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Vehmic Court Oath Skull
Circa 16th-17th century
Utilized during the tumultuous post-Middle Age Europe, this oath skull was used in the legendary Vehmic courts of present-day Germany to "swear in" the accused who were brought before the court to answer for their crimes. The skull symbolized life and death and the accused were required to take a sacred oath of truth of their testimony with his or her hand placed atop the skull.

Known as the Vehmgerichte, or criminal tribunals, this system of courts arose from the need to curb the rampant crime and warfare that sprung from feudalism, which often resulted in those with power taking advantage of innocent citizens. When the Holy Roman emperors were unable to control these often heinous offenses, they were brought to the Vehmic courts. These courts handled capital crimes, with the only possible verdicts being either acquittal or death. Accusations were made by a summons to the accused that was either nailed to his door, or to some convenient place where he was certain to pass. Six weeks and three days' grace were allowed, according to the old Saxon law, during which the summons was repeated a maximum of three times. If the accused appeared as directed, the accuser stated the case, and the investigation proceeded by the examination of witnesses as in an ordinary court of law.

Failure to appear for trial resulted in an automatic guilty verdict. If the court officials could not find the fugitive, the punishment of death could be exacted by any freeman who confronted them. The order brought by the system earned it the sanction of the Holy Roman emperors and it spread across Germany. The courts rose to their height of power in the 15th century and became increasingly secret with members sworn to complete secrecy under penalty of death. Changing political forces and pressure brought on by corruption diminished the court's power, eventually resulting in the last Vehmic trial being held in Dortmund, Germany on January 6, 1806.

This fascinating skull is protected by its 19th century wood and glass display case. It is engraved with a cross and the letters "INRI," theacronymof theLatininscriptionIESVS · NAZARENVS · REX · IVDÆORVM(Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum), or "Jesusthe Nazarene(Galilean),King of the Jews(Judeans)."

height: 5.25 in.
depth: 6.75 in.
width/length: 5.25 in.
Number of items: 1
Creator: unknown
provided by MS Rau Antiques
MS Rau Antiques
630 Royal Street
New Orleans, LA, 70130
Phone: 877-315-8652

Dealer Ref. : 29-6592
Ref. : U1108048911193

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