James Bryce Bryce.

The book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) online

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began ; the bishop wished to secure sole
authority in the country while the Order
was struggling for independence. Inno-
cent III. did not wish to institute any new
metropolitan power, and decided that the


Order should pay no other service to the
bishopric of Riga, in return for the third
part of the land, than that of providing
security against the heathen.

Meanwhile the Order had advanced to
Esthonia in 1208, and in about nine years
had nominally conquered the country.
Among the Livonians and Letts a state of
ferment had prevailed for a considerable
time, a sign that Christianity and German
civilisation had gained no real hold of the
country. In the year 1218 Livonia was
threatened by a great Russian invasion.
Bishop Albert then applied in his necessity
to Waldemarll. of Denmark, who promised
help if the Germans undertook to cede to
him all the territory he might conquer.

To this they agreed, and the Danish king
landed in 1219 with his naval and military
power at the spot where the town of Reval
afterwards arose. A surprise of the
Esthonians at the castle of Lindanissa was
successfully repulsed. It was this battle
in which, according to legend, a red flag
with a white cross descended from heaven
to lead the Danes to conflict. This was
the " Danebrog," afterwards the imperial
banner of Denmark. A war
between the Danes and Germans
^ or s ^j lon j a was inevitable, as

the Order of the Sword had by
no means surrendered its old claims to
this district. For the moment the Order
made an arrangement with Wai demar in re-
spect to Esthonia, without the knowledge of
the bishop, so that the presumptuous Dane
now claimed the supremacy of Livonia.

This danger united the Order, and
King Waldemar th?n, in 1222, renounced
his claim to Livonia, for the reason
that he had never had that country
in his power. In January, 1223, a revolt
of the Esthonians broke out, the castles of
the Knights and of the Danes were reduced
to ruins, and in May, the Count Henry
of Schwerin captured the Danish king,
who, more than all others of his nation,
had threatened the German supremacy
of the Baltic.

The Order of the Sword now secured the
whole of Danish Esthonia in the course of
their struggle with the rebels. More
important was the fact that Waldemar's
blockade of Liibeck came to an end, so
that crusaders, merchants, and Knights
could advance eastward from this point
of Baltic emigration. With their help it
was possible to reconquer the castle of
Dorpat, which the Russians had taken

_ ai

The Brothers of the Knighthood of Christ in Livonia, wearing on their white cloaks the device of crossed swords in red,
came to be distinguished as the " Knights of the Sword." Those of the Teutonic Order, which eventually absorbed the
former brotherhood, wore the symbol of the Cross. The above shows military and priestly members of both orders.

Ftoin the original drawing by W. E. Wigfull


from the Knights. The Russians were
now reduced to impotence for a consider-
able period by the Mongol invasion. The
Germans were thus able to subdue the
island of Oesel in a winter campaign across
the frozen sea, and to force Christianity
upon the inhabitants. The subjugation
of this piratical state -concluded the polit-

ical foundation of German
K of the Liyonia Before the death of

. Bishop Albert, in 1220, the Albert Germanking) Henry V H., the

son of the Emperor Frederic II., had con-
ferred Esthonia upon the Brothers of the
Sword as a permanent fief, and permitted
the Bishop of Riga to coin money and to
grant municipal liberties. After the death
of this great ecclesiastical prince hard
times came upon the land and the Order.
Waldemar II. again secured possession
of Northern Esthonia,. including Reval.

The Order of the^Sword was oppressed
by the bishops, who 'were jealous of its
power. It possqssgd, indeed, a territory of
730 square miles Jl* extent, whereas the
five bishopriqs of* Riga, Dorpat, Oesel,
Semgallia, and' 'Courland had only 870
square miles between them. The Brother-
hood, therefore, applied for union with
the Teutonic Order, which had meanwhile
entered Prussia. Probably the Grand
Master, Hermann of Salza, would have
refused this request had not the Master
oftheOrder of the Sword, Volkwin, met his
death with fifty Knights in battle against
the Lithuanians on September 22nd, 1236.

