Christian of Prussia

views updated


Cistercian missionary and first bishop of Prussia; d. Poland, Dec. 4, 1245. Christian went to preach to the pagan Prussians from the Cistercian monastery in Poland. innocent iii named him missionary bishop (1215), and he was consecrated in Rome. honorius iii, who gave strong moral support to the Cistercian mission, gave Christian the privilege of a metropolitan and the right to erect episcopal sees and to consecrate bishops. He was thus at the center of the Cistercian missionary activity in Prussia. Conrad of Masovia, who surrendered to him the Kulmerland as an independent territory, assisted him, and the knights of dobrin (Milites Christi ), at his instigation, fought the pagan Prussians. In 1230 Christian enfeoffed the Order of teutonic knights of Kulmerland without prejudice to his episcopal rights, but the order did not respect Christian's rights. When he was captured by the Prussians in 1233, nothing was done to liberate him. His missionary aim, to convert the Prussians without destroying their national independence and to train a native clergy, was in total opposition to the desires of the Teutonic Knights, who wanted to subjugate and Germanize the Prussians. The Teutonic Knights therefore cut the Cistercians out of the mission and had it handed over by the pope to the dominicans. When Christian succeeded in ransoming himself in the winter of 1239 to 1240 he immediately resumed the fight for his rights, but without success. Shortly afterward he withdrew into a Polish Cistercian monastery. Though he became irascible in his old age, his aims were always pure and above reproach. His objective was to bring to the Prussians the "freedom of the children of God."

Bibliography: a. m. zimmermann, Kalendarium Beneditinum: Die Heiligen und Seligen des Benediktinerorderns und seiner Zweige (Metten 193338) 3:393. m. tumler, Der Deutsche Orden im Werden, Wachsen und Wirken bis 1400 (Vienna 1955). a. triller, Neue deutsche Biographie (Berlin 1953 ) 3:230. h. schmauch, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (2d, new ed. Freiburg 195765) 2:112324. s. m. szacherska, Opactwo cysterkie w Spetalu a Misja pruska (Warsaw 1960). j. m. canivez, Dictionnaire d'histoire et de géographie ecclésiastiques, ed. a. baudrillart et al. (Paris 1912 ) 12:772.

[c. spahr]

About this article

Christian of Prussia

Updated About content Print Article


Christian of Prussia