<![if !vml]><![endif]>eutonic Knights
by Eric Opsahl
Black,J., Atlas of World History, 2000
The Teutonic Order (usually, Hospitale Sanctae Marie Theutonicorum Jerosolimitanum - the Hospital of St. Mary of the Germans of Jerusalem or der Orden des Doetschen Huses - the order of the German houses, in the sources) was one of the three major knightly or military orders that originated and evolved during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. The Templars and Hospitallers are the other major orders.
The military orders were "true orders" of the Roman church governed by regulations similar to those governing monks, generally variants of the Benedictine or Augustinian Rules. For most purposes, they were technically answerable only to the pope. They did have some feudal responsibilities to lay and other clerical entities as dictated by circumstances of place and time. Large numbers of knights became monks but often were found in military fortifications rather than monasteries. The members of most orders took vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Origins of the Teutonic Order
According to tradition,
early in the twelfth century a wealthy German couple built a hospital in
During the siege of
Acre during the Third Crusade
(probably 1190), Germans from Luebeck and Bremen
established a field hospital for German soldiers reportedly using ships' sails
as cover from the elements. Duke Frederick of
A ceremony purportedly
held on March 5, 1198, altered the Order's raison d'etre.
The patriarch of
During the first twenty years of its existence, the institutional structure of the Order developed and stabilized. The Teutonic Order followed the lead of the Templars and Hospitallers by creating a system of provinces. Unlike monastic orders composed of independent abbeys, the Teutonic Knights had a hierarchical chain of command with commanderies (house, Kommende) at the lowest level. Provinces or bailiwicks (Ballei, Komturei) were parts of "countries" that composed the Order as a whole. Its first independent rule was adopted in 1264.
The officials governing the Teutonic Order at the various levels were Commander (Komtur, preceptor) at the local level, province commander (Landkomtur), National Commander (Landmeister), and Grand Master (Hochmeister, magister). The highest leadership positions (including Grand Master, Grand Commander [Grosskomtur], Marshal [Ordensmarschall], Draper or Quartermaster [Trapier], Hospitaller [Spittler], and Treasurer [Tressler]) were elected by the general chapter.
Membership of this mostly German-speaking order was composed of various, distinct classes: knights, priests, and other brothers (lay brothers, sisters, and "familiars"). There was a large number of people who supported the professed members of the Order, ranging from auxiliary knights to slaves. The highest ranking were secular knights, serving for free. Turcopoles (Greek for "son of Turk") were originally probably lightly-armed, half-breed cavalry whose name applied to Turkish mercenaries employed in the Byzantine army, later the term was adopted by the military orders. There were attendants called squires (knechte), and sergeants-at-arms. Footsoldiers were usually coerced from the local peasantry. Sister-aids (halpswesteren) were employed as domestics as were halpbrьderen; they took religious vows. Married and single lay domestics also were employed by the Order. Artisans and laborers (e.g., gardeners, carpenters, masons) worked for charity or wages. Many serfs and slaves were owned by the Order.
From the outset, the possessions and wealth of the Teutonic Order grew astoundingly fast and its numbers skyrocketed, especially under Grand Master Hermann von Salza (c. 1210--1239). Von Salza was successful in gaining many favors for the Order because he was a confidante to both the German emperor Frederick II (1211--1250) and the popes. His immediate successors also did well. Between 1215 and 1300, one or more commanderies were founded each year, usually through gifts.
The Teutonic Order was
In addition to the Holy
Land and these other "theaters of war," the order's members could be
found elsewhere in the Mediterranean and western
By 1221 the German Order was given the same privileges as the Templars and Hospitallers by Pope Honorius III (1216--1227). Both senior orders fought the autonomy of the Teutonic Order until about 1240. The German Order may not have quite equaled in wealth and possessions the other two military orders which were more than 80 years older, but it became the only other order to rival them in international influence and activity.
<![if !vml]><![endif]> The Baltics
After the crusaders
were defeated at Acre in 1291, the Teutonic Order moved its headquarters to
The position of the
knights in the Baltic region had been
strengthened in 1237 when a knightly order in
During the fourteenth
century, dozens of towns and about 2000 villages were created in
The nations of
1525 to 1797
(1483-1546) Reformation affected the Teutonic Order significantly. In 1525,
Grand Master Albrecht von Brandenburg converted to the Lutheran faith. He then
was enfoeffed by the Polish king as Duke of
In 1526, the Teutonic
Order master of the German lands became the "Administrator of the Grandmastery in
There was a great deal
of confusion in
In European affairs, from time to time, the Order still participated militarily. Some 1000 troops were raised to help the Austrians against the Turks. After 1696, there was a regiment of the "Grand and German Master." But the numbers and wealth of the Order dwindled. Little other military activity is recorded.
The French Revolution and After
As the anticlerical
French government expanded its political control in the 1790's, the Order lost
its commanderies in
In 1866, the "Honorable Knights of the Teutonic Order" was founded. Knights were required to provide annual contributions for hospitals. The Marianer des Deutschen Ordens, for women, was created in 1871.
In 1914, some 1,500 sponsors from the Austrian nobility supported the caregiving efforts of the Order. During World War I, the Order took care of about 3,000 wounded soldiers in their facilities.
In 1923, masters of the
Order were allowed to come from among the clerics rather than the
"knighthood" for the first time. Under National Socialist rule, the
Order was dissolved in
More detailed information can be found here: http://www.chivalricorders.org/vatican/teutonic.htm
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