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T. R. Kraus (Hg.), Aachen (Joseph Huffman)

Francia-Recensio 2016/3 Mittelalter – Moyen Âge (500–1500)

Thomas R. Kraus (Hg.), Aachen. Von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, Bd. 3/2: Lebensbereiche 1138 bis 1500, Aachen (Aachener Geschichtsverein) 2015, XIV–536 S., zahlr. Abb., 1 Kt. (Veröffentlichungen des Stadtarchivs Aachen, 16; zugleich Beihefte der Zeitschrift des Aachener Geschichtsvereins, 10), ISBN 978-3-87519-257-5, EUR 39,90.

rezensiert von/compte rendu rédigé par

Joseph Huffman, Mechanicsburg, PA

This final installment of the series takes the medieval history of Aachen to the year A. D. 1500, and is a fitting conclusion to its predecessors1. In this volume we finally learn the contours of the city’s medieval constitutional, economic, and social history.

Chapter One does not, however, begin Aachen’s constitutional development in 1138 but rather in 1266, with King Richard (of Cornwall) officially recognizing the office of burgomaster and a city council as the civic authority representative of the burghers, yet still under royal auspices. By 1272 these new civic organs were clearly governing partners with the royal government still comprised of an overseer (Vogt, in this case the count of Jülich), judges, lay assessors (Schöffen), and various ministerial officers. By the 14th century these administrative offices had closed ranks under the leadership of an urban burgher patriciate in which Schöffenheld a third of the seats in the city council as well as the burgomaster’s office. The burgomasters and council were served by a growing body of administrators in the areas of civic finances (Rentmeisteramt), chancery and archives, currency (minters), public order (Christoffelconstabulary and watchmen), communal schools, poor relief (municipal hospitals, doctors, grain and water supply), urban management (sewer system, street and building maintenance, fire police), and guild oversight (Werkmeister).

So much civic authority in so few patrician hands inevitably led to regular political crises, especially regarding civic taxation, finances, and burgomaster elections. Uprisings like those of 1348 and 1368 were often led by the increasingly powerful weavers and fullers guilds, and were violently suppressed by the patrician government, even including the execution of the ring leaders as in 1368. No evidence survives for civic law precedents until the 15thcentury, where citizenship was granted to (a) those born legitimately of two citizen parents, (b) those marrying a female citizen, and (c) immigrants after taking a civic oath (i. e. loyalty, obedience to the city council, and participation in the defense, repair, fire service of the city) and paying a Bürgergeldfee. This allowed the new citizen to pursue a craft or trade within the city and to enjoy the city’s freedom from certain tolls when travelling. Moreover it also gave access to memberships in social organizations, parishes and their pastoral support, rights to private property, use of the city’s emblem on products, legal protection abroad and against the debts of foreign merchants, ransoming if captured during the many feuds of the city with neighboring nobles, and eligibility to hold public office.

Upon the creation of an autonomous municipal government in 1266 the constitutional conditions finally existed for the development of a regulated administration and the production of literate documentation. After 1273 charter issuance became professionalized and regularized, with the city having its own chancery instead of relying on the Marienkirche or Burtscheid Abbey for the production of sealed charters. Such differentiation of governmental offices and seals (e. g. sigillum ad causasfor daily business in addition to the older Charlemagne Seal of 1310, the latter of which was gradually replaced by seals of individual Schöffen) was a sure sign of the growing autonomy of the burghers. Since 1315 the municipal government employed a public notary (the first being Arnold de Puteo, a member of the city council), recorder of finances (Stadtrechnungen), and recorder of legal decisions, who soon were amalgamated into a civic chancery office. Volumes containing the city’s most important historical privileges, charters, letters, receipts, and statutes were produced from 1322–1349, and a city archive was established in the Rathaus (mentioned for the first time in 1369 but it surely preexisted this date) to assure a collective civic memory for future reference. Archivists then set to ordering and numbering charters by 1370, a sizeable task given that was only completed in 1396. The 15th century saw the production of specialized sub-collections of treaties and feud settlements, as well as seven Grundbücherrecording the ownership and tax liabilities of all houses and other properties within the city walls by name of owner and then location.

