City law

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

City law is originally the imperial or sovereign privilege ( city ​​shelf ) through which a village or a suburban settlement was elevated to a city and was the embodiment of the legal principles valid in the relevant legal district . In contrast, the land law was mostly determined by the rulers. The city law is not a uniform "city law", but consists of several privileges (right of residence , customs duties ) and individual rights, of which the market law is usually the oldest. As Market town locations are designated as partial city law.

The city law common in Central Europe probably originally goes back to Italian models, which in turn were based on the traditions of self-government in Roman cities .


middle Ages

The city charter of Flensburg from 1284
City charter of the city of Höchst am Main from January 12, 1356
Town charter of Langewiesen , Gehren and Großbreitenbach (issued by the Prince of Schwarzburg-Sondershausen in 1855)

The importance of the German town charter in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation justifies an emphasis on the German town charter tradition. In an international comparison, the German city law gave the cities special urban autonomy . In the Middle Ages, it was associated with the German East Settlement and was, not least, exemplary for (new) city foundations in Eastern Europe.

City rights emerged in Germany since the 10th century. Through them, not only private law relationships, but also subjects of public law were standardized .

City rights families

Often the right of a town was more or less completely from other rezipiert ; such as the town charter of Soest (the first town charter documented in Germany), but especially the town charter of Magdeburg , Lübeck , Cologne and Nuremberg . The community of cities that have taken over the rights of a city or received it by the city lord is referred to as their city ​​rights family .

The Luebian city law was derived from the Soest law in 1160 . Due to the supremacy of Lübeck in the Hanseatic League , it gained the coastline from Schleswig to the easternmost German settlements on the Baltic Sea.

The Magdeburg law spread in the inland to Bohemia , Silesia , today's Slovakia (including the Spiš ) and Poland, and as Kulm law over the Teutonic Order of Prussia . In Poland the Magdeburg city law was the generally binding one. The town charter played an important role in the German East Settlement in the Middle Ages: Colonists were recruited (or settled independently) on the condition that they could keep their own rights in the places they founded. The city law was initially a market law , supplemented by city jurisdiction and fortification law. Only later were the city rights also taken over by cities whose population was not German-speaking (eastern Poland, Lithuania, western Russia) or no longer German-speaking (Bohemia, Moravia, etc.).

The Brandenburg town law in the Mark Brandenburg , Pomerania and southern Mecklenburg was derived from Magdeburg law .

The town charter of Bremen and the town charter of Salzwedel were also adopted from other places.

The assumption of a town charter usually meant the recognition of the transferring town as a legal suburb; z. B. Magdeburg was the legal suburb for cities with Magdeburg law. The local aldermen so chair ruled on legal ambiguities in the mortgaged to the Magdeburg Law cities. This also explains that certain city rights are known under different names, although they originally come from the same source: the name then does not identify the original legal origin, but the recognized legal suburb.

Multiple city rights in one settlement

From today's point of view, it is remarkable that a closed settlement could well be divided into different municipal legal areas. Many of today's German cities emerged from such settlements that originally comprised several cities in the legal sense (e.g. Hildesheim, Braunschweig, Kassel).

Early modern age

As a result of the reorganization of the territorial structure and the legal terms, changes to the city rights became necessary. In the course of the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, improved city rights , so-called “Reformations”, arose in many places . However, under the influence of legal scholars, more and more Roman law was interfered with. B. under Mayor Hermann Langenbeck . In the end, the old city rights had to give way to the authority of the sovereigns at the same time as their own jurisdiction and the autonomy of the cities, with the exception of scant remnants.

19th century

With the Reichsdeputationshauptschluss 1803, almost all 51  imperial-free cities were mediatized , i.e. subordinated to a state rule. After the dissolution of the old empire and during the subsequent Napoleonic rule, the remaining free and imperial cities of Augsburg , Bremen , Frankfurt , Hamburg , Lübeck and Nuremberg also lost their independence between 1806 and 1812 . With the Vienna Congress Act in 1815 only the independence of the free cities of Frankfurt, Bremen, Hamburg and Lübeck was restored. There, the town charter was transformed into a national law with the sovereignty gained from the fall of the empire. Individual statutes of the old town charter (statutes) were only retained for family and inheritance law until the BGB came into force on January 1, 1900.

Federal Republic

In today's Germany, cities are municipalities that are allowed to use the designation "city" under previous law or that can be given to them. This can be done on application or ex officio , usually by the state ministry responsible for local government . For historical reasons, people often speak of the granting of “city rights”. The criteria are the number of inhabitants , but also the type of settlement and economic conditions. Basically, the rights and obligations of communities that call themselves communities and those that are allowed to call themselves cities do not differ. City is a name and / or part of the name of a municipality.

The cities of Berlin , Hamburg and Bremen are federal states . Your rights are state rights . The legal relationships between municipalities, including those municipalities that may call themselves cities, are based in Germany on the laws of the federal states that have the legislative and administrative authority for municipal affairs . The most important sources of law are the respective municipal codes of the federal states or corresponding, differently designated state laws .

