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Secret Societies of the Middle Ages

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Author Topic: Secret Societies of the Middle Ages  (Read 2213 times)
Trena Alloway
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« Reply #180 on: February 04, 2009, 01:23:09 pm »

with a green cross in his right hand, and a golden penny of the empire in his left. He was also to have a glove on his right hand. If there were two attorneys, they were both to bear crosses and pence. The attorney of a simple prince bore a silver penny. The old law, which loves to give a reason for every thing, says, "By the cross they intimate that the prince whom they represent will, in case he should be found guilty, amend his conduct according to the direction of the faith which Jesus Christ preached, and be constant and true to the holy Christian faith, and obedient to the holy empire and justice."

All the preliminaries being arranged, the trial commenced by the charge against him being made known to the accused, who was called upon for his defence. If he did not wish to defend himself in person, he was permitted to employ an advocate whom he might have brought with him. If it was a civil suit, he might, however, stay the proceedings at once by giving good security for his satisfying the claims of the plaintiff, in which case he was allowed the usual grace of six weeks and three days. He might also except to the competence of the court, or to the legality of the summons, or to anything else which would, if defective, annul the proceedings.

If the accused did not appear, the regular course was for the prosecutor to overswear him; that is, himself to swear by the saints to the truth of what he had stated, and six true and genuine frei-schöppen to swear that they believed him to have spoken the truth.

The older Fehm-law made a great distinction between the initiated and the ignorant, and one very much to the advantage of the former. The accused, if initiated, was allowed to clear himself from the charge by laying his two fore-fingers on the naked sword, and swearing by the saints "that he was

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innocent of the things and the deed which the court had mentioned to him, and which the accuser charged him with, so help him God and all the saints." He then threw a cross-penny (Kreutzer?) to the court and went his way, no one being permitted to let or hinder him. But if he was one of the uninitiated, he was not permitted to clear himself in this manner, and the truth of the fact was determined by the evidence given.

It is plain, however, that such a regulation as this could properly only belong to the time when none but persons of irreproachable character were initiated. As the institution degenerated, this distinction was gradually lost sight of, and facts were determined by evidence without any regard to the rank of the accused.

The accuser could prevent the accused from clearing himself thus easily, by offering himself and six compurgators to swear to the truth of his charge. If the accused wanted to outweigh this evidence, he was obliged to come forward with thirteen or twenty compurgators and swear to his innocence. If he could bring the last number he was acquitted, for the law did not allow it to be exceeded; but if he had but thirteen, the accuser might then overpower him by bringing forward twenty to vouch for his veracity.

If the accuser had convicted the accused, he forthwith prayed the count to grant him a just sentence. The count never took on himself the office of finding the verdict; he always directed one of the assessors to perform it. If the assessor thought the matter too difficult for his judgment, he averred on oath that such was the case, and the court then gave the duty to another, who might free himself from the responsibility in the same manner. Should none of the

p. 368

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