Civic administration reached into the public sphere in other creative ways, such as the city tower bell used to ring out warnings of war, fire, the hue and cry of felons, the opening/closing of the city gates, the beginning/ending of market days, court sessions, working hours of laborers, and the night watches. By the early 14thcentury civic pride was expressed by the clock on the market tower of the Rathauswhich struck the hours and meeting times of various groups.

Chapter Two highlights the municipal court system, whereby the royal lower commercial court of the Schultheiß(for fiscal and debt cases) and the higher criminal court of the Vogt(held only three times a year) were gradually replaced by burgher judges (Meierand Untervogt) and then gave way completely to the royal Schöffencourt (first mentioned in 1173 but presided over by the count of Jülich in 1315). Even the judicial office of the Vogt was pawned by the count at the end of the 14th century. Irrespective of its titular judge, the patrician Schöffenthemselves (7 before 1250, 12 before 1264, 14 thereafter) rendered judgments and ran the court using their own seals. Holding the privilege of replenishment by self co-option, this patrician elite proved to be a perpetually closed judicial and political body (Linnich, von Helrath, Stocheim, Irelonis, Punt, Clusenarius, Malebranke dynasties). Alas, as in many other documentary collections, records of criminal cases adjudicated before the Schöffencourt are lacking for the entire Middle Ages, but the longstanding existence of an execution site outside King’s Gate at King’s Hill assures that in addition to jurisdiction over land and property transactions the Schöffeneffectively exercised authority in felony and capital cases. Indeed, their court also enjoyed regional jurisdiction in civil cases as a royal high appeals court (as was also the case in Dortmund, Frankfurt am Main, Ingelheim, and Nürnberg). Thus during the 14th–15thcenturies the Aachen Schöffenheard appeals from plaintiffs from as far afield as Maastricht, Herstal, Burtscheid, Stavelot, Horion, Sint-Truiden, Düren, Kaiserswerth, Bergheim, Nimwegen, Büllingen, Süsteren, Roermond, Duisburg, and Moers. In 1460 no less than 177 different courts sent appeals to Aachen. Only Brabantiners were exempted by Charles IV in 1349, and then Charles the Bold simply commanded his Burgundian subjects to cease appealing to Aachen in the later 15th century.

But Aachen developed many administrative courts in addition to the regalian higher and lower courts. The Ratsgerichttook on jurisdiction over capital cases against political enemies of the city or executions other than beheading (e. g. the wheel was a favorite tool for dealing with the uprisings of 1269, 1368, 1401, 1429, and 1467–1468). Lesser cases involving public punishment were also adjudicated, resulting in judgments of fines, destruction of houses, corporal punishment, time in the stocks (cippus), or even banishment. The Bürgermeistergerichtoversaw the execution of judicial commands (or punishment for failures to do so), mostly in cases of disturbing the public peace. The Kurgerichtof some 16–17 judges (burgomasters as well as 9 Christoffelconstabularies and others) preserved public peace through prosecuting cases of cursing, assault and bodily injury, manslaughter in the public streets, and other such breaches of the peace. Punishments ranged from fines to banishment or penitentiary pilgrimages. The Werkmeistergerichtresolved all conflicts emerging within the all-important woolen cloth industry and its guilds, while also maintaining quality standards of each stage of production (carding, fulling, spinning, weaving, and dyeing) and of wage rates. Likewise the Kohlgerichtsettled disputes within the coal production industry that linked the city with the regional Bergleute. Finally the traditional ecclesiastical courts continued to function in their own spiritual jurisdictions, for example the Sendgericht(composed interestingly enough of not only the archpriest or city pastor [Stadtpfarrer] but also of 7 Schöffen, one incumbent and one emeritus burgomaster, two distinguished administrators of the Schöffencourt, and four rectors of parish churches) met twice a year to hear disputes regarding marriage contracts and vows, wills, fornication and adultery, usury, magic, disobedience toward ecclesiastical rules, and gendered cases of women swearing with each other, women disparaging a man, or violence between women or between men and women. Such were considered the disordering behaviors of Aachen citizens, and they were punished by public humiliations with stocks, ladder standing or stone carrying, or even forced penitentiary pilgrimages. Of course all these could be avoided by repentance and payment of a fine (for those who could afford such a remedy).

