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(Re)lecture archéologique de la justice en Europe médiévale et moderne

1. Les espaces et les équipements de la justice

An archaeological approach to modern justice in the Czech Republic, Lower Silesia and Upper Lusatia

Pavlína Mašková et Daniel Wojtucki

Texte intégral

Judicial archaeology in the Czech Republic and Poland

  • 1 Baroque Bohemian authors Bohuslav Balbín and Karel Josef Biener from Bienenberg, for example.
  • 2 See the short summary in Mašková & Michálek 2006, 790, note 2 and Wojtucki 2008.
  • 3 Maisel 1982; id. 1989. An important work on this topic is also Trzciński 2001.
  • 4 Adamová 1971; Francek & Šimek, dir. 1995; Francek 2004; Schelle, dir. 2011.

1In Central Europe, we can already observe an interest in the objects of justice and capital punishment in the 17th century1. The earliest mentions of and articles about archaeological finds, actually mostly unintended, date from the second half of 19th century and are mostly local in character2. They usually describe accidental finds of skeletons with decapitated skulls or the evidence of a gallows. So-called “judicial archaeology” began to be established after the Second World War in our regions, following earlier German research in this field. In Poland, the works of Witold Maisel are considered the baseline for judicial archaeology3. In the Czech Republic, K. Adamová summarized the topic of judicial archaeology in her article in 1971. It should be added that the works of J. Francek, summarizing the material sources of justice, are also importantly referenced4.

  • 5 Mašková & Michálek 2006.
  • 6 Sokol 2003; id. 2008.
  • 7 Nocuń et al. 1999.
  • 8 The results of these excavations can be found in the works of D. Wojtucki (2009) and P. Duma (201 (...)

2The books and articles mentioned above describe, among others, the material objects (movable and immovable) associated with justice and capital punishment, but not the archaeological excavations of execution sites. In the Czech Republic, the first proper archaeological excavation of a place of execution was in Vodňany (Southern Bohemia) in 1995 (published in 2006) as a development-led excavation5. The first research based on archaeological excavation took place in Bečov nad Teplou (Western Bohemia) in 20026. In Poland, it was the research-led archaeological excavation in Kąty Wrocławskie (Lower Silesia) in 1998/19997. From that point onwards, further archaeological excavations of execution sites increased very quickly. Over the last 20 years, 7 sites have been excavated in the Czech Republic and 11 sites in Silesia (fig. 1)8.

Fig. 1. The map of the execution sites excavated in the Czech Republic and Silesia (Poland). Computer graphics Pavlína Mašková and Jaroslav Synek.

Fig. 1. The map of the execution sites excavated in the Czech Republic and Silesia (Poland). Computer graphics Pavlína Mašková and Jaroslav Synek.

Movable objects of justice

  • 9 Inventory for the Czech Republic in Francek & Šimek, dir 1995, 43-46.
  • 10 Hellmich & Seger 1934; Trzciński 2001; Knoll 2011; Wojtucki 2014, 361-365; Id. 2017.
  • 11 Biblioteka Uniwersytecka we Wrocławiu (University Library in Wrocław), section of manuscripts, si (...)
  • 12 Burešová et al. 2013, 541.
  • 13 Müller & Žáček et al. 2006, 38; Státní okresní archiv v Opavě (State archive in Opava), fond: Arc (...)

3Movable objects of justice, such as handcuffs and intruments for branding, are usually preserved and deposited in the collections of museums and castles9. Among them, of course, the executioner’s swords, which were not just important instruments of justice, but also the symbols of the profession of executioner10. In the case of swords, two interesting finds can be mentioned. The first, which is very old, is from 1759: some instruments of execution were unearthed near the executioner’s house in Lwówek Śląski (Lower Silesia). They included fragments of breaking wheels, instruments of torture and half an executioner’s sword11. The second find is from 1942, once again not far from a former executioner’s house, in Uničov (Moravia), where an oak chest was accidentally found. It contained an executioner’s sword, an executioner’s axe and some instruments of torture12. Before ending this section, a unique story and find from Opava (Czech Silesia) should be mentioned. In 1609, a shoemaker was executed by decapitation, his skull put into an iron cage and hung in the town tower. It was displayed there till 1614. Three centuries later, in 1928, the cage with the chain and the skull were discovered when mining sand on the former gallows hill13. Today, the cage is deposited in the Silesian Museum in Opava (fig. 2).

