The Teutonic Order (German: Deutschritter Orden, Latin: Ordo domus Sanctæ Mariæ Theutonicorum) was a crusading order of knights under Roman Catholic religious vows which was formed at the end of the 12th century in Palestine to give medical aid to pilgrims to the holy places. They received Papal orders for crusades to take and hold Jerusalem for Christianity. They were based at Acre.

When the mission of the order in Palestine was nearing its end, the Teutonic Knights moved their headquarter to Venice. Despite the fact, that their mission of conquering the Holy land was ended, they wanted to introduce the idea of religious crusades to Eastern Europe, on the border with pagan nations. The Knights offered their services to the local Christian rulers posing as religiously motivated mercenaries. Nevertheless, they hoped that using their influence in the Holy Roman Empire could help them become territorial proprietors of the newly conquered lands.

In 1211 Andrew II of Hungary accepted their services. They were granted the district of Burzenland in Transylvania. Andrew had been involved in negotiations for the marriage of his daughter with the son of Hermann, the Landgrave of Thuringia. The latter's vassals included the family of Hermann of Salza, the new master of the Teutonic Order. Led by a brother called Theoderich, they defended the Kingdom of Hungary from the neighbouring Cumans. In 1224 they petitioned Pope Honorius III to be placed directly under the authority of the papal see, rather than the Kingdom of Hungary. King Andrew responded by expelling them in 1225

At the same time Konrad I Mazowiecki, ruler of part of Poland, suffered when the Culmland was attacked by the Prussians, a pagan Baltic people. Konrad hired the Knights to defend this province and conquer Prussia, giving them the Culmland as a fief (1226) for the time until the conquest was over. The Order's conquest of Prussia was accomplished with great bloodshed over more than 50 years, during which new cities were founded as bases for war and administration, later becoming centres of trade. The Order didn't want to give back once conquered and baptised territories, instead it was converted into Teutonic Order state, which in principle was against the rules of a Chivalric Order.

Teutonic Knights Castle in Malbork

The Order ruled over much of the Baltic for several centuries, losing power during the late Middle Ages with the rise of the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania. The Order became involved in a series of wars against Poland and Lithuania. The biggest battle of the Teutonic Knights was the Battle of Tannenberg (1410) (in Polish, Grunwald, in Lithuanian - Zalgiris), which they lost.

In 1454 gentry and the burghers of western Prussia rose up against the Order in the "War of the Cities" or Thirteen Years War, at the end of which the order recognized the Polish crown rights over Prussia's western half (subsequently Royal Prussia) while retaining eastern Prussia under nominal Polish overlordship (Second Treaty of Thorn, 1466). Eastern Prussia (subsequently Ducal Prussia) was also lost to the Order when in 1525 its grand master, Albert of Brandenburg, converted to Lutheranism and assumed the rank of hereditary Duke of Prussia.

The new Grand Magistery was then established in Württemberg and members of the Habsburg family continued as grand masters over the Order's considerable holdings in Germany until 1809, when the Order lost its last secular holdings. The order continued to exist, headed by Habsburgs through the First World War, and today operates primarily as a charitable organization.

Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order, 1191-present

  • Heinrich I Walpot von Bassenheim 1198-1200
  • Otto von Kerpen 1200-1206
  • Heinrich II von Tunna 1206-1209
  • Hermann von Salza 1209-1239
  • Konrad I of Thuringia 1239-1240
  • Gerhard von Malberg 1241-1244
  • Heinrich III von Hohenlohe 1244-1249
  • Günther von Schwarzenberg 1249-1253
  • Poppo von Osterna 1253-1257
  • Hanno von Sangershausen 1257-1274
  • Hartmann von Helbrungen 1274-1283
  • Burkhard von Schwanden 1283-1290
  • Konrad II von Feuchtwangen 1290-1297
  • Gottfried von Hohenlohe 1297-1302
  • Siegfried von Feuchtwangen 1302-1310
  • Karl Bessart 1311-1324
  • Werner von Orselen 1324-1330
  • Lothar of Brunswick 1331-1335
  • Dietrich von Altenburg 1335-1341
  • Ludolf Konig von Wattzau 1342-1345
  • Heinrich IV Dusener von Arfberg 1345-1351
  • Winrich von Kniprode 1351-1382
  • Konrad III Zollner von Rothstein 1382-1390
  • Konrad IV von Wallenrode 1391-1393
  • Konrad V von Juningen 1393-1407
  • Ulrich von Jungignen 1407-1410
  • Heinrich V von Reuss 1410-1413
  • Michael Kuchenmeister von Sternburg 1414-1422
  • Paul Belenzer von Ruszdorf 1423-1440
  • Konrad VI von Erlichshausen 1441-1449
  • Ludwig von Erlichshausen 1450-1467
  • Heinrich VI von Reuss 1467-1470
  • Heinrich VII Reffle von Richtenberg 1470-1477
  • Martin Truchsetz von Wetzhausen 1477-1489
  • Johann von Tieffen 1489-1497
  • Friedrich of Saxony 1497-1510
  • Albert of Brandenburg 1510-1525
  • Walter von Cronberg 1527-1543
  • Wolfgang Schutzbar 1543-1566
  • Georg Hundt von Weckheim 1566-1572
  • Heinrich VIII von Bobenhausen 1572-1590
  • Maximilian of Austria 1590-1618
  • Karl I of Austria 1619-1624
  • Johann Eustach von Westernach 1625-1627
  • Johann Kaspar I von Stadion 1627-1641
  • Leopold Wilhelm of Austria 1641-1662
  • Karl Josef of Austria 1662-1664
  • Johann Kaspar II von Ampringen 1664-1684
  • Ludwig Anton of Palatinate-Neuburg 1685-1694
  • Ludwig Franz of Palatinate-Neuburg 1694-1732
  • Clemens August of Bavaria 1732-1761
  • Charles Alexander of Lorraine 1761-1780
  • Maximilian Franz of Austria 1780-1801
  • Karl II of Austria 1801-1804
  • Anton Viktor of Austria 1804-1835
  • Maximilian of Austria-Este 1835-1863
  • Wilhelm Franz Karl of Austria 1863-1894
  • Eugen Ferdinand Pius Bernhard of Austria 1894-1923
  • Dr. Norbert Klein 1923-1933
  • Paul Heider 1933-1936
  • Robert Schälzky 1936-1948
  • Dr. Marian Tumler 1948-1970
  • Ildefons Pauler 1970-1988
  • Dr. Arnold Othmar Wieland 1988-2000
  • Bruno Platter 2000-present

See also

External links

The Order and its relations with its neighbours (especially Poland) are the main motive in a novel by the Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz Krzyzacy (The Teutonic Knights).