The mystery of the coburg field jurors

The mystery of the coburg field jurors

Until the witness sits exactly in the specified position, gunter becker has knelt down about a dozen times and dived into the hole, which is almost half a meter deep. While he pushes the orange plastic pen to the side, detlef maar gently hits it with his hand pile driver. "Now he has moved", it comes somewhat breathlessly out of the hole. After that, it’s time to stand up again, bring the delivery device into position and slowly lower the plumb bob. About three quarters of a centimeter next to the center hole of the witness the tip of the cone-shaped plumb bob arrives.

Detlef maar and gunter becker are two of the 17 active jurors in the city of coburg. In mid october, burgermeister birgit weber, the city’s second mayor, administered the oath of allegiance to five men. "I swear allegiance to the constitution of the federal republic of germany and the constitution of the free state of bavaria, obedience to the laws, conscientious and impartial fulfillment of my official duties, secrecy and lifelong preservation of the secrecy of the sevens, this is the oath. You are a field juror all your life and the so-called secret of the seven may only be passed on to your colleagues by word of mouth.

Preventing theft of land

When the bavarian soil was not yet completely digitally recorded, the field jurors were responsible for ensuring that no greedy landowner took hold of the boundary stones in order to secretly steal a piece of the neighbor’s land. To prevent this, many of the field jurors still mark the boundary stones with secret signs made of clay, porcelain, glass or metal. How to check if a stone has been moved illegally. For what signs or witnesses they place under the boundary stone, and how, they tell no one -but other field jurors.

The field jurors, most of whom are to be found in bavaria and then again in franconia, are involved in the demarcation of plots of land. They set the boundary stones according to the specifications of the state surveyor’s office and thus secure the land and property. The field jury is established for the first time in a legal text from the year 1868. The bavarian state law of that time stipulates that four to seven field jurors are to be set up in each municipality. "That’s where the names ‘seven’ and ‘seven secret’ come from", explains helmut fischer of the coburg city surveyor’s office. The municipality is responsible for the field jurors.

Earliest mention 1426

A few field jurors are still active in baden-wurttemberg, but in thuringia the sevens were abolished after a few years. In the 1970s, the cities of munich and nurnberg reintroduced field juries after a long absence. One of the earliest mentions of the field jury can be read in the town book of langenzenn from the year 1426 and establishes the tradition of the watchmen over land and borders. The significance of the approximately 14,000 field jurors in franconia out of 21,000 in the female-blue free state was demonstrated in 2016: the field jurors received recognition as a german unesco cultural heritage site.

Besides the knowledge and the proximity to the burghers, the costs also speak for the work of the field jury. For the honorary office there is 10,50 euro auandsentschadigung per hour, substantially more became for instance a coworker of the building yard costs. "Today, in the age of GPS and digitalization, surveying and marking out land is fast and extremely accurate", according to helmut fischer "but boundary stones and boundary signs do not set themselves by themselves. This is physical work." The granite boundary stones, about 50 centimeters long and twelve by twelve centimeters square, weigh in at several kilograms. You have to be fit when you dig the holes for the stones or search for old boundary points and signs with the employees of the surveyor’s office. "Especially after the long and dry summer it is a "bone work", says gunter becker and takes a deep breath.

Like a treasure hunt

On the land of the former guterbahnhof is to mark a property line. In the past there were demolished buildings and removed tracks. Much of the uncharted land lies fallow. The morning at the old coburg train station sometimes resembles a treasure hunt. Instead of striking border points, the two field jurors usually struck stones or gravel.

Finally, all the boundary points are measured and marked with finger-length metal beads. Exactly where the tip of the cursing stick has left a hole in the ground, gunter becker punches the hulse and sprays it with neon orange paint that shines far and wide. The hulsen serve later in the day to the litter as a clue. Before detlef maar and his colleague dig the pit for the boundary stone, they knock the iron of the placement device into the ground next to it with its movable swivel arm. When the plumb bob is positioned exactly above the temporary marker, the arm is folded away and the superstructure is no longer allowed to change position. Then the digging begins.

Everything is very practical

While the boundary points were measured hours earlier with the help of an electronic tachymeter and immediate data transmission to the laptop, the tools used to set the boundary stones are the same as those used by the first field jurors in 1426: crowbar, pickaxe, spade and hand rammer. Detlef maar even picks the crumbly earth out of the pit by hand. Finally, the plumb bob is used once again to determine the exact location of the witness half a meter below the surface. Even the border stone is aligned so precisely. "We already have two centimeters of tolerance", says gunter becker.

But just as a field juror keeps silent about the witnesses under the boundary stones, he sets the boundary markers just as precisely – to the millimeter.

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