Teutonic Knights

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Teutonic Knights

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Teutonic Order

(to͞otŏn`ĭk), German military religious order founded (1190–91) during the siege of Acre in the Third Crusade. It was originally known as the Order of the Knights of the Hospital of St. Mary of the Teutons in Jerusalem. The order was one of nobles, and the knights took the monastic vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Under Hermann von SalzaSalza, Hermann von
, d. 1239, grand master (1210–39) of the Teutonic Knights. A friend and adviser of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II, he often mediated between the emperor and Pope Gregory IX.
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, its grand master in the early 13th cent., the order moved to E Europe and rose to prominence. After a brief period (1221–25) in Transylvania, where it fought for King Andrew II of Hungary against the CumansCumans
or Kumans
, nomadic East Turkic people, identified with the Kipchaks (or the western branch of the Kipchaks) and known in Russian as Polovtsi. Coming from NW Asian Russia, they conquered S Russia and Walachia in the 11th cent.
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, the order responded to a call (1226) of the Polish Duke Conrad of Mazovia for a crusade against the Prussians. Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II granted (1226) it vast privileges, and Conrad invested it with conquered lands. However, Hermann von Salza placed (1234) his conquests under papal suzerainty and set about to organize them as a separate German state. The Poles were long unsuccessful in asserting their claim to suzerainty over the order. After some 50 years of successful campaigning the knights had subdued PrussiaPrussia
, Ger. Preussen, former state, the largest and most important of the German states. Berlin was the capital. The chief member of the German Empire (1871–1918) and a state of the Weimar Republic (1919–33), Prussia occupied more than half of all Germany
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 (i.e., the lands later known as East Prussia and West Prussia) and founded numerous towns and fortresses. The expansion of the Livonian Brothers of the SwordLivonian Brothers of the Sword
or Livonian Knights
, German military and religious order, founded in 1202 by Bishop Albert of Livonia for the purpose of conquest and Christianization in the Baltic lands.
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 took place further east; they were united with the Teutonic Order from 1237 to 1525. The Prussians, who had repeatedly risen in revolt, were reduced to serfdom (13th cent.), and German emigrants arrived to settle the land. The order was strongly centralized, and its administration and colonization laid the foundation of the Prussian state. The knights administered their lands from Marienburg, but they granted considerable freedom to the cities, many of which joined the Hanseatic LeagueHanseatic League
, mercantile league of medieval German towns. It was amorphous in character; its origin cannot be dated exactly. Originally a Hansa was a company of merchants trading with foreign lands.
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. In 1263 the pope allowed the knights to monopolize the grain trade. Their seizure (1308–9) of Pomerelia (see PomeraniaPomerania
, region of N central Europe, extending along the Baltic Sea from a line W of Stralsund, Germany, to the Vistula River in Poland. From 1919 to 1939, Pomerania was divided among Germany, Poland, and the Free City of Danzig (Gdańsk).
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) from Brandenburg brought on intermittent warfare with Poland, which claimed the province. In 1410 the Poles and Lithuanians routed the order at TannenbergTannenberg
, Pol. Stębark, village, Warmińsko-Mazurskie prov., NE Poland, near Olsztyn. Formerly in East Prussia, it was transferred (1945) by the Potsdam Conference to Polish administration. Two important battles were fought there.
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; successive warfare with Poles ensued and by the second Treaty of Torun (1466) the knights were forced to cede West Prussia and Pomerelia to Poland, retaining only East Prussia as a Polish fief. Their capital was transferred to Königsberg in East Prussia. The fatal blow to the order was delivered in 1525 by its own grand master, Albert of BrandenburgAlbert of Brandenburg,
1490–1568, grand master of the Teutonic Knights (1511–25), first duke of Prussia (1525–68); grandson of Elector Albert Achilles of Brandenburg.
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, who accepted the Reformation, declared Prussia a secular duchy, and was invested as duke by Sigismund I of Poland. Stripped of all importance, the Teutonic Order continued in Catholic Germany until its remaining possessions were secularized in 1809. It was later revived in Austria, but as an honorary body. The habit of the order was a white robe with a black cross.
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