Chapter Three shifts the book’s focus from constitutional to socio-economic history, thereby providing readers with the social structures of demography, class, and civic charity. Population growth driven by in-migration begun in the eleventh century led to a city wall with no less than eight gates by 1171, which was then augmented by a second defensive wall enclosing the suburbs in the second half of the thirteenth century. The disastrous years 1314–1370 drove down the town’s population through regular waves of famine, plague, and a declining birthrate. Evidence of an intensive eastward out-migration during this half-century appears in the toponymic »of Aachen«throughout German towns from the Baltic to Bohemia, Hungary, Prague, and Olmütz. Indeed many artisans and merchants involved in the cloth industry and wine trade simply relocated to nearby Cologne, especially in the late fourteenth century, while Limburg, Brabant, Florence, and Rome also proved to be attractive destinations for emigrants. In-migration improved only slightly after the famine period 1428–1430, when civic officials sought to stimulate demographic expansion by reducing the citizenship fee. Surviving evidence of housing structures in Aachen suggest a population of about 15 000 in the year 1460, which would place the imperial coronation town in the middling rank with Maastricht, Trier, Frankfurt am Main, Regensburg, and Basel but well behind the first-tier cities of Cologne, Lübeck, Magdeburg, Strasbourg, or Augsburg. Still, if the standard definition of a German Großstadt is one with at least 10 000 residents, Aachen makes the grade.

Class distribution of this significant urban population fell along typical lines for the era: a patrician merchant ruling oligarchy which eventually moved from merchant to rentier status and held a monopoly on municipal offices centered around the Schöffen; a lesser non-patrician ruling class of highly capitalized long-distance merchants, skilled artisans (goldsmiths, jewelers, furriers) and legal experts; a middling class of three tiers (1) regional merchants, artisans, and skilled civic officers (scribes, notaries, advocates, doctors, apothecaries), (2) local merchants, shopkeepers, independent artisanal masters, and civic administrators, (3) dependent artisanal masters and guildsmen; and an underclass always at risk amid the vagaries of economic downturns, price rises, food shortages, injuries, diseases, and war: i. e. small traders and grocers, servants, trade and day laborers, unmarried women without means, beggars, the chronically sick or disabled, those of »dishonorable«professions, and outlaws. Aachen contained a similar percentage of people in the underclass as other German towns and cities, some 60–70%, and sadly women comprised the substantial majority of these individuals. And given this level of urban poverty, which only intensified in the 14thand 15th centuries, one is not surprised with the next section of the book on Sozialfürsorgein which Aachen’s hospitals and charitable institutions are considered. Like its much larger neighboring city of Cologne, Aachen not only maintained many types of hospitals and hostels throughout its precincts, but also sustained two city-wide hospitals of importance: the Holy Spirit Hospital and the Melaten leprosarium outside the city walls. And while Melatenfell into desuetude and disrepair by the fifteenth century, support both philanthropic and municipal had built Holy Spirit Hospital’s endowment by then to such an extent that it was one of the major property and rent masters of the city capable of even providing credit to the city council during financial crises. The district hospitals were often founded through patrician philanthropy and sustained by pilgrim donations and governing confraternities. And all hospitals whatever their origins wound up under municipal authority by 1500 simply out of the inability of traditional funding resources to meet the demand by that time. Many hospitals were kept open not unlike American liberal arts colleges – with enough full-pay residents (on prebends) helping to fund the aid given to the financially less privileged residents.

Chapter four provides welcome consideration of Aachen as an economic locale of production and trade, complete with the expected market days, guilds and European export destinations dominated by the woolen cloth and wine industries. Chapters five through seven provide an overview of the Aachener Reichor hinterlands which came under the administrative control of the municipal government over time, the medieval system of baths, and the religious foundations of the region. Chapters eight through ten consider Aachen topographically as a fortified pilgrimage center whose detailed communal life still remains minimally known.

