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Medieval Sourcebook:
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 Prof. Arkenberg.

This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying, distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source. No permission is granted for commercial use.

© Paul Halsall, October 1998
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