Friday, August 16, 2013
The Teutonic Knights
Livonia (Estonia) and Lithuania were absorbed into the Teutonic Order as well as were parts of Poland that had not yet become Christian. The expansion into Lithuania, however, came only after a significant setback. Previously, the plan had been to convert/conquer the Russians. However, the Teutonic Knights suffered what was probably their most famous defeat at the “Battle of the Ice” in 1242 at the hands of Prince Alexander Nevsky of Novgorod (today recognized as a saint himself in the Russian Orthodox Church). So, after having their fingers burned by the Russians, the Teutonic Knights turned to Lithuania in a bitter war that lasted for most of two hundred years. Resentment can still be seen today, yet the sizeable minority of Baltic Germans in these countries can be traced back to these original campaigns of the Teutonic Knights. When their focus fell on Poland the Teutonic Knights captured Danzig, driving out the invading Brandenburgers in the process. There were plenty of sad events of great cruelty but few people consider these events in the context of a group of hardened warriors who had spent their lives fighting the most ferocious enemies Christendom had ever faced, peoples far more savage and barbaric than the worst of the Muslim enemies other knights had battled in the Holy Land.