Burgfrieden

The Burgfrieden or Burgfriede was a German medieval term that referred to imposition of a state of truce within the jurisdiction of a castle, and sometimes its estate, under which feuds, i.e. conflicts between private individuals were forbidden under threat of the imperial ban.

The lord of the castle could also grant asylum in this way and place people under his protection, but also force his jurisdiction on people. If several parties held joint possession of a castle, being considered joint lords, so-called Burgfrieden agreements were signed, containing far-reaching rules for living together in the castle.

The granting of Burgfrieden, especially in the Middle Ages, could not be ignored. When visiting other castles, including those of one’s enemy, a feud could not be pursued, because the Burgfrieden also applied to adversaries whilst within the castle grounds. The Burgfrieden could be terminated by a special feud letter (Fehdebrief), for example, in order to be able to besiege the castle legally.

The Burgfrieden could apply to the entire estate belonging to the castle, or, for example, in Ganerbenburgs, where it was intended primarily to govern relationships between the co-heirs of the castle, it might just apply to the area of the inner courtyard. If there was no natural demarcation, the area could be marked out by appropriate signs, such as so-called Burgfrieden stones.