The Trier Stift Feud, 1521-1522

A.) Prehistory of the Feud

In 1495 Emperor Maximilian proclaimed the EWIGER LANDFRIEDEN (permanent peace) which outlawed feuds. The Holy Roman Empire's RITTERSCHAFT (lower nobility), already in financial difficulties as many knights were indebted, regarded this an infringement of their old rights. The IMMEDIATE KNIGHTS, concentrated in Swabia, found their position encroached upon by the consolidating territorial states.

B.) The Feud, 1522-1523

Knight FRANZ VON SICKINGEN, an acquaintance of Humanist ULRICH VON HUTTEN and of reformers MARTIN BUCER, JOHANNES OEKOLAMPAD, is referred to as Germany's only CONDOTTIERE. An experienced military commander, and nominally still in Imperial service, was elected Captain by the immediate knights assembled at Landau; the knights expected him to show them a way out of their difficulties.
In summer 1522, Franz von Sickingen opened a feud against Richard von Greiffenklau, Prince-Archbishop of Trier, and invaded his territory. His forces laid siege to the city of Trier, but soon faced a coalition of princes, including Count PHILIPP VON HESSEN and Count-Elector Ludwig of the Palatinate. Franz von Sickingen had to raise the siege and retreat; he sought shelter in the castle of NANSTEIN, where he himself was besieged in 1523. He had to surrender and died shortly afterward, on May 7th 1523.

C.) The Legacy

The Trier Stift Feud marks the last attempt of Germany's immediate knighthood to revive the middle ages; from 1523 onward immediate knights were, as such, insignificant. Individual descendants from such families managed to rise to bishops, archbishops, to chancellors at royal courts or generals in the armies of territorial states; their fiefs as individual statelets, however, were, even in German regional history, of tertiary importance.
The Trier Stift Feud has often been compared with the GERMAN PEASANTS WAR, as a social rebellion - of a different social group.
The Archbishops of Trier, as Princebishops, no longer trusted their territory's lower nobility; they and their landholdings were excluded from the PRINCEBISHOPRIC OF TRIER, so that the Landtag (diet) of the territory consisted only of two estates, clergy and the third estate. The Trier lower nobility had been forced into immediacy.

Franz von Sickingen - ein Ritter am Rande der Neuzeit (F. von S., a Knight on the threshold of modern history), German language biography posted by Verbandsgemeindeverwaltung Landstuhl
Biography of Franz von Sickingen, from BBKL, in German, bibliography
Biography of Richard von Greiffenklau, Prince-Archbishop of Trier, from BBKL, in German, bibliography
Bistum Trier : Geschichte (Diocesis of Trier, History), from Bistum Trier, in German
Trier Timeline, by Carlo Delvecchio, in German
Article Pfälzischer Ritteraufstand 1522/1523, from Wikipedia, in German
DOCUMENTS Feud letter by Franz von Sickingen, addressed to Archbishop Philip of Trier, posted by Prof. R. Schlögl, Univ. Konstanz, p.1, p.2
REFERENCE Hansgeorg Molitor, Kurtrier (Electoral Trier), in : Die Territorien des Reichs im Zeitalter der Reformation und Konfessionalisierung, 1500-1650 (The Empire's territories in the Era of Reformation and Confessionalization), Vol.5 : the South West, Münster : Aschendorff 1993 pp.50-71, in German
Territorien-Ploetz : Geschichte der Deutschen Länder (History of the German Lands) Vol.1, Würzburg : Ploetz 1964, pp.165, 170; in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 1st 2003, last revised November 17th 2004

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