Last updated

The Burgfrieden or Burgfriede [1] was a German medieval term that referred to imposition of a state of truce within the jurisdiction of a castle, and sometimes its estate, under which feuds, i.e. conflicts between private individuals were forbidden under threat of the imperial ban.

A feud, referred to in more extreme cases as a blood feud, vendetta, faida, beef, clan war, gang war, or private war, is a long-running argument or fight, often between social groups of people, especially families or clans. Feuds begin because one party perceives itself to have been attacked, insulted or wronged by another. Intense feelings of resentment trigger the initial retribution, which causes the other party to feel equally aggrieved and vengeful. The dispute is subsequently fuelled by a long-running cycle of retaliatory violence. This continual cycle of provocation and retaliation makes it extremely difficult to end the feud peacefully. Feuds frequently involve the original parties' family members or associates, can last for generations, and may result in extreme acts of violence. They can be interpreted as an extreme outgrowth of social relations based in family honor.

The imperial ban was a form of outlawry in the Holy Roman Empire. At different times, it could be declared by the Holy Roman Emperor, by the Imperial Diet, or by courts like the League of the Holy Court (Vehmgericht) or the Reichskammergericht.


Middle Ages

The lord of the castle could also grant asylum in this way and place people under his protection, but also force his jurisdiction on people. If several parties held joint possession of a castle, being considered joint lords, so-called Burgfrieden agreements were signed, containing far-reaching rules for living together in the castle.

Right of asylum

The right of asylum is an ancient juridical concept, under which a person persecuted by one's own country may be protected by another sovereign authority, such as another country or church official, who in medieval times could offer sanctuary. This right was recognized by the Egyptians, the Greeks, and the Hebrews, from whom it was adopted into Western tradition. René Descartes fled to the Netherlands, Voltaire to England, and Thomas Hobbes to France, because each state offered protection to persecuted foreigners.

The granting of Burgfrieden, especially in the Middle Ages, could not be ignored. When visiting other castles, including those of one's enemy, a feud could not be pursued, because the Burgfrieden also applied to adversaries whilst within the castle grounds. The Burgfrieden could be terminated by a special feud letter (Fehdebrief), for example, in order to be able to besiege the castle legally.

Middle Ages Period of European history from the 5th through the 15th centuries

In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the Renaissance and the Age of Discovery. The Middle Ages is the middle period of the three traditional divisions of Western history: classical antiquity, the medieval period, and the modern period. The medieval period is itself subdivided into the Early, High, and Late Middle Ages.

A feud letter was a document in which a feud was announced – usually with few words - in medieval Europe. The letter had to be issued three days in advance in order to be legally valid.

The Burgfrieden could apply to the entire estate belonging to the castle, or, for example, in Ganerbenburgs , where it was intended primarily to govern relationships between the co-heirs of the castle, it might just apply to the area of the inner courtyard. If there was no natural demarcation, the area could be marked out by appropriate signs, such as so-called Burgfrieden stones.

A Ganerbenburg is a castle occupied and managed by several families or family lines at the same time. These families shared common areas of the castle including the courtyard, well and chapel whilst maintaining their own private living quarters. They occurred primarily in medieval Germany.

See also

War Organised and prolonged violent conflict between states

War is a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies and informal paramilitary groups, such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. Warfare refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant suffering and casualties.

Apage is an Ancient Greek word and means:


A Landfrieden or Landfriede was, under medieval law of the Holy Roman Empire, a contractual waiver by rulers of specified territories of the use of force to assert their own legal claims. This especially affected the right of feuding.


International Standard Book Number Unique numeric book identifier

The International Standard Book Number (ISBN) is a numeric commercial book identifier which is intended to be unique. Publishers purchase ISBNs from an affiliate of the International ISBN Agency.

Related Research Articles

Imperial Reform

Imperial Reform is the name given to repeated attempts in the 15th and 16th centuries to adapt the structure and the constitutional order (Verfassungsordnung) of the Holy Roman Empire to the requirements of the early modern state and to give it a unified government under either the Imperial Estates or the emperor's supremacy.

Spirit of 1914

The Spirit of 1914 was the alleged jubilation in Germany at the outbreak of World War I. Many individuals remembered that euphoria erupted on 4 August 1914 after all the political parties in the Reichstag, including the previously antimilitarist Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), supported the war credits in a unanimous vote, later referred to as the Burgfrieden. Many, particularly those in the middle class, believed Germany had ended its decades of bitter domestic political conflict. The string of military victories in the following weeks, which demonstrated what Germany could accomplish when unified and suggested that the war would be short, reinforced the ebullience. Many on the political right accordingly believed, and continued to believe into the Nazi era, that these first weeks of the war were Germany's finest hour, the German equivalent to 1789 in France. Until the 1990s, most historians took the memory of the Spirit of 1914 at face value and claimed that the enthusiasm in August 1914 was universal.


The term Kaiserpfalz or Königspfalz refers to a number of castles and palaces across the Holy Roman Empire that served as temporary, secondary seats of power for the Holy Roman Emperor in the Early and High Middle Ages. The term was also used more rarely for a bishop who, as a territorial lord (Landesherr), had to provide the king and his entourage with board and lodging, a duty referred to as Gastungspflicht.