Thus, under Pope Gregory IX., an
amalgamation with the Teutonic
Knights was concluded. The Master,
Hermann Balk, came to Livonia and took
possession of all the land of the Order
of the Sword in the name of the Teutonic
Order. The claims of Denmark and
Northern Esthonia were recognised for the
moment, and it was not until 1346-
1347 that the Danish territory passed
into the hands of the German Order.
_ , After the first half of the

Co ou.sat.on thirteenth C entury the fate of
IB the Hands , ,, J ,,

* it v A colonisation in the north-east,

of the Knights . , , ~, . '

once occupied by a;Teutomc,
and then by a Slave-Lettish and Finnish
population, was in the hands of the Teu-
tonic Knights. Until the fourteenth century
the nation was in process of a develop-
ment which is reflected in the history of
the Order no less than the succeeding
stagnation and decay. The last of the
great knightly Orders of the crusading


period had originated in a brotherhood of
ambulance bearers founded by German
pilgrims, especially by merchants during
the siege of Acre in 1190. As early as 1198
this brotherhpod of hospitallers had been
formed into an Order of Knights on the
model of the Templars, except that in the
case of those who served the hospitals the
organisation of the Knights of St. John
was adopted at the outset. The " Knights
of the Hospital of St. Mary of Jeru-
salem " gave a national character to the
new Order by accepting only scions
of the upper German nobility, not exclud-
ing knights and, therefore, citizens who
had a knight's standing in their towns.

The uniform of the Teutonic Knights
was a white cloak with a cross ; the
same emblem was worn both on their sur-
coats and their caps, while the priests of
the Order wore a white cowl with a black
cross. The centre of the Order and the
residence of the Grand Master was at Acre
until the conquest of that city in 1291 by
the infidels, although the Knigjits had
meanwhile secured extensive possessions
in Europe, amounting to a connected
territory. As early as 1211 the
E*pelled g from Knights had acquired a large
Hungary sphere of activity in Europe,

when Andreas II. of Hungary
summoned its members to Transylvania
to fight against the heathen Cumanians,
and rewarded them with the Burzenland.
The Order, however, protected the
country from papal influence, declined to
recognise the supremacy of the apostolic
king, and attempted to gain complete
independence, so that the Hungarians, in
deep suspicion of these political moves,
expelledJ^em. ,^

At thjat time negotiations were pro-
ceeding between the Grand Master,
Hermann of Salza, and Conrad of Masovia.
This Relish .getty prince was also in pos-
sessiort^of the land of Kulm, which was
devastated by the heathen Prussians.
<ftThe Cistercian monk, Christian of Oliva,
the first titular bishop of Prussia, had, in
1215, undertaken a crusade into the
heathen district beyond the Vistula, with
the support of the Polish duke, an enter-
prise which failed. When Duke Conrad saw
that his own possessions were endangered,
he applied to f the German Order. Taught
by the failure in Transylvania, Hermann
of Salza first negotiated with the emperor,
who, in, 1226, readily gave away what was
not. his to give, by investing the Order


with the land of Kulm and with all future
conquests. After some hesitation the Duke
of Masovia abandoned his claim to the
whole land of Kulm in 1230. The Order
then offered it to St. Peter, whereupon
Pope Gregory IX. returned it to them
in 1234 as a permanent possession on
payment of a moderate tribute.

By this means the Order became inde-
pendent of episcopal power, which in
Prussia, as in Livonia, was struggling for


the supremacy. Moreover, they were left
entirely free with respect to the Poles, and
could appeal to their imperial charter
against the Church and to the protection
of the Pope against the empire. It must
be said, however, that the evils which
finally overthrew the Order originated in
these conditions which then appeared so
favourable. The Popes treated it as they
treated any other power, to satisfy the
rnomentary interests of their world- wide



o an s
Union with

policy ; the bishops undermined the
supremacy of the Order, in which task
they were outwitted by its enemies,
the country and town nobility. When
the Polish petty princes were brought
into a strong centralised state by their
union with Lithuania, the Order learned
the disadvantage of the position that
they had taken up, in the days
Q J t heir splendour, between
the kin dom of the p iasts and

the sea. The empire, how-
ever, for which the Knights had shown
but little respect, made no offer to pre-
serve the loose bond of union from rupture
or foreign supremacy.

