The “Magdeburg Law” Exhibition at the Kulturhistorisches Museum Magdeburg

Seal matrix of the Magdeburg lay judges’ bench (Kulturhistorisches Museum Magdeburg)

In collaboration with the Zentrum für Mittelalterausstellungen, the Kulturhistorisches Museum Magdeburg is planning a major exhibition on Magdeburg Law in 2019−20. The exhibition will focus on the city as a successful model and thus the appeal of urbanity. Since it was fundamental to the development of urban culture, politics and economics, law will be presented on equal footing with them. Visitors will be shown how the different spheres of a city with Magdeburg law evolved and were mutually dependent. City halls, lay judges’ benches, markets and patricians’ homes constitute the spaces in which urban life developed and the dimensions of a city’s law became perceptible. This broader examination of urban life will allow bringing exceptional works of art that document urban culture into the exhibition along with legal documents and items related to economic life.

Visitors will discover the historical dimension of European cities and their medieval roots as a constitutive element of a common European culture, the urban promise of peace and liberty, the concentration of culture in cities, and their power to integrate different ways of life. At the same time, the range of present-day forms of urban organization will be elucidated.
This will address a central issue of Europe’s history and development, which has been instrumental in shaping the structure, culture and life on our continent to this day. The 21st century is frequently referred to as the “urban century”, typified by reurbanization in conjunction with demographic change, increasing social polarization, mobile lifestyles, and growing polyethnicity and multiculturalism. In the future, European cities will face major challenges ensuing from conflicting priorities of economic growth and sustainable development, of architectural renewal and preservation of historical structures, of mobility and a reassessment of neighborliness. The “Magdeburg Law” exhibition will trace the origins of European cities as they acquired their specific form, and their way of life’s highly integrative power had to prove itself time and again. Municipal constitutions and municipal laws constituted solutions to challenges of communal life as well as to issues of relationships of individuals and their cities to governing authorities. The “distant mirror” of the Middle Ages reveals present-day issues such as urbanity, civic responsibility and even the promise of a better future, which have always been associated with cities.