The Reichskammergericht or Imperial Chamber Court was created under Maximilian I. in the course of the Imperial Reform and establishment of the "Perpetual Peace" in 1495 as the highest court of the Holy Roman Empire German Nation. The Court's task was to develop a regulated procedure for the settlement of disputes by judicial means rather than by feud, force or ransom and thus to steer legal disputes onto a peaceful track. After holding court in various south and southwest German cities, the Court had its seat in Speyer from 1527 until that city's destruction in 1689. Thereafter the Court moved its seat to Wetzlar, where it remained until the end of the Old Empire in1806. Over the course of the 19th century the significance of the Court was largely forgotten. This has changed significantly, however, since the 1960s.
In 1985 interested parties from the judiciary, the scholarly community and local politics founded the Society for Imperial Chamber Court Research (Gesellschaft für Reichskammergerichtsforschung e.V.) in Wetzlar, which set itself the task of establishing a museum and a research center. The work of the Society is supported by a scholarly council.
A mere two years later, in 1987, it was possible to open the museum, which is housed in a three-story Chamber palace built by Franz von Papius. The building is very well suited for museum presentations and, as a specialized historical musuem, draws on the considerable wealth of its own collections and on long-term loans. Using original pictures, furniture, sculpture and contemporary printed works as well as graphic depictions and text commentary, the museum presents not only the Court's development, mode of operation, difficulties and obstacles but also its accomplishments and influence throughout the full span of its existence. The Court's role in cooperation with other Imperial organs and its significance for the development of the Imperial literature as well as for the social and military history of the Empire are also presented. A slide show providing a general introduction to the Court is available in several languages.
The research center is located in the same building. A database of procedural files available for more than 80,000 cases is in the process of being developed. The database will make possible for the first time a thorough study of the foundation of the Court's work and the history of the reception of Imperial Chamber Court jurisprudence. Methodologically the database is based on a systematic evaluation of targeted test samples from the file collections of the 17th and 18th centuries. Another research focus is the court personnel, especially the lawyers. In addition, an historical photographic archive dealing with law and the Court, with preferred emphasis on the period of the Imperial Chamber Court, will be acquired and developed. The archive should serve to help visualize and document specifics of legal history. The research center views itself as the coordinating body for all researchers interested in the Imperial Courts. A seminar room is available for conferences and has often been used for international and interdisciplinary colloquia.
The Museum and Research Center enjoy a close cooperation with the Haus-, Hof- und Staatsarchiv Wien. http://www.oesta.gv.at
Gesellschaft für Reichskammergerichtsforschung e.V.
Membership fee: Euro 20,00 per year
Chair: Ralph Gatzka
Chair of the Scholarly Council: Prof. Dr. Albrecht Cordes
Recording Secretary: Hr. Blümel, phone +49(0)-6441-994163
Tel.: +49 (0)-6441-994160
Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.
and from 2:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m.
Entrance fee: 3,00 Euro per Person
Important information for sightseers:
No news at this time.
Research Center "Forschungsstelle für Höchstgerichtsbarkeit im Alten Europa"
Director of the Research Center: Prof. Dr. Anette Baumann: +49(0)-6441-994162
Office Secretary (mornings only): +49(0)-6441-994161
Publications series of the Society for Imperial Chamber Court Research (1985 ff)
Schriftenreihe der Gesellschaft für Reichskammergerichtsforschung (1985 ff)
To order, contact:
Die Gesellschaft für Reichskammergerichtsforschung
(for the address see above). Also available at the Museum.
"Quellen und Forschungen zur Höchsten Gerichtsbarkeit im Alten Reich"
[Sources and Research on the Highest Jurisdiction in the Old Empire]
Friedrich Battenberg, Albrecht Cordes, Bernhard Diestelkamp, Ulrich Eisenhardt,
Adolfs Laufs, Wolfgang Sellert; Böhlau Verlag, Köln Weimar Wien
publishes all of the siginificant and latest research regarding the High Imperial Court and the
Reichshofrat publiziert. The Series has existed since 1973 and is continually expanding.
