The Teutonic Order (usually, hospitale sancte Marie Theutonicorum Jerosolimitanum - the Hospital of St. Mary of the Germans of Jerusalem or der orden des Düschen 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 Jerusalem at their own expense to care for poor and sick pilgrims who spoke German. The hospital and an accompanying chapel were dedicated to the Virgin Mary. This story is similar to the traditions of the origin of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem founded by Amalfitans. The German hospital apparently was affiliated with the Hospital of St. John, at least, in the observance of the rule of St. Augustine. After Saladin's conquest of Jerusalem in 1187, there are no more records of the German hospital there. There was no indication that the German hospital ever had a military mission.
During the siege of Acre during the Third Crusade (probably 1190), Germans from Lübeck and Bremen established a field hospital for German soldiers reportedly using ships' sails as cover from the elements. Duke Frederick of Swabia placed his chaplain Conrad in charge of the hospital and soon transformed the organization into a religious order responsible to the local Latin bishop. Although some scholars question its authenticity, Pope Clement III (1187- -1191) apparently approved the Order on February 6, 1191. The Order was taken under Pope Celestine III's (1191--1198) protection on December 21, 1196, with the name of the "Hospital of St. Mary of the Germans in Jerusalem." The name is possibly the only connection with the earlier German hospital although some argue a more direct relationship with the earlier hospital.
A ceremony purportedly held on March 5, 1198, altered the Order's raison d'etre. The patriarch of Jerusalem, the king of Jerusalem, the head of the crusading army, and the masters of the Templars and the Hospital of St. John attended the celebration establishing the Teutonic Knights as a military order. A bull by Pope Innocent III (1198--1216) dated February 19, 1199, confirmed the event and specified the Order would care for the sick according to the rule of the Hospitallers. It would conduct its other business by following the Templar rule and would wear the Temple's distinctive white cloak. Its black cross would differentiate the Teutonic Order from the Temple.
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 halpbrüderen; 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 invited into Greece (1209), Hungary (1211), and Prussia (1226) by secular rulers to perform military duties on their behalf. In the Peloponnesus the Frankish Prince of Achaia provided fiefs near Kalamata for the Teutonic Knights in return for military service; there are traces of the Order's continuous service there until 1500. The Hungarian King Andrew II (1205--1235) expelled the Order in 1225 when it became strong and may have threatened his rule. The conquest of Prussia began in 1230 (after the Order's Grand Master was named prince of the Holy Roman Empire) and lasted until 1283.
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 Europe: Armenia, Cyprus, Sicily, Apulia, Lombardy, Spain, France, Alsace, Austria, Bohemia, the Lowlands, Germany, and Livonia. Only in the frontier areas (the Holy Land, Armenia, Greece, Hungary, Prussia, Spain, and Livonia) was military service required of members.
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.
After the crusaders were defeated at Acre in 1291, the Teutonic Order moved its headquarters to Venice, a long-time ally. In 1309, the Order moved again, this time to Marienburg in Prussia. Here the Order had subdued the pagan inhabitants and established a theocratic form of government.
The position of the knights in the Baltic region had been strengthened in 1237 when a knightly order in Livonia, the Brothers of the Sword (Schwertbr(der), joined the Teutonic Order. The history of the German knights in Prussia and Livonia is one of almost perpetual revolts, uprisings, raids, conquests, victories, and defeats. Many secular knights from western Europe (e.g., Chaucer's knight in the Canterbury Tales) would go to the Baltic to help the Order in "crusading activities" for a season or more. The Grand Master's prizes and feasting for especially heroic knights became legendary and reminds one of various aspects of King Arthur's knights of the Round Table.
During the fourteenth century, dozens of towns and about 2000 villages were created in Prussia by the Order. The Order was successful in trade. For example, as a Hanseatic League participant, it provided western Europe with some of its cheapest grain.
The nations of Poland and Lithuania, perennial enemies of the Order, became stronger and stronger in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. In 1410 at Tannenberg, the Order was crushed in a battle against a coalition led by these powers. The result was a bankrupting of the Order and significant reduction in its military and political capabilities. In 1467, the whole of western Prussia was ceded to Poland and the eastern part acknowledged the suzerainty of the king of Poland.
