Swabian Association of Cities

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The Swabian League of Cities was primarily a military alliance of several imperial cities . The objective was to secure the imperial city freedoms. The alliance was thus also directed against the efforts of the respective sovereigns for territorial expansion of Bavaria , Württemberg , Austria and other emerging territorial states .


The Swabian League of Cities was created as a link between 22 Swabian cities, including Augsburg , Ulm , Reutlingen and Heilbronn , which, at the instigation of Emperor Ludwig of Bavaria , committed themselves to mutual assistance on November 20, 1331. In 1340 the Counts of Württemberg , Öttingen , Hohenberg and others joined the union. It was closed for a limited period and has been renewed repeatedly. The number of its members varied.


The league of cities of July 4, 1376 was founded by the 14 Upper Swabian imperial cities of Biberach , Buchhorn , Isny , Konstanz , Leutkirch , Lindau , Memmingen , Ravensburg , Reutlingen , Rottweil , St. Gallen , Überlingen , Ulm and Wangen under the leadership of Ulm and achieved a special one political importance. In August 1377, the imperial city of Dinkelsbühl , located on the outskirts of Franconia , also joined the confederation, followed by cities from the Franconian heartland such as Rothenburg , Schweinfurt and Windsheim .


During his lifetime, Emperor Charles IV wanted his son Wenceslaus to be elected Roman-German king . To achieve this, he had to influence the electors and other influential persons through financial or territorial gifts in his favor. The high expenditures he had incurred were intended to rebalance the incomes of the cities, which he imposed taxes on. It was not without good reason that the small and medium-sized imperial cities feared that if they defaulted on payment they might end up as pledge to rich nobles, as had happened to the city of Donauwörth . Their independence and sole responsibility towards the emperor was latently endangered, but their demand for the protection and inviolability of imperial immediacy was closed to Charles IV. In order to secure their rights and privileges, the interests of the imperial cities of the same kind led to a federation. In individual cases it was the responsibility of the sovereign, in Württemberg the Count of Württemberg, who had also been the imperial governor of the peace since 1373, to collect delinquent duties to the emperor. He enviously looked at the high income of the cities from the lucrative trade in bark and salt .

Stuttgart collegiate church. Ulrich von Württemberg († 1388 in the Battle of Döffingen), son of Eberhard des Greiner. Led the battle of Reutlingen.


The union of 14 Upper Swabian cities was concluded for four years. The emperor did not recognize this union, saw it as a rebellion and had the imperial war waged against the cities. On May 14, 1377, citizens and journeymen of the Swabian Association of Cities from Reutlingen won the battle near Reutlingen against a team led by Count Ulrich von Württemberg , son of Count Eberhard II von Württemberg . Ludwig Uhland immortalized the battle in a ballad in 1815:

He falls in the back of the knights with cruel fury;

Today the townspeople want to bathe in the hot knight's blood.

How the tanners tanned so masterfully!

How the dyers dyed it so purple!

On May 31, Emperor Charles IV. , Who had the league of cities over previously shown resentful, the cities from the previously imposed outlawry going on.

In 1378 Ulm, Esslingen and Reutlingen carried out a campaign in Württemberg. Rothenburg was involved in fighting with Bishop Gerhard von Würzburg. Mercenaries from Ulm plundered Mindelheim .

During this time, the league of cities gained further members, including the important cities of Nuremberg and Regensburg, which were besieged by the Bavarian dukes . Augsburg joined the alliance in 1379.

After the Nuremberg Diet of 1379, King Wenzel gave Duke Leopold III. of Austria the two bailiffs in Swabia as a pledge, because he used it for the support of Pope Urban VI. wanted to win. Bailiff in Upper Swabia the Bavarian Duke was by then Frederick the Wise in Lower Swabia, Count Eberhard II. Städtebund disapproved mortgage lending. There was therefore a controversial dispute with the prince and knight associations, whose opinion leader was Count Eberhard II.


