Teutonic Knights

views updated May 18 2018


The youngest of the three great religious military orders (Domus s. Mariae Theutonicorum in Jerusalem ).

Founding and Organization. The Teutonic Order emerged from a field hospital founded by merchants of Lübeck and Bremen in the camp of Acre in 1190. The company of hospitallers was approved in 1191 by clement iii. On March 5, 1198, it was converted into a religious order of knighthood, and approved in 1199 by innocent iii. The order was given the rule of the Knights templars; its first grand master (magister generalis ) was the Rhenish knight Hermann Walpot of Bassenheim. ho norius iii assured the Teutonic Knights a special status within the Church by issuing a total of 113 bulls defining their feudal relationship to the Roman Curia and forbidding the order to bind itself in vassalage to secular powers. Although there is only one recorded instance of the feudal investiture of a grand master (Gerard of Malberg, 1243), the Curia demanded a recognizance fee at the accession of each new grand master, even as late as the 14th century. The Curia also retained for itself the right to intervene in the internal affairs of the order while giving the knights the same exemption from episcopal authority as that enjoyed by the Templars. As early as 1207, the German king, Philip of Swabia, issued a protective patent for the Teutonic Knights, and in March 1226 Emperor fred erick ii issued the Golden Bull of Rimini; in its composition the third Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, herman of salza (120939), collaborated. It gave the grand master the same rights as a prince of the empire and permission to acquire the imperial feudal estates in Kulmerland on the Vistula River, promised him by Conrad of Masovia, and in the mission area of Prussia. Since the grand master could not enter into feudal relation with secular powers, he could not be incorporated into the imperial organization. In 1530, however, this did occur when the grand master was elevated to the rank of a prince of the empire, after two commanders of the order, the German master and the Livonian master, had become imperial princes.

At the head of the Teutonic Knights was the grand master, assisted by five grand commanders: the grand knight commander (in charge of the internal administration and deputy to the grand master); the marshal (for arms and supplies and for military affairs); the hospitaller (for medical services and the hospitals attached to each house of the order); the keeper of the wardrobe (for furnishings and victualing); and the treasurer (for finances). To these officials was added after 1309 the house commander of Marienburg. The Grand Assembly (chapter) included, in addition to these high dignitaries, the land commander of Livonia and the "master in German and Italian lands" (the German master), and also one or more land commanders. The order was composed of knights, usually of noble birth, priests, often from the middle class, servants, and, as early as the 13th century, sisters as well. In 1244, under the influence of Cardinal William of St. Sabina (formerly bishop of Modena), the rule of the order was redrafted, using that of the Templars as a basis. The priest brothers lived in the main according to the Rule of St. Dominic (see dominicans), a fact that influenced the penal code of the Teutonic Knights. The common law that had developed in the order was recorded in its "Laws" and "Customs." Attempts to change the statutes (the so-called Orseln Statutes) and to grant wider

rights to the grand master were unsuccessful. In the course of time, the status of the highest dignitaries and their relation to one another altered; as early as the 15th century the land master of Livonia and the German master were de facto equal in status with the grand master.

The seat of the grand master after the conquest of Acre (1191) was Montfort; after 1291, when Acre had been taken by the Saracens, the headquarters were located for a time in a house on the Grand Canal in Venice and, from 1309, at Marienburg. The Teutonic Knights early acquired estates in Palestine, Armenia, on Cyprus, in Apulia, and Sicily. The order's history in Germany can be traced from the end of 1198; in 1200 one of its houses was established at Halle an der Saale. The order received extensive endowments from imperial property and from that of the German princes in Thuringia, Hesse, Franconia, the Rhinelands, Swabia, the Netherlands, Westphalia, and Saxony, and in almost every imperial city, e.g., Nürnberg, Ulm, Strassburg, and Frankfurt. As early as the 13th century all the numerous holdings and rights of the Teutonic Knights were collected into 12 provinces (Balleien ), headed by Land Commanders and subdivided into prebends whose chapters consisted usually of a small number of knights and priest brothers. They formed the reserve for the order in Palestine, Prussia, and Livonia. Outside Germany, provinces were established in Lombardy, in the duchy of Austria, in Bohemia, France, Spain (only temporarily), Apulia, and Sicily.