1525 to 1797
Martin Luther's (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 Prussia. As a medieval, crusading entity, the German Order essentially ended at this time.
In 1526, the Teutonic Order master of the German lands became the "Administrator of the Grandmastery in Prussia and Master in German and Romance Countries." Mergentheim became the main seat of the Order.
There was a great deal of confusion in Germany in the aftermath of the Reformation, its resulting wars, and the political changes. The bailiwicks of Saxony, Messe, and Th(ringia became Protestant until Napoleonic times. The office of Landkomtur alternated among Lutheran, Reformed, and Catholic leaders in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The bailiwick of Utrecht was Calvinist until modern times. A new rule was adopted in 1606 in an attempt to accommodate the changes in the Order.
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 Belgium and those west of the Rhine (1797). Many east of the Rhine were lost in 1805. In 1809, Napoleon dissolved the Order in all countries under his dominion, leaving only the properties in the Austrian Empire.
Even in Austria, the Order had to exist secretly for a number of years until 1839 when Austrian Emperor Ferdinand I reconstituted the Order as the Order of the Teutonic Knights (Deutscher Ritterorden). The mission fulfilled by the Order was mainly the caring for wounded soldiers.
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 Austria in 1938 and Czechoslovakia in 1939. The leaders of the Third Reich abused the history of the Teutonic Order. After World War II, the Order began anew in Germany. Its possessions in Austria were returned. In Italy, the Order had changed little. A great deal of support for the caretaking and missionary Order has been found in Germany, Austria, Italy, Belgium, and even in North and Central America. The Order's headquarters, treasury, and archives are now located in Vienna, Austria.
This table contains dates and events that highlight the origins and development of the Teutonic Knights throughout its history; also included are significant events in medieval history that may not be directly associated with the Teutonic Knights but give perspective to the history of the order. Please note that this table is still under construction. If your browser does not support tables, choose this text-only version.
1070 - Possible founding date of the Hospital of St. John in Jerusalem by Amalfi merchants
1098 - Crusaders of First Crusade captured Jerusalem
1113 - Hospital of St. John recognized by papal bull as separate order
1118 - Hugh of Payens of Burgundy and Godfrey of Saint Adhemar, a Fleming, with seven other knights were credited with founding the Templars whose headquarters was on or near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem
1126 - Hospital of St. John displayed possible military attributes; its "constable" was cited in sources
1127 - Possible date of the founding of the German Hospital of St. Mary in Jerusalem 1128 - Probable circulation of St. Bernard of Clairvaux' Liber ad milites templi de laude novae militiae
January 1129 - Council of Troyes recognized the Temple as an order
1131 - King Alfonso I of Aragon and Navarre attempted to turn over the kingdom to the Templars, Hospitallers, and Knights of the Holy Sepulcher in his will
1143 - Two sources of Pope Celestine II mention a German hospital in Jerusalem in some kind of dispute with the Hospital of St. John; the German hospital was put under the supervision of the Hospital of St. John
1147-1149 - Second Crusade
1160's or 1170's - John of Wrzburg mentioned the German hospital in Jerusalem in his Description of the Holy Land
1172 - German monk Theodorich wrote Guide to the Holy Land
1176 - Sophia, Countess of Holland, was buried in the German hospital in Jerusalem
May 1, 1187 - Hospitallers and Templars defeated by the Muslims at Nazareth
July 4, 1187 - Battle of Hattin lost by crusaders; Hospitallers, Templars, and the "flower of the nobility" devastated
Oct. 4, 1187 - Jerusalem surrendered to Saladin