Treaty of Templin

The Treaty of Templin was concluded on 24/25 November 1317, ending a war between the Margraviate of Brandenburg and Denmark, the latter leading a North German alliance. During this war, Brandenburgian margrave Waldemar and his troops were decisively defeated in the 1316 Battle of Gransee, fought at Schulzendorf between Rheinsberg and Gransee. After the battle, Brandenburg was forced to negotiate a truce. The treaty of Templin was signed a year later by Danish king Erich VI Menved, his ally duke Henry II of Mecklenburg, and Waldemar.


Burgfriedenspolitik —literally "castle peace politics" but more accurately a political policy of "party truce" — is a German term used for the political truce the Social Democratic Party of Germany and the other political parties agreed to during World War I. The trade unions refrained from striking, the SPD voted for war credits in the Reichstag and the parties agreed not to criticize the government and its war. There were several reasons for the Burgfrieden politics: the Social Democrats believed it was their patriotic duty to support the government in war; they were afraid of government repression should they protest against the war; they feared living under an autocratic Russian Czar more than the German constitutional monarchy and its Kaiser; and they hoped to achieve political reforms after the war, including the abrogation of the inequitable three-class voting system, by cooperating with the government.

Principality of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel principality

The Principality of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel was a subdivision of the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg, whose history was characterised by numerous divisions and reunifications. Various dynastic lines of the House of Welf ruled Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. As a result of the Congress of Vienna, its successor state, the Duchy of Brunswick, was created in 1815.

The Dohna Feud was a 14th-century dispute between the burgraves of Dohna, who resided in the Eastern Ore Mountains of Central Europe, on the one hand and Saxon nobleman, John of Körbitz and the Meißen Margrave William I on the other. The feud lasted from 1385 to 1402.

A Ganerbschaft, according to old German inheritance law, was a joint family estate, mainly land, over which the co-heirs (Ganerben) only had rights in common. In modern German legal parlance it corresponds to a "community of joint ownership".

Lindheim Castle castle

Lindheim Castle is a former medieval castle in Lindheim, in the municipality of Altenstadt, Wetteraukreis county, in the German state of Hesse. In the Middle Agess the castle became a large joint inheritance or Ganerbschaft of lesser noble families, who were an important local power in the eastern Wetterau. In 1697, stately home, Schloss Lindheim, was built. Only a few remnants of both buildings have survived today.

Steckelberg Castle

Steckelberg Castle is a ruined hill castle near Ramholz, in the borough of the East Hessian town of Schlüchtern in Germany.

An unofficial collaborator or IM or, euphemistically, informal collaborator was an informant in the German Democratic Republic who delivered private information to the Ministry for State Security. At the end of the East German government, there was a network of around 189,000 informants, working at every level of society.

Soest Feud

The Soest Feud, or Feud of Soest, was a feud that took place from 1444 to 1449 in which the town of Soest claimed its freedom from Archbishop Dietrich of Cologne (1414–1463), who tried to restore his rule. The town of Soest opposed this attempt on 5 June 1444 by accepting a new suzerain, John I, the Duke of Cleves-Mark, who guaranteed the town its old rights as well as new ones. As a result Emperor Frederick III imposed the imperial ban on the town. The victory of the town meant that Soest had de facto more freedom than a free imperial city until it was annexed by Prussia, but at the same time it had to forfeit its economic power because it was now an enclave within Cologne's territory.

Thurant Castle castle

The ruins of Thurant Castle stand on a wide hill spur made from slate above the villages of Alken on the Moselle in Germany. The castle is located within the county of Mayen-Koblenz in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate) and belongs to the spur castle type. Next to the castle which stands on a steep shoulder of the valley are vine gardens on the sunny side.

Schauenburg Castle (Oberkirch) castle in Oberkirch, Germany

Schauenburg Castle is a ruined hilltop castle located in Oberkirch, Germany, atop a 367-metre-high (1,204 ft) (NN) hill spur overlooking the Rench river valley above the town of Gaisbach, Baden-Württemberg. The castle was built by Duke Berthold II of Zähringen.

Eltz Feud

The Eltz Feud was a 14th-century feud that arose between rulers of the Trier region on the Moselle and certain members of the knightly class who were acting independently and failing to support their sovereign princes. It came about as a result of attempts in 1331 by the Archbishop of Trier and Elector Baldwin of Luxembourg to re-incorporate the imperial ministeriales or knights of the castles of Ehrenburg, Eltz, Schöneck and Waldeck as vassals into the administrative district of Trier and to subordinate them to a unified, sovereign state administrative structure. Their distance from the power of the imperial government and a weak predecessor of Archbishop Baldwin had allowed the knights to acquire autonomy and rights supposedly under the law of custom, even though they were already vassals and fief holders of the Archbishop.

Franconian War

The Franconian War broke out in 1523 when the Swabian League attacked several robber baron castles in Franconia, whose nobles were supporters of Hans Thomas of Absberg in the Absberg Feud.

Wichsenstein Castle rock castle

Wichsenstein Castle was a hill castle, once owned by noblemen, on a steep and prominent rock reef (Felsriff) outcrop above the church village of Wichsenstein in the Upper Franconian county of Forchheim in Bavaria, Germany. The castle has been completely demolished and there are no visible remains. The castle rock is now just used as a viewing point.

Thüngfelderstein Castle

The ruins of Thüngfelderstein Castle, also called Eberhardstein Castle, are the burgstall of a demolished hill castle on a block of rock near Morschreuth in the south German state of Bavaria. The site lies within the market municipality of Gößweinstein in the county of Forchheim.


  1. c.f. Burgfriede at Duden online.