From the 13th to the 16th Century. In 1211 King Andrew II of Hungary called in the Teutonic Knights to aid him against the Cumans, a nomadic tribe of horsemen from the steppes; the king gave the knights holdings in the east border area and entrusted to them a portion of the frontier guard. But when the Teutonic Knights began to seek complete hegemony in this area (now eastern Transylvania around Klausenburg), they clashed with King Andrew II and his son Bela IV and were expelled in 1226. In the same year the Grand Master Herman of Salza received an appeal for help from the Polish Duke Conrad of Masovia, whose country was threatened by the neighboring non-Catholic Prussians. Though he hesitated for a long time, Herman finally concluded the Treaty of Kruschwitz (June 1230) with Duke Conrad, whereby Kulmerland on the Vistula River was handed over to the Teutonic Knights with all lordly rights. In return, the Knights were to subdue the land of the Prussians. While the authenticity of this treaty has been disputed by Polish research, it is confirmed by German historians. In 1234 gregory ix guaranteed these acquisitions the protection of the Holy See. In the spring of 1231 the first Land Master of Prussia, Herman Balk, a Thuringian like Herman of Salza, began the conquest and subjugation of Prussia from the fortress of Nessau on the Vistula. The fortresses of Kulm, Thorn, and Marienwerder were erected in 1232; two years later, with the help of the citizens of Lübeck, the city of Elbing was founded. In 1243, the papal legate, William of St. Sabina, erected four dioceses: Pomesania with its see in Marienwerder (Kwidzyń), Kulm (Chełmno) with its see in Kulmsee (Chełmża), Ermland with its see in Heilsberg (Lidsbark Warmiński), and Samland with its see in Fischhausen.

The legal status of the subjugated Prussians was regulated in the Treaty of Christburg, Feb. 7, 1249, mediated by the papal legate James of Liège (later Pope urban iv). The Prussians declared that they preferred to be governed by Polish rather than German law, which had already been established on Dec. 28, 1233, by Herman of Salza for the cities of Kulm and Thorn (Charter of Kulm), but was later applied to rural settlements as well. In 1237 the Teutonic Knights inherited the holdings, rights, and obligations of the knights of the sword (Fratres militiae Christi ) when this order, founded in 1202 in Livonia, was incorporated into the Teutonic Knights, after lengthy negotiations in the Curia. Thereafter it became the policy of the order to establish an overland connection between the two areas by the acquisition of the Lithuanian Samogitia; its attempt ended in failure after a struggle of almost two centuries. In 1260 the Prussians rose against the rule of the Teutonic Order. By 1273 peace had been restored in the main, and in 1283 the remnant of the Prussian tribe of the Sudauen was settled in Samland, while the main portion emigrated to Lithuania. A large-scale colonization of the country by German settlers, mainly merchants and peasants, could now be initiated. Hundreds of German villages and numerous towns came into existence, protected by fortresses of the order and served by a rigidly centralized administration. At first the segregation of Prussians from Germans was strictly enforced; but this was relaxed as early as the 14th century, when the plague epidemic of 1356 left too few Germans for effective colonization. From the 14th century and in increasing numbers in the 15th, the order accepted both Lithuanian and Polish settlers (from Masovia, the "Masurians") into the eastern and southeastern areas of their jurisdiction.

The Teutonic Order was almost entirely occupied with the fight against Lithuania, which had been united with Poland (138586). Although the order succeeded in taking Pommerelia and the city of Danzig (Gdańsk) in the west (1309) and buying the Livonian districts of Harrien and Wirland and the city of Reval (Tallin) from Denmark (1346), it did not succeed in bringing Lithuania to her knees. On the contrary, the imprudence and ineptitude of the Grand Master Ulric of Jungingen led to the disastrous defeat at Tannenberg (Grunwald) on July 15, 1410. By the First Peace Treaty of Thorn (1411), the Teutonic Knights had to pay a large indemnity to Poland. The Treaty of Melnosee (1422) with Lithuania fixed the eastern border of the Prussian province of the order at a line where it remained until 1920. The overland link with Livonia, where the order was engaged in a bitter struggle with the archbishop and the city of Riga, was not secured. And so the Livonian master, left to his own devices, was compelled to maintain himself against the other Livonian princesthe archbishop of Riga and the bishops of Dorpat (Tartu) and Ösel-Wiek (Sarema)and the cities of Riga and Reval, fighting domestically for his hegemony while at the same time trying to hold off the neighboring powers of Lithuania, Novgorod, and Moscow. Thus the Livonian master often had to pursue a policy that differed from that of the grand master of the knights.

