Dmitriy Weber (St. Petersburg State University)

Game and Adventus. Lords and estates in early modern Livonia

In this paper, the term “city” is understood as a space of communication in the context of a case study of the situation in Livonia in the 1530s, as depicted by the « Chronica of the Province of Lyfflandt » by Balthasar Russow. As an example, events in Reval in 1536 are discussed, when a newly elected land master (Landmeister) of the Teutonic Order of the Livonian branch appeared in the city to accept the oath of allegiance.

In 1346, the Danish king sold Harrien and Wierland to the Teutonic Order. The mentioned territories, which included Revals, were initially administrated by the dominant Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order until 1561. At the handover, the Order confirmed the privileges of the city and promised to respect them in the future. A similar procedure of taking oaths and confirming old and new privileges was characteristic of both Prussian and Livonian tradition. In fact, this always took place some time after an appointment.

There are two different types of city visits. First, the adventus after the election of the new order to the oath acceptance, or to a corresponding political act in the name of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. Second, a visit combined with political activities that are not related to the inauguration of the new master of the Order.

The former was determined not only by the acceptance of the oath, but also by the confirmation of the privileges. After taking the oath, a tournament was held on the Hall Square, which indicates a difficult relationship between estates in Livonia. The defeat in a duel of noble fighters served as a catalyst of the conflict, but was not the original cause. Undoubtedly, the participation of citizens in a duel on horseback, and even more so their victory, was a provocation. However, the actual trigger may be an event that had already happened a year earlier. Noteworthy is the authority of the Order. On the one hand, the newly inflamed conflict escalated after the execution of Johann Üxkülls – despite the intervention of the land master, the condemnation of the citizens and the knighthood, where the execution had taken place. This indicates that the ruler did not have the absolute power of decision in the case of a dispute between his vassals. On the other hand, however, the event connected to the duel is the result of the land master’s visit to the city, which can be regarded as a fixed form of representation of his power as sovereign.

The presented extract of the chronicle makes it possible to conceive of the city as a space of communication on different levels. First, the urban territory itself functions as a place of mutual relations of the various sides. Moreover, the urban territory is not only physically limited by the city walls and the city gates, but to a certain extent also symbolically marked by the procedure of crossing the city limits during the visit of the land master. Second, within the city, there are some places of communication between the sovereign, his vassals and the various estates — including the castle, the town hall, and the town square. In their function as communication spaces between the landlord and his vassals, the castle and the town hall were used as a place of taking oath and  making homage. The Town Hall Square, where the tournament was held, was not only a place of communication between vassals and landlord, but also between burghers and knighthood.

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