Fig. 2. The cage used for displaying the skull of the executed criminal. Today deposited in the Silesian Museum in Opava (inv. č. A 440).

Fig. 2. The cage used for displaying the skull of the executed criminal. Today deposited in the Silesian Museum in Opava (inv. č. A 440).

Immovable objects of justice

4Immovable objects of justice can be schematically divided into four basic categories: buildings of the court and prison; pillory; place of execution and burials of executed criminals; executioner’s house and executioner’s burial.

  • 14 Although the latest interpretation of the annexe of the donjon in the castle of Přimda (Western B (...)
  • 15 Ratsarchiv Görlitz (archive of the town hall in Görlitz), manuscript from 1745, without signature (...)

5The buildings of the court and prisons, have not yet attracted the interest of archaeologists in the Czech Republic and Poland14. However, an interesting architectural example, namely the old town hall in Görlitz (Upper Lusatia), can be presented. The sentences were declared from the balcony of the building from 16th -17th centuries15. The statue of Justice in front of the building was the point from which the procession of the condemmed criminals began to the place of their execution (fig. 3).

Fig. 3. The old town hall in Görlitz (Upper Lusatia) with the statue of Justice. Photo Daniel Wojtucki.

Fig. 3. The old town hall in Görlitz (Upper Lusatia) with the statue of Justice. Photo Daniel Wojtucki.
  • 16 Horna 1941; Francek & Šimek, dir. 1995, 33-36; Vokáč 2017; Milka &Milka 1991; Trzciński 2001; Woj (...)

6A pillory, the very visible symbol of justice, can be found in many towns usually in the main square. It belongs more to the domain of historians and we already have at our disposal several books with the inventory of pillories from Czech and Silesian localities16. Some of these objects have already partially or completely disappeared. The pillory could also be located near a cross roads, as in Gościszów near Bolesławiec (Lower Silesia), at the base of a hill with a castle, as in Žampach (Eastern Bohemia), or near the road leaving the town, as, for example, in Jaroslavice near Znojmo.

  • 17 Sokol 2017, 695, 703; Sokol 2010, 355-356.
  • 18 Petráň [1972] 2004, 9-18.

7The executions which took place inside the town were more often executions by decapitation (i.e. dignified execution) unlike dishonourable hanging, which was usually extra muros. The executions in the town generally took place in the squares and a special contruction for this event (some kind of platform or gallows) could be built ad hoc and exist only for a short time17. A very spectacular execution took place in the Old Town Square in Prague in 1621, when 27 leaders (noblemen, knights, burghers) of the Protestant Bohemian Revolt were executed there by the Habsburgs after their defeat in the Battle of White Mountain. The platform built for this occasion was never used again and was disassembled by the executioner and his assistants18.

  • 19 Sokol 2010, 368-371; Sokol 2009; Wojtucki 2010; Wojtucki 2009, 49-58.
  • 20 Sokol 2017, 695, 703.

8The executions by decapitation and by breaking on a wheel, which took place outside the town, could have been performed at the site of the gallows or in a special beheading place called in German Rabenstein and in Czech stínadla, which has no accurate translation into English, French or Polish. The Rabenstein can be described as a stone construction in a round or rectangular form, intended only for execution by decapitation or by breaking on a wheel. The existence of this building is known from written sources, place names (toponymy) and old maps of the region19. It was usually situateded close to the city gates20. Well preserved examples of Rabenstein are located in Germany at Calw and Marburg (fig. 4).

Fig. 4. The Rabenstein near Calw in Germany (Baden-Württemberg). Photo Daniel Wojtucki.

Fig. 4. The Rabenstein near Calw in Germany (Baden-Württemberg). Photo Daniel Wojtucki.

