Magdeburg Law

From the Middle Ages to the Present Day

To start with, the term “Magdeburg law” denotes the orally transmitted law of the city of Magdeburg, which consisted of merchants’ legal customs, privileges granted by territorial rulers and overlords of the city, and regulations enacted independently by its burghers.

Rather than a concrete, cohesive body of laws, Magdeburg law was a collection of rules and legal concepts, which was highly variable and modifiable from case to case and enabled city dwellers to live in liberty and self-determination for the purpose of municipal self-government.

Originating in Magdeburg, Magdeburg law spread over a large area over a long time because of its innovativeness. It fundamentally influenced medieval and early modern legal systems in Central and Eastern Europe. Different forms of Magdeburg law were in force for centuries in nearly 1000 places in present-day Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Russia. The spread of Magdeburg‘s municipal law in Eastern Europe was linked with medieval colonization and settlement and proceeded hand-in-hand with adoption of the Sachsenspiegel.

These processes of reception that took place from the 13th to the 18th century constitute an invaluable cultural-historical foundation of modern Europe. Magdeburg law was part of the legal systems in some regions well into the 19th century and still remains part of the cultural memory in the cities once endowed with it. You’ll find more details on the following pages. Learn about the origins, development, provisions and historical significance of Magdeburg law in the glossary, which will be expanded continually in the coming months. The map provides an overview of the cities with Magdeburg law as well as information on the geographic dimension of Magdeburg law.


Friedrich Ebel: Magdeburger Recht, in: Erzbischof Wichmann (1152−1192) und Magdeburg im Hohen Mittelalter. Ausstellung zum 800. Todestag Erzbischof Wichmanns vom 29. Oktober 1992 bis 21. März 1993. Ed. by Matthias Puhle. Magdeburg 1992, p. 42 ff.

Friedrich Ebel: Magdeburger Recht, in: Magdeburg. Die Geschichte der Stadt 805−2005. Ed. by Matthias Puhle, Peter Petsch. Dössel 2005,
p. 137 ff.

Heiner Lück: Sachsenspiegel und Magdeburger Recht. Europäische Dimensionen zweier mitteldeutscher Rechtsquellen
(Adiuvat in itinere V).
Hamburg 1998.