The Teutonic Knights are the Teutonic Knights of St. Mary's Hospital at Jerusalem (Ordo domus Sanctę Marię Theutonicorum). There are in German known as the Deutscher Orden. They originated as a brotherhood formed by crusading German knights besiging Acre (1190). After the Crusaders took Acre, the Teutonic Knights set up their headquarters there. Pope Clement recognized them (1191). The members took religious vows. Their avowed purpose was to give medical aid to pilgrims to the Holyland. The Pope ordered them to take and hold Jerusalem. They were based at Acre. The Order seeing that the Crusades could not succeed in the Holyland, moved their headquarter to Venice. The Order conceived of religious crusades in Eastern Europe where prospects for teritorial conquest seemed more propitious. Pagan tribes still existed in Eastern Europe and from time to time threatened or conducted raids into neigboring Christain kingdoms.
The Crusades are the series of religious wars launched by the Medieval kingdoms of Euroope during the 11th-13th centuries to retake the Hollyland from Islamic rulers. Christian pilgrims after the Arab conquests of the 7th and 8th centuries had to travel through Islamic lands to venerate the great shrines in Jeruselum and other Biblical sites in the Holy Land. In addition the Ottoman Turks were increasingly encroaching on the Eastern or Byzantine Empire. The Turks apparently preyed upon Christian pilgrims. Byzantine Emperor Alexius Comnenus, perhaps concerned about the plight of the pilgrims, more likely seeking allies against the Turks, wrote to a friend Robert, the Count of Flanders, in 1093. He recounted the alegeded atrocities inflicted on the pilgrims by the Turks. Count Robert forwarded Comnenus' letter to Pope Urban II. Pope Urban like Emperor Comnenus perhaps concerned about Christian pilgrims, more likely seeing a political opportunity, decided to promote a military crusade to seize the Holy Land from the infidel Turks. European Christians at the time were locked in intractable dynastic wars in England, France, Italy, and other domains, destabilizing large areas of Europe. The Pope sought to redirect the fighting to an infidel adversary. Pope Urban's crusade, the First Crusade, was
launched in 1095.
The Teutonic Knights were born out of the Crusades to retake the Holyland from the Muslim infidels. The Teutonic Knights are the Teutonic Knights of St. Mary's Hospital at Jerusalem (Ordo domus Sanctę Marię Theutonicorum). There are in German known as the Deutscher Orden. They originated as a brotherhood formed by crusading German knights besiging Acre (1190). After the Crusaders took Acre, the Teutonic Knights set up their headquarters there. Pope Clement recognized them (1191). The members took religious vows. Their avowed purpose was to give medical aid to pilgrims to the Holyland. The Pope ordered them to take and hold Jerusalem. They were based at Acre. The brotherhood was concverted into an orderv of knighthood, in part to offset the political influence of the Templars and Hospitalers.
The Order seeing that the Crusades could not succeed in the Holyland, moved their headquarter to Venice. Here Grand Master Hermann von Salza (1210-39) was a major advocate of this change in focus.
The Order conceived of religious crusades in Eastern Europe where prospects for teritorial conquest seemed more propitious. Pagan tribes still existed in Eastern Europe and from time to time threatened or conducted raids into neigboring Christain kingdoms.
The Order thus offered their military Christian rulers in Eastern Europe facing incursions by pagan tribes. The Order presented itself as religiously motivated mercenaries. The Order hoped to acquire land and then use their status as German knights to obtain Holy Roman Empire Recognition of their territorial rights in conquered lands.
The first ruler to accep their services was King Andrew II of Hungary (1211). He granted the Order the district of Burzenland in Transylvania as a Feudal fiefdom. Andrew was arranging the marriage of his daughter the son of Hermann, Landgrave of Thuringia. Hermann's vassals included the family of Hermann von Salza who happened to be the new Grand Master. An Order knight, Theoderich, led the Order's forces in helping to defended Hungary from the Cumans. The Order subsequently petitioned Pope Honorius III to place them under direct Papal control rather than the jurisdiction of the Hungarian crown (1224). Andrew seeing a challenge to his authority expelled the Order (1225).
The Prussi or Borussi were one of the many Indo-European tribes which participated in the Indo-European invasions. Very little is known of the Prussi. They were the Baltic peoples which had the greatest contact with the Celts and are known to have traded amber. Tacitus in the first known reference to the Blatic peoples mentions a northern people trading amber, but he does not mention specific tribes. The Prussi appear to have had especially close ties with the Lithuanians, but few details are available.
Konrad I Mazowiecki, prince of what is now central Poland around Warsaw, was having difficulty defending his province of Culmland from Prussian attacks. Konrad thus turned to the Order for military assistance. He offered Culmland as a fief while the Order conquered the Prussians (1226).
The Order attacked the Prusians in a brutal campaign lasting more than 50 years. Christianity was brought to the Prussi with fire and sword. The Order founded cities in Prussia which served as military bases and as well as administrative and commercial centers. The Prussi were not finally subjegated until 1283.
The smaller military order, the Brothers of the Sword, joined with theTeutonic Knights (1237). This brought the domains of Livonia and Kurland (modern Latvia) to the Order
Prussia and the other areas conquered by the Order were esablishes as the Teutonic Order States within the Holy Roman Empire. This violated thr code of a Chivalric Order, but came to be accepted within the Empire glad to have the threat of the pagan tribes along the eastern border settled. The Order brought both Christianity and Feudalism. The knights themselves became large landowers and the Prussi and other Baltic peoples conquiered the serfs wiorking their estates. The Order ruled much of the Baltic for several centuries, until confronted by the rising power of Poland-Lithuania. losing power during the late Middle Ages with the rise of the Poland.
The Order achieved some success to the west, seizing control of Danzig and Pomerania (early 14th century).
The Order waged a long series of wars with Poland-Lithuania for control of Prussia and the Baltics. The Order was not able to subjegate Lithuania which lay between their Prussian and Latvian territories. The Order was defeated in the Battle of Tannenberg (Grunwald/Zalgiris) (1410). This greatly weakened the power of the Order in the Baltics.
Land owners and city dwellers in western Prussia rose against the Order in what is commonly referred to as the War of the Cities or also the Thirteen Years War (1454). They were supported by the Poles. The War was ended with the Second Treaty of Thorn (1466). The Order was forced to accept the Polish crown rights over Prussia's western half which became known as Royal Prussia. They managed to retain eastern Prussia which became known as Ducal Prussia as a nominal Polish fiefdom.
Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg, a Hohenzolleran, converted to Lutheranism and converted Ducal Prussia in a hereditary dukedom (1525). This mean that Prussia was lost to the Order, ending its role as a power in European politics. Eventually the Dukedom of Prussia was added to Brandenburg to create Brandenburg-Prussia from which Prussia evolved.
The much deminished Order was moved to Württemberg. Members of the Aistrain Habsburg family rules as grand masters. The Order still had sizeable kanf holdings in Germany.
Napoleon suppressed the Order throughout Germany (1809). As a result, the Order lost its remaining secular landholdings.
The Order was revived several years after Napoleon's fall (1834). It was revived as an Austrian order and headed by Habsburgs through World War I (1914-18). It continues to exist as a charitable foundation.
The black cross used by Teutonic Knights is known as the Balkankreuz or Balkan Cross. It was adopted for use in Prussian military decorations. I'm not sure when the Prussians first began doing this. After German unification (1871) it was used in German military decorations. The Iron Cross is a styalized Balkankreuz. It was later used on German planes uin World war I and II although the sylistic representation varied. It was also used on Panzers during World war II.
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