Women's Bodies, Women's Property German Customary Law Books Illustrated in the Fourteenth Century

Group VI: Woman's life estate--but with limitations

Landrecht I, 21, 2

Oldenburg 17r
Oldenburg 10r
Wolfenbuttel 16r

see below for detailed page sections

The principle is that no one, including heirs to the property, can take away from a woman rights granted to her to use property throughout her lifetime (life estate or tenancy), unless she forfeits her rights herself by, e.g., cutting down fruit trees, or by expelling someone from the estate who belongs there by virtue of birth, or by any means whatever. If a man is legally divorced from his wife, she does not lose her rights to the life estate granted by her husband. Again it the negative possibilities which are illustrated. Dresden and Wolfenb├╝ttel show her abusing her rights rather than living within them as she expels someone illegally and also orders the cutting down of fruit trees. Oldenburg does the same, but unlike the others, it chooses also to illustrate the last observation that a divorced woman continues to maintain life estate. The bishop (under canon law only an episcopal court is competent to perform divorces and anullments) in full regalia with the separation gesture divorces the couple. The woman enters the house, whose door stands open, pointing with her right hand to a field of grain. The house and grain represent her life estate. The man points upward to the previous picture, indicating perhaps that he has granted life estate or that the two cases are analogous. Once more Oldenburg appears to work at making positive images of and for women.