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The Saxon Mirror

The Saxon Mirror: A "Sachsenspiegel" of the Fourteenth Century

Translated by Maria Dobozy
Copyright Date: 1999
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    The Saxon Mirror
    Book Description:

    TheSachsenspiegel, orSaxon Mirror, compiled in 1235 by Eike von Repgow, may be said to mark the beginning of vernacular German jurisprudence. For the first time, Maria Dobozy offers an English translation of this influential lawbook, the oldest, and most important, set of customary law in the German language.

    This lawbook with its amendments marks a major shift in the history of German law from purely oral authority and transmission to a written documentation that allowed greater consistency in legal procedure. The reception of the lawbook was vast. It was rapidly adapted across Germany, as the four hundred manuscript versions demonstrate. Beyond Germany, it was copied as the paradigm for lawbooks in Prussia, Silesia, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, and Bohemia. These codes of law became the standard for over three hundred years.

    TheSachsenspiegelcontains a compilation of the legal practices at the time in Saxony, an ethnically mixed territory, and encompasses the legal customs and procedures that regulated the daily life of peasants and landlords. It is a multidimensional resource for anyone seeking insight into German and Central European culture in art, literature, linguistics, literacy, law, ethnic diversity, women, and the Bible.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-9128-5
    Subjects: History, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Translator’s Preface
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. ix-xi)
  5. Illustration
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-40)

    The Sachsenspiegel (1235) by Eike von Repgow marks the beginning of German jurisprudence.¹ It is not only one of the earliest custumals in the German language but also, because of its rich transmission and widespread reception, the single most significant document of its kind in the history of German laws, customs, and material culture. Indeed, theSachsenspiegel’s influence was felt in German territories for more than three hundred years, until the reception of Roman law in the sixteenth century. In some areas, such as Prussia, it remained valid until the General Landlaw was established in 1794.

    Far from being strictly...

  7. Text of the Wolfenbiittel Manuscript

    • Imperial Landpeace of Mainz Saxon Mirror
      (pp. 43-50)

      The emperor promulgated this law in Mainz with the support of the princes.

      We establish and decree² by the power of our imperial authority and in conjunction with the loyal men of the realm:³ If a son expels his father by force from his castle or any other property, or attacks it by burning or robbing, or allies himself with his father’s enemies securing the alliance by word of honor or oath when the aim is to damage the father’s reputation or ruin him, and if his father convicts him [with an oath] on the relics before the judge and...

    • Table of Contents
      (pp. 51-65)
    • Book I
      (pp. 68-91)

      1 God left behind on earth two swords for the protection of Christianity: To the pope he gave the spiritual sword, and to the emperor, the temporal one. Now the pope is also required to ride a white horse at a specified time, and on this occasion the emperor shall hold his stirrup so that the saddle will not slip.⁷ The meaning is this: Any [entity] resisting the pope in a way that he cannot control by ecclesiastical jurisdiction needs to be compelled by the emperor and his use of secular law to obey the pope. So, too, shall the...

    • Book II
      (pp. 93-115)

      (D fol. 22r)¹ 1Where princes or lords enter an alliance with an oath, they are acting against the realm unless they exclude the realm from it

      2If the count misses his regular court session, only the plaintiff is at a disadvantage. If he misses any hearings called because of violent crimes, the charges must be brought anew. If a person sues another who is present for allodial land or landholding in tenancy to which he has right of possession, the hearing shall be scheduled for the next court session if he says, “Sir, no hearing was set for...

    • Book III
      (pp. 117-141)

      1 No one shall raze a village building by reason of any type of crime unless a girl or woman has been raped in it or brought into it after the rape.¹ It shall be condemned or cleared legally. Once a judgment has been laid down,² then even if a person comes forward to clear [the building], he receives no compensation for it, because he did not clear it before the court reached its judgment. All living creatures present at the rape shall be beheaded.³ All those responding to the hue and cry [shall] seize the victim and the attacker....

    • Book IV
      (pp. 143-180)

      1 Anyone who wants to know about feudal law should follow the instruction of this book. First of all, we state that the orders of knighthood¹ begin with the king and end in the seventh order because the lay princes demoted the sixth order down to the seventh when they became the bishops’ men.² This situation had not existed previously. The following groups are excluded from feudal law: priests, merchants, villagers, women, all who are encumbered in their rights or born illegitimate, as well as all those who cannot trace their knightly status to their father and grandfather. Nevertheless, if...

  8. Glossary
    (pp. 181-200)
  9. Notes
    (pp. 201-244)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-254)
  11. Index
    (pp. 255-263)