Administration and Taxes
The knight Volkmar von Maretsch and a halv tenth from the farm at Rafenstein.
Notes about the administration and tax system in the late medieval town Bozen.
by DOTT. Armin Torggler, translation in english by Charles von Rafenstain
In the south Tyrolean archive in Bozen, the very huge archive Payrsberg is kept. Its belonging to that category of nobility archives in the region, that counts a big variety of documents from the medieval time. Among those documents, there is one dating from the 9th of may 1378 (SLA, Archiv Payrsberg, Pos. 179). It concerns an imperial public clerk document written by Michael, son oft he dead clerk Konrad Rittner from Bozen. (Michael quondam Chunradi dicti Rittner de Bozano publ. auct. imp. notarius). The documents language is latin and was written on parchment.
The content of the document can be resumed as follows: The knight Volkmar of Maretsch, invests Heinrich, Konrad and Johann, sons of Adam of Severs, with the half of a tenth – WITH EXCEPTION OF THE WINE (!) – from the farms at Rafenstain, Platten of Goldeck and Vilical at Chelder.
How is it possible – someone would ask – that Volkmar von Maretsch had the power to decide about the half of a tenth, that actually belonged to Francisk von Rafenstain?
Well, the situation is quite intriguing complicated and in this case requires a short introduction about the tax system in Tirol back in that time.
The old harvest farms districts
During the late medieval time period, the so called harvest-farm system was quite normal. The land was divided in districts (Vilikationen). In each one of this districts was one harvest farm (Meierhof) also called lord’s farm or conscription labor farm (lat.:Curtis). It belonged to the Meier (lat.:Vilicus), which was appointed from the Lord of the land, that owned a bigger number of unfree peasants (lat.: servi or manicipia). On the bigger farms, lived not only unfree peasants, but craftsmen side by side.
Around the Meierhof, where often situated a number of smaller farms, which where sustained by unfree peasants. In the documents such a little farm is called Hube in German, or mansus in latin. In the 12th century, around the Meierhof, arose also towers, in which the lords Stewarts (so called Ministeriales) lived. They where appointed with a part of the farms and served their lord in exchange. The Hubes and the Meierhof where then classified as landlord’s territory and as such, the lord would have free hands to execute justice on his own peasants.
Justice district courts and justice district thenth
During the 13th century, everything changes! The old system got obsolete and transformed itself to a new one. The Meierhof districts got dissolved and the single farms where taken over by tenants, which where not unfree any longer and could pass their tenant rights on to their heirs, basically a hereditary right.
Instead of the contributions and forced labor given by the unfree peasants at the Meierhof, a new method of firm interest pays made its entry. The amount of it, was registered in the landlords property book, where in the beginning the interests where payed in food and labor, but later on changed more and more to money payments instead.
The previous jurisdictional system executed by the landlords faced a brutal change as well. The old Meierhof districts changed into justice districts all over the Tyrolean territory. The center for each justice district was one of the Dukes castles, on which one, from the Dukes of Tirol appointed noblemen, held court. That judge had the right over the so called “justice administration tenth“ which was one tenth of the total income from every farm. Naturally the amount varied from year to year, depending on how good the harvest was.
For instance, if now the Duke himself as justice administrator, simultaneously was the owner of the farm, he received both the justice tenth AND the interest pay. If the farm belonged to another noblemen, church or monastery, the Duke was only entitled with the tenth.
The diocesal and the church tenth
The justice administration tenth was not the only „tenth“ that the tenants had to pay. The clergymen minister had also right about one tenth of the total income of the farm! This tenth was used to sustain the minister and his priests, as well as maintenance of the church/es. Big dioceses had therefore a very lucrative income, which the minister used to his well being, often by hiring so called canonical ministers to make his jobs, while the priests closest to the population, got very bad payed for the care taking of the peoples souls.
If the farm belonged to the church, then the minister received the church tenth AND the interest pay. If the farm belonged to another owner, the minister would only receive the church tenth.
Unexeptional and exeptional taxes.
The peasants in Tirol had not only to think about the interest pay, the tenth for justice administration and the tenth for the church, but had to suffer even more taxes. The taxes where not defined to the farm itself, but on each person of the district. There was the yearly tax and – in demanding situations – even an exceptional tax.