The power of the federal government was now approaching its peak. By 1385 the number of members had risen to 32.

South German Association of Cities

On March 20, 1381, a second Rheinischer Städtebund was established , whose members included Frankfurt , Mainz , Worms , Speyer and Strasbourg . He was the opposing counterpart to the Lion League , an association of counts and lower nobility. The Rhenish Association of Cities united with the Swabian Association of Cities on June 17, 1381 to form the "South German Association of Cities" , a primarily military assistance pact. Also, Basel and Wil were among the members. The other side responded six days later by founding the Rhenish Electoral League and applied for its royal recognition. That year the cities waged a war against the Lion League in Franconia. Augsburg, Ulm and Schwäbisch Hall also operated a military campaign in the area of ​​the nobles.

In Württemberg, the smoldering disputes ended with one of Count Eberhard II and Duke Leopold III. Peace agreement initiated by Austria in Ehingen on April 9, 1382 ( "Ehinger Unification" ). When King Wenzel joined the Electoral League that same year, the attitudes of both sides stiffened. The dukes of Bavaria fought with the archbishop of Salzburg .

In 1383 King Wenzel tried in Nuremberg to settle the conflicting interests through a general peace . Only aristocrats were represented in the “Nürnberger Herrenbund” newly created on March 11, 1383 . The royal plan was rejected by the cities because it prohibited the amalgamation of alliances.

King Wenzel placed himself in the "Heidelberger Einung" (also called "Heidelberger Stallung" ) on July 26, 1384 at the head of the cities. An agreement on an armistice between princes and cities was reached. The Nuremberg peace treaty of 1383 was recognized by the city federations and this in turn by King Wenceslaus, but the king did not participate in the agreement between the city and prince league.

Constance Federation

The South German Association of Cities strengthened itself on February 21, 1385 through an alliance with Bern , Solothurn , Zurich and Zug to form the "Konstanzer Bund" , which the Habsburg Lucerne also indirectly supported through a corresponding agreement with Zurich. The federal cities wanted to get support against the desires of the Habsburgs in the Alpine country. In 1385 the entire league of cities comprised more than 50 imperial cities.

The Konstanzer Bund disintegrated in the following year. When three federal cities allowed themselves to attack places owned by the Habsburgs in winter, Duke Leopold III reacted. from Austria. Lucerne, striving for independence, asked the allies for support, but the Swabian cities brokered an armistice with the nobleman on February 22, 1386. However, the confederates continued their dispute until the Battle of Sempach on July 9, 1386. The southern German cities not interested in a war, on the other hand, compared themselves to Leopold on May 15, which led to the breach of the mutual assistance pact of Constance.


Between the Swabian and Rhenish cities and the Herrenbund there had been conflicts since 1381, which were resolved in talks. But the opposing parties were reluctant to wage war. Because King Wenzel took a city-friendly stance, the princes considered the removal of the monarch and the election of Frederick the Wise, the Duke of Bavaria in Landshut, in 1387 . He ruled together with his brothers Johann II and Stephan III. the Duchy of Bavaria .

At the suggestion of Regensburg, Archbishop Pilgrim II of Salzburg was accepted into the league of cities on July 25, 1387. Thus were in a dispute between Duke Stephan III. of Bavaria and Archbishop Pilgrim also involved the cities and Count Eberhard II of Württemberg. Frederick the Wise helped his brother Stephan to arrest Archbishop Pilgrim in 1388. The latter was an ally of the cities which the dukes wanted to force under their rule. The Bavarian's refusal to release the archbishop again triggered the alliance case in the city camp and thus a deliberately provoked war.

The military conflict reached its peak in 1388. The army of Count Eberhard II of Württemberg, together with Count Palatine Ruprecht , Burgrave Friedrich von Nürnberg and others, defeated the army of the Swabian cities on August 23, 1388 in the Battle of Döffingen (since the battle took place on Bartholomew's Day , in some Sources also called August 24th). Shortly thereafter, the troops of the Rhenish cities were defeated on November 6th near Worms .

