The area around the city was devastated after almost two years of singeing and burning, and according to the chronicles, the town owed 60,000 guilders. That was so much that even a decade later, unrest among its citizens flared up again and again within its walls - quite simply because there was often a lack of the bare essentials. And all this only to restore a situation that existed before hostilities began on February 21, 1388.
The Great Dortmund Feud is an excellent example of how bloody conflicts arose in the Middle Ages, how the parties fought them and how it was possible to settle them. Long after the Second World War, older research on medievalists such as Otto Brunner (best-known work: "Land unddominion") viewed feuding as something that was much more direct and therefore more comprehensible than the complicated treaties between the states of modern times.
Popular scientists and writers took this as an opportunity to ascribe a code of honor and decency to the knights involved - and even modern research sometimes emphasizes that feuding often enough consisted of the threat of violence rather than its execution. However, as far as the alleged code is concerned, there are doubts. At the end of the 15th century, the Carthusian monk Werner Rolevinck put the following into the mouths of the feuding knights: "Riding out on a robbery is not a disgrace, the best in the country do it."
In the case of Dortmund, Cologne's Archbishop Friedrich III. from salting the robbing and burning. Already in 1346 the Archbishopric had received liens from King Charles IV, which his successor Wenzel had renewed in 1375. But by 1388 every bishop of Cologne had failed to enforce it; there was a lack of worldly partners. Now, however, Friedrich had managed to lure the Count von der Mark to his side with the prospect of fat booty in the free city - that is, the lord of large areas of the Lower Rhine and Westphalia.
The people of Cologne demanded an oath of homage from the people of Dortmund. This pledge of allegiance was worth a conflict that included everything from attacks to sieges that would make life and death hell for the enemy. At first it seemed as if Friedrich had the best prospects of getting through with his plan: not only numerous sovereigns jumped in with him, but also smaller towns.
The fact that the Archbishop of Cologne informed the Dortmund Council of his intentions in a feudal letter was already a step forward in terms of civilisation. In the centuries before, the parties had often agreed verbally to hit and stab. The loser's submission always had a symbolic component: he had to kiss the victor's feet or wear clothing that identified him as the inferior.
In 1388, the attackers did not set up a mercenary army as usual, they were too convinced of their superiority - and this was to take revenge quickly. Not only could Dortmund rely on its strong city walls, the city also managed to recruit 70 knights, 49 pikemen and 29 English archers; added to this was the support of many nobles. The people of Cologne, on the other hand, were financially supported only by Lübeck, Stralsund, Deventer and Zwolle.
However, the loans only amounted to 2,000 guilders. When the Dortmunders accepted the feud on February 22nd, the archbishops tried to starve the city by setting up a camp in front of the castle gate. The troops of the Mark tore down the Stadtmühle, which was located on the Emscher - and on April 17th they started shelling Dortmund. But that got them bad: A significant proportion of the attackers died when they replied. Some allies hardly took part in the hostilities.
On May 29, the Dortmunders tried to seize the fortunes of the war by dropping out, but in vain. About 110 more of these actions followed, all without decisive effect. On June 24, the people of Cologne and the Märker presented their demands again, but the townspeople rejected attempts to mediate. The answer? A more intense shelling with 238 stone bullets, which only damaged some buildings and also killed a cow and two pigs.
During their heavy return fire on July 10, the Dortmunders probably also used a new type of powder cannon. The attackers were so panicked by this weapon that they loosened the siege ring. And something else became clear to the aggressors: Since the city had built up large stocks of grain even before the feud, starvation seemed hopeless. Despite appropriate provocations, the Dortmunders did not allow themselves to be tempted into an open battle, they stuck to their strategy of failures.
On October 3rd they even managed to destroy parts of the enemy camp. The skirmishes continued without either side gaining the upper hand. Finally, in 1389, the parties appealed to the Royal Superior Court. But King Wenzel made no law; he left it at the request to the besiegers to refrain from their request.
Dortmund had also suffered from the long conflict. On November 4, 1389, mediated by the city of Soest, serious negotiations took place to end the feud. At first, Dortmund was not willing to make any concessions; only under pressure from the Soest negotiations did the city offer to make a "voluntary payment" of 7,000 guilders each to Kurköln and the County of Mark.
However, this money was not included in the peace treaty - the Dortmunders wanted at all costs to prevent this text from looking like a defeat for them. They succeeded across the board. Even a saying of its own came up afterwards: “So fast as Düörpm” (“As solid as Dortmund”) lasted well into the 18th century. But it too was bought at a high price. A few words, no matter how flattering the identity, could not ease the suffering the feud had brought upon the town.
On the other hand, the idea of some fans of the Middle Ages that feuds were more humane conflicts because they were contained by a code is one of the myths of history. Once the battle had broken out, there was no humanity even in the 14th century. The example of Dortmund clearly shows this.
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