Lübeck law
The Lübeck law was the constitution of a municipal form of government developed at Lübeck
The Hanseatic City of Lübeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. It was for several centuries the "capital" of the Hanseatic League and, because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage, is listed by UNESCO as a World...

 in Schleswig-Holstein
Schleswig-Holstein is the northernmost of the sixteen states of Germany, comprising most of the historical duchy of Holstein and the southern part of the former Duchy of Schleswig...

 after it was made a free city
Free Imperial City
In the Holy Roman Empire, a free imperial city was a city formally ruled by the emperor only — as opposed to the majority of cities in the Empire, which were governed by one of the many princes of the Empire, such as dukes or prince-bishops...

 in 1226. The law provides for self-government. It replaced the personal rule of tribal monarchs descending from ancient times or the rule of the regional dukes and kings that had been established by Charlemagne
Charlemagne was King of the Franks from 768 and Emperor of the Romans from 800 to his death in 814. He expanded the Frankish kingdom into an empire that incorporated much of Western and Central Europe. During his reign, he conquered Italy and was crowned by Pope Leo III on 25 December 800...

. The latter held all of his aristocratic vassals personally responsible for the defence, health and welfare of the tribesmen settled on their estates, including the towns. The Lübeck Law in theory made the cities to which it applied independent of royalty.

Lübeck set about spreading its form of government to other cities around the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

. Eventually about 100 adopted a government based on the law. It still serves as a foundation for German town law
German town law
German town law or German municipal concerns concerns town privileges used by many cities, towns, and villages throughout Central and Eastern Europe during the Middle Ages.- Town law in Germany :...

s in many of those cities. Later in the 13th century, cities governed by the Lübeck Law formed into a powerful trade association, the Hanseatic League
Hanseatic League
The Hanseatic League was an economic alliance of trading cities and their merchant guilds that dominated trade along the coast of Northern Europe...

, which amounted to a confederacy with headquarters at Lübeck.

An official Lübeck law transcript was never available or used until the revised edition of 1586 was printed by printer Johann Balhorn, but rather Lübeck was the a leader in German cities giving rights to town citizens and overturning aristocratic
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

 privilege. This was the basis for the Dortmund code
Dortmund is a city in Germany. It is located in the Bundesland of North Rhine-Westphalia, in the Ruhr area. Its population of 585,045 makes it the 7th largest city in Germany and the 34th largest in the European Union....

 in Westphalia
Westphalia is a region in Germany, centred on the cities of Arnsberg, Bielefeld, Dortmund, Minden and Münster.Westphalia is roughly the region between the rivers Rhine and Weser, located north and south of the Ruhr River. No exact definition of borders can be given, because the name "Westphalia"...

, the Goslar code
Goslar is a historic town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is the administrative centre of the district of Goslar and located on the northwestern slopes of the Harz mountain range. The Old Town of Goslar and the Mines of Rammelsberg are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.-Geography:Goslar is situated at the...

 in Saxony
Old Saxony
Old Saxony is the original homeland of the Saxons in the northwest corner of modern Germany and roughly corresponds today with the contemporary Lower Saxony, Westphalia and western Saxony-Anhalt....

 and the Magdeburg rights
Magdeburg rights
Magdeburg Rights or Magdeburg Law were a set of German town laws regulating the degree of internal autonomy within cities and villages granted by a local ruler. Modelled and named after the laws of the German city of Magdeburg and developed during many centuries of the Holy Roman Empire, it was...

 in East-Central
East-Central Europe
East-Central Europe – a term defining the countries located between German-speaking countries and Russia. Those lands are described as situated “between two”: between two worlds, between two stages, between two futures...

 and East European
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

 towns. References to 'German Law' in the Middle Ages mean laws sprung from the Lübeck law at root.

Main principle

The Lübeck law provided that a city should be governed by a Rat (Council), having 20 Ratsherrn (council members). They were not elected by the citizens, but they would appoint a new member on their own from the city's merchant guilds, considering a key of representation of the guilds in the Rat of the city. The period of office was in principle 2 years, but the Rat could ask a Ratsherr to stay in office, which usually happened, so that the election was for life. The Rat then elected up to four Bürgermeister (burgomaster
Burgomaster is the English form of various terms in or derived from Germanic languages for the chief magistrate or chairman of the executive council of a sub-national level of administration...