1190 - Third Crusade featured the German Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, King Richard I of England, and King Philip II of France; the crusaders lay siege to Acre; Germans from L(beck and Bremen probably established a field hospital named after the previous German hospital of St. Mary in Jerusalem
September, 1190 - King Guy of Jerusalem awarded Teutonic Order or "Teutonic Knights" a portion of a tower in Acre; the bequest was re-enforced on Feb. 10, 1192; the order perhaps shared the tower with the English Order of the Hospital of St. Thomas
Feb. 6, 1191 - Questionable bull of Pope Clement III approving the German hospitaller order at Acre
July 12, 1191 - Siege of Acre ended in crusader victory
Apr., 1195 - Count Palatinate Henry of Champagne provided Teutonic Knights the house of Theodore of Sarepta in Tyre
Mar., 1196 - Count Palatinate Henry conferred possessions in Jaffa (Joppa) on Teutonic Knights
Dec. 21, 1196 - Pope Celestine III took the "Hospital of St. Mary of the Germans in Jerusalem" under his protection
1196 - Hermann von Salza may have accompanied Landgraf Hermann von Thringen to the Holy Land
May 20, 1197 - German emperor Henry VI gave the Teutonic Knights a hospital in Barletta, Italy
July 18, 1197 - Henry VI gave Teutonic Knights a church and cloister (of the Holy Trinity) in Palermo, Sicily
March 5, 1198 - Teutonic Knights established as a military order in a ceremony in Acre's Temple which was attended by the secular and clerical leaders of the Latin Kingdom
1198 - First military action of the Teutonic Knights with King Amalric II of Jerusalem; Amalric gave them (in August) a tower in Acre, formerly belonging to the Order of St. Nicholas
Feb. 19, 1199 - Bull of Pope Innocent III confirmed the Teutonic Knights' wearing of the Templars' white mantle and following of the Hospitallers' rule
August 1200 - Teutonic Knights paid the sons of Theodore of Sarepta 200 besants for the house in Tyre to complete the 1195 deal
1202 - Gerold of Bozen gave the Teutonic Knights a hospital in Bozen
1202-1204 - Crusading effort led by Boniface of Montferrat diverted from Palestine or Egypt to Constantinople with influence of Venetians and pretender to the Byzantine throne
April, 1204 - Fall of Constantinople to the Latin crusaders
Early, 1205 - William of Champlitte and Geoffrey of Villehardouin conquered Patras, Andravida, Pundico Castro, Modon, and Coron in the Morea; Battle of Koundoura won by William of Champlitte and Geoffrey of Villehardouin with about 600 men over 5,000 Byzantine Greeks
1206 - Statutes of Margat adopted by the Hospitallers in annual chapter meeting
1207 - Famous singing contest held at the Wartburg; St. Elizabeth of Hungary and Hermann von Salza possibly attended
1208 - Teutonic Knights "marshal" appears in the sources; indicates the military nature of the order
1208-1229 - Albigensian Crusade in France
Early, 1209 - Geoffrey Villehardouin, Prince of Achaia, in dividing up the Peloponnesus in his capital of Andravida, gave the Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic Knights four knightly fees; the Teutonic Knights' fee is near Kalamata
1209 - Teutonic Knights side with Hospitallers and barons in Acre against the Templars and prelates; origin of long-standing opposition between the Templars and Teutonic Knights
Oct. 3, 1210 - Probable date of election of Hermann von Salza as grand master of the Teutonic Knights; the date coincided with the date of the marriage in Tyre of John of Brienne to Mary; it was also the date of John's coronation as King of Jerusalem
September 1211 - Frederick II chosen king in Germany
1211 - Burzenland settled by the Teutonic Knights with the authority of Hungary's King Andrew II
July 1212 - Peter II of Aragon defeats the Moors at Las Navas de Tolosa
1212 - Adomadana given to the Teutonic Knights by King Leo of Armenia
1212 - Children's Crusade: spring - German phase; June - French phase
Sept. 12, 1213 - Simon of Montfort wins the battle of Muret; Peter II killed
Feb. 24, 1214 - King Leo of Armenia granted Teutonic Knights Amudain, the castle of Sespin, and more
Nov., 1215 - Innocent III called the Fourth Lateran Council; new crusade proclaimed; Hermann von Salza probably at the Fourth Lateran Council representing his order
