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A Report by Andrew Collins
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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 2822 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #165 on: February 04, 2009, 01:18:18 pm »

people to dwell close to abbeys, churches, and episcopal residences, whence they might obtain succour in time of temporal or spiritual need, and derive protection from the reverence shown to the church. A third class of towns owed their origin to the stormy period of which we now write; for the people of the open country, the victims of oppression and tyranny, fled to where they might, in return for their obedience, meet with some degree of protection, and erected their houses at the foot of the castle of some powerful nobleman. These towns gradually increased in power, with the favour of the emperors, who, like other monarchs, viewing in them allies against the excessive power of the church and the nobility, gladly bestowed on them extensive privileges; and from these originated the celebrated Hanseatic League, to which almost every town of any importance in Westphalia belonged, either mediately or immediately.

But the growth of cities, and the prosperity and the better system of social regulation which they presented, were not the only beneficial effects which resulted from the overthrow of the power of Henry the Lion. There is every reason to conclude that it was at this period that the Fehm-gerichte, or Secret Tribunals, were instituted in Westphalia; at least, the earliest document in which there is any clear and express mention of them is dated in the year 1267. This is an instrument by which Engelbert, Count of the Mark, frees one Gervin of Kinkenrode from the feudal obligations for his inheritance of Broke, which was in the county of Mark; and it is declared to have been executed at a place named Berle, the court being presided over by Bernhard of Henedorp, and the Fehmenotes being present. By the Fehmenotes were at all times understood the initiated in the secrets of the Westphalian tribunals; so that we have here a clear and decisive proof of the existence of these

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