The current index of titles in this series as well as further information are available at
November, 22th, 2014 until February, 15th, 2015, exhibition „Legal inspection plans – maps and plans at court“ in the Reichskammergerichtsmuseum in cooperation with the City Museums of Wetzlar.
I’ve studied now Philosophy
And Jurisprudence, Medicine,
And even, alas! Theology
All through and through with ardour keen!
Goethe, Faust I (Trans. by George Madison Priest)
How came Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to be a trainee at the Imperial Chamber Court?
How were the judges at the high courts of the Holy Roman Empire organised and which norms did their sentences follow?
What types of conflict in early modern society lead to lawsuits at the Imperial Chamber Court and the Imperial Aulic Council?
What do hearings of witnesses tell about their knowledge of the world they were living in?
Questions like these point to the manifold possibilities to explore the Imperial Chamber Court and the Imperial Aulic council, which both were the high courts of the Holy Roman Empire. Thousands of files and a vast inventory of contemporary printings open up a fascinating and very fruitful scope of research. Not only legal and constitutional historians are invited. Also researches on social, economic, local, archival or political history, on gender history or on history of science are very welcome.
The range of studies published so far reaches from writings on the history of norms along early modern procedure law and quantitative approaches to pracical aspects of jurisdiction up to detailed studies on particular lawsuits. But also works on social history and the history of mentality encreasingly rely on the rich archival record of the two imperial courts. In spite of these successes and the by now well indexed archival record of the Imperial Chamber Court, yet many aspects of imperial jurisdiction have remained unexplored. With regards to the Imperial Aulic Council and its legal practice research is still in its beginnings.
Already since 1999 the Imperial Jurisdiction Network and the Society for Imperial Chamber Court Research host young academics conferences whose results are being published on a regular basis. The meetings usually take place alternatingly in Wetzlar and Vienna, the two sites where the Imperial courts resided at last.
The positive resonance on our previous activities has shown that there is a gread demand for scientific exchange and networking in the field of imperial jurisdiction.
Publications of the Imperial Jurisdiction Network appear in the series of “Quellen und Forschungen zur höchsten Gerichtsbarkeit im Alten Reich” (Böhlau publishers) and “bibliothek altes Reich” (de Gruyter Oldenbourg publishers).
Everybody who explores the Imperial Chamber Court or the Aulic Council, who uses their exciting archival record or who is just looking for some information are invited to contact us:
Call for Papers for the 14. young academics' conference (also scientific conference of the city of Speyer and the Gesellschaft für Reichskammergerichtsforschung) on “Speyer as imperial center in the 16th century: politcs and justice between empire and territory, 15th - 16th October in Speyer.
Contact via the business office of the Society for Imperial Chamber Court Research / Gesellschaft für Reichskammergerichtsforschung e. V., Contact Person: Prof. Dr. Anette Baumann M.A.
Recent results are published in sehepunkte - zeitenblicke
The Network cooperates closely with the research network "Gender differences in European legal cultures" which maintains a Mailinglist
Please use the button “Netzwerk” on our german homepage for the newest informations of the Network Imperial Jurisdiction.
Homepage of the City of Wetzlar,
with tourist information
Homepage of the City of Speyer (first seat of the Imperial Chamber Court)
Prof. Cordes, University of Frankfurt
Server Frühe Neuzeit University of Munich (sfb)
Imperial Chamber Court research project (Prof. Schildt, Univ. Bochum)
Böhlau Verlag, Köln
Oldenbourg Verlag, München
Arbeitskreis selbständiger Kultur-Institute e.V. [Working Group of Independent Cultural Institutes]
sehepunkte - zeitenblicke
Handwörterbuch zur deutschen Rechtsgeschichte
Die Akten des Kaiserlichen Reichshofrates
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