To the normal tax belonged the kitchen tax, a payment for the kitchens of the Duke. In the 13th- 14th century in Tirol, this was merely payed in sheep and bovine. In the Trento region also with pigs, chickens, vegetables and eggs. Every district had a fast amount to deliver, that was divided among the residents. from the late 13th century on, this tax changed more and more over to money, instead of goods. From the 14th century on, also the „non-money“ tax was introduced. This was as well an unexceptional tax about beverages and the sale of wine and beer.
The exeptional taxes where for instance taxes to sustain a war, a Royal wedding, or more peculiar situations, such as Tirol’s part in the support of the Emperor pilgrimage to Rome. From the 15th century on, the land tenants gained influence about the decision of exceptional taxes
Leasing and pawning
Since circa 1300, the interest pay and the tenth where not given from the duke to the noblemen as entitlement, but leased or pawned. Pawning was a security. If a nobleman borrowed money to the Duke, the Duke would pawn properties to him. This properties gave the nobleman an interest rate of 10% every year and remained his, until the Duke had payed the whole amount back. Properties such as fields, grass clearings, wine fields and farms – even entire villages, jurisdictional districts, and passage taxes on bridges and roads – where pawned depending on the amount the Duke borrowed.
Another thing where leasing. in this case properties such as farms, jurisdictional districts, passage payments, coining factories, mining rights and so forth, leased to financially strong nobles, that payed a fast yearly leasing amount to the Duke.
If the jurisdictional districts where leased or pawned, we talk about patrimonial districts. The jurisdictional tenth goes therefore not to the Duke, but to the owner of the district.
Naturally, even interest payments and tenths can be leased, pawned, donated, presented, or divided in two or more parts, thus making the late 13th century tax registers in Tirol to a nightmare for most of the researchers today.
Knight Volkmar von Maretsch and the juristictional district of Wangergasse
Back to the issue in the introduction and the document of 1378. Knight Volkmar of Maretsch was son of Berthold III of Maretsch. often named in documents between 1326 and 1357.His mother was unassumingly Margarete Reifer von Altspaur. Bertold III was in 1339 judge in Bozen and had a good relationship with the Duke of Tirol (back there, Johann Heinrich von Luxenburg, first husband of the Duchess Margarete and from 1341 Ludwig V of Brandenburg from the family of Wittelsbach, as the second husband of the same Duchess).
Volkmar von Maretsch was almost certainly born in the 1320’s and had the same age of Francisk von Rafenstain. Like his father, he become judge of Wangen district in the 1370s. The Bozen area was divided into three jurisdictional districts at that time: The Duke’s district Gries was the biggest one (Francisk von Rafenstain was judge of it at the same time, where Volkmar von Maretsch was judge of Wangen. C.R.red.) The court of Gries was up to 1406 the castle of Gries (today Muri–Gries monastery). The second district, was the one owned by the bishop of Trento and included the old town center of Bozen with the Laubengasse. The third district was the before mentioned one of Wangen Alley, which was the center of the Wangen noble family since the end of the 13th century and stretched itself between the two other districts the whole way up to Rafenstain castle in the north. During the fights between the Duke of Tirol and the lords of Wangen at the end of the 13th century, this district came into the hands of the Duke of Tirol.
The Knight Volkmar von Maretsch is named in documents between 1353 and 1385 and witnessed not only the transaction of Tirol to the Habsburger in 1363, but served also under Duke Leopold III of Austria. Volkmar wrote his last will on his castle of Maretsch in 1385. This castle was at the same time the court of the Wangen district. in 1386, he is already mentioned as dead. (one year before Francisk von Rafenstain. C.R. .red.)
Volkmar also retired as judge of Wangen Alley latest in 1385, succeeded by Niklaus Vintler von Runkelstein, which already was judge of Gries. on that way, the two districts got actually fusioned.
THE BENEFIT ABOUT THE HALF TENTH FROM THE FARM OF RAFENSTAIN THROUGH VOLKMAR VON MARETSCH IS THEREFORE TO CONNECT WITH THE FACT, THAT THE FARM BELONGED TO WANGEN JURISDICTIONAL DISTRICT, WHERE HE WAS THE JUDGE. (THE OWNERSHIP OF THE FARM BELONGED STILL TO FRANCISK VON RAFENSTAIN AND THE FACT THAT THE WINE IS NOT INCLUDED, TELLS US OF A VERY GOOD RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VOLKMAR AND FRANCISK. THEY HAD SAME AGE, WHERE NEIGHBORS AND JUDGE COLLEAGUES.; C.R. red)
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