Even in the Prussian region, where the order had but seldom granted large holdings to vassal knights, the commercial competition of the order's warehouses and agencies was regarded as an infringement on such thriving cities as Danzig, Elbing, and Königsberg, and the rule of the order was considered oppressive. The petty landed gentry, who had by now become stronger, attempted, in league with the cities, to achieve the right of codetermining the leadership of the order but encountered violent opposition. They banded together into the League of Lizards and rose against the heads of the order. In the Thirteen Years' War (145366) they sought and received the support of King Casimir IV of Poland. The order had to make concessions, and the Second Peace Treaty of Thorn (1466) involved the surrender by the order of Pommerelia, Danzig, Kulmerland, and West Prussia. The diocese of Ermland accepted Polish rule and the diocese of Kulm was incorporated into the archdiocese of Gniezno. Marienburg fell to the Poles and the administrative seat of the grand master was moved to the castle in Königsberg. Furthermore, the grand master was compelled to take an oath of homage to the Polish king. With an eye to improving the position of the order, the chapter in 1498 elected Duke Frederick of Saxony, and in 1511 Margrave al brecht of brandenburg-ansbach, as grand master, so as to win support from the princes of the Empire. When this support was not forthcoming, Albrecht converted the Prussian province of the order into a secular duchy and placed it in vassalage to Poland. Since Albrecht converted to Lutheranism, the rank of grand master was transferred to the German master (1530). In Livonia, the Land Master Wolter of Plettenberg (14911535) rejected the summons of the estates of the realm to follow Albrecht's example. Only 25 years later, when Ivan IV of Moscow had attacked Livonia and the Reformation had penetrated the cities and the nobility, did the Land Master Gotthard Kettler decide to place a remnant of the order's Prussian province under Polish vassalage as the Duchy of Kurland and Semgallen (1561), while Reval and a part of Esthonia fell to Sweden, and Riga and Livonia to Poland.

From the 17th to the 20th Century. In the Catholic regions of the empire, the Teutonic Order continued to exist under the leadership of the German grand master, with headquarters in Mergentheim in Franconia; it survived also in some Protestant regions, e.g., in the Netherlands (Province of Utrecht, where it continued as a Protestant chivalric order) and in Hesse, where the office of land commander was filled regularly in turn by a Catholic, a Lutheran, and a Calvinist. In most areas, especially in Franconia, southern Württemberg, Baden, and the Austrian Hapsburg dominions, the order's holdings remained untouched and autonomous and the order itself to some extent enjoyed princely rights. In 1606 the rule of the order was revised. The knights fought in the wars with the Turks and even into the 18th century still preserved the idea of the old universal Empire. The richest and most powerful province was Franconia, whose land commanders had their residence, Ellingen Castle, enlarged into one of the most beautiful baroque castles of south Germany.

In 1805 the Teutonic Order was dissolved by Napoleon, and its richest possessions were allotted to the German princes. The Emperor Francis I of Austria restored to the order all its holdings in Austria and became its protector. The order's house in Vienna then became the seat of the grand master, who was henceforth to be an Austrian grand duke. In 1839, the knights received new statutes designed to limit their activity to charitable and pastoral undertakings. From 1840 the sisters of the order devoted themselves to nursing, and in 1845 two communities of priests were established at Lana in the Southern Tyrol and at Troppau in eastern Bohemia. In 1871, Pius IX approved new rules for the priests of the order. Upon the retirement of Grand Master Archduke Maximilian (1918), a priest was elected for the first time as grand master; the rule of Nov. 27, 1929, restored religious discipline within the order, which had declined during the 19th century as a result of the acceptance of secular knights. Up to 1939 there were four provincesAustria, Troppau, Lana, and Laibach-Ljubljana in Yugoslavia. Troppau and Laibach were expropriated in 1945 together with all their holdings. In Austria the Teutonic Order was paralyzed during the National Socialist occupation. After 1945 it was able to resume its activity, and founded houses in Bavaria (Passau and Thann) and Hesse (Darmstadt and Sachenhausen near Frankfurt). The present headquarters of the order is in Vienna, where it has a fine church and extensive archives.