Archaeology of the execution sites

  • 21 Mašková & Wojtucki 2016.

9The summary of the archaeological excavations of the execution sites from the Czech Republic and from Silesia, till 2014, has already been published in French in the journal Criminocorpus21. Here, beside a short review, we would like to add the results from the latest excavations of this region.

  • 22 Sokol 2003; id. 2008.
  • 23 See for example Mašková 2015, 209.
  • 24 Mašková & Wojtucki 2016, 13.

10The very first Czech research archaeological excavation of an execution site took place in Bečov nad Teplou (Western Bohemia) in 200222. The remnant of the gallows are located on a hill near the town. The round stone foundations of the gallows were completely revealed by archaeological excavation. Inside the gallows and around them, fragments of human and animal bones were found; however, no evidence of a complete skeleton was discovered. These fragments of bones can result from the condemned criminals being displayed for a long time after hanging in the gallows as a warning. Their bodies thus decomposed over an extended period in the open air. This practice – displaying of the dead bodies on the gallows but also on the breaking wheel – was often an explicit part of the sentence handed down23. The town of Bečov obtained the privilege of high justice in 1399, but the stone gallows is probably later. Stone gallows constuctions were usually built in the period from end 15th-18th c. in Czech and Silesian regions, whereas medieval gallows were mostly wooden24.

  • 25 Sokol 2016.

11Very similar results were gained by new research on an archaeological excavation in Přimda (Western Bohemia) in 201425. The archaeologists discovered the round stone foundations of gallows, a few fragments of human bones mostly inside the gallows, fragments of ceramics and metal objects (nails and various fasteners for clothes). The research also focused on the spatial context of the site. Using old maps, the possible roads, vanished today, were searched as well as the borders of the cultivated land. These borders were found as a line of stones actually not very far from the gallows. In any case, the excavation was not very extensive, so the surroundings of the gallows, where the burials of the executed criminals can be expected, remain intact for the future (fig. 5).

Fig. 5. The stone foundations of the gallows at Přimda (Western Bohemia). Photo Petr Sokol.

Fig. 5. The stone foundations of the gallows at Přimda (Western Bohemia). Photo Petr Sokol.
  • 26 Unger 2014; Unger et al. 2016.
  • 27 Pěnička 2014, 161.

12Archaeological investigations took place in Tišnov and Lomnice near Tišnov (both in Moravia) in 2014 and 201526. The archaeologists and anthropologists discovered the stone foundations of the gallows, in both cases rectangular. Many fragments of human and animal bones were found inside the gallows at Tišnov (at least 13 human individuals) including one child’s bone from a 3-5 month-old child27. Both, the “burial” of a new-born child who perhaps died without having been christened or the hidden “burial” of an unwanted child, a victim of infanticide, are possibilities considered in this case (fig. 6).

Fig. 6. The stone foundations of the gallows at Tišnov (Moravia). Photo Daniel Wojtucki.

Fig. 6. The stone foundations of the gallows at Tišnov (Moravia). Photo Daniel Wojtucki.
  • 28 Mašková & Michálek 2006.
  • 29 See for example Mašková 2015; id. 2017, 12-16.

13Much more extensive than previous researches was the development-led excavation in Vodňany (Southern Bohemia) in 199528. This royal town obtained the privilege of high justice in 1400. Unfortunately, no gallows construction was found. It might have been located outside the excavated area and moreover, was probably wooden (according to the ancient pictures of the gallows) and would not have been preserved. However, to date it is the only site of this kind in the Czech Republic where a complete skeleton has been found. It was probably male and the skeleton has no traces of violence. It should be pointed out that, according to the sentences, municipal books and chronicles, not only condemned criminals were buried near the gallows. All deceased, denied burial at a proper cemetery, could be buried there. Written sources mention those who commited suicide, excommunicated and non-baptised persons being buried at the place of execution29. The other finds in Vodňany, fragments of human bones and separated human skulls correspond again to the practice of displaying the dead bodies of criminals on the gallows.