1215 - Frederick II crowned in Aix-la-Chapelle; took the cross
1215 - Magna Carta signed in England
1215 - Dominican Order founded
Feb. 18, 1216 - Innocent III issued a bull of protection for the Teutonic Knights
Dec., 1216 - Hermann von Salza attended Frederick II's court in Nuremberg; first meeting between the Teutonic Knights' grand master and the emperor
Feb., 1217 - Hermann von Salza received possessions in Sicily from Frederick II while at Ulm
Jun.24, 1217 - Frederick II granted the Teutonic Knights the same status as the Templars and Hospitallers in the Kingdom of Sicily
1217-1221 - Fifth Crusade
May - Aug. 1218 - Crusading army lands in Egypt; Hermann von Salza at Damietta; Saphadin died (1199-1218); al-Kamil, his son, became caliph (1218- 1238); crusaders captured Damietta
1218 - 1219 - Patriarch of Jerusalem, church officials, Templars and Hospitallers advised Pelagius not to accept peace terms of Sultan al-Kamil to surrender Jerusalem; contrary advice offered by King John of Jerusalem, Earl Ranulf of Chester, and the German leaders
Spring, 1220 - Hermann von Salza went to Acre with King John of Jerusalem
Nov., 1220 - Hermann von Salza was with Frederick II in Italy; first identified by name as Hermann von Salza in documents; Frederick II crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Honorius III
1220 - Leopold VI of Austria presented the Teutonic Knights the site of the castle of Montfort near Acre
Jan. 9, 1221 - Honorius III gave privileges to the Teutonic Knights; as an order, they now were on the same level as the Templars and the Hospitallers
Jan - Apr, 1221 - Hermann von Salza was in Italy; 57 privileges were given by Honorius III to the Teutonic Knights (Honorius III granted 113 to the Teutonic Knights during his pontificate)
Mid-April, 1221 - Hermann von Salza accompanied the duke of Bavaria and other German nobles to Damietta; arrived in May
Aug. 30, 1221 - Battle of Mansurah; crusaders surrendered in Egypt (Templars led the rearguard action); peace treaty; Hermann von Salza and the master of the Temple held as hostages by the Muslims
1222 - "Golden Bull" of Hungary, first issue
1223 - Hermann von Salza negotiated with the pope over Gunzelin; later in the Holy Land, he arranged the marriage for the emperor (?)
1224 - Hermann von Salza was involved in the Treaty of Dannenberg
Nov., 1225 - Frederick II married Isabella (Yolande) of Brienne and claimed the throne of Jerusalem; Hermann von Salza was present
1225 - Teutonic Knights forcibly expelled from Burzenland by king Andrew II; Conrad of Masovia requested aid from the Teutonic Knights in Prussia
1226 - "Golden Bull of Rimini" from Frederick II for the Teutonic Knights giving them wide-ranging authority in the name of the empire in Prussia
1227 - Montfort rebuilt---renamed Starkenberg
Sep., 1228 - Frederick II arrived in the Holy Land accompanied by Hermann von Salza
Feb. 18, 1228 - Frederick II took control of Jerusalem from the Egyptian Sultan al-Kamil by treaty; Hermann von Salza with Frederick
Mar. 12, 1228 - Hermann von Salza sent a letter to Gregory IX from Joppa informing him about the treaty
Mar. 18, 1228 - Frederick II crowned King of Jerusalem in the church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem; then held high court in the house of the Hospital of St. John
Apr., 1229 - Peace of Paris ended Albigensian Crusade
Apr., 1229 - Frederick II gave Teutonic Knights former house of Germans in Jerusalem; also a house that once belonged to King Baldwin located in the Armenian street near the church of St. Thomas (plus a garden and six acres of land)
May 1, 1229 - At odds with the Templars and Ibelins, Frederick II departed Acre; feared losing Apulia to John of Brienne
1229-1244 - German Hospital of St. Mary in Jerusalem expanded
1230 - Kulm recognized by Pope Gregory IX as belonging to the Teutonic Knights
1231 - Teutonic Knights' Hermann Balke advanced into Prussia
1231 - Gautier of Brienne gave the Teutonic Knights Beauvoir
1231 - St. Elizabeth of Hungary died at Marburg; later was canonized (1234)
1234 - Teutonic Knights won the battle at Sirguna, Prussia