Bibliography: Sources. j. voigt, Codex diplomaticus prussicus (11481404 ), 6 v. (Königsberg 183661). j. h. hennes, Codex diplomaticus ordinis S. Mariae Theutonicorum, 2 v. (Mainz 184561). e. strehlke, Tabulae ordinis Theutonici (Berlin 1869). Scriptores rerum Prussicarum 5 v. (Leipzig 186174). Livländische Reimchronik, ed. l. meyer (Paderborn 1876). m. toeppen, Akten der Ständetage Preussens unter der Herrschaft des D.O., 5v. (Leipzig 187886). e. g. graf von pettenegg, Die Urkunden des Deutschordenszentralarchivs zu Wien, v.1 (Prague-Leipzig 1887). Liv-, Est-und Kurländisches Urkundenbuch nebst Regesten, ed. f. g. v. bunge et al., 12 v. (Reval 185258; Riga 18811914). Akten und Rezesse der livländischen Ständetage, ed. o. stavenhagen et al., 3 v. (Riga 190734). k. h. lampe, Urkundenbuch der Deutschordensballei Thüringen, v.1 (11401331) (Jena 1936). Hessisches Urkundenbuch, Abt. 1 Urkundenbuch der Ballei Hessen, ed. a. wyss, 3 v. (Leipzig 187999). Preussisches Urkundenbuch, ed. f. philippi et al., 4 v. (Königsberg 18821944; Marburg 195863). Die Staatsverträge des D.O. in Preussen im 15. Jahrhundert, ed. e. weise, 2 v. (Königsberg 1939; Marburg 1955). Regesta Ordinis S. Mariae Theutonicorum, 11981525, ed. e. joachim and w. hubatsch, 4 v. (Göttingen 194850). Das grosse Ämterbuch des D.O., ed. w. ziesemer (Danzig 1921). Das Marienburger Konventsbuch der Jahre 13991412, ed. w. ziesemer (Danzig 1913). Das Marienburger Tresslerbuch der Jahre 13991409, ed. e. joachim (Königsberg 1896). Literature. j. voigt, Geschichte Preussens von den ältesten Zeiten bis zum Untergang der Herrschaft des D.O., 9 v. (Königsberg 182739); Geschichte des Deutschen Ritter-Ordens in seinen 12 Balleien in Deutschland, 2 v. (Berlin 185759). e. maschke, Der D.O. und die Preussen (Berlin 1928). w. cohn, Hermann von Salza (Breslau 1930). e. e. stengel, Hochmeister und Reich (Weimar 1930). c. krollmann, Politische Geschichte des D.O. in Preussen (Königsberg 1932). f. milthaler, Die Grossgebietiger des Dt. Ritter-Ordens biss 1440 (Königsberg-Berlin 1940). r. ten haaf, Deutschordensstaat und Deutschordensballeien (Göttingen 1951). m. tumler, Der D.O. im Werden, Wachsen und Wirken bis 1400 (Vienna 1954). w. hu batsch, "Der D.O. und die Reichslehenschaft über Zypern," Nachrichten von der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen (1956) 245306. b. schumacher, Geschichte Ostund Westpreussens (Königsberg 1937; 2d ed. Würzburg 1957). m. hellmann, "Bemerkungen zur sozialgeschichtlichen Erforschung des D.O.," Historisches Jahrbuch der Görres-Gesellschaft 80 (1961) 126142; "Über die Grundlagen und die Entstehung des Ordensstaates in Preussen," Nachrichten der Giessener Hochscludgesellschaft 31 (1962) 108126. h. patze, "Der Frieden von Christburg vom Jahre 1249," Jahrbuch für die Geschichte Mittelund Ostdeutschlands 7 (Berlin 1958) 3991. k. forstreuter, Die Geschichte der Generalprokuratoren von den Anfängen bis 1403 (Göttingen 1961). h. koeppen, Peter von Wormditt, 14031419 (Göttingen 1960). w. hubatsch, Albrecht von Brandenburg-Ansbach (Heidelberg 1960). h. freiwald, Markgraf Albrecht von Ansbach-Kulmbach (Kulmbach 1961). h. h. hofmann, "Die Verfassung des D.O. am Ende des alten Reichs (1788)," Zeitschrift für bayrische Landesgeschichte 27 (1963) 40389. e. weise, "Der Heidenkampf des D.O.," Zeitschrift für Ostforschung 12 (1963) 420473, 622672; 13 (1964) 401420.

