Germanybrod gallows with shadows

The municipal law in Havlíčkův (formerly Německý) Brod has been represented by a town clerk since the Middle Ages. First as a court official, then as a representative of the town administration and justice, presiding over the twelve councillors, and in the post-Pusitic period as the presiding judge of the town court. The administration of the town and the court was taken over by the Brodskis from the court of the Old Town of Prague and in the entries of the law book from 1430-1440 it was called „Prague conch law“. Německý Brod was part of the „South German law“ and gradually grew into the supreme court for the towns of Chotěboř, Ledeč nad Sázavou, Lipnice nad Sázavou and Světlá nad Sázavou. The Brod court, on the other hand, in unclear or disputed cases had to turn to the Court of Appeal of the Old Town of Prague, which had the status of the highest court of appeal for all Czech towns.

The municipal court in German Broad was guided by the essence of unwritten, customary law and then found the „law“ for each case separately. From the 15th century onwards, the court used the findings of court cases taken from Brno and the Old Town of Prague, and later expanded its investigation to include records of important legal disputes in Brod, with a detailed account of the whole case, including the verdict. These findings were transcribed into a kind of „legal manual“ around 1540. This was a separate book, which bore a label on the plates entitled: ‚The Books of the Wortel‘. And because not every dispute ended amicably, serious offences were punishable by death. If the accused could not redeem himself with money, he was sometimes handed over to the executioner after months of patient interrogation. The executioner performed his work at an elevated place on the road to Prague, which is still called Na spravedlnosti. The German-Brod gallows with shadows used to stand near God’s torment.

In some town records of the time, the gallows was also referred to as „the old one“. It stood in the middle of the fields, surrounded by fields of trees, in a deserted place, far from being visible, and a narrow path led to it, which turned off the Prague road at the God’s Torment. It was most probably a brick building with four pillars connected by beams from above. The construction of the gallows stood on a square stone foundation with an entrance door for the executioner and his henchmen. Under the gallows there was usually a chamber where the executioner could store his less valuable tools and, in case of a sudden change in weather conditions, he could take refuge here for a while from the inclement weather. Like any similar place, the Brod execution site was also shrouded in various superstitions and myths, as well as folk beliefs in witches and ghosts.

A depiction of Nemecky Brod in a vignette from Jan Beckovsky’s book, Labarum Triumphale, published in Prague’s Old Town by the widow Barbara Františka Beryngrová through Matěj Geissenhoffer in 1704.

We can now locate the site more precisely. It is located between Pražská and Na spravedlnosti Streets in the area between the houses Pražská 2228 and Na spravedlnosti 3222. However, only excavations in the area would have to specify the exact destination. Slightly further south, near the house at 3211 Na spravedlnosti, there was a small cemetery where the executioners „removed“ the executed. This cemetery has been called and documented as being „by the new execution ground“ and it is therefore evident that the gallows and shades have undergone reconstruction over the centuries. Traces of this defunct cemetery were found by chance in 1986 during the excavation of the foundations of the northern wing of block of flats No.: 3207-3212, less than a hundred metres south of the execution site.

Then, in the northern part of the excavation, in front of house number 3211, the excavator came across a layer half a metre deep containing fragments of human bones and pottery from the 18th century. Skulls were also found in the excavation before the archaeologists‘ detailed investigation. According to the cadastral maps, the execution site was located on parcel no.: 1002, to which a small part of parcel no.: 1001 was still adjacent in 1838, which was referred to as pasture. According to historians, this is considered to be the original executioner’s cemetery.

And Brodsky, the master executioner, did indeed. The fact that he did not suffer from lack of work is evidenced by several surviving records, which are documented in the Havlíčkův Brod book of bad luck (court). Among other things, we can read here that the condemned, apart from the executioner and his henchmen, were accompanied to the execution ground by priests. A witness record left by Dean Ondřej Leopold Schaffer has survived: „In 1739, three criminals were condemned and brought before Dean Leopold Schaffer to be beheaded and entangled in the wheels. Tomas Vlcek, a mill worker from the estate of Starojenik, 53 years old, piously departed on 2 May. On the same day, 2 May, Štěpán Pometlo, a butcher from Přibyslav, 28 years old, was beheaded and put in the wheel for the same crime. The third on the same day was the condemned Jew Moses Joickl, having previously received baptism and been given the name Joseph, died piously and Christianly at the age of 33.“

„In 1743, on 13th December, Václav Rosocha, a peasant from the village of Řečičky pod Lipnicí, was beheaded, who killed his wife out of passion with an axe, and so within 4 hours, according to custom, the 44-year-old man, surrendered to the will of God, died most piously.“ The sadly-famous execution ground at German Brod experienced its denouement in 1766 in a drastic execution by burning. The dean of Brod, Antonín Tadeáš Stamic, records this cruel spectacle in the registry of the dead:

„In 1766, on 13th June, Dorota Moravcová was burnt for the murder of a child from the village of Petrovice, a subject of the Chotěboř manor, aged 27. Surrendered to the will of God, she died before the helpless dean and spiritual administrator of Baber Josef Ungar.“
The patent of Maria Theresa ends the centuries-long gloomy glory of the local execution ground. The executioner was able to polish and store his sword and all the instruments of execution and torture.


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