Law and Justice in the Middle Ages

The barbarous peoples who settled in the territory of the former Roman Empire preserved their legal customs. They were transmitted orally, from generation to generation, and changed very slowly. With the emergence of barbarous states, it became necessary to fix their customs in writing. This was prompted by the immediate neighborhood with the Romans, who knew the letter and had written laws. Therefore, in the V-IX centuries. In the barbarian kingdoms appeared collections of laws that regulated the punishment for the relevant violations or crimes.

In the domestic science they are called “truths”, like “Russian Truth”. The most famous “Burgundy Truth”, “Salic Truth”, “Saxon Truth”. It is interesting that, according to some “barbaric truths”, the conquered Roman population was in an unequal position. For example, for the killing of a free franc, “Salic Pravda” defined a fine of 200 solidi, and for

the murder of a Roman landowner, 100 solidities.

From the annexes and amendments to the “truths”, royal legislation gradually evolved with the most important component – the capitulations of the Frankish kings. In the VI. but the order of the Byzantine emperor Justinian was systematized Roman law. These were the laws of the emperors of the II – beginning of the 6th centuries, the new laws of Justinian himself, the statement of the most authoritative antique lawyers, and also a short textbook on the law. All these parts compiled a multivolume collection, named in the XII century. was called the “Civil Law Code”. In the same XII century. began to form and “Code of ecclesiastical law.”

Already in the XIII century. There are traces of the creation of collections of feudal law, which would operate in certain regions of Western Europe. The most famous among them is the “Saxon Mirror”, which generalized the customary law of Saxony. It became a model for the compilation of legal books not only in Germany, but also in other European countries.

For the

Middle Ages, it is characteristic that there was no single and equal justice for all. The chief judge was usually the king. But on the ground judicial functions were often carried out by his commissioners. For example, in the Frankish state at the court sessions presided over graphs. Every social class had its own courts. The affairs of clergymen were examined in church courts. Conflicts and disputes between the townspeople were decided by the city tribunal. Dependent peasants were subject to the seignior’s trial. The fate of a noble vassal had the right to be decided only by the court, where the assessors were equal to him in status.

The penal system of the Middle Ages was very cruel. Its basis was corporal punishment, which led to injuries. Even those sentenced to be executed often were tortured and tortured.

Attitude to the suspect during the court session and even the execution of the sentence depended on his status err. The venerable knight or citizen was trusted and given the opportunity to bring an oath of purification to protect err charges. While violations of common people were taken for granted. Ordinary people were found guilty and almost immediately executed, usually through hanging or spinning. The nobility was executed by chopping off the head. The executioners were executed by professional executioners.

If it was difficult to establish the guilt, then the law of God’s judgment came into force. Opponents were assigned fights. It was believed that the “heavenly forces” would ensure victory to the innocent, and the offender would be punished. If accused of a woman, any knight could intercede for her. At the heart of God’s judgment were laid the religious notion that truth can be established only through the intervention of God.

In the early Middle Ages, one of the varieties of God’s judgment was the Ordalys test of fire, water, and the use of other tortures to establish guilt. During the fire test, the suspect was supposed to carry his naked iron with red-hot iron or walk around with his blindfold on hot coal barefoot. If he sustained all these tests, did not receive any special injuries or received wounds healed within three days, it was justified. Another way of establishing the truth was to immerse your hand in boiling water. For the servants of the church, a test was dedicated to the consecrated bread. It was believed that the guilty must suffocate them. By the way, the señor could easily avoid testing with iron or water, sending instead of himself one of the servants.

X century. From the Law on Orders

And if the horde is carried out by water, then let this water be boiling, besides, the boiler must be iron or copper, lead or clay.

And if the charge is simple, then the hand to remove the stone must be immersed in boiling water to the wrist. And if the charge is triple, then up to the elbow. And the accused is allowed to drink the consecrated water, then let him water her hand, which he must bear the ordeal, and so let him begin the test. And his hand should be wrapped, and on the third day it was examined to see if the hand was burned, that is, whether the suspect is guilty or not.

In the XIII century. God’s judgment and orders were abolished. At that time in some countries of Europe the jury trial was already active: 12 free persons under oath decided the fate of the defendant on the basis of the evidence provided to him.

In the process of judicial practice, gradually formed a royal, that is, a common law. It ousted the local right of seignorial courts.

In general, we can say that the judicial system of medieval Europe was imperfect and far from the norms of Christian morality.

During the reign of King Charles V of Valois in 1371, a unique “duel of justice” took place on the island of Notre Dame. The legend tells that the knight Aubrey de Mondidier had a Hercules dog of the Briard breed. The dog was with the master, when the knight Mecker out of envy killed Mondidier and buried the body in the forest. The dog recognized the killer and pursued him. King Charles, who also allegedly had Briards, interested in the strange behavior of the dog, ordered a “duel of justice” between Mecker and Hercules – and the dog won. The murderer pleaded guilty and was executed. In the church of Mondidier, a shield with the image of a faithful dog was installed.

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Law and Justice in the Middle Ages