1234 - Pope took control of Prussia; leased it to the Teutonic Knights
Spring, 1235 - Dobriner Order incorporated into Teutonic Knights; approved by Frederick II and Gregory IX
Sept., 1235 - Andrew II of Hungary died; Bela IV succeeded him (until 1270)
Dec. 23, 1236 - Gregory IX taxed the Peloponnesus to support crusading ventures; preceptor of the Teutonic Knights identified in the Morea as one of three collectors of the tithing effort
1237 - Frederick II's second Lombard campaign; Hermann von Salza at Battle of Cortenuova
1237 - Teutonic Knights and Swordbrothers unite
Jul., 1237 Geoffrey II of Achaia gave the Teutonic Knights a hospital in Andravida
1238 - Frederick II's third Lombard campaign; Hermann von Salza's health failed
March 1239 - Hermann von Salza died in Salerno and buried in Barletta; Frederick II excommunicated
March 1239 - Robert de l'Isle donates property (Villegrot) near Veligosti to the Teutonic Knights
Apr. 9, 1241 Battle of Liegnitz; Mongols defeat army of Poles and Germans including Hospitallers, Templars, and Teutonic Knights
April 5, 1242 - Russians under Alexander Nevsky defeat the Teutonic Knights on Lake Peipus
1244 - Muslims recapture Jerusalem
Oct. 31, 1246 - Innocent IV transferred the Hospital of St. James to the Templars
1257 - Julian of Grenier, lord of Sidon, donated a fortress called Cave of Tyron to the Teutonic Knights (about 12 miles east of Sidon) signifying the order's role in Holy Land was expanding
1257-1261 - Teutonic Knights bought large land complex (called Souf or Schuf) northeast of Sidon from Julian Grenier, lord of Sidon for 23,000 crusader besants
Oct. 16, 1258 - Peace treaty among the Templars, Hospitallers, and Teutonic Knights signed in Acre
1258 - Teutonic Knights buy a manor from John de la Tour, constable of Sidon, and two manors from John of Schuf and assumed the responsibility for defense north of Acre
July 1260 - Teutonic Knights routed at Durben; Prussians revolted
1261 Teutonic Knights bought fief made up of several manors called Schuf from Andrew of Schufe
May, 1263 - All Teutonic Knight possessions near Sidon lost to Muslims after Baybars won battle of Sidon
1290 - Teutonic Knights complete a 30‹year effort to control Prussians
May 18, 1291 - Fall of Acre; Hospitaller and Templar headquarters moved from Acre to Cyprus; Teutonic Knights headquarters moved from Acre to Venice
1306 - Hospitallers began conquest of Rhodes
Nov. 28, 1309 - Trial of Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Templars (in Paris)
1309 - Hospitallers' headquarters moved from Cyprus to Rhodes
1309 - Teutonic Knights' headquarters moved from Venice to Prussia
May 16, 1312 - Hospitallers awarded Templars' estates throughout western Europe, Cyprus, and Greece
Mar. 15, 1314 - Jacques de Molay, Templar grand master, and Preceptor of Normandy burned at the stake in Paris
Sep. 9, 1320 - Teutonic Knight commander in the Morea died in battle against the Greeks near the fortress of St. George
1348 - Plague devastated the Byzantine Empire
1376 - 1381 - Hospitallers leased the Principality of Achaia from Joanna of Naples for 4,000 ducats per year
1383 or 1384 - Strife between Hospitallers and the Teutonic Knights in the Peloponnesus
1387 - Rudolf Schoppe, preceptor of the Teutonic Knights in the Morea, became the field deputy of Pedro Bordo de San Superan
1391 - List of Moreote fiefs included the Hospital of St. John and the Teutonic Knights
1401 - Jacob of Arkel, preceptor of the Teutonic Knights in the Morea, rewarded with vineyards at Modon and Coron by the Venetians
1402 - Source identified a number of Teutonic Knight monasteries in the Morea including St. Steven in Andravida
1410 Teutonic Knights defeated at Tannenberg; bankrupted
May 21, 1433 - Teutonic Knight procurator John Nichlausdorf in Rome reported he protested to the Byzantine representative the loss of properties in the Morea
Apr. 27, 1435 - Teutonic Knights' representative at the Council of Basel asked the return of possessions in the Morea from the Byzantines
1435-1437 - Johann Franke attempted to purchase Mostenitsa
1500 - Turks conquered Modon from the Venetians and expelled the Teutonic Knights from the Peloponnesus