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. 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.




Anja Grebe / G. Ulrich Großmann, Bozen – Schloss Maretsch, in: Burgen, Schlösser und Wehrbauten in Mitteleuropa 21, Regensburg 2005.

Magdalena Hörmann, Maretsch, in: Oswald Graf Trapp (Hg.), Tiroler Burgenbuch 8, Raum Bozen, Bozen 1989, S. 128-176.

Ferdinand Kogler, Das landesfürstlichen Steuerwesen in Tirol bis zum Ausgange des Mittelalters, in: Archiv für österreichische Geschichte 90, (Wien 1901), S. 419-712.

Gustav Pfeifer, Nobilis vir dominus Heinricus de Liechtenstain. Spätmittelalterlicher Niederadel im Spannungsfeld zwischen Trient, Tirol und Brixen, in: Mitteilungen des Instituts für österreichische Geschichtsforschung 105, Wien – München 1997, S. 416-440.

Gustav Pfeifer, Burg – Stadt – Landesfürstlicher Dienst. Beiträge zur Familiengeschichte der Tiroler Liechtensteiner, in: Vom Dorf zur Stadt: Leifers. Anfänge – Entwicklung – Chancen, hg. von der Raiffeisenkasse Leifers, Bozen 1998, S. 73-112.

Gustav Pfeifer, Ministerialität und geistliche Stadt. Entwicklungslinien in Brixen bis zur Mitte des 13. Jahrhunderts, in: Helmut Flachenecker / Hans Heiss / Hannes Obermair (Hg.), Stadt und Hochstift. Brixen, Bruneck und Klausen bis zur Säkularisierung 1803 (Veröffentlichungen des Südtiroler Landesarchivs 12), Bozen 2000, S. 131-148.

Gustav Pfeifer, Nobis servire tenebitur in armis. Formen des Aufstiegs und Übergangs in den niederen Adel im Tirol des 14. Jahrhunderts, in: Kurt Andermann / Peter Johanek (Hg.), Zwischen Nicht-Adel und Adel (Vorträge und Forschungen 53, hrsg. vom Konstanzer Arbeitskreis für mittelalterliche Geschichte), Stuttgart 2001, S. 49-103.

Gustav Pfeifer, miles potens in comitatu. Engelmar von Vilanders und der Tiroler Adel in der ersten Hälfte des 14. Jahrhunderts. Ein Kapitel aus der Vorgeschichte des Hauses Wolkenstein, in: Gustav Pfeifer / Kurt Andermann (Hg.), Die Wolkensteiner. Facetten des Tiroler Adels in Spätmittelalter und Neuzeit, (Veröffentlichungen des Südtiroler Landesarchivs 30), Innsbruck 2009, S. 29-52.

Gustav Pfeifer, Sozialer Aufstieg und visuelle Strategien im späten Mittelalter. Neue Überlegungen zu Niklaus Vintler († 1413), in: Krieg – Wucher – Aberglaube. Hans Vintler und Schloss Runkelstein, (= Runkelsteiner Schriften zur Kulturgeschichte 3), Bozen 2011, S. 71-114.

Gustav Pfeifer, Elitenintegration im Bozen des 14. Jahrhunderts. Am Beispiel des Botsch von Florenz († 1374), in: Anno 1363 – Tatort Tirol. Es geschah in Bozen (= Runkelsteiner Schriften zur Kulturgeschichte 5), Bozen 2013, S. 125-162.

Josef Riedmann, Mittelalter. In: Geschichte des Landes Tirol, Bd. I, von den Anfängen bis 1490. Zweite Auflage, Bozen 1990, S. 291-698.

Otto Stolz, Rechtsgeschichte des Bauernstandes und der Landwirtschaft in Tirol und Vorarlberg, 1949, Bozen 1949 (Nachdruck Hildesheim – Zürich – New York, 1984).

Otto Stolz, Geschichte der Verwaltung Tirols, (Teilstück des 2. Bandes der Geschichte des Landes Tirol, für den Druck vorbereitet von Dietrich Thaler), Forschungen zur Rechts- und Kulturgeschichte 13, Innsbruck 1998.

Armin Torggler, Der „Beruf“ des Ritters, in: Rittertum in Tirol, (Runkelsteiner Schriften zur Kulturgeschichte 1), Bozen 2008, S. 11-25.

Armin Torggler, Zum mittelalterlichen Baubestand von Schloß Maretsch, in: ARX. Burgen und Schlösser in Bayern, Österreich und Südtirol, 30, 2008/2, S. 14-18.

Armin Torggler, Die Zeit des Hans Vintler, in: Krieg – Wucher – Aberglaube. Hans Vintler und Schloss Runkelstein, (= Runkelsteiner Schriften zur Kulturgeschichte 3) Bozen 2011, S. 13-44.

Armin Torggler, Das Runkelsteiner Sommerhaus – ein „Artushof“? Niklaus Vintler (ca. 1345-1413) und die Artus-Literatur, in: Artus auf Runkelstein. Der Traum vom Guten Herrscher, (= Runkelsteiner Schriften zur Kulturgeschichte 6), Bozen 2014, S. 137-158.