„Wir Ludwig von Gottes Gnaden“. A Comparison of the German-language charters of Ludwig the Bavarian

In the time of the Roman King and Emperor Ludwig IV, known as "the Bavarian" (born 1282/86, ruled 1314-1347), the German language experienced its breakthrough in the royal chancellery. The House of Wittelsbach had more than half of the charters for Swabian recipients drawn up in the language spoken by the local population. Latin was increasingly replaced by German. After Ludwig’s death, this new language relationship did not change; on the contrary, it continued to strengthen in the 14th and 15th centuries: Latin became the exception and early New High German the rule.

The collection pays tribute to this development and demonstrates it with 34 selected examples. 32 objects alone come from the various regional holdings of the Staatsarchiv Augsburg (Augsburg State Archive). These cover a period of 700 years. By comparing them with the charters of Ludwig the Bavarian, it is possible to trace key changes in the Old Kingdom’s charters. Privileges, mandates, audits are represented as well as arbitral awards, enfeoffments and prescriptions. The immense range of subjects covered impressively demonstrates the ability of the Wittelsbacher’s chancellery to respond to the diverse needs of its recipients, who came from all estates, and to stage the reign of the Bavarian on the imperial throne. At the same time, they are testimonies to the reality of life for people in the Middle Ages, their worries, problems and successes. Particular highlights include a magnificent charter for the imperial city of Regensburg from the Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv (Bavarian Main State Archives), the Upper Bavarian Land Law promulgated by Ludwig, which is now in the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library) (BSB Cgm 1506), and an illuminated letter of arms from Emperor Maximilian I (born 1459, reigned 1486-1519) for the municipal court of Kempten.

In a joint project by the Professorship for Medieval and Early Modern German Literature and Language in Bavaria (Prof. Klaus Wolf) and the Professor of Medieval History (Prof. Thomas Krüger) at the University of Augsburg and the Staatsarchiv Augsburg (Dr. Thomas Engelke), the charters and the land law were presented in an exhibition in 2020 and scientifically classified during a three-day international conference.

>> This collection is part of the holdings of the Staatsarchiv Augsburg (Augsburg State Archive), the Bayerisches Hauptstaatsarchiv (Bavarian Main State Archive) and the Generaldirektion der Staatlichen Archive Bayerns (Directorate General of the Bavarian State Archives).