The patriciate in Warburg felt an affinity for the nobility; relationships were often forged through marriage. Frequently mentioned noble and patrician lines during this period were the Geismar, Nabercord, Ordecken, Gerold, von Menne, Thöne/Thonemann, Schlicker, von Höxter, von Steinheim, von Listingen, Reussen, Volmar and Schepers families. Several of these families were interrelated.
The leading councillors were not at all opposed to having tradesmen in their circle. A certain amount of wealth, however, was a precondition; as those holding office had to be in a position to put aside professional activities in favour of the new position since – unlike present times – councillors and mayors did not receive payment or compensation.
In general – as has already been mentioned – the citizens had little or no interest in taking up public office. They obviously felt themselves sufficiently represented in political affairs by the rich, experienced and well-educated council families.
The governing council, however, did not hold exclusive power for the one-year term of office. In certain cases two further committees were involved, the previous council, known as the “Alderat” and 18 “upright men from the locality” who were chosen by the ruling councillors, 9 from the old town and new town respectively. The chairmanship of these committees was held by one of the previous year’s mayors. The precondition for the meeting of this committee was an invitation, or rather summoning, by the sitting council. The council was obliged to summon both committees only when new laws were being passed.
With its twelve council members, Warburg was not unusual and this number was also found in many similar towns and was only exceeded in much larger towns; towns smaller than Warburg only had a fraction of this number.
The complete civil jurisdiction was incumbent upon the town council; the town judges had almost completely lost this to the council. Since the 17th century the council court was also the appeal authority for decisions taken by the town judge.
The Warburg council took efforts for the observation of the law of the first instance (“jus primae instantiae”). This meant that those wishing to become citizens or to take up offices in the town had to promise not to take citizens or Pfahlbürger to a clerical or external court but to the council court in Warburg. The Warburg council also possessed a former sovereign right, that of trade sovereignty. With the unification of both towns in 1436 this right was reconfirmed in the “Großen Brief” (Big Letter) through the freedom to issue guild certificates; Warburg also obtained further former lordly sovereignty rights which were important for economic development such as customs prerogatives, the right to mint coins and the control of markets.
Due to the expanded and firm autonomy the economic development of Warburg continued after the unification of both towns.
During the 15th and 16th centuries the Warburg guilds enjoyed generally secured prosperity which was partly due to their ability to produce surpluses and to invest these profitably, e.g. investment certificates of some trades guilds.
Since the 15th century Warburg council had market control rights which had formerly been under the control of the state sovereign. The council appointed one of its members market master to examine the goods on offer at the market, determine prices and supervise the use of weights and measures. In the event of violations fines were imposed by the council.
Decline of the power of the Council
The provisions of the “Großen Brief” (Big Letter) of 1436 were generally observed by the Warburg council for the old town and new town and lasted until 1667 – i.e. 231 years. Records of council meetings show that the previous council and the local committee were consulted on important occasions and the requirement that one of the two mayors and half of the councillors should be resident in the old and new towns respectively was also adhered to. There was no change either with regard to the number of council members or the two mayors. Council renewal as required in the “Großen Brief” took place annually in the first weeks of January.
The sovereign in Paderborn regarded the extensive power with scepticism; he repeatedly attempted to reduce the sovereignty practised by the towns as well as the position and power of the council. Thus in 1580 in the name of the towns of the principality the Bishop of Paderborn’s new coinage regulations were recognised by Warburg and Paderborn.
In 1662 the Bishop of Paderborn succeeded in regaining control of customs in Warburg. In 1613 intervention in the guild system was also successful; likewise the centralisation of the legal system was pushed ahead in the middle of the century. After many failed attempts the sovereign succeeded in 1667 in administering the final blow to municipal independence by the determination of a new voting system for the council constitution. The impact of the Thirty Years War and the disquiet among the Warbug citizens concerning what they regarded as unfair billeting and contributions made it relatively easy for the sovereign to make the long-desired intervention.
The Paderborn bishop Ferdinand II, who ruled the region from 1661 to 1683, issued the following ordinance:
“Und damit dann auch bei kunfftiger rathswahl der verdacht aller partialität (wohl Parteilichkeit) eingestellt pleiben möge, so thun wir dem bishero gehaltenen modum eligendi (Wahlmodus) … hiermit aus landesfurstlicher macht und gewaltt und auß dazu bewegenden erheblichen ursachen zumathen auffheben.” (“so that the suspicion of partiality in future council elections may be prevented, we are herewith according to princely power, repealing the hitherto applied modum eligendi (electoral mode)”.)