  • 30 This excavation was published at the moment of the editing of this article by several authors (J. (...)

14The latest archaeological excavation in Slavkov (Moravia) in 2016 has not yet been scientifically published30. All we know so far is that rectangular foundations were discovered and some accumulation of human bones found within.

15A specialized group of historians, archaeologists and anthropologists focus on research archaeological excavations of the execution sites in Lower Silesia. We can divide their rich results schematically into the two categories: firstly, excavations where the construction of gallows was discovered and studied, but without finds of skeletons and, secondly, excavations where burials were also discovered inside or outside the gallows.

  • 31 Duma et al. 2012; Duma & Wojtucki 2014; Duma et al. 2014; Duma 2012; Duma et al. 2018.
  • 32 The record from 1679 preserved in the archive of the town hall in Bautzen (Ratsarchiv) and publis (...)

16Results from the first category tell us about the typical form of the gallows in Silesia. There is a stone cylinder with 3 or occasionally 4 pillars (Jelenia Góra I and II, Kamienna Góra, Modrzewie), also confirmed by a very recent excavation in Złotoryja in 2015-2016 (fig. 7)31. Data is also acquired about the small artefacts appearing at the place of execution (ceramics, metal objects) including chains. Chains were used to ensure that the body of the executed criminal remained on the gallows for a long time as a metal chain is more solid than a cord. Concerning the display of the bodies on the gallows, very interesting written evidence from Bautzen (Upper Lusatia) can be mentioned. A male individual was hanged in 1677 and his body displayed on the gallows. After two years the body separated from the head and fell leaving the head still in the noose. The mother of the executed man buried his body at the gallows in a pit and demanded to be allowed to remove his head also for burial, but her request was denied32.

Fig. 7. The stone foundations of the gallows at Złotoryja (Lower Silesia). Photo Daniel Wojtucki.

Fig. 7. The stone foundations of the gallows at Złotoryja (Lower Silesia). Photo Daniel Wojtucki.
  • 33 Grenda et al. 2009.
  • 34 Grenda et al. 2005; Duma et al. 2010; Duma & Wojtucki 2011; Duma & Wojtucki 2012.

17The results from the second category tell us about the treatment of the dead bodies of condemned criminals and of all persons buried in these places. The research-led archaeological excavation in Miłków gained very rich results on this topic33. The very diverse burials of nine individuals were discovered there. Some of the individuals are decapited, some are lying prone, while other individuals are buried ordinarily and have no traces of violence. The stone gallows in Miłków, built in 1677, has remained well preserved till today. Other skeletons were found by excavations in Lubań, Lubomierz and Złoty Stok and all indicate burial without care or respect34. The stone gallows in Lubań was already built in 1492. In Lubomierz, a wooden gallows existed from 1421, and later, in 1608-1609, a stone gallows construction was built. The town of Złoty Stok obtained the privilege of high justice in 1467.

  • 35 Mašková & Michálek 2006, 805; Wojtucki 2009, 213-216.
  • 36 Wojtucki 2009, 131; Meder 2017.

18The discovery of fragments of animal bones on the execution sites of our region is usually explained by the execution site being located very near the place of the burial dead animals (so-called Wasenplatz or Cadaver Platz in German, mrchoviště in Czech)35. However these finds could also indicate the practice of hanging the condemned criminal together with an animal36.

  • 37 Wojtucki 2009, 38-39; Duma 2015, 51-55.
  • 38 Unger 2014, 152.

19The stone gallows usually had an entry with a lockable wooden door. It protected the interior of the gallows from unauthorized persons as well from animals, who could remove the remains of the bodies of executed criminals. Another reason for locking this door was the belief, that the space inside the gallows was magical and ominous, dangerous for people. Lastly, it protected the remains of executed criminals from theft for superstitious reasons (for example the theft of the hand or thumb of a hanged man, which was supposed to possess magical power). The locking of the door of a gallows is confirmed in the written sources, for example by the bills for the purchase of a new lock37. The discovery of the metal fitting of the door in Tišnov (Moravia) can be also mentioned in this context38.

