Teutonic Order

The Teutonic Order was established during the Crusades in order to help Christian pilgrims during their stay in the holy land. Soon after its formation, it became a military organisation.

During the first half of the thirteenth century, the knights moved north in order to crusade against the pagan peoples that lived in the Baltic Sea region. While on these campaigns, they were able to carve out their own state, which existed until 1809.


In 1198 the Teutonic Order was formed as military order of knighthood in the Crusader States.


1143 CE


Andrew II of Hungary (pictured) granted the knights part of Transylvania in 1211. This was the first territory outside of the Crusader States that the Order operated in.


In 1226, Konrad I of Masovia (in north-eastern Poland) requested that the Knights subdue the neighbouring Prussians. The Prussians were a Baltic people, who were pagan but were to be slowly Christianized and Germanized. The Knights accepted, and the 'Prussian Crusade' began in 1230.


The Order's next mission was to attempt to convert Orthodox Russia to Catholicism. The campaign came to an abrupt end in 1542, however, when the knights suffered a heavy defeat by Novgorod at the Battle of Lake Peipus.


1250 CE


In 1260 the Knights were outfought by an army of Lithuanians at the battle of Durbe. This defeat encouraged the previously conquered Baltic peoples to rise in revolt against the Order. The largest and most dangerous of these rebellions was the 'Great Prussian uprising'.


The Great Prussian uprising was finally snuffed out in 1274.


Towards the end of the thirteenth century, the Teutonic Order began to direct its campaigns against pagan Lithuania. The Knights' Lithuanian campaigns were remembered mostly for their brutality.


1300 CE


In 1309 the Teutonic Knights captured Pomerelia, which enabled them to form a land bridge with the Holy Roman Empire. However, Poland (which had previously been an ally of the Order) also had a claim over this region. As a result, the Poles turned against the Knights.


Under the leadership of Grand Master Winrich von Kniprode (who reigned from 1351 to 1382), the Teutonic Order reached the peak of its prestige.


in 1386 Poland and Lithuania were united under Jogaila (pictured). Those two countries had generally been enemies of one another, but now that they were united they suddenly became a formidable new opponent to the Teutonic Knights.


1400 CE


In 1407 the Teutonic state reached its greatest territorial extent


In 1410 the knights were crushed by the Polish-Lithuanian army at the Battle of Grunwald. The Order subsequently entered a period of decline, from which it never truly recovered


During 1422, the two month long 'Gollub War' broke out. The knights were defeated and were forced to renounce their claim over Lithuania.


The Knights suffered yet another defeat in the Polish-Teutonic War of 1431-1435.


1450 CE


In 1454 the Prussian Confederation rose up against the Order, thus beginning the Thirteen Years' War.


The Second Peace of Thorn concluded the Thirteen Years War in 1466. The Knights were forced to hand over more territory to the Poles.


1500 CE


In 1525 Grand master Albert of Hohenzollern-Brandenburg-Ansbach switched to Protestantism and established the Duchy of Prussia in the Knights' Prussian territory.


By now the Teutonic state had shrunk considerably, and what remained was reorganised into small administrative 'Bailiwicks'. In 1531 the Holy Roman Emperor gave the Order's leader the title 'Hochund Deutschmeister', which had the rank of Prince within the Holy Roman Empire.


1800 CE


The military history of the Teutonic Knights came to an end in 1809, when Napoleon Bonaparte dissolved the Order.


Christiansen, Eric (1997). The Northern Crusades. Penguin Books.
John France (1998). Western Warfare in the Age of the Crusades 1000?1300. Cornell University Press.
Van Duren, Peter (1995). Orders of Knighthood and of Merit. Colin Smythe.
David Nicolle (1996). Lake Peipus 1242. Osprey Publishing.
Urban, William (2000). The Prussian Crusade. Lithuanian Research and Studies Center.