from "Ritterliche Fehden gegen Hamburg im Mittelalter"
by Erich von Lehe

The 14th-century era of arms-noise and breakages saw arms exploitation unleashed by feuding, unlike the centuries-long pacification of centuries since the Reformation, which was strengthened by sovereign power, stricter punishments, and laws. The Holstein County was still in the 14th century in the formation of its state-being; promoted by the territorial divisions of the counts, the economically flourishing Hanseatic cities gained more and more power. On the other hand, economic development in the countryside was not favorable. Through mergers, castle construction and feuds, where the knights were often on the side of the cities, the nobility sought to prevail against the ruling power and has in the education of the aristocratic courts, the own jurisdiction before the Lehnsmanngericht and the merger of the Holstein and Schleswig Knighthood to a unity reached a clear formation of the knightly estate in its leading position in the state and the unity of the country.

Thanks to the efficiency of the Counts of Burgundy, he remained firmly attached to the feudal lord - a dissolution of the county in many small territories as in areas of southwest Germany has not occurred. But that is only the result of the fighting and feuds of the first half of the 14th century.

Above all for these political reasons, the Count had to lay waste to the removal of knightly castles, which were usually built only by the most powerful families with large estates. Thus, the sovereign of Scharpenberg, the Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg, together with the Holstein counts was involved in the conquest of Linau and other knight castles. This political side of the break of chivalric castles has hardly been considered so far compared to the previous view of the "robber castles".

At Linau is the participation of the counts, who had previously repeatedly fought against the Scharpenbergs, founded once in the close family relationships to the Holstein nobility and on the other hand near the mighty castle to their official residence in Trittau. Attacks on the part of the castle inhabitants, which could be interpreted as a violation of the peace of the land, then easily gave the pretext for a feud. Of the two cities of Lübeck and Hamburg, the former, as a politically leading one, has been much more involved in bigger ventures against knight castles than Hamburg. The feuds of Hamburg reached in the 1340s to 1360s, when the city was even with the Hamburg chapter of the cathedral in the most violent litigation, both in number and importance after the first climax.

The forms in which the open, right feud took place were at that time long established and firm, also determined by imperial law, in particular the Mainzer Landfrieden of 1235. The beginning of hostile actions had to be preceded by "dissenting", announcing peace or rejecting. The cancellation was made by the feud letter. The content is kept short throughout and, apart from the name of the person who refuses or rejects it, usually indicates only for whose sake or for what reason the feud is opened. The feudal letter is usually provided with the seal of the refusal. Three days after the delivery of the feud letter, the weapons had to rest; only on the fourth could enemy actions begin. In the Golden Bull of 1356 these provisions had been tightened even further. Only the eternal land peace of 1495 abolished all existing feuds and forbade future ones. Since then, every fading was wrong.

According to the mentioned Mainzer Land Peace Law of 1235, the prerequisite of any genuine, permitted feud was a previous injury and the failed attempt to obtain justice from the courts by means of a lawsuit. Only if the complaint was impracticable, the refusal could take place. The difficulty was e.g. in lawsuits against the ruler in that the ruler at the same time held the jurisdiction. Also with the competence of the court there were problems, since the knights usually did not want to submit to the sayings of urban courts. If the claim was directed against the city, an arbitration court had to be agreed, especially since non-Holstein knights did not need to recognize a count's court. For example, feuds were often a substitute for legal assistance and were regarded as such.

If the feud was a result of the imperfect judicial constitution of the Reich, they were soon regarded as an evil, albeit a necessary evil. Thus, through its legislation, the Reich has tried to limit the feuds and given them fixed, prescribed forms. In his privilege of October 14, 1359, Emperor Charles IV granted the city of Hamburg protection and self-help rights against the street robbery, in particular against the attack on peasants in agricultural work. In addition, the Church has been effective in restricting the feud with its means of punishment - spell and interdict - and the declaration of free feasts and Sundays, of ecclesial places and persons.

Hamburg committed itself to the regular supervision over the streets before the city gates and in the country in 1351 a Ausreitervogt. In addition to the employment allowance of 40 marks a year and other purchases of clothing, rent and grain in the event of a wound in the city service, he was promised a life pension. He was under the charge of a number of mounted servants, often of knightly origin. They were designed primarily for protection against common hijackers who, if caught red-handed, were killed immediately. In addition, certain knights or miners were taken to municipal service. In Lübeck there is a list of horse t hieves, street robbers and bush robbers caught in the 13th century by this mounted rural gendarmerie. It turns out that among them was also a smaller number of knightly robbers, right robber barons, while most of them are common thieves and robbers of non-terrestrial origin, who were mostly killed immediately after the crime. Against obvious robbers, which could be recognized, but could not be caught red-handed, was by court order the ostracism or consolidation, i. pronounced the state referral.

An interruption of the many years dragging fiasco could take place through the agreement of a temporary truce. Thus, at the request of Hamburg in the about 1403-1408 lasting feud between the city and the miners Tymme and Bruneke of Alverslohe by the mediation of Count Henry III. Holstein repeated a truce for a certain time or until the count indicated the end 8 days before agreed. The conclusion of the feud could be achieved through an atonement or peace agreement. Compensation for the damage was often agreed in these contracts. The feuds had a different outcome - and that was common in Hamburg - where there had been killings or prisoners. Prisoners were usually only released on payment of ransom, which their relatives had to vouch for. Moreover, they were only released for the benefit of the "original feud". "Orveide" means the cessation of hostility and includes the promise in the not wanting to avenge the captivity, even later not wanting to again take up a feud against the former opponent or to participate in it.

If you ask about the reasons for the feuds, you will not receive much information from the documents. Killing or harming relatives must be considered as a common cause. In the 15th century, non-free, independent people of the knights, who had moved to the city without the landowner's permission, were reclaimed. Also from service contracts or damage by bailiffs or servants resulted in multiple opportunities for feud options.

In the documents about the feud, the German knighthood, as the defensive, soldierly part of the people, challenges us with its straight, "knightly" mode of fighting, its feebleness, and the emphasis on its profession. Almost every feud letter emphasizes that honor is one of the high values ??of life. To be sure, in this class there were also acting and hard-hitting, hard-working fellows, who were rightly called "robber knights". Also has been p racticed by some castles from temporary robbery and robbery, extortion and personal injury wantonly and unlawfully. It probably could not have been any different in a time of intense political conflict in the formation of territories. To see in it however the characteristic of the whole knightly state and its members as robber knights par excellence, to call the castles generally robbery castles, means the actual meaning and task of the medieval chivalry, the military protection of the state outwardly and the administration of the country inside to mistake It also means not knowing anything about permissible feudalism, its preparation, its legal forms, and the views that speak of them.