Executioners’ houses and burials

  • 39 See for example van Dülmen 2003, 42.
  • 40 Francek & Šimek, dir. 1995, 29-33; Wojtucki 2014, 131-142.

20The executioners and their assistants were considered to be dishonourable and unclean because of their work39. Therefore, their houses were mostly built if not outside the town then very close to the fortification on the periphery of the town. These houses are usually not preserved as they were completely rebuilt or destroyed. The exception are the executioner’s houses in Brandýs nad Labem (Bohemia) dated before 1560, in Litoměřice (Bohemia) from the 18th c. and in Görlitz (Upper Lusatia), which was built in 1589 and rebuilt in 1666 at the cost of the executioner (fig. 8)40.

Fig. 8. The executioner’s house in Brandýs nad Labem (Bohemia), which was built before 1560. Photo Daniel Wojtucki.

Fig. 8. The executioner’s house in Brandýs nad Labem (Bohemia), which was built before 1560. Photo Daniel Wojtucki.
  • 41 Kůrka 2004, 140.
  • 42 Wojtucki 2016; Panáček & Wojtucki 2017, 14.
  • 43 Wojtucki 2013.

21Despite the fact that the executioners and their families were considered to be dishonourable, they could have a normal funeral and a grave in the cemetery. In some cases, there were special spaces for the executioners in the common cemetery or, as in Prague, a special cemetery, where executioners had to be buried (at the no-longer existing St. Valentine’s church in Prague’s Old Town)41. Some of the executioners were even autorized to have a headstone, such as the family of executioner Franz Friedrich Nessel in Wrocław (Lower Silesia)42 or the family of executioner Lorenz Bohl/Pohl in Moravská Třebová (Moravia)43. The headstone of Lorenz Bohl/Pohl was found in the cemetery at the church of the Raising of the Holy Cross, which is located on a hill near Moravská Třebová. According to the inscription on the headstone, it was ordered by Lorenz Bohl/Pohl in 1690 for his parents and children. The decoration of the headstone is very interesting. A quasi coat of arms with two swords and the half-figure of man with a sword are depicted there. This figure of a man is considered to be a portrayal of the donor, i.e. the executioner Bohl/Pohl.

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Notes

1 Baroque Bohemian authors Bohuslav Balbín and Karel Josef Biener from Bienenberg, for example.

2 See the short summary in Mašková & Michálek 2006, 790, note 2 and Wojtucki 2008.

3 Maisel 1982; id. 1989. An important work on this topic is also Trzciński 2001.

4 Adamová 1971; Francek & Šimek, dir. 1995; Francek 2004; Schelle, dir. 2011.

5 Mašková & Michálek 2006.

6 Sokol 2003; id. 2008.

7 Nocuń et al. 1999.

8 The results of these excavations can be found in the works of D. Wojtucki (2009) and P. Duma (2015) and in the periodical Pomniki Dawnego Prawa, where the results of the latest archaeological excavations are regularly published. Concerning the Czech Republic, the results were published by P. Sokol (2003, 2008, 2016), J. Unger (2014, 2016), H. Chybová (2009) and P. Mašková & J. Michálek (2006).

9 Inventory for the Czech Republic in Francek & Šimek, dir 1995, 43-46.

10 Hellmich & Seger 1934; Trzciński 2001; Knoll 2011; Wojtucki 2014, 361-365; Id. 2017.

11 Biblioteka Uniwersytecka we Wrocławiu (University Library in Wrocław), section of manuscripts, sign. Akc. 1949/35, Allerhand denckwuerdige Geschichte so zu Loewenberg und dieser Gegend geschehen, 530; Wojtucki 2014, 363, n. 2569.

12 Burešová et al. 2013, 541.

13 Müller & Žáček et al. 2006, 38; Státní okresní archiv v Opavě (State archive in Opava), fond: Archiv města Opavy, karton 58, inv. č. 827.

