A vassal (from Celtic gwas , from Latin vassus "servant") was a suitor in the Franconian Empire (5th – 9th centuries) who was in a personal relationship of loyalty to a powerful lord as patron. Due to the personal legal relationship entered into, mutual protection and obedience obligations arose for those involved.
The vassal was a servant of his master, in whose dependency he went through the ritual act of commendation . The vassal was obliged to serve his master of all kinds ( auxilium et consilium ). This included, in particular, war and council services such as participation in council meetings of vassals under the chairmanship of the feudal lord, but also the payment of ransom if the liege lord was taken prisoner. The lord had to provide the vassal's livelihood such as food, clothing, and armament. In addition, the feudal lord represented the vassal in court, the vassal in turn was an assessor in the feudal lord's court.
From the Carolingian period in the 8th / 9th Century the vassal was to hedge its maintenance fiefdom and was the lehnsrechtliche investiture for vassal . The fruits of the feud and any righteous persons were due to the vassal.
The feudal lord had rights that otherwise only belonged to the vassal's blood relatives. When the vassal died, he exercised the right of guardianship over his sons and the right to marry his daughters and owed the vassal - like the vassal, on the other hand - assistance in the event of a blood feud , which according to the old tribal law was only owed by blood relatives.
The vassal was a personal bond that ended with the death of one of the two partners and had to be renewed with a possible successor. Only in the course of time did it become customary to continue the feudal bond with the respective legal successor on the basis of a succession right. H. the fief became hereditary. The renewal of the investiture after the death of the lord ( Herr case where kings throne case ) or vassals ( Mann or Lehnfall ) and the exhibition was a new Lehnbriefs by Lehnkanzlei will charge ( Lehntaxe or Write Schilling ).
A distinction was made between main vassals ( vassals in the narrower sense ), who received their fief directly from such a feudal lord who had no other lord over himself, and the so-called aftervasals ( arrier vassals ), who received their fief from a vassal, for example one Princes , had received through a subinfeudation . An example of this is the relationship between the English and French kings in the 12th century. The English king had numerous possessions in France , but these were all fiefdoms of the French king. The King of England was therefore subject to the King of France as his liege-man . As Duke of Normandy and Guyenne as well as Count of Anjou , Maine , Berry , Bretagne , Touraine and Poitou , he was indeed the most powerful vassal in France, but at least a vassal, i.e. obliged to serve Philip II , although they were hierarchically equal.
In the late Middle Ages, the sovereigns could only maintain their armies by awarding their own lands as fiefs. Since they had to deprive themselves more and more of their own household power in this way, but in return made their feudal people more and more powerful, the oath of allegiance soon became a farce, as the feudal lords finally had to pay their feudal men additionally in order to receive their services.
- Christine Reinle : vassal, vassal . In: Lexicon of the Middle Ages (LexMA). Volume 8, LexMA-Verlag, Munich 1997, ISBN 3-89659-908-9 , Sp. 1416-1419.
- Lexicon entries for Vasall on zeno.org
- Guido Castelnuovo: Feudal Society. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland .
- Karl-Heinz Spieß : Feudal law, feudal policy and feudal administration of the Count Palatine near the Rhine in the late Middle Ages. Wiesbaden, 1978.
- Vassal Medieval Lexicon. Small encyclopedia of the German Middle Ages, founded by Peter CA Schels. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
- Commendation Medieval Lexicon. Small encyclopedia of the German Middle Ages, founded by Peter CA Schels. Retrieved June 20, 2020.
- Thomas Frenz: Basic Concepts of Medieval Studies: Lehen, Allod University Passau, 2002.
- Vasall Pierer's Universal Lexikon, Volume 18. Altenburg 1864, pp. 369-370. zeno.org, accessed June 20, 2020.