Henry, King of the Romans:
Concerning Serfs Who Flee to the Cities of Alsace, 1224
Henry, King of the Romans, took from the shoulders of his father, the Emperor
Frederick II, some of the burden of government, and tried to prevent by legislation the
flight of serfs to the cities whereby the estates of German nobles were being depopulated.
Provision was made to protect lawful citizens against the unjust claims of lords.
Henry, by the grace of God, King of the Romans and ever Augustus.
We make known to all, both present and future, that (since the question has been
debated between our cities of Alsace, and the nobles and ministerials of the same
province, about those men of theirs who had fled to those cities and who might so flee in
the future) this same question may be settled forever; and, that each side may enjoy its
proper rights, the following decision has been made by us: That if any person pertaining
to any noble or ministerial betake himself to our cities with the idea of staying there,
and his lord wish to reclaim him, the lord ought to be allowed to take him, if he has
seven relatives on the mother's side, who are commonly called nagilmage, who will
swear that he belongs to the lord by right of ownership. But if for any reason the lord be
unable to obtain the relatives or friends, let him obtain two suitable witnesses from the
neighborhood from which the fugitive came, and let him prove that he had that man in his
undisturbed possession by right of ownership before he betook himself to our cities, and
with his witnesses let him take oath on the relics of the saints, and so let his man be
restored to him. We also decree and firmly ordain that all nobles and ministerials, as has
been said, being desirous of obtaining their men, may enter our cities in peace and
security and depart without hurt or injury. At their request a safe-conduct will be
furnished them by the bailiffs and council of our cities. And in order that there might be
enduring evidence of this we have ordered this present charter to be written, and have
confirmed it with our seal.
Given at Basle, December sixteenth, 1224.
From: Monumenta Germaniae Historiae, Legum, L. Weiland, ed., (Hanover,
1896), Sectio IV, Tome II, p. 403; reprinted in Roy C. Cave & Herbert H. Coulson,
eds., A Source Book for Medieval Economic History, (Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing
Co., 1936; reprint ed., New York: Biblo & Tannen, 1965), pp. 278-279.
Scanned by Jerome S. Arkenberg, Cal. State Fullerton. The text has been modernized by
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