The earliest communes arose in N and central Italy. In the struggle between emperors and popes, the communes forming the Lombard League gained a great deal of independence and became almost synonymous with the cities themselves. In the 14th cent., however, the communes were usurped by local tyrants. The commune of Rome was established by Arnold of Brescia in 1144. In the Low Countries, e.g., in Flanders, communes arose very early and enjoyed very wide privileges. In S France, Avignon, Arles, and Toulouse were outstanding examples of self-governed communes, as Barcelona was in Spain. In Germany, cities such as Frankfurt, Cologne, Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Lübeck became republics immediately subject to the emperor (imperial and free imperial cities). Others, such as Magdeburg, held charters that became models for numerous towns in N Germany, Bohemia, and Moravia.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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