How were the German knights defeated


From Acre to Marienburg

Hermann von Salza (1209-1239),
the leading diplomat between Pope Gregory IX.
and Emperor Friedrich II.

The Teutonic Order, whose members called themselves "Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem" after a former German hospital in Jerusalem, was founded in Acre in 1190, initially as a hospital brotherhood and since 1198 also as a knightly fighting community to protect pilgrims in the Holy Land.
After Hospitallers and Templars, the Teutonic Order was the third of the great religious knightly orders of the time of the crusades. Almost 100 years younger than them, he essentially followed the rules and organizational patterns they had set out. Following the example of the Templars, the white coat was adopted; the red cross was replaced by the black cross.
Because of the supremacy of the two older orders in the Orient, the territory of the Teutonic Order was limited to the area around Akkon and Montfort as well as the hinterland of Tire. The order's leadership therefore began to look for combat tasks elsewhere at an early stage. Under the important Grand Master Hermann von Salza (1209 - 1239), a confidante of Emperor Frederick II, one found such a property initially briefly in Burzenland, Transylvania, and finally, following a request for help from the Duke of Mazovia, in the Kulmer Land on the lower reaches of the Vistula. From here the order succeeded in the fight against the pagan Pruzzen in the establishment of a closed territory, which after the union with the Order of the Swords of the Brothers temporarily extended from the border of Pomerania to the Gulf of Finland. After Acon's loss in 1291, the Grand Master moved his official residence first to Venice, then in 1309 to Marienburg.

The state of the Teutonic Order
Tightly led by the Grand Master and his administrative staff in accordance with seemingly modern guidelines, the religious state grew to become the strongest power in the Baltic Sea region. A highly developed central financial administration provided sufficient income for state and military tasks.
Settlers from all parts of the empire were involved in the expansion of the conquered areas; Gradually they grew together with the long-established Prussian population. To safeguard the landscapes were covered with a network of castles; the order founded numerous cities to promote economic prosperity.
The Grand Master was assisted by five large area officers in the administration of the Order. While the Grand Master, the Grand Commander and the Tressler (treasurer) resided in the Marienburg, the Spitler (head of the hospital system) had his seat in Elbing, the Trapier (responsible for clothing and equipment) in Christburg and the marshal (head of the military area) in Koenigsberg. General procurators at the Curia provided the Order's administration with detailed information about the current situation in the Reich and in Europe via a well-organized messenger system.
In its early days, the order was mainly recruited from the lower nobility. He offered future sons opportunities for advancement and the sexes from which they came an elevated reputation. The brothers priests had equal rights to the brothers of the knights. They were responsible for the celebration of the Office and the pastoral care of the confreres, as well as the care of art and science. In the 14th and 15th centuries, their validity diminished in relation to the knight brothers. Further groups of members of the order were the non-aristocratic sariant brothers (lightly armed and low-ranking officials), the half-brothers and half-sisters (in health and business services).
A not insignificant literature developed in the country of the Order, which, promoted and directed by the Order's leadership, was tailored to the needs of the Order. The main themes were the history of the Order, the Holy Scriptures and the lives of the saints. Some of these works, such as the Passional and the Book of Fathers, have continued to this day.

Marienburg an der Nogat - residence of the Grand Master from 1309 to 1457

Disputes with the rebellious estates, which in their self-assertion against the order, occasionally allied themselves with Poland, and the unification of Lithuania, which had become Christian with Poland in 1386 under Grand Duke Jagiello, led to the heavy defeat of the order at Tannenberg in 1410 and broke its supremacy. The conversion of the Grand Master Albrecht of Brandenburg to the Protestant faith in 1525 and the conversion of the religious order remaining after the First and Second Thorner Peace (1411 and 1466) into a secular hereditary duchy finally ended the rule of the Teutonic Order in the Prussian and Baltic region.