Cities can have a special legal status depending on the federal state. These are for example:

Current legal situation in individual federal states


Cities are the municipalities that use this designation according to previous law or to which it has been newly awarded by the State Ministry of the Interior, for Sport and Integration . The designation city may only be given to communities that correspond to the designation in terms of number of inhabitants, type of settlement and economic circumstances.

Lower Saxony

The designation city is used by the municipalities to which this designation is entitled under previous law. Upon request, the ministry responsible for internal affairs can assign the designation city to those municipalities that have an urban character in terms of number of inhabitants, type of settlement and economic conditions.

North Rhine-Westphalia

The designation "city" is used by the municipalities to which this designation is entitled under previous law. As soon as a municipality has additional tasks to perform as a town belonging to the middle district, it is called “town” regardless of the future population development. A district belonging to a municipality is to be designated as a central district belonging city on one's own application if its relevant population is more than 20,000 inhabitants on three consecutive reference dates (30 June and 31 December each). It is to be officially designated as a city belonging to the Middle District if its relevant number of inhabitants is more than 25,000 inhabitants on five consecutive reference days from December 31, 2017. If a city belonging to the middle district loses this status, it can still call itself a city.


In Austria , a total of 201 municipalities have municipal rights (Stadtgemeinden) , which has often been transferred from the respective historical capitals to the current administrative unit - correctly one speaks of urban rank . Today this city law only plays a subordinate role in the administration.

Cities in Austria: municipalities with city rights

15 of them are statutory cities (also called cities with their own statute ), namely Eisenstadt , Graz , Innsbruck , Klagenfurt , Krems , Linz , Rust , Salzburg , St. Pölten , Steyr , Villach , Waidhofen / Ybbs , Wels , Vienna , Wiener Neustadt , whereby all state capitals apart from Bregenz are statutory cities. Statutory cities are in the administrative structure on the same level as the municipality ( NUTS level LAU-2) and on the level of the district (no NUTS level, between NUTS-3 and LAU-1). Since 1962 it has been stipulated in the Federal Constitutional Act that the statute city can only be requested by municipalities with at least 20,000 inhabitants.

One city, Scheibbs , invokes the old town charter and calls itself a titular town (otherwise only to be found in Germany, old law of the Holy Roman Empire), the two statutory towns Eisenstadt and Rust , as a free town, refer to the royal Hungarian town charter .

Eight historical places with city rights were incorporated and no longer bear the title city , or only formally.

Cities in Austria: incorporated and former cities in Austria

Deviating from the urban law term, settlements or conurbations with more than 5000 inhabitants are usually referred to as urban in Austria .

The entirety of the cities is represented in negotiations with the state and federal government by the Austrian Association of Cities ; many municipalities are also members of the Austrian Association of Municipalities .


Switzerland has no town charter in the legal sense that could be granted. The term “city” is primarily a statistical variable: If a political municipality has more than 10,000 inhabitants, it is statistically considered a city. Whether a municipality describes itself as a city is mostly historical. Not all municipalities with more than 10,000 inhabitants call themselves cities, conversely there are numerous historical small towns with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants that define themselves as cities. This designation comes from previously granted city rights.

Czech Republic

There are 23 statutory cities in the Czech Republic .

Further terms used in urban communities

See also


  • Meyers Konversations-Lexikon , 4th edition from 1888–1890. (Source of the original version of the article).
  • Carl Haase (Ed.): The city of the Middle Ages. Vol. 1: Concept, origin and expansion. Knowledge Buchges., Darmstadt 1978.
  • Eberhard Isenmann : The German city in the late Middle Ages, 1250–1500, town charter, law, town government, church, society, economy (UTB for science, large series). Eugen Ulmer publisher, Stuttgart 1988.
  • Hans Patze : City foundation and city law. In: Law and Scripture in the Middle Ages. Edited by Peter Classen. (Lectures and Research 23) 1977. pp. 163-196.
  • Tino Fröde: privileges and statutes of the Upper Lusatian six cities. A journey through the organization of urban life in Zittau, Bautzen, Görlitz, Löbau, Kamenz and Lauban in the early modern period. Oberlausitzer Verlag, Spitzkunnersdorf 2008, ISBN 978-3-933827-88-3 .
  • Joszef Wiktorowicz: The “city order” as a text type. Based on a collection of copies from Cracow. In: Mechthild Habermann (Ed.): Text type typologies and text alliances of the 13th and 14th centuries. Berlin 2011 (= Berlin Linguistics Studies. Volume 22), pp. 429–438.

Web links

Commons : City rights in Germany  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Stadtrecht  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Art. 3 para. 1 f. Municipal Code for the Free State of Bavaria (Municipal Code - GO). Retrieved October 15, 2019 .
  2. Section 20 (1) of the Lower Saxony Municipal Constitutional Law (NKomVG). Retrieved October 15, 2019 .
  3. § 13 Paragraph 2 S. 1 f. Municipal code for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia (GO NRW). Retrieved October 15, 2019 .
  4. § 4 Paragraph 3 Municipal Code for the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (GO NRW). Retrieved October 15, 2019 .