Germany Forms of Settlement Part II

Elba and the Saale mark a very important historical-ethnographic border also with regard to the locations, as the border embankment raised by Charlemagne to face the Slavs, is not very different from these natural lines. In this second period the great uprooting of primitive forests began (around the 6th century). In the third period which, according to Arnold, begins with the 12th century IX, an intense clearing of the woods takes place; and this period lasts for Hesse up to the 10th century. XII, for eastern Germany up to XIII: in the place names we find the termination – rode (cf. Rodung which means “uprooting”) as well as – schwend, – hage (words which also allude to wood). Then kirchen, (“church”, word that corresponds to the spread of Christianity), and then – tal, – fels, – stein, – burg, names which indicate the fact that the low and flat parts were no longer enough to contain the population which had grown considerably and had to be established in the mountains. These distinctions, which have been found above all in Hesse (Arnold), are valid almost for the whole of Germany. In this way the toponymy can give valuable help to recognize the time in which the villages were formed.

Particular forms of offices correspond to the periods of settlement which are now distinct. At this point we must consider the distinction of the villages with respect also to their planimetric character, and examine their distribution. The whole territory of Central Europe can generally be divided into various zones, according to the prevailing type of settlement. A very interesting type of village is the Haufendorf (Haufen “heap”): ie agglomerated village. This denomination refers to the reciprocal, very irregular arrangement of the streets and houses. The Haufendorf it is characteristic of the area to the west of the border established by Charlemagne. This type of village, due to the economic system, but not exclusive to it, is also called Gewanndorf (gewinnen, “to conquer”). The courtyards or rural residences, about thirty, are irregularly massed, separated from each other and arranged without a predetermined order, as occurs in spontaneous formations; around there is the cultivated countryside. Further on is the land that is not cultivated and which was originally common property.

According to Diseaseslearning, the name of Gewanndorf alludes to the community system from which the village originated: these are centers built by free men who formed themselves into communities and divided, according to the principles of equality (community law or partnership), the land conquered with common efforts to the bush and the swamp, therefore called Gewanne. The complex of crops around the village is called Flur (“countryside”). The village was governed by a community council. In the various stretches of land conquered there were naturally differences (more or less fertile, more suitable for this or that cultivation): each species of cultivated area that was cleared constituted a Gewanne. The community council established which cultivation should be done in each Gewanne, in which each family benefited from a parcel to be cultivated: the kind of cultivation was imposed by the council itself (Flurzwang). For example, only rye was to be grown, or flax, etc. The plots of land were entrusted to families by drawing lots. Thus each family had a parcel in each Gewanne. The complex of the plots of each family scattered in the various Gewannen was called Hufe. This village is particularly characteristic of West Germany and although the conditions of the property have changed, it retains the imprint of its origin. Sometimes the agglomeration is much smaller and is called “Weiler”, characteristic of some parts of southern Germany. It doesn’t get to be a village. The Roman origin has been admitted by some, but it is not proven. The Weiler is also found in Alsace. Then there are the Reihendörfer, that is “chain villages”, developed in the mountain valleys and especially along the water courses, where deforestation was done in order to live on the initiative of feudatarî: this is what the denomination of Waldhufendörfer alludes to.with which they are also known. They are much more recent than the agglomerated villages. A road was opened along the watercourse and the various rural courtyards (Höfe) arose next to the road in very long lines. Relative to each court is a bottom made like a strip that goes up the corresponding slope of the valley. This type of village is, it can be said, widespread throughout Germany. Now we see the types of villages east of Elbe and Saale. First of all, Strassendorf has to be considered: the houses are lined up along aisles joining two main streets, or along a single street. Its origins seem to date back to Frankish colonization: they were built on the basis of dividing the land into plots of equal extension, that is, according to a plan that recalls that of the chain village. This whole area is also of high interest for another type of village: the round village, or Runddorf, or even Rundling. It is always beyond the limes of the Carolingian Empire, but it becomes less frequent as one proceeds towards the east: in Prussia and Posnania we no longer find them; instead it is located west of the Elbe between Saxony and Thuringia and Franconia. Around a central area that communicates with the outside by means of a single exit, there are the houses arranged in a circle and an external road runs all around. This provision can be explained by an essentially defensive reason. Since it is frequent in the area where Slavic populations had settled, many considered it of Slavic origin; the fact remains, however, that it is found on the Ems and in Jütland.

Germany Forms of Settlement 2