Archiver > IL-COOK-SCHAUMBURG > 2002-04 > 1019709242

From: "... valentine53179" <>
Subject: [IL-Cook-Sch] Meier Explained
Date: Wed, 24 Apr 2002 23:34:10 -0500

A forward from another list....
Perhaps it will be of some help to the list....

----Original Message Follows----
From: "Voves, Michael" <>
Subject: [TRIER-ROOTS-L] Meier, Schoeffe, Synodale Explained
Date: Sat, 20 Apr 2002 00:11:18 -0500

Hello List,

I have posted two prior inquiries regarding the meaning of these terms.
They appear in reference to my ancestors in the Trier-Saarburg area in the
mid- to late 1600s. Several listmembers had asked me to share any
information I received. I apologize in advance for this lengthy email, but
a term like "Meier" cannot be described succinctly. If this topic does not
sound interesting, you may want to hit delete now. Also - any corrections
are appreciated - much of the information below is a summary composed by me
based on responses and other materials that I received and translated into
English. Because I am dealing with obscure legal and extinct foreign
concepts, my translation may be lacking.

Broadly put, the "Meier" or "Maier" was an administrator appointed by a
feudal landlord (Grundherr) to manage the affairs on his estate
(Herrschaft). The lord could have been either a secular individual or an
ecclesiastical body (e.g., a monestary or other religious institution).
Since the lord could not always be present on all of the lands that he
owned, he appointed a local tenant as his agent, the Meier, to serve his
interests and to preserve law and order.

Under the feudal system of the middle ages, the lord enjoyed a variety of
rights over his tenants, including the right to collect duties and hold
court. The earliest of such estate "courts" was the Fronhofgericht, which
attempted to solve all matters of dispute arising within a lord's stead.
Out of this evolved several levels of courts whose jurisdiction extended to
the villages that fell within the lord's Herrschaft. The make-up of each
court system differs slightly with each Herrschaft. Nevertheless, below I
have summarized what was a typical feudal court system.

Minor or common disputes were settled in the Grundgericht, or basic court
(also called the Niedergericht, or lower court). Matters of a commercial
nature, such as those involving the sale, pledging or seizure of property,
or borrowing and lending, were settled in the Mittelgericht, or middle
court. A third court, the Hochgericht (high court) fell outside the domain
of the lord and under the jurisdiction of the Landesherr, or sovereign. The
high court resolved matters concerning land and water use, e.g., milling,
fishing, forest, and ripuarian rights. This court also presided over tort
(assault, battery) or criminal matters, such as thievery, murder and, of
course, witchery.

In the lower court, session (Gerichtstag) was run entirely by the Meier. He
would likely have acted as judge, bailiff, court reporter, etc. The Meier
may have also directed proceedings for the middle court, although this court
functioned more like a peoples court. Next to the lord and the Meier sat a
jury that ultimately decided matters in dispute. The jury was supposed to
be an independent deliberating body, i.e., free from interference from the
lord. These jurors (Schoeffen) were selected, either by election or by
designation, from within the community and were typically men of property.
For example, it would not have been uncommon to limit the jury pool to
individuals who owned their households. The Meier was responsible for
upholding the jury's decision and enforcing any penalties, with force if

Matters in the Hochgericht would have likely been handled by the Landesherr.
In ecclesiastical Herrschaften, session for the Hochgericht may have been
run by a Vogt (church advocate). Similarly, individuals who are church
members (or Synodales) sometimes acted as jurors (Kirchenschoeffen) in the
lower court. (Although the terms "Synodale" and "Schoeffe" are not
synonomous, the appearance of the term Synodale in church records may be
indicative of the individual's status as a court member.)

So, I will run through a few specific examples that I referred to in my
prior emails. One individual is listed as the "paulinischer Meier" in
Oberleuken. The Leuk stream that runs through Oberleuken once divided the
village politically, as well as physically. Half of the village was part of
Lorraine (or Lothringen), while the other half was part of the Trier
electorate (the "kurtrierisch" section). The collegiate theological
foundation of St. Paulin in Trier was bestowed with property in Oberleuken.
In other words, the foundation was a feudal lord. If foundation officials
resided in Trier, they could not easily look after their property in
Oberleuken, so they would have likely appointed a local Oberleuken tenant as
Meier to look after the foundation's interests and preserve law and order.
Hence, appears the description "paulinischer".

The same explanation holds for "Meier des Trierer Domkapitels in Faha". The
Trier Cathedral Chapter likely owned property in Faha - therefore it would
have appointed a local resident as Meier to look after its interests.

I hope that explanation was useful to someone.

Mike Voves

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