The Hanseatic League




     Primary Sources
     Secondary Sources


     Primary Bibliography
     Secondary Bibliography
     Online Bibliography



About the Site


While founded in 1252, the Bruges Kontor was not organized formally until 1347. Its charter, presented here, was issued on 28 October 1347.

SOURCE: “The Statutes of the Bruges Business House.” In d'Hanens, Albert, ed. Europe of the North Sea and the Baltic: The World of the Hanse. Antwerp: Fonds Mercator, 1984. p. 178.
Included here under fair use regulations.

Page 178

In the name of the Lord, amen. As it is good and proper to set down in writing the points and prescriptions to be respected, the associated merchants of the Roman Empire of Germany, in the year of our Lord 1347, assembled in the refectory of the Carmelites in Bruges on the day of the apostles Saint Simon and Saint Jude (Oct. 28th), have decided, for the benefit of the associated merchants, to have and keep jointly a book in which shall be entered all the ordinances and regulations to be established and enacted, as well as the customs and usages that are to be observed.
   1.   Firstly, it is to be known that the above-mentioned community of merchants is divided into three groups as follows: those of Lübeck, the Wendish towns, the Saxons and whatever is connected therewith are grouped in one third; those of Westphalia, Prussia and whatever is connected therewith in another; lastly those of Gotland, Livonia, Sweden and whatever is connected therewith in the third.
   2.   Furthermore, each year eight days after Whitsun, two Elders are to be elected in each third. He who is elected must accept the office or pay a pound of 'gros' into the coffers of the said merchants, with the risk of being elected a second time and incurring the same fine.
   3.   Furthermore, if one of the Elders left Bruges, the other five must elect one from the same third to which the sixth belonged, and he must accept under penalty of the said fine.
   4.   Furthermore, the six Elders shall have the power to assemble the community of Germans on the date they decide and at the place where they are, under penalty of a fine of three 'gros'.
   5.   Should an important matter so require, the Elders may summons to appear whomsoever they wish and inflict a fine as heavy as they wish.
   6.   Should it happen that an Elder fails to present himself, he is liable to a double fine.
   7.   If the Elders cannot agree among themselves, the minority must follow the majority.
   8.   Similarly, if the three thirds do not agree, the third third must accept the decision of the other two.
   9.   If a matter concerns the whole of the Community, whether within the gates (of Bruges) or outside, it is the wisest and most competent of the six Elders, designated as such the other five, who must be its spokesman. If the matter concerns one third more than the others, the Elders of the third in question must be the spokesmen.
   10.   The six Elders, on the very day of their election, must choose six assessors in each third.
   11.   The six Elders and the eighteen assessors must meet whenever they are convened by the Elders, and they can settle all matters without the joint assembly of the Germans.
   12.   When the Elders appoint delegates to local councillors, they must obey under penalty of two sous of 'gros' in town or five sous of 'gros' out of town, if they have to overlap.
   13.   When the community of the Germans assembles at the Carmelites', at the moment when the Elders go to the refectory they must order their man-servant to go through the church and invite those present to join them. If anyone arrives late after the Elders have begun their speeches, he must pay three 'gros' into the coffers.
   14.   When the Elders are making their speeches standing at the desk, if some persons go and sit on the bench or commence to chat with one, two or more others, not listening to what the Elders are saying, they shall pay a 'gros' into the coffers, as many as they are and as often as they do it. The same fine applies to meetings of the thirds.
   15.   He who opens the doors without the permission of the Elders shall pay five sous of 'gros' into the coffers; he who goes away without permission, three 'gros'.
   16.   The Elders can require whomsoever is under eath to tell the truth about any matter coming within German law, under penalty of a fine of a pound of 'gros'.
   17.   If a merchant undertakes an important or secondary deal, whether in Bruges or outside of Bruges, he must carry it through at his own expense. If he cannot or does not want to do so himself, let him ask another to be his spokesman. And the Germans must lend him assistance in his cause according to their power and goodwill.