, mayor) out of its own row, who shared the power of government. The "first burgomaster", usually the eldest of them, acted as a primus inter pares
Primus inter pares
Primus inter pares is Latin phrase describing the most senior person of a group sharing the same rank or office.When not used in reference to a specific title, it may indicate that the person so described is formally equal, but looked upon as an authority of special importance by their peers...

. These rules were in force up to the middle of the 19th century. The burgomasters stayed in office as long as they could, but there are quite a few examples from the Middle Ages in which burgomasters of Hanseatic League cities were sentenced to death for unsuccessful politics.

This model of a city government provided that only the most experienced, influential and personally most successful merchants - and a few lawyers, called Syndics - became member of the Rat. It was also a rule that a father and his son, or brothers, could never be members of the Rat at the same time, so that influential families could not get a larger influence on the city's politics.

Cities with Lübeck law

  • Lübeck
    The Hanseatic City of Lübeck is the second-largest city in Schleswig-Holstein, in northern Germany, and one of the major ports of Germany. It was for several centuries the "capital" of the Hanseatic League and, because of its Brick Gothic architectural heritage, is listed by UNESCO as a World...

  • 1188 - Hamburg
    -History:The first historic name for the city was, according to Claudius Ptolemy's reports, Treva.But the city takes its modern name, Hamburg, from the first permanent building on the site, a castle whose construction was ordered by the Emperor Charlemagne in AD 808...

  • 1218 - Rostock
    Rostock -Early history:In the 11th century Polabian Slavs founded a settlement at the Warnow river called Roztoc ; the name Rostock is derived from that designation. The Danish king Valdemar I set the town aflame in 1161.Afterwards the place was settled by German traders...

  • 1226 - Wittenburg
    Wittenburg is a town in the district Ludwigslust-Parchim in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. Population 5570, area 46.25 km². Wittenburg should not be confused with the much bigger Wittenberg....

  • 1234 - Stralsund
    - Main sights :* The Brick Gothic historic centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.* The heart of the old town is the Old Market Square , with the Gothic Town Hall . Behind the town hall stands the imposing Nikolaikirche , built in 1270-1360...

  • 1236 - Plön
    Plön is the district seat of the Plön district in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, and has about 13,000 inhabitants. It lies right on the shores of Schleswig-Holstein's biggest lake, the Great Plön Lake, as well as on several smaller lakes, touching the town on virtually all sides...

  • 1238 - Itzehoe
    Itzehoe is a town in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.As the capital of the district Steinburg, Itzehoe is located on the Stör, a navigable tributary of the Elbe, 51 km northwest of Hamburg and 24 km north of Glückstadt...

  • 1242 - Kiel
    Kiel is the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of 238,049 .Kiel is approximately north of Hamburg. Due to its geographic location in the north of Germany, the southeast of the Jutland peninsula, and the southwestern shore of the...

  • 1243 - Tondern
  • 1246 - Elbing (Elbląg
    Elbląg is a city in northern Poland with 127,892 inhabitants . It is the capital of Elbląg County and has been assigned to the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship since 1999. Before then it was the capital of Elbląg Voivodeship and a county seat in Gdańsk Voivodeship...

  • 1248 - Reval (Tallinn
    Tallinn is the capital and largest city of Estonia. It occupies an area of with a population of 414,940. It is situated on the northern coast of the country, on the banks of the Gulf of Finland, south of Helsinki, east of Stockholm and west of Saint Petersburg. Tallinn's Old Town is in the list...

  • 1250 - Greifswald
    Greifswald , officially, the University and Hanseatic City of Greifswald is a town in northeastern Germany. It is situated in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, at an equal distance of about from Germany's two largest cities, Berlin and Hamburg. The town borders the Baltic Sea, and is crossed...