The Teutonic Order in the Empire: Rise and Crisis
The Teutonic Order had established a firm foothold in many places in the Reich very early on. Many donations and other transfers gave him extensive property. It was administered by comers who were grouped in 13 order provinces, called Balleien, in the imperial territory (1280). The coming ones were by no means just stage stations for the fronts of the pagan battle; rather, they grew more and more into the regional network of political relationships and interests. Often the more representative ones served as royal quarters at imperial meetings and trips of the high nobility. In later times they helped nobles to get adequate supplies.
The highest official of the order in the empire was the German master. Holders of this office tried in the 15th century to combine some of the areas under their control into a closed rule and thus to create their own "state", with the tendency to delimit themselves from the dominant areas in the east. As early as 1494, the German master was elevated to the rank of imperial prince by Emperor Maximilian. This later facilitated the rebuilding of the order after the looming serious crisis.
The 15th and early 16th centuries brought bad times for the order. Apart from the threatening loss of power in the east since 1466, the Hussite storms endangered the existence of the Ballei Böhmen. In southern Europe, important external positions such as Apulia and Sicily had to be given up. After the coup d'état of Albrecht von Brandenburg, only the Balleien remained in the empire as a territory. In addition, the power of the order was shaken by the peasant wars, which just devastated its core area - the south-west of the Reich - and destroyed Horneck Castle on the Neckar, the seat of the German master. Since the reformers rejected religious life as something contrary to nature, the new teaching also questioned the inner life of the order. Numerous brother knights and especially brother priests shed their religious dress after the other branches of the order had been given up in the past decades.

Consolidation and internal renewal after the reform

Teutonic Order Castle Mergentheim
Residence of the high and German masters from 1526 to 1809.
(Today, among other things, German Order Museum)

Under the German master Walther von Cronberg (1525 - 1543) the external consolidation of the order succeeded. In 1527 he received the authorization from the emperor to call himself "Administrator of the High Mastery" and thus to maintain his claim to ownership of Prussia. The short title "Hoch- und Deutschmeister" later emerged from this designation. At the Frankfurt General Chapter in 1529, the "Cronberg Constitution" was enacted: the future constitutional law of the aristocratic corporation. Mergentheim became the residence of the head of the order and at the same time the seat of the central authorities of the areas directly subordinate to the Grand Master. Outside of this newly forming religious order, which consistently expanded its sovereignty, the Balleien led by the Land Komturen developed into largely independent entities; some of them had the rank of imperial estates and ranked in the register in the group of prelates. They often became dependent on neighboring noble families, who traditionally sent their sons to the order. In Thuringia, Saxony, Hesse and Utrecht, where the new doctrine was firmly established, there were also Lutheran and Reformed friars who - following the corporate thinking of the nobility - were loyal to the Grand Master, also lived in celibacy and only took the vow formula replaced by an oath. - For the first time in 1590 and later more and more frequently, the high and German masters were elected from leading families of Catholic territorial states, especially from Austria. This created new family and political links to the German nobility, but also made the order more and more an object of Habsburg politics.
In this context, the internal renewal of the order began in the course of the 16th century. After the upheavals of the past time, it was its task to redefine its location and to relate the original requirements of the rule of the order to the changed conditions of the present. So the Catholic reform called the order back to its spiritual duties. There was a lot to do in this area. The class thinking of the nobility, which was more towards exclusivity, had pushed back the importance of the mostly non-aristocratic brother priests. In modern times they had neither a seat nor a vote in the General Chapter. The pastoral care in the future was often in the hands of members of other orders. Since lay people with legal training started working in the offices of the Order, this service was also closed to priestly brothers. For all these reasons, the number of Brother Priests had fallen sharply.
Following the demands of the Council of Trent, the order's leadership decided to establish seminaries: the first in Cologne in 1574, the second in Mergentheim in 1606. The founder of the latter was Grand Master Archduke Maximilian of Austria (1590 - 1618), whose initiative it was to be attributed that Tyrol remained Catholic. In future, the religious offices in cities that had become Protestant played an important role in pastoral care for Catholics who were traveling through or for the few Old Believers who remained there. The idea of ​​hospitality also gained ground again in some of the future, as the construction of a three-story hospital in Sachsenhausen in 1568 shows.
However, the most important task of the order saw the combat-ready commitment of the knight brothers, who had also called themselves "cavalliers" since the 17th century, in tasks for the emperor and empire, especially those that served the defense of the faith. The Turkish Wars were the most important field for this. Despite financial hardship, the order made considerable contributions to helping the Turks. Knight brothers served as officers in the troops of Catholic imperial princes and in the imperial army. Since 1696 the order provided the regiment "Hoch- und Deutschmeister", the later Viennese house regiment. All young brother knights had to perform their exercitium militare: they had to serve as officers in a border castle for three years before they took on religious offices. Many distinguished themselves in battle, many fell.
After the hardships of the Thirty Years' War, building activity began in the order. Magnificent castles, often connected with mighty castle churches, and representative commander houses were built: in Ellingen, Nuremberg, Sachsenhausen, Altshausen, Beuggen, Altenbiesen and in many other places. In addition, numerous new, richly equipped village and town churches as well as functional buildings such as hospitals, council, school and town houses, commercial buildings, mills, bridges and others were built. They bear testimony to the important cultural achievement of the order in the territory of the Reich.