When Hermann of Salza sent the Grand
Master to Prussia in 1228, the coloni-
sation of the Vistula district was proceed-
ing from the fortress of Nassau. With
seven brothers of the Order he erected a
wall and a ditch the castle of Thorn^
which is supposed to have stood on the
left bank of the stream around an oak-tree
the top of which served as a watch-tower.
Crusaders soon began to struggle
against the heathen, and other people ar-
rived to occupy the space around the castle
of the Order. Between the years 1231 and
1233 arose the towns of Thorn, Kulm,
and Marienwerder ; by the charter of
Kulm, on December 28th, 1232, the privi-
leges of Magdeburg were granted to them.

After the great defeat of the Prussians on
the Sirgune, in 1234, the Order advanced to
the sea. Elbing was built in 1237 an ^
colonised with settlers from Liibeck, who
were allowed to live according to the
rights of their native town. The important
connection between the Order and the
mercantile towns of the Saxon Wendish
district was thus broken. Both peasants
and nobles came, the former with their
" locators," to the allotments assigned
to them, and the latter to the great
estates which the Order divided among
them, in extent from zoo to 300 hides.
_ K p The power of the Teutonic

Knights advanced continu-

of the

Brotherhoods ous ^y- * n I2 37 *" e union Wltn
the Brotherhood of the Sword

was accomplished, and the problem now
arose of securing the coast connections be-
tween the Frische Haff and the Gulf of Riga.
The advance of the Teutonic Knights had
already aroused the jealousy of the Pomer-
anian dukes, who both secretly and openly
offered help to the unconquered heathen
and to the Prussians, who had already been


baptised. The new constitution was
also endangered by the Mongol invasion
of 1241, though this for the moment was
turned chiefly against the rival power
of Poland. The papal bulls urging Chris-
tians to the crusade against the Prussians
rightly asserted that the heathen Tartars
were preparing a general destruction of
the Christianity founded in Livonia,
Esthonia, and Prussia. The union of the
Tartars with the Russians of the Greek
Church in heathen Lithuania threatened
destruction not only to the possessions
of the Order but to the whole of Latin
Christianity. The crusading enthusiasm
was inflamed, however, by the greatness
of the danger.

At that time (1254-1255) Ottokar II.
of Bohemia undertook his famous crusade
to Prussia ; Samland was conquered and
Konigsberg was founded. An important
step had thus been taken to secure the
unity of the divided Baltic colonies. The
Order had now taken possession of the land
of amber, and had monopolised this valu-
able commodity, and made it a staple
article of trade. At the same time as
Samland, Galinden in the lake
District o f Masuria also came

p .

for into possession o{ the Knights
Existence ,. c f ,, A ,

of St. Mary. At the moment

when it seemed that the Prussians had
been overpowered, they began a desperate
struggle for their national existence, in the
course of which the supremacy of the
Order was more than once endangered. It
was not until the years 1280-1290 and the
subjugation of the 'Sudanians that the
Prussian people was actually subdued, that
is to say, for the most part annihilated,
expelled, or enslaved. Only those who had
remained faithful and had given in their
submission at an earlier date were able to
live in tolerable comfort. The remainder
of the Prussian people was gradually
crushed under the colonial population
which overran the country.

When Pomerellen was occupied, and
the capital was changed from Venice to
Marienburg by the Grand Master, Siegfried
of Feuchtwangen, in 1309, the Teutonic
Knights had reached the height of their
splendour. In the last quarter of that
same fourteenth century a rapid and
inevitable decay began.

There was yet a task of historical im-
portance before the Order the struggle
against the unbaptised Lithuanians ; re-
inforcements of crusaders still came in, who


advanced against the heathen under its
leadership. But the Knights of Western
Europe in the fourteenth century had lost
the heroic character of the age of the
Hohenstauffen ; they were but a carica-
ture of their more capable forefathers.
However, the Order long preserved its
predominance against Poland, which had
become a kingdom in 1320, as is proved
by the Peace of Kalish in 1343. The
Poles not only definitely renounced their
possession of Pomerellen, but also ceded
some frontier districts. The Lithuanians
also learned to fear the superiority of the
German arms, when they abandoned their
frontier warfare for an attack upon Sam-
land in alliance with the Russians and
Tartars ; at Rudau, on February lyth,
1370, they experienced a defeat, which
was celebrated as the most brilliant
exploit in the great period of the Knights.
However, it was not until the beginning
of the next century in 1405 that they
succeeded in securing the Lithuanian pro-
vince of Samaitia, or Samogita, which
hitherto had interrupted the communica-
tion between Prussia and Courland. Thus
_ it was not until the period of

_. e . " ngen decay was at hand that the

. whole of the Baltic coast from
of the Knights ,, T , ,, XT

the Leba to the Narva was

under their supremacy. In the course of
the fourteenth century the position of the
Knights had been consolidated both in
the Prussian and in the Livonian terri-
tory. These districts were ruled with an
iron hand, while within the Order itself a
no less stringent discipline prevailed,
which educated the scanty but picked
troops of the Brothers for the work of
government. After the transference of
the residence of the Grand Master to
Marienburg the system of military bureau-
cratic rule was brought to completion.