  • 1253 - Damgarten
    Ribnitz-Damgarten is a town in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is situated at the Ribnitzer See . Ribnitz-Damgarten is the largest town of the district Vorpommern-Rügen, but not its capital.-Geography:...

  • 1254 or 1258 - Memel (Klaipėda
    Klaipėda is a city in Lithuania situated at the mouth of the Nemunas River where it flows into the Baltic Sea. It is the third largest city in Lithuania and the capital of Klaipėda County....

  • 1255 - Kolberg (Kołobrzeg)
  • 1260 - Dirschau (Tczew
    Tczew is a town on the Vistula River in Eastern Pomerania, Kociewie, northern Poland with 60,279 inhabitants . It is an important railway junction with a classification yard dating to the Prussian Eastern Railway...

  • before 1263 - Gdańsk (Danzig)
    Gdańsk is a Polish city on the Baltic coast, at the centre of the country's fourth-largest metropolitan area.The city lies on the southern edge of Gdańsk Bay , in a conurbation with the city of Gdynia, spa town of Sopot, and suburban communities, which together form a metropolitan area called the...

    , the name used there was e.g. Danceke
  • 1282 - Wolgast
    Wolgast is a town in the district of Vorpommern-Greifswald, in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is situated on the bank of the river Peenestrom, vis-a-vis the island of Usedom that can be accessed by road and railway via a bascule bridge...

  • 1282 - Wilster
    -History:Wilster was granted town rights under Lübeck law in 1282, and thereby counts itself among Schleswig-Holstein's oldest towns. Wilster forms the centre of the Wilstermarsch, a major cattle raising area in Germany....

  • 1284 - Braunsberg (Braniewo
    Braniewo is a town in northeastern Poland, in the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship, with a population of 18,068 . It is the capital of Braniewo County...

  • 1302 - Wesenberg (Rakvere
    Rakvere is a town in northern Estonia and the county seat of Lääne-Viru County, 20 km south of the Gulf of Finland.-History:The earliest signs of human settlement dating back to the 3rd-5th centuries AD have been found on the present theatre hill. Probably to protect that settlement, a wooden...

  • 1310 - Stolp (Słupsk)
  • 1310 - Neustettin (Szczecinek
    Szczecinek [] is a city in Middle Pomerania, northwestern Poland with some 39,777 inhabitants . Previously in Koszalin Voivodeship , it has been the capital of Szczecinek County in the West Pomeranian Voivodeship since 1999...

  • 1312 - Rügenwalde (Darłowo)
  • 1313 - Pollnow (Polanów
    Polanów is a town in Poland, in West Pomeranian Voivodeship, in Koszalin County. It has 3,001 inhabitants .- Points of interest :* Gołogóra transmitter, a facility for FM-/TV-broadcasting with 2 guyed masts, which are 271 respectively 115 metres tall-External links:* *...

  • 1317 - Schlawe (Sławno)
  • 1343 - Zanow (Sianów
    Sianów is a town in Poland, in West Pomeranian Voivodeship, in Koszalin County. It has 6,520 inhabitants .-External links:**...

  • 1345 - Narva
    Narva is the third largest city in Estonia. It is located at the eastern extreme point of Estonia, by the Russian border, on the Narva River which drains Lake Peipus.-Early history:...

  • 1613 - Bergen auf Rügen
    Bergen auf Rügen
    Bergen auf Rügen is the capital of the former district of Rügen in the middle of the island of Rügen in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. Since 1 January 2005, Bergen has moreover been the administrative seat of the Amt of Bergen auf Rügen, which with a population of over 23,000 is...

  • Hapsal (Haapsalu
    Haapsalu is a seaside resort town located on the west coast of Estonia. It's the administrative centre of Lääne County and has a population of 11,618 ....

  • Velikiy Novgorod
  • Wismar
    Wismar , is a small port and Hanseatic League town in northern Germany on the Baltic Sea, in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern,about 45 km due east of Lübeck, and 30 km due north of Schwerin. Its natural harbour, located in the Bay of Wismar is well-protected by a promontory. The...

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