French Revolution and Napoleon's dictation
The French Revolutionary Wars at the end of the 18th century ushered in the order's second major crisis. With the cession of the left bank of the Rhine to Napoleon, the whole of Alsace and Lorraine, Koblenz and Biesen for the most part, were lost. The Peace of Pressburg in 1805 determined that the possessions of the Teutonic Order and the office of high and German master should be inherited by the House of Austria. It is true that Emperor Franz left the order, of which his brother Viktor was Grand Master, untouched; In future, however, the office and the order were integrated into the sovereignty of Austria. On April 24, 1809, Napoleon declared the order dissolved in the states of the Rhine Confederation; ownership of the order was ceded to the princes of the Rhine Confederation. Only the possessions in Silesia and Bohemia as well as the Ballei Austria remained with the order, with the exception of the Coming (Carniola) ceded to the Illyrian provinces. The ball on the Adige (Tyrol) fell to the kingdoms of Bavaria and Italy. At the Congress of Vienna in 1815, Carniola and Tyrol returned to Austria - and with them the properties that had not yet been sold to the Order. The restoration of its own sovereignty for the order, which had become smaller, was out of the question.

The Teutonic Order under the protection of the Habsburgs

Archduke High and German Masters
Maximillian Joseph of Austria-Este (1835-1863)
Teutonic Order Convention, Lana

It was Emperor Franz I of Austria who, after years of uncertainty about the future of the order, opened up new avenues. In 1834 he renounced all rights under Article 12 of the Pressburg Peace and thus reinstated the order in all previous rights and duties. The order was released from the supreme supervision of the sovereign authority and received the rank of an independent spiritual institute, which was only linked to the empire by the fiefdom. About 100 years later, with the dissolution of the Danube Monarchy, this wise legal figure prevented the order from being understood as an Austrian honorary order, whose goods were the property of the House of Habsburg and could therefore have been confiscated by the successor states. Following this imperial resolution, the major chapter of the order adopted a new constitution, the "Statutes of the Teutonic Knight Order", and had it confirmed by the emperor in 1840. The upswing that the order took in the next few decades was mainly due to two people: the Grand Master Archduke Maximilian (1835 - 1863), a man of great piety and strict lifestyle, and Fr. Peter Rigler, professor of theology from Trento, who In 1842 he took down the religious professorship in Bozen and together with Grand Master Maximilian became the driving force behind the reform of the order. In order to bring the order closer to its original provisions, the medieval institute of the Teutonic Sisters was revived in 1840 and an attempt was made in 1842 to bring the religious priests, who had previously lived scattered in their religious parishes, together more firmly into communities, known as convents.
In 1854 Pope Pius IX confirmed. the sister institute and the "Rules of the Sisters of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem". By resolution of the Grand Chapter, it was accepted into the Teutonic Knights Order in 1855. At that time the institute already had 120 members, spread over 3 parent companies in Lanegg, Troppau and Freudenthal with their branches. Further parent houses were built in Friesach (Carinthia) in 1880 and in Friedau (today Yugoslavia) in 1889.

Father Peter Rigler OT
Born in Sarnthein (South Tyrol) on June 28, 1796
Died in Bolzano on December 6, 1873

Rigler was professor for moral and later for pastoral theology as well as spiritual at the seminary in Trento, a gifted educator of the youth, a valued soul guide and retreat leader. As the founder of the priestly convents and spiritual leader of the sisters, he renewed the Teutonic Order from within. His grave is in Niederlana (South Tyrol). Even his contemporaries considered him a saint, since God's love shone in his virtuous life. Pope Pius IX called him the "Angel of Tyrol". The Teutonic Order strives for his beatification.

In 1855 the first priestly convent was founded under Fr. Rigler's direction in Lana, and in 1858 in Moravia (since 1866 in Opava) the second priestly convent. Their rule was recognized by the Grand Chapter in 1865, by the Emperor in 1866, and by Pope Pius IX in 1871. confirmed as the "Rule of the Convent Brothers of the German House". A large number of priests came from both convents, which the Order needed for its parishes and for the spiritual direction of the sisters. Further convents were established in Laibach in 1897 and in Gumpoldskirchen in 1924.
The knights of the order turned to the war medical service from the sixties of the 19th century, also in memory of the origin of the order in a field hospital near Acre in 1190. The occasion was, among other things, the general horror at the misery of the war wounded in the battle of Solferino (1859). The Order set up field hospitals several times as early as the 19th century, but especially during the First World War. In order to raise the necessary sums of money, all knights of the order were obliged to make annual contributions, and the Institute of Knights of Honor was created in 1866 and that of the Marians of the Teutonic Order in 1871.

