Magdeburg Law

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

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.


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.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Archival sources were examined in order to confirm that certain Ukrainian settlements belonged to the type of towns with the Magdeburg Rights. It has been discovered that the total number of such towns in Ukraine was 185 (Kravcov 1993; Kyp'jakevych 1962; Sas 1989a).
The Magdeburg rights were actively adopted on the right bank of Ukraine, which was at first in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, then in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and later in the Russian Empire.
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It includes the data concerning population, area, year of establishment and the date of adoption of the Magdeburg Rights. In addition, morphological research of historic nucleus of small towns has been conducted.
As for the planning structure of historic nucleus in the Ukrainian towns with the Magdeburg Rights, it should be noted that most of them have flexible construction of transport and communication framework.
The object of the study has been defined as the historical towns of Ukraine, which adopted the Magdeburg Rights. Among all historical localities of Ukraine (185 in total), 70 have been studied.