The magic of freedom and the right to co-determination
Imagine yourself to be in the 14th century.
Memmingen prospers and the people are satisfied. Under the protection of the city walls, the townspeople of the imperial city produce textiles, build houses and workshops, decorate churches and chapels, write books for education and entertainment, process leather and fabrics, care for the physical well-being of their fellow citizens with food and medicine, and celebrate festivals. And when danger threatens, they take up arms to defend the interests of their city and the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.
There is participation in politics. All citizens’ guilds have a share in the city regiment and are anxious to create a balance in business, politics, and church. A guild constitution founded in 1347 grants all guilds a say, even if the rich merchants are preferred.
But it doesn't stay that way. Let’s jump to the year 1525.
New conflicts ignite between subjects and rulers. In March 1525, 50 farmers' representatives from various regions – including Sebastian Lotzer, a citizen of Memmingen – joined forces to form the "Christian Association". In the meeting place of the Shopkeepers’ Guild, they summarize their numerous demands for freedom and participation into a ground-breaking manifesto – the so-called Twelve Articles. In the following months, numerous prints of the Twelve Articles appear throughout the Empire.
The hoped-for participation of the peasants comes to an end with the suppression of the Peasants' War in the early summer of 1525 by the Swabian League. The Peasants' War kills over 100,000 people. The revolution is lost. In 1551, the guild constitution comes to an end by imperial order.
In the following decades, society becomes deeply divided: into artisans with no political say, and on the other side an elitist patriarchy of the politically and economically influential merchant class.
What we know today.
The "12 Articles" from 1525 reach far beyond their time and are considered early monuments of German freedom and constitutional history. No revolution in German history involved so many people as did the peasant uprising in 1525.
In 2000, the city of Memmingen established the "Memmingen Freedom Prize 1525". The award was created in memory of the intentions and goals of the year 1525, to remind us that no success in the history of freedom and no freedom once acquired, is guaranteed for all time. Freedom never appears of its own accord; it must be longed for, fought for, and defended.
Memmingen now bears the title "City of Civil Liberties” as a result of this historical event.
Kramerzunft and Freedom Fountain
The Shopkeepers’ Guild where the insurgent farmers met stands to this day beside the Memmingen wine market. During city tours you can enter the room in which the individual articles were filed back in March 1525. Opposite info point.
Outside on the square, a fountain created in 2014 by the Augsburg sculptor Andreas Brauneis has been commemorating the events of 1525. In this sculpture, freedom is cast into an abstract form. The fountain stele provides a variety of insights and perspectives and symbolizes transparency and openness as necessary companions of freedom. The "12 articles" are at the bottom of the pedestal.
Sources: Entwurf eines Memminger Narrativs von Christof Engelhard, Rollup „12 Artikel“, Flyer „Stadt der Menschrechte“