Magdeburg Law

Magdeburg Law

 

(jus theutonicum magdeburgense), the feudal urban law of Magdeburg, Germany. Magdeburg law arose in the 13th century through the fusion of several sources including the privileges bestowed on the city’s patricians by Archbishop Wichman in 1188, the Sachsenspiegel, and the verdicts of the court of lay judges (Schoppenstuhl) of Magdeburg. Among the written records of Magdeburg law the best known are the Sachsisches Weichbildrecht of 1300 and the laws prescribed by lay judges for Gorlitz in 1304. Magdeburg law was all-embracing, treating various kinds of legal relations—the duties of municipal authorities, the jurisdiction and procedure of courts, questions of land ownership within the city, the settlement of property disputes, the grounds for seizure of movables, and the punishment for various crimes. Of special importance were norms regulating trade and handicrafts, the activity of artisan and merchant guilds, and taxation.

Magdeburg law consolidated in legal form the progress achieved by townspeople struggling for autonomy within feudal society. Under Magdeburg law a city acquired self-government, its own law court, the right to own land, and exemption from most feudal dues. Magdeburg law was adopted by many cities in eastern Germany (Halle, Dresden), East Prussia (where it was known as Kulm, or Chelmno Law), Silesia, Bohemia, Hungary, Poland, and Lithuania (from the 14th century); later it spread to Galicia and Byelorussia (from the 16th century), where it was sometimes called German law.

The court of the city of Magdeburg was generally recognized as the supreme arbiter of Magdeburg law and the highest court of appeal from courts applying Magdeburg law. In Prussia, however, the court of highest instance for cities under Magdeburg law was the court of Chetmno (from 1251) and later that of Torun (from 1466). King Casimir III of Poland forbade appeal to Magdeburg and in 1365 established a supreme court of appeal in Kraków. Magdeburg law remained in force until the 19th century, although its importance steadily declined.

REFERENCES

Khrestomatia pamiatnikov feodal’nogo gosudarstva i prava stran Evropy. Edited by V. M. Koretskii. Moscow, 1961.
Vladimirskii-Budanov, M. F. Nemetskoe pravo v PoVshe i Litve. St. Petersburg, 1868.
Livantsev K. E. Istoriia gosudarstva iprava feodal’noi Pol’shiXIIII-XIV vv. Leningrad, 1958.

Z. M. CHERNILOVSKII

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