The Stone Table
It was a judicial table in ancient Carantania

   Stone Table with 12 seats destined for the twelve assessors called dvanajstija (twelve persons).
   Together with the mayor of the village, they represented the petty jury, which decided issues of guilt and innocence in local communities.

The Stone Table
In the shade of the linden-tree
A Legacy of the Vends or ancient Veneti

Kamnita miza
Sem Slovenec, ki me zanimajo dejanske korenine slovenstva in v okviru svojih prizadevanj sem, na pobudo rojaka Uroša Stanica, prevedel njegovo objavo o Kamniti mizi. Ce želite, lahko prevod objavite na vaši spletnici, ki jo zelo cenimi in uporabljam kot vir kakovostnega gradiva.
Spodaj prilagam pdf-no obliko ponujenega prevoda, lahko pa vam ga posredujem tudi v wordni obliki.
Mitja Fajdiga (August 3, 2016)
Dr. Jožko Šavli

In the last years, many articles have been written about the Prince’s Stone - it was the stone on which the dukes of Carantania (Slovenia) used to be inaugurated. The rite of installation was carried out in Slovenian language under the free sky. This was a rarity, because other nations performed this rite in the cathedral in traditional Latin language.

The rite was carried out in accordance with the Slovenian (Carantanian) historical law called  “institutio Sclavenica” (Slovenian institution). However, Slovenian historians do not acknowledge the existence of this law. They are following the directive from Belgrade, which came into force during the WW1, this is, since the beginning of the former Yugoslavia.

The Belgrade oligarchy persuasively insists that Slovenians have “no history”. So, if we are to believe what they reported, Slovenians should have lost their independence in 820 AD, and came to be under the “millenarian German yoke”. This subjugation of Slovenians should have ended not earlier than in 1918, when their Serbian “brethren” came to rescue. Such was the interpretation of Slovenian history carried out by the ex-Yugoslav (great-Serbian) regime. This interpretation is still very much alive at the universities of present-day Slovenia.

In the background of such directive stood the Serbian Academy. Therefore, Slovenian historians with Bogo Grafenauer at their head, explained the rite of the installation as a ritual, that ceremoniously honours the new ruler, who should have been a foreigner, seeking popularity among the Carantanian – Slovenian people.  

The Duke’s Throne, with the Cathedral Gospa Sveta (Maria Saal)
in the background - (Marcus Pernhart ca. 1860)

In sense of the institutio Sclavenica, another symbol of early Carantanian statehood and judiciary system was the Duke’s Throne. - After the installation on the Prince's Stone, a solemn Mass was celebrated in the nearby Cathedral of Gospa Sveta (Maria Saal), then the duke and his escort proceeded to the Duke’s Throne, which still today is at its original site on the field of Svatne not far from the Cathedral. Sitting on the Ducal throne, he judged the quarrels and enfeoffed the liegemen. When sitting on this Throne, the duke could also be accused, but only by a Slovenian (Carantanian) man in Slovenian language, for not making the right judgment.

In spite of the fact, that the formal charge of wrongdoing had to be in Slovenian, the Slovenian historians do not acknowledge the Duke’s Throne as a Slovenian judicial memorial. They consider it to be a German monument, because it should have originated - in distinction to the Prince’s Stone – in the early feudal period. According their explanations (as dictated by the Belgrade regime), feudalism should have been a “German” social order. Consequently, the Duke’s Throne had to be German, too. One can only smile at the "scientific" value of such ideology.
In the shade of the linden-tree

The judiciary on the level of a province or region was carried out by the Landgericht, which took it over from the former regional assembly. The regional superior court had the original and appellate jurisdiction in civil and criminal cases.

Anyway, in Carantania, the village assembly called sosednja (assembly), presided by the village mayor, performed all basic duties and functioned also as a court on the first level. The assembly gathered under the linden-tree, which was the tree of life and a divine tree.

