Eike of Repgow

Eike of Repgow from the Oldenburg Sachsenspiegel

Eike of Repgow (Repchowe, Repichowe, Repkow) (ca. 1180 – ca. 1233) from Repgow, now Reppichau in Saxony-Anhalt, was a medieval German administrator who compiled the Sachsenspiegel in the 13th century.


The Sachsenspiegel

Eike of Repgow translated the Sachsenspiegel at the behest of Count Hoyer of Falkenstein between 1220 and 1233.[1] It was intended by its compiler to document existing, customary law, not to create new law. The work is of great significance not only as a legal code but also as the first major work of German prose.

Vetus auctor de beneficiis

As the author writes in the verse prologue of the Sachsenspiegel, he first wrote it in Latin and later, with some reluctance, at the wishes of Count Hoyer of Falkenstein, translated it into German.

The Latin version of the first part, on Landrecht (common law), has been lost, but the second part, on Lehensrecht (feudal law) was, as is now believed, preserved. This is the Vetus auctor de beneficiis, which is written in verse. There was a debate as to whether this was the Latin original of the part of the Sachsenspiegel on feudal law or a later translation of it into Latin, and for some time the latter view prevailed. However, the current consensus is that the Vetus auctor de beneficiis is indeed the Latin original of the feudal law section of the Sachsenspiegel.[2][3][4]

Where was the Sachsenspiegel compiled?

Where the original was compiled is unclear. It was thought to have been written at Quedlinburg or Burg Falkenstein in the Harz Mountains, but Peter Landau, an expert in medieval canon law recently suggested that it may have been written at the monastery of Altzelle (now Altzella).[5]

Other works by Eike of Repgow

Another work, the Sächsische Weltchronik has also been attributed to Eike, but this is now thought unlikely.[2]


Little is known about Eike of Repgow, but he is mentioned in several documents dating from the period between 1209 and 1233.[6]


It is thought that his family moved to the district of Serimunt, south of Magdeburg, in the Twelfth century and acquired land in the village of Reppichau. Other members of the family are mentioned in 1156 and 1159.[2] From his mention in court proceedings in 1209 it is inferred that he was born around 1180. Lack of mentions after 1233 suggests that he died shortly after that.[2]


From the prologue to the Sachsenspiegel it is clear that Eike could read Latin, as well as German. It is not actually known if he could write, since it was quite common, at the time, to employ scribes. He was versed in canon law; so it is thought that he was educated at a cathedral school, possibly under Bishop Wichmann von Seeburg at Halberstadt, or more likely at Magdeburg.[7]


It is clear that he was a respected personage, but his precise place in the feudal hierarchy is not known with certainty, since he is sometimes listed among the free nobles and sometimes among the bondsmen (Dienstmannen). He may have been a bondsman of Count Henry I of Anhalt or of Count Hoyer of Falkenstein but he was probably a free noble, one of the so-called schöffenbar freie, which entitled him to sit in the Thing (baron's court). One theory is that he was of noble birth, but like many others, became a ministerialis or bondsman, while retaining his noble status.[2]


There are monuments to Eike of Repgow in Magdeburg, Dessau, Reppichau and Halberstadt and at Falkenstein Castle in the Harz Mountains. There is a square named after him in Berlin, and there is an open-air museum devoted to him and the Sachsenspiegel in his village of Reppichau. There are also schools named after Eike of Repgow in Halberstadt and Magdeburg.

The Eike of Repgow prize, which comes with a statuette of Eike, a certificate, and 5,000 euros, is awarded jointly by awarded annually by the city of Magdeburg and the Otto von Guericke University of Magdeburg for academic work of a historical or legal nature.[8]

Famous words

The origin of the modern German saying "Wer zuerst kommt, mahlt zuerst" ("first come, first served", literally he who comes first, grinds first) can be traced to Eike of Repgow, who wrote (in the Sachsenspiegel) Die ok irst to der molen kumt, die sal erst malen (in modern English: He who comes to the mill first shall grind first).


  1. "Mirror of the Saxons". World Digital Library. 1295–1363. Retrieved 2013-08-13.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 Eike of Repgow (2006) [1475]. "Der Verfasser". In Clausdieter Schott (ed.). Der Sachsenspiegel / Eike von Repgow. edited by Clausdieter Schott. Manesse-Bibliothek der weltliteratur (in German). translation of Landrecht by Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand; epilogue and translation of Lehenrecht by Clausdieter Schott (3rd rev. ed.). Zürich: Manesse (Random House). ISBN 3-7175-1656-6.
  3. Karl Kroeschell (1998-04-27). "Lehnrecht und Verfassung im deutschen Hochmittelalter". forum historiae iuris (in German). forum historiae iuris. ISSN 1860-5605. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
  4. Karl August Eckhardt (ed.) (1964). "Auctor vetus de beneficiis I: Lateinische Texte". Monumenta Germaniae Historica digital Fontes iuris Germanici antiqui, Nova series (Fontes iuris N. S.) 2,1, 1964) (in German). Monumenta Germaniae Historica. pp. 9ff. Retrieved 2007-02-28.
  5. The suggestion that the Sachsenspiegel was written at Altzelle was made in a paper given by Professor Landau at the Deutscher Rechtshistorikertag 2004 and later published in an article (Landau, Peter: Die Entstehungsgeschichte des Sachsenspiegels: Eike von Repgow, Altzelle und die anglo-normannische Kanonistik; Monumenta Germaniae Historica: Deutsches Archiv für Erforschung des Mittelalters 2005, Vol 61, No. 1, pp 73-101), cited at the German Wikipedia article on Kloster Altzella and http://www.rechtsbuchforschung.de.
  6. According to the Reppicau Web site Eike of Repgow is mentioned in seven documents:
    • 1156: On December 28 "Eico and Arnolt de Ripechowe" as witnesses at the Landgericht held by Margrave Albrecht the Bear in Wörbzig
    • 1209: "Eico de Ripichowe" named as a witness in a document in which Johann and Walter of Giebichenstein transfer ownership of a castle to the Bishop of Naumburg.
    • 1215: Count Hoyer of Falkenstein and "Hecco de Repechowe" listed as witnesses to legal transactions between the Kollegatstift Coswig and Count Henry of Aschersleben, who later became Prince of Anhalt.
    • 1218: On May 1 "Heiko von Repchowe" witnessed the transfer of property from the Margrave Dietrich von Meißen to Altzella Abbey.
    • 1219: The name "Eico von Repechowe" is mentioned, together with that of Count Hoyer of Falkenstein, in a document in which Prince Henry of Anhalt ended a legal dispute with the Stift Goslar.
    • 1224: "Eico von Ribecowe" is names as a witness at the Landding of the County of Eilenburg in Delitzsch, which was convened under the presidency of Landgraf Louis of Thüringen.
    • 1233: "Eico von Repechowe" is mentioned on a deed of gift by Margraves Johann and Otto of Brandenburg to the benefit of Berge Monastery.
  7. Mathilde Diederich (Staatssekretärin im Ministerium der Justiz Sachsen-Anhalt) (1999-10-15). "Laudatio für Eike von Repgow anläßlich der Festveranstaltung zu Ehren Eike von Repgow aus Anlass des 60. Geburtstages von Prof. Dr. Krause am 15.0ktober 1999" [Eulogy of Eike of Repgow on the occasion of the sixtieth birthday of Professor Krause on October 15, 1999] (in German). Rechtsgeschichte-life. Retrieved 2007-02-26.
  8. Eike von Repgow Preis (German)

Additional sources

Further reading

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