14 Although the latest interpretation of the annexe of the donjon in the castle of Přimda (Western Bohemia) is considered to be a prison from the 12th and 13th centuries, according to P. Sokol and V. Razím. See Sokol 2014, 5-7.

15 Ratsarchiv Görlitz (archive of the town hall in Görlitz), manuscript from 1745, without signature: Nachrichten die in der Stadt Görlitz beÿ Hegung des Hochnothpeinlichen Halßgerichtes auch Reparatur der beim Hochgerichts Stätte und Erbauung des Schaffauts zu einer Execution üblichen und beobachteten Solennitaeten betrf, f°4v°.

16 Horna 1941; Francek & Šimek, dir. 1995, 33-36; Vokáč 2017; Milka &Milka 1991; Trzciński 2001; Wojtucki 2006.

17 Sokol 2017, 695, 703; Sokol 2010, 355-356.

18 Petráň [1972] 2004, 9-18.

19 Sokol 2010, 368-371; Sokol 2009; Wojtucki 2010; Wojtucki 2009, 49-58.

20 Sokol 2017, 695, 703.

21 Mašková & Wojtucki 2016.

22 Sokol 2003; id. 2008.

23 See for example Mašková 2015, 209.

24 Mašková & Wojtucki 2016, 13.

25 Sokol 2016.

26 Unger 2014; Unger et al. 2016.

27 Pěnička 2014, 161.

28 Mašková & Michálek 2006.

29 See for example Mašková 2015; id. 2017, 12-16.

30 This excavation was published at the moment of the editing of this article by several authors (J. Unger, M. Čuta - T. Mořkovský, R. Pěnička, L. Jurkovičová, D. Wojtucki) in the volume of Anthropologia integra 8/2, 2017 (see https://journals.muni.cz/anthropologia_integra/issue/view/659).

31 Duma et al. 2012; Duma & Wojtucki 2014; Duma et al. 2014; Duma 2012; Duma et al. 2018.

32 The record from 1679 preserved in the archive of the town hall in Bautzen (Ratsarchiv) and published in Lücke 1912, 48.

33 Grenda et al. 2009.

34 Grenda et al. 2005; Duma et al. 2010; Duma & Wojtucki 2011; Duma & Wojtucki 2012.

35 Mašková & Michálek 2006, 805; Wojtucki 2009, 213-216.

36 Wojtucki 2009, 131; Meder 2017.

37 Wojtucki 2009, 38-39; Duma 2015, 51-55.

38 Unger 2014, 152.

39 See for example van Dülmen 2003, 42.

40 Francek & Šimek, dir. 1995, 29-33; Wojtucki 2014, 131-142.

41 Kůrka 2004, 140.

42 Wojtucki 2016; Panáček & Wojtucki 2017, 14.

43 Wojtucki 2013.

Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 1. The map of the execution sites excavated in the Czech Republic and Silesia (Poland). Computer graphics Pavlína Mašková and Jaroslav Synek.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18221/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 150k
Titre Fig. 2. The cage used for displaying the skull of the executed criminal. Today deposited in the Silesian Museum in Opava (inv. č. A 440).
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18221/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 209k
Titre Fig. 3. The old town hall in Görlitz (Upper Lusatia) with the statue of Justice. Photo Daniel Wojtucki.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18221/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 319k
Titre Fig. 4. The Rabenstein near Calw in Germany (Baden-Württemberg). Photo Daniel Wojtucki.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18221/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 343k
Titre Fig. 5. The stone foundations of the gallows at Přimda (Western Bohemia). Photo Petr Sokol.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18221/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 303k
Titre Fig. 6. The stone foundations of the gallows at Tišnov (Moravia). Photo Daniel Wojtucki.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18221/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 346k
Titre Fig. 7. The stone foundations of the gallows at Złotoryja (Lower Silesia). Photo Daniel Wojtucki.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18221/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 256k
Titre Fig. 8. The executioner’s house in Brandýs nad Labem (Bohemia), which was built before 1560. Photo Daniel Wojtucki.
URL http://books.openedition.org/ausonius/docannexe/image/18221/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 209k

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