[m. hellmann]

Teutonic Knights

views updated May 23 2018


TEUTONIC KNIGHTS. The Teutonic Order was founded as a hospital in Acre (now 'Akko) in 1190. It became a military order in 1198 and expanded rapidly, particularly under the leadership of Hermann von Salza (12101239). In 1226 Frederick II's Golden Bull of Rimini granted Prussiato the Teutonic Order and this, together with the bulls of Gregory IX in 1230, laid the basis for the order's territorial power. Wars of conquest continued throughout the thirteenth century, and by 1290 the order had subjugated both Prussia and Livonia. After the fall of Acre in 1291 and the loss of the Holy Land, the order's headquarters moved to Venice, and then in 1309 to Marienburg. During the fourteenth century the focus of warfare switched to Lithuania, ruled by Grand Duke Gediminas (ruled 13151341) and his successors, and the order consolidated its power, which reached its apogee under Grand Master Winrich von Kniprode (13511382).

Prussia became the main resort for members of the European nobility intent on continuing the crusading tradition, notably King John of Bohemia in 1329 and Henry Bolingbroke (later Henry IV of England) in 1390 and 1392. By the end of the fourteenth century, however, the order was faced with rising unrest in the towns in Prussia, while the wars against the Turks, which began in 1396, diverted the flow of crusaders away from northern Europe. The baptism of Gediminas's grandson, Jogailo, and his election as Władysław II Jagiełło of Poland (13861434), saw the beginning of an attack by Poland and Lithuania on the order's territorial expansionism and on the legitimacy of the concept of military orders as such. The conflict culminated in the order's decisive defeat at the battle of Grünwald (Tannenberg) in 1410. The treaty of Toruń in 1466 compelled the order to return to Poland all the land on either side of the Vistula that it had conquered since 1309 and parts of Prussia conquered since 1250, including its headquarters at Marienburg. The remnants of East Prussia were ruled from Königsberg, but the grand masters had to swear an oath of allegiance to the kings of Poland. Finally, in 1525 the Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg implemented Luther's recommendation that he should establish a secular duchy in Prussia and that the knights there should renounce their vows and marry. A Catholic remnant of the order regrouped in Franconia with a new grand master and a residence in Mergentheim.

The order survived in Livonia until 1562, but the impact of the Reformation meant the loss of much of its land and infrastructure in the empire. During the second half of the sixteenth century it began fighting the Turks from its commanderies in eastern Austria, notably under Grand Master Archduke Maximilian of Austria (1585/15901618). However, the order suffered further losses in Alsace and Lorraine during the French Revolution and was abolished at the Peace of Pressburg in 1805. It was revived in Austria in 1834 and took on a charitative role, providing field hospitals and convalescent homes for soldiers until 1918. Following the collapse of the Austrian monarchy after World War I, it was recognized as a spiritual order by the Austrian state and the papacy, and it survives in that form.

See also Lithuania, Grand Duchy of, to 1569 ; Poland to 1569 ; Prussia ; Religious Orders .


Arnold, Udo. "Eight Hundred Years of the Teutonic Order." In The Military Orders: Fighting for the Faith and Caring for the Sick. Edited by Malcolm Barber. Aldershot, U.K., and Brookfield, Vt., 1994.

Christiansen, Eric. The Northern Crusades: The Baltic and the Catholic Frontier, 11001525. London, 1980.

Mary Fischer

Teutonic Knights

views updated May 14 2018

Teutonic Knights German military and religious order, founded in 1190. Its members, of aristocratic class, took monastic vows of poverty and chastity. During the 13th century, the Knights waged war on non-Christians, particularly those in Prussia, whom they defeated, annexing their land. In 1242, they were defeated by Alexander Nevski. In 1410, the Poles and Lithuanians crushed the Knights at Tannenberg, ne Poland.

Teutonic Knights

views updated Jun 11 2018

Teutonic Knights a military and religious order of German knights, priests, and lay brothers, originally enrolled c.1191 as the Teutonic Knights of St Mary of Jerusalem. They took part in the Crusades from a base in Palestine until expelled from the Holy Land in 1225. Abolished by Napoleon in 1809, the order was re-established in Vienna as an honorary ecclesiastical institution in 1834 and maintains a titular existence.