Court of Alderman  


We don't know exactly when the first aldermen appeared in Leuven. The first proof of their presence dates from 1131. The earliest registers kept in the Leuven city archive date from 1362. In 1795 the institutions of the Ancien RĂ©gime, including the court of aldermen, were abolished by the French rule.


The court of aldermen consisted of seven members, all patricians, appointed annually by the duke. In the thirteenth century the office became more democratic and the aldermen behaved more independently. The aldermen disposed of a staff of secretaries, writers, a bailiff, ...


The aldermen were entitled to judge in civil and criminal lawsuits. Furthermore they were responsible for the voluntary jurisdiction. The parties went to the court of aldermen to ratify legal acts, to take certain measures or to grant authorization, registering acts e.g. selling real estate. We also discover a great amount of leases, describing very accurately what was included in the contract, up to a little salt tub. Other acts include loans, wills, emancipation declarations and inventories.

Remarkably, not only inhabitants of Leuven turned to the court of aldermen. People from the whole region of Brabant (radius ca. 100 km) travelled to Leuven for their agreements to be registered. This clearly shows the prestige of the aldermen of Leuven.


Initially there was only one chamber. The number of chambers increased to two, due to the increasing amount of work during the fourteenth century. By the last year of the century there were three. All three had their own administration and staff. The number of acts containing the voluntary jurisdiction is enormous. Each of the three chambers produced one register a year. For a period of 433 years, this comes down to a total of 1.128 preserved registers or approximately 950.000 pages.


These registers of the voluntary jurisdiction are of great importance to scientific research in several disciplines. The registers not only provide us with a great amount of information about the history, the institutions or the university of Leuven. Researchers in the fields of the daily mediaeval life, toponymy, language studies, the study of names and genealogy show interest in this rich source as well.

Last update: 2010-06-28 by Inge Moris