The "Burgenbauregal": A Specter in Historical and Archaeological Research on Castles

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There is no evidence in the written sources for the existence of a royal prerogative of castle building between the 9th and the 13th centuries. There was no privilege that could have been delegated first to the counts, then to the Dukes. Castles only become a major case of jurisdiction when disturbing the local peace and order.
In the archaeological record however, there is a sheer unmanageable crowd of minor private castles that appear between the 9th and 13th centuries without any royal interference or any reference to an older law trying to prevent a minor lord from building his castle.
There is a close relationship between castles and conflicts, this relationship is much more important than an assumed royal prerogative that eroded through the centuries. We can assume that, during the Middle Ages, most people who were able to afford it, could build a castle. Obviously, the construction relied on two factors, the military possibilities of the builder on the one side and the resistance of his opponents on the other side.

The assumed "Burgenbauregal" as a royal prerogative of castle building, evidently did never exist. Of course, the control on castle building occasionally was claimed by the king or a prince – in each case driven by very clear political and selfish reasons. Building a castle is a potential way into a conflict, this potential is growing with its military relevance. The construction of major fortifications ended up with open war – as in the case of Harzburg Castle – or with the loss of its military relevance. This last case might be a long process, military potential depends also on the enemy. With the increased use of powder artillery and fire arms the importance of smaller castles declined, though they could still provide shelter from rebelling peasants. The end of the castle period is also marked by the interpretation of ruins as “dynastic” castles, as the former seat of a family. Now, an old deceasing castle could get a new function as a genealogical landmark on the top of a hill or as a point de vue in the park of a manor house. While they may have some threatening function from a historical or archaeological point of view, they evidently have no legal background in a "royal law". Therefore, the royal prerogative of castle building is no longer a useful base for discussing the history of castle building in the Regnum Teutonicum. It might have been a product of a historiography, which regarded the late Carolingian Era as a period of decline after Charlemagne's radiant Empire. It is a spectre, a phantom of the research: often sought, never seen.

TitelCastles as European Phenomena : Towards an international approach to medieval castles in Europe
RedaktørerStefan Magnussen, Daniel Kossack
Antal sider15
ForlagPeter Lang
AnsøgerChristian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
ISBN (trykt)978-3-631-67729-2
ISBN (Elektronisk)978-3-653-07274-7
StatusUdgivet - 2018
BegivenhedWorkshop "Castles as European Phenomena" - Christian-Albrecht-University, Kiel, Kiel, Tyskland
Varighed: 10 feb. 201612 feb. 2016


WorkshopWorkshop "Castles as European Phenomena"
LokationChristian-Albrecht-University, Kiel
SerietitelKieler Werkstücke - Reihe A: Beiträge zur schleswig-holsteinischen und skandinavischen Geschichte

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