This hefty 536-page volume concludes then with an extensive (43 pages) overview of Aachen’s place in the regional political transformation from 1138–1500. This narrative portion picks up where volume 3:1left off, and contains the thickest description of the city as a political player in the complex and often combative reformation of aristocratic power in the Rhine-Meuse corridor during the later Middle Ages. The reader comes away from this portion with a renewed awareness of just how Aachen’s destiny was shaped by its core identity as the imperial coronation city, alternately threatened by regional counts and dukes yet little defended by distant post-Hohenstaufen monarchs except when a coronation was in order. The city only came into its own as an autonomous patrician entity after 1266 and its municipal offices matured only after the traumas of the first half of the fourteenth century. Constant interventions by the counts and dukes of Jülich, Brabant, and Luxembourg threatened the embryonic autonomy of the patrician elite, and though aristocratic feuds were periodically interrupted by Landfrieden settlements yet they did as much economic as political damage to the city.

Vague hints at internal conflicts between the patrician establishment and the guildsmen over excise taxes and poor financial administration led to uprisings against the city council in 1428, which ultimately led by 1435 to the council’s acceptance of a finance watchdog committee comprised of representatives from the city’s nine districts (Grafschaften). By 1450 yet another urban uprising by the artisans produced (in a similar vein as in Cologne) a new constitution (Gaffelbrief) in which the city council was regulated by a collegium of 66 members representing 11 Gaffeln– 6 artisanal and 6 non-artisanal, which ratified city council elections, elected civic officials, and investigated the council’s finances through mandatory quarterly statements. Within a year this unwieldly number was reduced from 66 to 44, but the collegiumwas then given the additional authority to initiate discussions of current concerns and place their deliberations before the city council. Weavers’ revolts in 1467 and 1477, interspersed with Aachen’s financially devastating participation in the Burgundian Wars against Charles the Bold leave the reader as exhausted as the city itself, which was left to face the heavy burdens of famine, unemployment, inflation, and artisanal rebellions against creative excise taxes to pay for it all. As the year 1500 approaches Aachen residents were battling bad weather and worse harvests, with even a fever epidemic that took thousands of lives in the region from 1479–1481. Such cataclysmic conditions generated few surviving documents and so we know little about the actual economic conditions in Aachen at the end of the fifteenth century, all in all a rather dismal end to a substantial and significant volume.

As we have come to expect from this series, the volume is meticulous in its attention to detail, with abundant color and black & white images, useful maps, expansive footnotes and bibliography, and beautiful binding and cover. The only regret, and this appears to be owing to the nature of the surviving documents, is that readers never actually get to know the residents of medieval Aachen. As in previous volumes, here too we meet historical and constitutional structures, economic and demographic trends, spatial layouts, trade destinations, and military campaigns yet still find the actual urban precincts a ghost town. The copious narrative sections focus overwhelmingly on the regional nobility's wars and their comital and ducal leaders, while we do not meet even the names of Aachen's mayors, city councilmen, or individual members of patrician dynasties or artisanal leadership. Indeed, chapter eight provides a much more thorough narrative history of pilgrims to the city (from eastern Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Bohemia, Slovakia, Moravia, Silesia, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Switzerland and above all Hungary) than of the host city’s inhabitants themselves. Their absence is disappointing, since it was after all they who developed Aachen as an autonomous imperial city, a European pilgrimage and cloth production center, battled alongside the aristocratic armies of the region, and provided the material conditions essential for enabling the periodic coronations and visits of the German monarchs. Given this limitation, however, this volume was a pleasure to read and will serve as an essential partner volume in this well-produced series of medieval urban history.

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PSJ Metadata
Joseph P. Huffman
Von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart, Bd. 3/2: Lebensbereiche 1138 bis 1500
Hohes Mittelalter (1050-1350), Spätes Mittelalter (1350-1500)
Deutschland / Mitteleuropa allgemein
Siedlungs-, Stadt- und Ortsgeschichte
Aachen (4000003-5), Geschichte (4020517-4)
PDF document kraus_huffman.doc.pdf — PDF document, 347 KB
T. R. Kraus (Hg.), Aachen (Joseph Huffman)
In: Francia-Recensio 2016/3 | Mittelalter – Moyen Âge (500–1500) | ISSN: 2425-3510
URL: https://prae.perspectivia.net/publikationen/francia/francia-recensio/2016-3/ma/kraus_huffman
Veröffentlicht am: 20.09.2016 12:19
Zugriff vom: 30.11.2020 02:13
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