The judicial stone table under the linden-tree, Istria (Caprin, 1895)

In Carantanian – Slovenian tradition, the saying “in the shade of the linden-tree” appears several times. It is generally known, that the linden-tree is the tree of life and its shade means God’s protection. This meant, that God himself supervised the assembly and their decisions on issues of guilt and innocence.

The mayor and the assessors were sitting around the stone table, which, in connection with judgments, was regarded as a court table. Around 1500 AD, the sosednja gradually moved into the castle. In this way, it withdrew from God’s shade under the linden-tree. It was the Renaissance period, and mystical medieval thinking was inspired by rationalism.

In some villages of Istria and Beneška Slovenija (Slavia Veneta), the Slovenian zone of Friuli (Italy), the sosednja was transferred to the church lobby. From 1420 until 1797, Beneška Slovenija (together with Friuli) was a part of the Republic of Venice. In this period, Beneška Slovenija enjoyed autonomy and village assemblies, presided by the various mayors, were legally acknowledged.

The Stone Table called “lastra”. Its upper part has been preserved and is kept in the
church of Blace (Biacis) in Beneška Slovenija. Today, it has been designated as a monument.

The villages were associated with the velika sosednja (great assembly), which functioned as a local parliament and supreme court, headed by the veliki župan (great mayor). The great assembly, consisting of twelve elected assessors, chosen as the people's representatives, also gathered around a stone table. In fact, there were two great assemblies. One was connected with the villages to the east, and the other one with those to the west. Both assemblies held combined meetings once a year, or, whenever necessary, at the Church of sv. Kvirin (San Quirino), in the center of the territory.

In other parts of Slovenian territory, the village assembly lost its power since the end of the 15th century. First, the assemblies came under the control of the feudal lord. Then, they were convened in castles, in order to give them the status of a temporal character. Thus, according to tradition, the people’s voice was considered God’s voice. Away from the shade of God’s tree, the tree of life, people’s voice should become a common character, this way giving more power to the feudal lord.

The “sosednja” (village assembly) of Beneška Slovenija

Blace (Biacis) in Beneška Slovenija (Slavia Veneta):
Church with lobby, where the one-time “velika sosednja” was held.

In some Slovenian villages, spontaneous village assemblies were held until the period after the WW2. Then they died away entirely under the Communist regime, which undermined the existence of the Slovenian country side. Anyway, there were no more judicial assemblies.
A Legacy of the Vends or ancient Veneti

In researching the origins of this assembly, we discovered that the people’s judicial assemblies “around the stone table in the shade of the linden-tree” were at one-time common all over Middle Europe. They were neither of German nor Romanic or Slav origin. The stone tables, which are preserved as monuments at very different sites, are rare.  Anyway, it is enough for us to recognize them as a legacy of the ancient Vends or Veneti, our pre-Roman and pre-Celtic ancestors.

It is true that the German language spread throughout Central Europe, whereas the Romanic (Italian) language was omnipresent in the southern part the Alps, but the Venetic substrate survived under the linguistic surface until the modern times. In this way, the surprising similarity between many customs, which appear in the popular tradition of Central European nations, can be cleared. One of these customs was the village assembly, as evidenced today by some isolated stone tables.

Stone Table in Kaichen, Nidda Valley (in Upper Hessen, Germany)

A beautiful stone table has been preserved in Kaichen, Nidda Valley (in Upper Hessen), Germany. The tradition speaks about a judicial place (Gerichtsplatz) and refers to it as the free court (Freigericht). It was also a blood court (Blutgericht), referring to the right to hold a criminal court in the name of the king, inflicting bodily punishment, including the death penalty. Apart from that, it was also an appeal court. In this case, it acquired the character of a Femgericht or secret tribunal, the second step in the judicial structure.

Kirchditmold, a village near Kassel (Hessen), Germany, and its
ancient stone table under the linden-tree.

Another example is the stone table found in the village of Kirchditmold near Kassel (Hesssen). The village is older than the town of Kassel itself. The village church was the first parish. The people's assembly in that locality was restricted to lower jurisdiction. The ancient stone table under the linden-tree has been preserved as a monument until this very day.

