and Antiquity. V. Lukas Verlag, Wernigerode and Berlin 2004, ZDB -ID 2010358-X , pp. 142–174.
  • Lars Rentmeister: The relationship between state and church in the late Middle Ages using the example of the discussion about the Sachsenspiegel . Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin 2016, DNB 1099952247 (Dissertation FU Berlin 2016, 473 pages, full text online ).
  • Klaus Richter : Law books. Sachsenspiegel and Schwabenspiegel. In: Jörg Wolff (Ed.): Cultural and legal historical roots of Europe (= studies on cultural and legal history. Volume 1). Forum, Mönchengladbach 2005, ISBN 3-936999-16-3 .
  • Eckhard Riedl: The illuminated manuscripts of the Sachsenspiegel and the civil code. In: Archaeological Communications from Northwest Germany. Supplement 22. Isensee, Oldenburg 1998, ISBN 3-89598-576-7 .
  • Klaus-Peter Schroeder : From the Sachsenspiegel to the Basic Law. Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-406-47536-1 .
  • Uwe Wesel : History of Law. From the early forms to the present. 4th, revised edition. Beck, Munich 2014, ISBN 978-3-406-65573-9 .

Web links

Wikisource: Sachsenspiegel  - Sources and full texts
Wiktionary: Sachsenspiegel  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Sachsenspiegel  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


Digital copies of manuscripts

Individual evidence

  1. Uwe Wesel : History of the law: From the early forms to the present. CH Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 978-3-406-54716-4 . No. 220.
  2. Heiner Lück: About the Saxon mirror. 2nd Edition. 2005, p. 17.
  3. Auctor vetus de beneficiis (= Bibliotheca rerum historicarum. Volume 2). Edited by Karl August Eckhardt . Scientia-Verlag, Aalen 1972, ISBN 3-511-05092-8 (contains 1. Latin texts. - 2. Archetype and Görlitzer legal book). Also appears as: Monumenta Germaniae historica: Leges. 3, Fontes iuris Germanici antiqui, nova series. T. 2. License d. Hahn publishing house, Hanover.
  4. Uwe Wesel summarizes the three books as follows: Book 1 - Two-sword theory, inheritance law, guardianship, matrimonial property law; Book 2 - Criminal Law, Private Criminal Law, Neighbor Law; Book 3 - again criminal law, regulations on wergeld, rules for the election of a king, rights of princes and counts over castles and markets, jurisdiction and again inheritance law. All three books deal with process rules.
  5. For example: "Whoever comes to the mill first should grind first."
  6. For example: "Where / If two (men / people) are to take an inheritance, [there] the eldest / elder divide, and the younger choose."
  7. Klaus-Peter Schroeder: Vom Sachsenspiegel zum Grundgesetz, 2001, p. 10.
  8. Schroeder: Vom Sachsenspiegel zum Grundgesetz, 2001, p. 11.
  9. Lars Rentmeister: The relationship between state and church in the late Middle Ages using the example of the discussion about the Sachsenspiegel . Freie Universität Berlin, Berlin 2016, DNB 1099952247 (Dissertation FU Berlin 2016, 473 pages, full text online ).
  10. Cf. e.g. RGZ 137, 343 f.
  11. BGHZ 108, 110–122 .
  12. ^ Stephan Meder : Legal history. An introduction (= UTB for science; legal history ). Cologne u. a. 2002, ISBN 3-412-17101-8 , p. 104; [4th, revised. and erg.]; 5th, through. 2014 edition, ISBN 978-3-8252-4269-5 .
  13. Swedes find a 500 year old “Sachsenspiegel”. In: Augsburger Allgemeine . June 8, 2010: It is an incunabulum (Augsburg: Anton Sorg, 1481).