The war of the cities against Bavaria ( city ​​war 1387 to 1389), in which King Wenzel initially sided with the cities, ended on May 5, 1389 with the peace treaty of Eger . King Wenzel persuaded the majority of the federal members to participate in the Landfrieden, the result of which was, among other things, the dissolution of all city federations, including the Swabian city federation, during the term of the agreement.

Mergers afterwards

Alliances of Swabian cities came into being several times in the 15th century, but were by no means equal in importance to that great alliance.


Overall, the disputes ended in a stalemate: The sovereigns had not succeeded in incorporating the cities into their respective territories or in curtailing the privileges of the cities. However, the cities failed in their attempt to gain greater influence on imperial politics through military pressure. However, the devastation that the war brought with it was immense, so that the cities raised a great deal of resources to militarily secure the city limits. The associated indebtedness often led to the cities giving up their political independence and being incorporated into the neighboring territories.

See also


  • Harro Blezinger: The Swabian League of Cities in the years 1438-1445. With an overview of its development since 1389. Stuttgart 1954 (At the same time: Freiburg im Breisgau, Univ., Diss., 1953).
  • Evamarie Distler: City federations in the German late Middle Ages. A legal historical investigation into the concept, constitution and function (= studies on European legal history. Vol. 207). Klostermann, Frankfurt am Main 2006, ISBN 3-465-04001-5 (also: Frankfurt am Main, Univ., Diss., 2004/2005).
  • Friedrich Ebrard: King Wenzel's first attempt to get closer to the Swabian-Rhenish city union 1384-1385. A historical investigation. Strasbourg 1877. online archives
  • Hans-Georg Hofacker: The Swabian Reichslandvogteien in the late Middle Ages (= late Middle Ages and early modern times. Vol. 8). Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1980, ISBN 3-12-911570-6 (also: Tübingen, Univ., Diss., 1980).
  • Eberhard Holtz: Imperial cities and central power under King Wenzel. (1376–1400) (= studies on the Luxembourgers and their time. Vol. 4). Fahlbusch, Warendorf 1993, ISBN 3-925522-10-7 (also: Berlin, Akad. D. Wiss., Diss., 1987).
  • Ludwig Quidde: The Swabian-Rhenish League of Cities in 1384 until the Heidelberg stables were completed. Stuttgart 1884. online in the Internet Archive
  • Johannes Schildhauer : The Swabian Association of Cities - Expression of the development of strength of the German bourgeoisie in the second half of the 14th century. In: Yearbook for the History of Feudalism. Vol. 1, 1977, ISSN  0138-4856 , pp. 187-210.
  • Alexander Schubert : Is the city useful or necessity? The imperial city of Nuremberg and the city war of 1388/89 (= historical studies. Vol. 476). Matthiesen, Husum 2003, ISBN 3-7868-1476-7 (also: Bamberg, Univ., Diss., 2001/2002, review by H-Soz-u-Kult ).
  • Alexander Schubert: Article: Schwäbischer Städtebund , in: Historisches Lexikon Bayerns .
  • Georg Tumbülle: Emperor Karl IV. And his relations with the Swabian imperial cities from 1370 to the establishment of the city union in 1376. Phil. Diss. Münster 1879. online at Münster University Library
  • Wilhelm Vischer: History of the Swabian Association of Towns in the years 1376-1389. In: Research on German history. Jg. 2, 1862, ISSN  0178-9368 , pp. 1-202. online in the Internet Archive
  • Wilhelm Vischer : On the history of the Swabian association of cities. In: Research on German history. Vol. 3, 1863, pp. 1-39.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Johannes Jacobsen, Die Schlacht bei Reutlingen May 14, 1377. Verlag Veit, 1882. P. 51
  2. Reinold Hermanns: The Swabian Association of Cities is founded. SWR2 Zeitwort, July 4, 2017, accessed on July 4, 2017 .
  3. ^ Karl Heinz Burmeister: Konstanzer Bund. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .