The struggle of cities for self-government. Communal movement

Since medieval cities were formed on the land of secular and spiritual feudal lords, they accordingly submitted to them. The feudal lords were interested in this, because the craft and trade gave a lot of income.

However, the desire of the feudal lords to pull out of the city as much money as possible aroused discontent on the part of the townspeople, which took the form of a real war between cities and lords. In Western Europe, this confrontation lasted in the X-XIII centuries. and was called the Communal movement. There are two main stages in it. The first symbolizes the struggle of the townspeople for liberation from the most severe forms of feudal dependence, the reduction of taxes and trade privileges. The second testifies to the desire to obtain self-government rights. Often, the townspeople managed to pay off the senor by considerable means. Such cities received for money a special charter, the so-called charter, which listed all the freedoms and privileges granted to the


XII century. From the Charter of the City of Saint-Omer

I, Wilhelm, by the grace of God of the Count of Flanders, not wishing to resist the petition of the townspeople of Saint-Omer… I give them for all eternity and I order that the following rights and customs remain unshakable:

1. That I provided them peace… supported them and protected them as their people, without any secret thought…

4. They will have to protect me and my land…

8. All those who now live and will live in the walls of Saint-Omer, I exempt from the poll tax and payments to the Vogt.

10. I order that their commune continue to exist, and I will not allow anyone to dissolve it, and I also give them all kinds of rights and justice.

However, in most cases, the townspeople had to win their freedom in a protracted armed struggle. Quite a few cities as a result of such a struggle became Communes. This meant that the supreme governing body was the city council, that is, the magistrate, whose members were elected by the townspeople. In England and France, the head of the council was

called the Mayor, and in Germany – the Burgermeister. The commune cities had their own court, military militia, independently disposed of finances and established taxes. Residents of such cities paid the seigneur a relatively low money rent, and in case of war, they sent him a small military detachment. But, having obtained independence, commune cities themselves began to play the role of a collective landowner of the peasants of the suburbs.

An important achievement of the communal movement was that the overwhelming majority of the townspeople still lost their personal dependence on the seignior. The peasant, who fled to the city and lived a year and a day, also became free. “City air makes a person free” – repeats the medieval German proverb. In the city law of Bremen it was written: “If someone, man or woman, lives a year and a day in Bremen within the city limits, and if after this time someone wants to appeal his freedom, then let him be allowed to him to prove their freedom with reference to the specified term. “

As is known, all city dwellers rose to fight the lords. However, in the event of victory, the benefit was given to the urban elite, the so-called Patrician. It consisted of the most prosperous urban families of merchants, interest-holders, wealthy land – and homeowners. The patrician controlled the magistrate, the court, the army, elected offices, in fact was the absolute master of the city. The lowest level of urban life was occupied by the Plebeans – the poorest townspeople, porters, laborers, day laborers, beggars. A step between the patricians and the plebeians was confidently occupied by the Burghers – an average stratum of the urban population, mainly traders and artisans.

It should be noted that at first all the inhabitants of the city were called the word “burgher”. Already in the XII-XIII centuries. the word “burgher” was used to sleep only with respect to full-fledged townspeople, to which the lower classes, who were excluded from city government, did not belong. Subsequently, this concept takes on a broader meaning: the burghers begin to call the rich and wealthy inhabitants of the city.

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The struggle of cities for self-government. Communal movement