GHDI logo

An Abbot Negotiates with his Rural Subjects – Weingarten (Upper Swabia) (1432)

The Imperial Abbey of Weingarten, a Benedictine foundation, was among the richest abbeys in the southern German lands. Its abbot, an Imperial prince, ruled over some 306 square kilometers of plough land, woods, and vineyards that stretched from the Allgäu (today southwestern Bavaria) to halfway down the northern shore of Lake Constance. The abbey’s history was punctuated by struggles between the prince-abbot and his rural subjects, the political outcome of which was a parliamentary state in whose governance the subjects enjoyed a high level of participation. This document from December 9, 1432, represents a stage in this political evolution. It summarizes the outcome of a meeting during which mediators under royal authority negotiated between the abbot and his subjects. The meeting was held in the town hall of the Imperial city of Ravensburg. The negotiations concerned the regulation of crucial everyday matters: death duties, the security of land leases, and the subjects’ legal status.

print version     return to document list last document in previous chapter      next document

page 1 of 3

We, the undersigned Markwart von Königsegg, Provincial Commander in Alsace of the Teutonic Order, Jakob Truchseß von Waldburg, and Haupt zu Pappenheim, hereditary marshal of the Holy Roman Empire, announce openly and proclaim to all who may read this document, or hear it, [our decisions] concerning the dispute, conflict, and quarrel that has arisen between the honorable, clerical lords, Lord Johann Blarer, Abbot of Weingarten, and his monks, on the one side, and their tenants,* on the other. For this reason, the ever august prince and lord, Lord Sigismund, King of the Romans, ever Conserver of the Empire and our most gracious lord of Bohemia, Dalmatia, and Croatia, wrote to us under his royal seal to command us and empower us to call both aforementioned parties to a meeting, and to compose them by arbitration or by legal decision – as is set out clearly in the king's letter.

Whereupon we called both aforementioned parties to appear before us concerning their dispute, for which purposes we announced and fixed a meeting here at Ravensburg, that is, the day of this document.

And when both parties appeared before us, we sat down here in the city hall of Ravensburg and heard the advocates for both parties and [heard] the letters they wished to have read to us. Afterwards, we negotiated that both parties would, voluntarily and in good will, place their quarrels in our hands. And then the aforementioned Abbot Johannes and his monks, in the presence of the honorable clerical lords, Abbot Martin of Rot and Abbot Johann of the Mindere Au bei Ravensburg, both of the Premonstratensian order, and many other honorable, good folk who were there, took their oaths from me, the aforementioned Jakob Truchseß, and gave their promises. Then the aforementioned poor folk, who are serfs of the abbey of Weingarten, also gave their oaths before me, Jakob Truchseß, and, with their fingers raised, swore to God and the saints. Both sides swore that however we would judge and rule between them, they would regard it as just and legal, and that they, for themselves and their heirs and successors forever and for all eternity, would steadfastly, loyally, truly, and continuously hold to it and stick with it, and that they would never act against it, or allow anyone else to do so, either secretly or openly, in any way.

[1] Then we three judges unanimously announced to them that notwithstanding all ill will, disputes, and quarrels, and every hostile word or deed that has passed between the parties or been suspected of those related to them, that this is a complete and settled legal matter, and shall be regarded as such, by them and by everyone. And the aforementioned lord, the abbot, and his monks shall not punish the poor folk for any deeds, but they shall be gracious lords to these folk. And these same poor folk shall be loyal and true to the aforementioned lord and the abbey, untroubled by this past quarrel and without any deception.

* Here called “poor folk” – trans.

first page < previous   |   next > last page