The following stone table has been preserved as a monument in the village of Heuthen im Eichsfeld in Thuringia (Germany). It, too, has been found under a linden-tree, bearing witness of the ancient settlers of Vendic origin, who gradually adopted the German language, but in their characteristics they always continued to be Vends (Veneti). If those inhabitants would have been predominantly Germanic in origin,
the symbol of their most sacred tree of life would have been the oak tree and not the linden.

Bitmap Image
Heuthen im Eichsfeld, Turinghia, (Germany),  the village square with linden and stone table.

In Switzerland, we found the following stone table, preserved in a Retoromanic village situated in the Kanton of Graubünden. It is about a hamlet called Landarenca in the municipality of Arvigo, Kreis Calanca, district Moesa. The local ethnologist and scholars are not familiar with the history of the stone table, but they know that it is connected with the “basic democratic” life. However, they have no knowledge about the onetime village assembly, which did not exist in Romanic or Germanic tradition. They also have no idea, that the stone table is a legacy of the very ancient social order of the Vends or Veneti, who had settled in the eastern part of Switzerland.

The stone table preserved in Landarenca, a village in Kanton Graubünden (East Switzerland).
The scholars here are not familiar with the ancient village assembly
and their gathering around the stone table.

According to the interpretation of German scholars, the Femgerichte (Vehmgerichte) were courts of justice during the late Middle Ages, which firstly appeared in the province of Westfalia. They had presumably received their original jurisdiction from the Frankish county courts. The actual president of the court was the Freigraf (free count), and judgment was passed by the Freischöffen (lay judges). The courts took jurisdiction over all crimes of a serious nature and other disputes. The place of session was the Freistuhl (free table). This was at least in sense of the traditional stone table under the linden-tree, as its monument in Kaichen (Nidda Valley) bears witness.

A Fem on an old picture

It is said, that the Femgerichte as such were holding session in “open tribunal. The whole matter is fully discussed in open court for the purpose of resolving all types of disputes, such as community cases and others. However, the Femgericht was also a “secret tribunal. The sessions were often held in secret, this is, with exclusion of the public. Because here the imperial blood-ban was still valid, were capital sentences were passed and executed by the fehmic courts in the emperor's name alone. This tribunal was presided by the Freigraf and seven Freischöffen.

The one-time femlinde or tribunal linde in Dortmund (Westfalia),
with the Freistuhl under the tree.

It is evident, that the “open tribunal” was an exercise of the original jurisdiction, this is, the very ancient village assembly, presided by the mayor. I consider it a legacy of the ancient Vends (Veneti). This assembly had the character of a people’s tribunal and was competent for small transgressions.

One must differentiate between the people's tribunals and the Femgerichte (secret tribunals), which emerged first in Westfalia in the 12th century. In 1382, Emperor Wenceslaus granted them jurisdiction elsewhere in German lands,and they subsequently appeared in Frankfurt (1386), Cologne (1387), and Lübeck (1399). Originally public, they became increasingly secret after the 14th century and were operated by "holy bands" sworn to secrecy on pain of death.

Any freeman could become a member. Accusations were made mysteriously, often by nailing a notice to a tree, and failure to appear for trial was punished by death. The possible trial verdicts were hanging or acquittal. Despite of these apparently terroristic methods, the Femgerichte were less severe than tradition has made them.

They were most powerful in the 15th century. Thereafter, increasing corruption and abuse, and the consolidated power of the petty princes, brought a general move against them, and in the 16th century the Femgerichte largely disappeared. They were reduced to the “peasant tribunal”. This is, only the “open tribunal” tradition remained. They were entirely eliminated around 1810 by the French occupation authorities.

In fact, the “open tribunal!” was the ancient people’s assembly, who administered, competently and impartially, the rule of law. It pertained to the ancient Vends (Veneti) and has uniquely preserved itself since pre-Germanic times. Therefore, in Carantania, the emissaries of remote areas, who participated in the National Assembly, the veca (vetchah), were also called or judges.