This state legislative ordinance by the bishop in 1667 repealed the existing election system and replaced it with a new one. In a general assembly lots were drawn from the six town Bauerschaften (groups of farmers) to select two electors from each.
These 12 electors had to elect – without receiving instructions – 12 men (no women!) from the citizenry as future councillors. On the following day the 12 selected persons were installed and sworn in by the outgoing council. All records and keys were handed over to the new council. The new councillors elected the two mayors from their midst.
The spirit of that time was indicated by a further sovereign decree:
“Damit es mit diesem eligendi modo so viell aufrichtiger auch gehalten werde, so soll unser zeitlicher Gogräff daselbst als unser spezialiter dazu verordneter Commissarius dieser Bürgermeisterwahl nicht allein, sondern auch dem vorigen actui beywohnen und praesidiren, die per sortem (durch Los) auß der Gemeinheit genohmenen Churmänner auch hiebei kommender Form in ayde und pflichten nehmen” und nach Abschluß des von ihm kontrollierten gesamten Vorgangs noch entscheiden, ob nichts bedenkliches zu beobachten war. (“So that it will be done much more honestly with this electoral mode, our temporal Gogräff himself as our specially decreed commissioner for this task of the mayoral election will not preside alone, but also the previous citizen, and take the electors chosen from the community by lot also in this form under oath and obligation” and on conclusion of the entire process controlled by him will decide whether there was anything dubious to observe.)
This meant that the three electoral procedures were to be monitored and controlled by the state commissioner and that the election required the approval of the sovereign. A municipal constitution formerly based on autonomy was disposed of and the council demoted to a state bureaucratic committee subject to the permanent control by, and subordination to, a state official.
Thus the new regulations were not met with approval by the old, tried and tested Warburg councillor families. A counter-offensive was started with the selection of the electors by clandestinely influencing the lot-drawing process (“corriger la fortune”). These attempts were just as unsuccessful as the official entreaties of the citizens and nobles to the sovereign. The situation deteriorated when the next bishop, Hermann Werner (1683 to 1704) decreed that a state collector was to be installed for both towns thus withdrawing financial sovereignty from the mayor and council. It was only in 1739 that a slight correction was made by Bishop Clemens August (1719 to 1761). The bureaucratic and absolutist regulation remained, however, until after the days of prince-bishops.
Catholic parish church St. Johannes Baptista in Warburg new town (new town church)
Regardless from which direction one approaches Warburg, from the motorway or the Warburg Börde, from Kassel or Paderborn, the first sight is that of the high spire of the new town parish church. This not only shows clearly the position of the Warburg new town on a mountain ridge 60 m above the Diemel valley but also the central position given to the parish church when designing the town. Together with the market place – the town hall of the new town also stood here as indicated by a plaque – it is situated at one of the town’s highest points which rises slightly towards the south.
The reasons for and the timing of construction of the church is connected with the origin of the new town. The new town is first documented as an independent town with a constitutional council in 1239. Bishop Bernhard IV (1227 to 1247) is known as the founder. It is also probable that he initiated the erection of the church. The appearance of the church today goes back to the careful renovation between 1899 and 1908. The spire retrieved its gothic cupola in 1902 as it was shown in copperplate engravings by Braun/Hogenberg in 1581 and Merian in 1647. The high altar in baroque style designed by J.C. Schlaun in 1714 was broken off in 1882 and replaced in 1882 by a neo-gothic stone one designed by the Cologne architect Wiethase. The pictures on the church windows are a qualitative example of historical glasswork. The stone Renaissance pulpit from 1611 depicts the church patron saint John the Baptist in the middle, underneath the field with the coat of arms of the founder by Heinrich Buelicken. The Latin inscription on the pulpit urges: “spread the Word, insistently, whether convenient or inconvenient”. The following are worth seeing: the gothic Pieta from 1370 and Christ in pain from 1500, the late-gothic winged altarpiece “Charvinalter” in the Herz-Jesu Chapel from around 1450 and finally “Baptism of Christ”, a group of figures created by J.C. Schlaun in 1719.
A walk around the church reveals the use of two kinds of building materials; the western parts including the spire and the later added side chapel are of grey and white limestone, the chancel is of red sandstone. Viewed from the market place, the massive 77m high west spire dominates both the architecture of the square and the church building.