The state was well organised both for
defence and attack, and was based upon
a sound financial system, while the
administration was characterised by
indefatigable supervision. Committees
representing every province met together
in the Grand Master's castle at Marien-
burg. Wonderful stories were current of
the treasures which were preserved there,
concerning which only the Grand Master
and the Treasurer could speak with

As the Knights considered themselves
the proprietors of the country by right of
conquest, they held large estates in their

demesne, and to the products of these
were added the revenue in kind and the
taxes paid by their subjects. Taxes were
first levied in the fifteenth century. A
regular income was provided by the
regalities ; the right of justice and of
coinage, forestry and hunting rights,
including bee-keeping, the use of water-

TK T-.,, * courses, the market right, etc.
I he I eutonic ._ f ., ^ , .

Order's Tne mcome * tne Order in

Resources money was estimated at
$1,375,000. The large supply
of natural products which the Brotherhood
received from the demesnes by way of
taxes and dues necessitated the provision
of intercourse with foreign markets, and
such were found in England, Sweden,
and Russia. Apart from amber, other
articles of trade were corn, pitch, potash,
building timber, wax, etc., though we have
no means of learning the value of these

The extent of the transmarine interests
of the Order may be gauged by the fact
that about 1398 it suppressed the ravages
of the Vitalien Brothers, an organised
band of Baltic pirates, and occupied
Gothland and Wisby. This position,
which was the key to the Baltic north,
was, however, surrendered in 1407 to
the king of the Union, Eric VII. (XIII. ).

Next to the Order the Church possessed
the largest amount of land. In Prussia a
third of the territory was subject to ecclesi-
astical supremacy, which extended over
two-thirdsof theLivonias. To prevent the
acquisition of supreme power by the Church,
the Order opposed the development
of monastic life, and granted full liberty
only to the mendicant friars,who possessed
no land, were popular in the towns, and
worked to convert the heathen. Thus in
the territories of the Order there were only
two monasteries of any importance, and
these, with the land attached to them,
had come under the power of the Knights ;
they were the Cistercian foundations of
w Oliva and Pelplin in Pomerel-

. f? len. Knights and monks were

_ rc *" 'at one in their half unconscious
and half intentional indiffer-
ence towards all higher culture. The rule
of the Order was thus unfavourable to the
growth of science and literature and of all
the fine arts ; the most practical alone,
that of architecture, became flourishing.

The relations of the Teutonic Order with
the bishops were marked by greater diffi-
culty. This was not the case in Prussia

37 rl


itself, as here bishoprics were generally
occupied by brethren of the Order or by
others in sympathy with its views, apart
from the fact that the Order was imme-
diately subordinate to the Pope, and that
no bishop would have ventured to pro-
nounce such a sentence as excommunica-
tion upon a member. The case, however,
. was very different in Livonia,
The Knights Esthonia> and Qesel, where the

Subordinate Rnights were ob l ige d to deal

Pope with conditions that had
existed before its arrival, and had been
complicated by the interference of Rome.
Only in Courland and Semgallia, which
were conquered for the first time by them,
did ecclesiastical affairs develop as in
Prussia. When the Order secured the
inheritance of the Brothers of the Sword in
1237, Livonia was already occupied by a
number of ecclesiastical principalities, of
which Riga was the most important. The
elevation of Riga to the position of an
archbishopric in 1253 made possible the
formation of an ecclesiastical state in

The object of the Knights was to
deprive the Livonian bishops of that
temporal power which had been already
wrested from the bishops of Courland and
Prussia ; the result was a series of severe
struggles and a permanent state of tension
between the opposing forces. At the time
of its prosperity in the fourteenth century
the Order was upon the verge of securing
its desire. This was achieved by its con-
nection with the episcopal vassals, who
had become politically independent in the
Baltic territories and had thus obliged the
bishops gradually to concede all the rights
of sovereignty to such feudatories as were
pledged to military services. The conse-
quence was a corporate development of
the vassal class, which was impossible in
Prussia and Courland, but was repeated in
Esthonia during its subjection to the
Danes until 1347. Though the alliance
between the Knights and the
episcopal vassals was by no
means permanent, it yet pro-
vided the Order with a possi-
bility of restoring the balance between
its own power and that of the bishops.

