A basic principle of Magdeburg Law in Kraków was in that of granting the city its own jurisdiction, based upon German common law. The main written source was the legal code created in Saxony in the first half of the 13th century, called the Saxon Mirror (Speculum Saxonum, Sachsenspiegel) and, based upon it the Magdeburg Weichbild (Ius Municipale).
Following the spread of print, many codifications and translations appeared. Bartłomiej Groicki (1534?-1605), an outstanding Kraków lawyer, was the author of many works on city law and his works enjoyed great popularity almost until the end of the 18th century.
In Kraków, judicial functions were originally performed by the Wójt together with the board of assessors, but the city council gradually took over many of their prerogatives. The jurisdiction based upon Magdeburg law was strongly linked to class with the aggrieved party presenting the plea at the court appropriate to the defendant. Nobility, clergy, professors and students of the Kraków Academy were excluded from jurisdiction of the city. In cases which raised any doubt, judges applied to the parent city, Magdeburg, whose court of assessors would issue ortyls and legal advice with a binding force. Cities would also issue their own laws, wilkierzes, regulating such questions as security and Guilds’ Statutes, concerning matters connected with craft.
King Casimir the Great (Kazimierz Wielki) (1310-1370) made Polish jurisdiction independent of Magdeburg in 1356, creating the Higher Court of German Law at the Kraków Castle as an appellation court of German law. The court of appeals for this was the Commissioner’s Court of Six Cities, created also in 1356. These courts existed until 1791, until the creation of the 3rd May Constitution which integral to was the Law on Cities.
Severe and cruel penalties were imposed for any violation of the law and capital punishment was quite common although sometimes changed to a less severe penalty such as exile from the city, forfeiture of property or infamy, but imprisonment was very rare. Torture was widely used to make the defendant plead guilty and executions usually took place at the Market Square near the City Hall (Sukiennice), but gallows were also placed outside the city in Pędzichów. Kuny, the chains used on convicts for show in public, hung at the gate of Our Lady’s Church and a pillory (pręgierz) at the Market Square was used for flogging. A knife hanging in the Cloth Hall reminded inhabitants and newcomers alike that the city was governed by Magdeburg Law.

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