Peculiar to Cologne, however, was the Richerzeche (rigirzegheide), a corporation of all the wealthy patricians, which gradually absorbed in its hands the direction of the city's government (the first record of its active interference is in 1225).
In the 13th century the archbishops made repeated efforts to reassert their authority, and in 1259 Archbishop Conrad of Hochstaden, by appealing to the democratic element of the population, the "brotherhoods" (fraternitates) of the craftsmen, succeeded in overthrowing the Richerzeche and driving its members into exile.
His successor, Engelbert II., however, attempted to overthrow the democratic constitution set up by him, with the result that in 1262 the brotherhoods combined with the patricians against the archbishop, and the Richerzeche returned to share its authority with the elected "great council" (Weiter Rat).
In the 14th century a narrow patrician council selected from the Richerzeche, with two burgomasters, was supreme.
These gilds would, where they existed, no doubt also influence the management of town affairs; but nowhere has the Rat, as used to be thought, developed out of a gild, nor has the latter anywhere in Germany played a part at all similar in importance to that of the English gild merchant, the only exception being for a time the Richerzeche, or Gild of the Rich of Cologne, from early times by far the largest, the richest, and the most important trading centre among German cities, and therefore provided with an administration more complex, and in some respects more primitive, than any other.