In Prussia there was also a class of
vassals pledged to military service, from
which a landed nobility developed ; but
the Order did not divide its supremacy
with this class, but rather kept these
members at a distance. Only for excep-


Fervice in

tional reasons was the rule broken that
the Prussian or Livonian nobility and
their Low German relations were not to
be admitted to the Brotherhood of the
Knights. The Order drew recruits from
Upper and Central Germany even when the
Grand Master had transferred his centre
to the north.

This exclusive attitude towards the native
nobility sowed the seeds of an internal con-
flict, which assumed a character dangerous
to the state of the Order in the fifteenth
century. During the fourteenth century
the German-speaking nobles who had im-
migrated amalgamated closely with the
remnants of the native nobility of Lettish
origin, " the Wittungs." The Brotherhood
conferred upon them the same rights as
were enjoyed by the other feudal nobles,
as a reward for their faithful submission.

The great mass of the population in the
villages and manors enjoyed until the
fifteenth century a freedom which was in
strong contrast to their later servitude
and subordination. Serfdom and op-
pression were the lot only of the rebels
among the Prussian tribes. There was,
. however, a difference between

this ha PP ier P rtion of the
Prussians and the German

1-1 i - t

colonial population, in so far as

the former were bound to " unlimited "
and the latter to "limited" service in
war, the latter being confined to the
defence of the country. At the same time,
even the native villages seemed to have
secured the privileges of Cologne, which
gave the German peasant a very desirable
amount of freedom and independence.

Upon the whole, the rural population
of Prussia and Livonia consisted of
tributary peasants, who were mildly
treated. They had hereditary rights of
ownership to their house and land, and
claims to forest, pasture, water, and game,
and upon occasion ownership without
liability to rent.' During the "golden"
time under the Grand Master Winrich of
Kniprode (1351-1382) there are said to
have been some 18,000 villages in all
the territories of the Order.

Prussia was a land of German towns to
a greater extent than Brandenburg or
even Silesia. From the outset the Knights
of the Order occupied uncultivated terri-
tories in alliance with the German citizen
class. In the towns of Prussia there was,
as formerly in Germany, a municipal
aristocracy under whom the towns



secured complete independence ; here,
too, there followed an age of struggle
between the aristocratic and industrial
classes which never ended either in the
complete supremacy of the one or the
entire defeat of the other. The pecu-
liar characteristics of the Prussian and
Livonian towns are derived from their
attraction to the sea and the tendency to
form alliances, which they manifested at
an early date. Such alliances were further
stimulated by Russian carrying trade in
districts Where they had a common interest
in securing the exclusion of all rivals. Thus
there were alliances of Prussian towns
Danzig, Elbing, Konigsberg, Kulm, Thorn,
Braunsberg .and of Livonian towns

either supported or opposed the Hansa
as they did.

In the fourteenth century the supremacy
of the German nation began to fade
and the pulse of life at home and abroad
to beat more slowly. The foreign ambi-
tions of the empire were replaced by a wise
domestic policy. The expansion east and
south came to an end ; colonists were
wanting and crusades had ceased. The
population had been diminished by the
ravages of the Black Death and other
plagues. Not only the productivity but
also the reproductive power of the nation
seem diminished ; stagnation and^ftfecay
were universally prevalent. Eventually
the neighbouring nations, who owed so


Started originally as a religious society of German Crusaders, the Teutonic Order of Knights gradually became
a military rather than a religious caste, and in 1237 it absorbed the Order of the Brethren of the Sword, who had

Master's castle at Marienburg, and wonderful stories were told of the treasures which were preserved there.

Online LibraryJames Bryce BryceThe book of history. A history of all nations from the earliest times to the present, with over 8,000 illustrations (Volume 9) → online text (page 29 of 55)