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Wednesday, October 27, 2021

History of the Teutonic Order – Pt.3 The Decline

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Politics

In 1239-1240, the threat of conflict between the German and Danish feudal lords in the Baltic with the Russian princes, arose. At the end of August 1240, Bishop Hermann Derptsky, gathering militia from his subjects and the remnants of the Knights of the Order of the Sword, with the support of the Danish knights from Reval, invaded Pskov and seized Izborsk . An attempt by the Pskov militia to repel the fortress ended in failure. The knights besieged Pskov himself and soon took it, taking advantage of treason among the besieged. Two German vogts were planted in the city. Then the knights invaded the Novgorod principality and built a fortress in Koporye. Alexander Nevsky arrived in Novgorod, after which, commanding the Novgorod troops, he freed Koporye. After that, he returned to Novgorod, where he spent the winter waiting for the arrival of reinforcements from Vladimir. In March, the combined army liberated Pskov.

The decisive battle took place on April 5, 1242 on Lake Peipsi (probably near Lake Peipsi). It ended in a crushing defeat of the knights. The Bishop of Dorpat and the Order (according to the papal bull of 1237 including the remnants of the Order of the Swordsmen) was forced to conclude a world in which the Crusaders refused to capture the Russian lands.

Another Russian principality, faced with the Order, was Galitsko-Volynskoe. In 1235 or 1238, Prince Daniel Romanovich in the battle of Dorogichin stopped the expansion of the knights to South-Western Russia (most likely it was not the Teutonic knights, but the knights of the Dobrinsky order). The object of the dispute in this region was Yatviazh lands. In 1254 the vice-master of the Teutonic Order in Prussia Burchard von Hornhausen, Daniel and the Prince of Mazovia Zemovit concluded a trilateral alliance in Raczentzhe to conquer the Yatwings .

The main and longest onslaught of the Order took the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The contemporary of Alexander Nevsky, the Lithuanian prince Mindovg, began the fight against the order. He struck the knights with two crushing defeats at the Battle of Saul in 1236 and at the Battle of Lake Durbe (1260 ). Under the successors of Mindovg, the princes Gediminas and Olgerd, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania became the largest state in Europe, but continued to be subjected to bitter attacks.

In 1268, the Order suffered a crushing defeat from the combined Russian troops at the Battle of Racovor.

In the XIV century, the order made over a hundred trips to the borders of Lithuania. The situation began to improve only in 1386, when the Lithuanian prince Jagiello adopted Catholicism and became engaged to the heir to the Polish throne. This marked the beginning of a rapprochement between Lithuania and Poland (the so-called “personal union” – both states had the same ruler).

The Fall

The Order began to experience difficulties in 1410, when the combined forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Poland inflicted a crushing defeat on the army of the Order near the Grunwald village on July 15, 1410. The total number of troops of the order was, according to various estimates, from 11 to 27 thousand people, while the number of enemy troops was significantly higher. About 8 thousand people died in the battle and 14 thousand were captured. The head of the order, Master Ulrich von Jüngingen, was killed, and the great Marshal Wallenrod was also killed. The army of the Teutonic Order lost its reputation as an invincible order. The combined troops of Poland and Lithuania were commanded by the Polish king Jagiello and his cousin, Grand Duke of Lithuania Vitovt. The troops also included the Czechs, three Smolensk regiments, and also the Tatar allies of the Lithuanian prince.

In 1411, after a two-month, unsuccessful siege of Marienburg, the Order paid a contribution to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. A peace treaty was signed, but minor clashes from time to time took place. In order to reform the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, Frederick III organized the League of Prussia. This provoked further the thirteen-year war, from which Poland emerged victorious. In 1457, the residence of the Grand Master of the Order moved to Konigsberg. In 1466 under the Second Torun Peace Treaty the Teutonic Order was forced to recognize itself as a vassal of the Polish king.

The final loss of power occurred in 1525, when the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, Albrecht Hohenzollern of the Brandenburg Hohenzollern dynasty, converted to Protestantism, resigned as Grand Master and declared the secularization of the Prussian lands, the main territory that belonged to the Teutonic Order. This step was made possible with the consent of the Polish king and with the mediation of Martin Luther, the author of this plan. The newly-formed Duchy of Prussia became the first Protestant state in Europe, but continued to remain in vassal dependence on Catholic Poland.

Due to the fact that Königsberg, the former residence of the Grand Master, was in the secularized Prussia, the capital of the order was moved to the city of Bad Mergentheim, located near Würzburg.

The Order was dissolved in 1809 during the Napoleonic Wars. Those who remained under the authority of the order of possession and territory were ceded to Napoleon’s vassals and allies.

Sources:

Laviss Ernest . History of the Teutonic Orde Maschke Erich. German Order
B. Pechnikov. Knights of the Church – who are they
Pechnikov B. А. The Teutonic Order: Yesterday and Today
Urban William. Warband
Khrustalev DG Northern Crusaders. Russia in the struggle for spheres of influence in the Eastern Baltic
Jučas M. The Battle of Grünwald

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