The ecclesiastical German Order
The collapse of the Danube Monarchy in 1918 tore the Teutonic Order into four provinces, separated by state borders: Austria, Italy for South Tyrol, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. Only in Austria did the order seem likely to survive. In the other successor states, the order was initially regarded as a Habsburg order of honor, and the property was threatened with confiscation as supposed property of the Habsburgs. Thereupon Grand Master Archduke Eugen resigned his office in 1923, had the religious priest Norbert Klein, then Bishop of Brno, elected as coadjutor and abdicated at the same time. Bishop Klein was thus Grand Master.By the end of 1927, all the successor states of the Danube Monarchy recognized the Teutonic Order as a spiritual order. In the new rule, published in 1929 by Pope Pius XI. was approved, the general government of the order was in the hands of priests, the provincial government took over the priors or the provincial superiors. In 1936 the Pope granted the privilege of allowing the Congregation of the Teutonic Sisters to be under the direct direction of the Grand Master and the General Chapter of the Order.

Last high and German master of the knightly order, Archduke Eugene of Austria
(Grand Master from 1894 to 1923).

The beginning of the reconstruction work was smashed by the National Socialists. In 1938 the German Order was banned in Austria and in 1939 in Czechoslovakia, which was annexed by Hitler. In Yugoslavia he was persecuted as a result of the war and post-war events, in South Tyrol he suffered from fascism.

Reconstruction after World War II
Reconstruction after the Second World War proved difficult. Only in Austria was the annulment decree in 1947 annulled and the property returned to the Order. There and in South Tyrol, since the late 1940s, the order has been returning to the tasks that National Socialism and war had knocked out of its hands: nursing, service in kindergartens, (technical) schools, school, student and old people's homes, construction and Expansion of appropriate facilities, supply of parishes, training of the order's offspring. In 1957 a house was bought in Rome as the seat of the General Procurator of the Order; it also serves as a pilgrims' house.
In Yugoslavia the brothers and sisters made a modest fresh start after years of oppression; they were expelled from Czechoslovakia. These displaced brothers and sisters brought the order back to Germany, its original home country, after 140 years. The brothers founded a convent in Darmstadt in 1949, took over the parish of Deutschorden in Sachsenhausen in 1963 and worked in the diaspora curatia Wetter and Industriehof not far from Marburg. In 1964 they even dared to set up a mission station: they took over a diaspora parish in Lidköping in Sweden; unfortunately it had to be given up in 1983 due to a lack of staff. In many places the sisters found new fields of work in technical schools, kindergartens, homes, hospitals as well as in care for the elderly and the poor. In 1953 a motherhouse was created for them in Passau.
Although the institution of the Knights of Honor and Marians had expired when the rule was revised in 1929, lay people also continued to take part in the Order and showed willingness to work for its goals. The first new beginnings of such cooperation were interrupted by the intervention of National Socialism. In the fifties the institutes of the Knights of Honor and Familiar were quickly established. Its statute was adopted in 1965 by Pope Paul Vl. approved. Since their merger, this branch of the order, which consists of clergy and lay people, has actively supported the pastoral and charitable work of the order. In particular, he succeeded in rebuilding the Kommende Frankfurt-Sachsenhausen, which had been destroyed in the war.

The Teutonic Order today
The German Order with the official title "Brothers of the German House of St. Mary in Jerusalem" is a spiritual order. Its main bearers are therefore priests with solemn profession; their fellowship also includes lay brothers with simple perpetual vows. The congregation of the Teutonic Sisters with simple perpetual vows is assigned to this male branch in such a way that Grand Masters and General Chapter are their superiors at the same time. The Familiar Institute, which generally consists of lay people, is spiritually attached to the Order; however, its members do not take religious vows.
The brothers and sisters are spread across five provinces: Austria, South Tyrol-Italy, Slovenia, Germany and the Czech Republic / Slovakia. The families are divided into the regions of Germany, Austria, South Tyrol and "Ad Tiberim" in Rome and the independent commandery "Alden Biesen" in Belgium; there are also familiars scattered in other countries. The families of Germany form the registered association "Deutschherrenbund e.V.".