History Of The Bannwald
Already according to Roman Law, territory not belonging to any
estate or private owner was considered public property. Roman law and Roman administrators were kept on by the Merovingian kings. The Franconian kings,
who considered themselves the successors to the Roman emperors, likewise declared any
unplowed land in their conquered territories as royal property which they could use
exclusively for themselves. When they imposed certain restrictions on forests, initially
for military reasons, later for their own hunt, they created a banned forest or
Bannwald. Indeed, the first to do so (before the Franconians) were the Merovingian kings who created these bans as protected military buffer zones, which were moved along with the expanding outposts of their territorial conquests. In Tyrol banned forests are documented in the 8th century, in order to protect the nests of falcons and hawks used for the hunt. Thus, the sacred forests of the pagan era were transformed into the banned forests of the king.
Under the Franconian and later kings, high penalties were imposed on
penetrators in order to keep the newly created borders safe. Later the ban was
used to reserve these same forests mostly for the royal hunts. While early on only public (ie royal) areas could be put
under ban( in German: Bannlegung), soon also private property was affected
such as the donation of banned forests to the bishop of Brixen by
king Arnulf in 892 and also later by king Heinrich II in 1004.
Throughout the centuries, and particularly when the influence of royal power started to
diminish, these forests became important natural reserves and are forming the vast stock
of todays ecological Bannwald regions in Southern Germany and Austria.