PFAFFENBRIEF, pfāf"en-brîf': A compact, dated Oct. 7, 1370, whereby the cantons of Zurich, Lucerne, Zug, Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden united to oppose foreign spiritual and secular jurisdiction and to preserve national peace. The immediate cause of the compact was the attack upon and imprisonment of Peter of Gundoldingen, head of Zurich's ally, Lucerne, and his party by Bruno Brun, provost of the cathedral of Zurich (Sept. 13, 1370). The aggressor, an adherent of the Austrian party, refused to recognize the jurisdiction of a secular court, and was accordingly banished, while his prisoner was released. Such, however, was the fear that Brun might appeal to foreign, imperial, or ecclesiastical courts that, to avoid any such contingency in future, the Pfaffenbrief was drawn up. This document merely emphasized and guaranteed existing rights. It laid down two principles: all cases within the confederation, except matrimonial and ecclesiastical, must be tried before the local judge, who had jurisdiction even over aliens (thus ignoring both the imperial courts and foreign spiritual courts); it contained resolutions relating to the public peace, and forbade waging wars without the consent of the government. At the same time, ecclesiastical jurisdiction was not annulled, and cases in which one of the clergy was defendant were usually tried in the episcopal courts. By requiring the oath of allegiance from the clergy, moreover, the Pfaffenbrief indirectly tended to subordinate the clergy to the State in matters applying equally to clergy and laity. By thus delimiting, in an important sphere of law, what appertained to the State and what to the Church, and by favoring the claims of the former rather than of the latter, the Pfaffenbrief marked the first real and successful Swiss attempt to restrict by means of the secular law the unlimited extension of ecclesiastical power.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: A. P. von Segesser, Rechtsgeschichte der Stadt . . . Luzern, vols. i.-ii., passim, Lucerne, 1850-58; J. C. Bluntschli, Staats- and Rechtsgeschichte . . . Zurich, i. 385 sqq., Zurich, 1838; idem, Geschichte des schweizerischen Bundesrechts, i. 122 sqq., Stuttgart, 1875; T. von Leibenau, in Anzeiger für schweizerische Geschichte, 1882, p. 60; W. Oechsli, in Politisches Jahrbuch der schweiz. Eidgenossenschaft, v (1890), 359-365; idem, Quellenbuch der Schweizergeshichte, Zurich, 1901; J. Dierauer, Gewhichte der schweiz. Eidgenossenschaft, i. 282 sqq., Gotha, 1887; K. Dändliker, Geschichte der Schweiz, i. 545 sqq., 632 sqq., Zurich, 1900; J. Hiirbin, Handbuch der Schweizergeschichte, i. 197, Stans, 1900; Die Bundesbriefe der alter Eidgenossen, 1891-1518, Zurich, 1904.
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