Livonian Order

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Livonian Order
LivonianOrder.svg Baltic coat of arms.svg
Seal of the Livonian Order's master
and the Coat of Arms of Teutonic Knights in the Livonian Order [ citation needed ]
Branch Teutonic Order
Garrison/HQ Wenden (Cēsis), Fellin (Viljandi)
Battle honours Livonian Crusade, Battle of the Ice, Wesenberg, Livonian War

The Livonian Order was an autonomous branch of the Teutonic Order, [1] formed in 1237. From 1435 to 1561 it was a member of the Livonian Confederation.


Teutonic & Livonian Orders in 1422 TeutonicOrder1422.png
Teutonic & Livonian Orders in 1422


The order was formed from the remnants of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword after their defeat by Samogitians in 1236 at the Battle of Schaulen (Saule). They were incorporated into the Teutonic Knights and became known as the Livonian Order in 1237. [2] In the summer of that year, the Master of Prussia Hermann Balk rode into Riga to install his men as castle commanders and administrators of Livonia. [3]

In 1238, the Teutonic Knights of Livonia signed the Treaty of Stensby with the Kingdom of Denmark. Under this agreement, Denmark would support the expansion ambitions of the order in exchange for northern maritime Estonia. [3]

In 1242, the Livonian Order tried to take the city of Novgorod. However, they were defeated by Alexander Nevsky in the Battle on the Ice. [3]

Fortresses as Paide in land ceded by Denmark in the Treaty of Stensby allowed the order to contain the threat of Russian troops. For that reason, the order focused on its southern borders and Semigallia. [3]

Semigallia was a strategic territory for the Livonian Order. Lithuanians passed through Semigallia to raid settlements in Livonia, and they took advantage of the winter ice pack in the Gulf of Riga to reach Oesel Island. Also, this territory kept the Livonian Branch of the Teutonic Order separated from the Prussian Branch. [3]

Between 1237 and 1290, the Livonian Order conquered all of Courland, Livonia, and Semigallia. In 1298, Lithuanians took Karkus Castle north of Riga, and defeated the order in the Battle of Turaida, killing Livonian Land Master Bruno and 22 knights. [4] In 1346, the order bought the Duchy of Estonia from King Valdemar IV of Denmark. Life within the order's territory is described in the Chronicle of Balthasar Russow (Chronica der Provinz Lyfflandt).

The Teutonic Order fell into decline following its defeat in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410 and the secularization of its Prussian territories by Albert of Brandenburg in 1525, while the Livonian Order managed to maintain an independent existence.

The Livonian Order's defeat in the Battle of Święta (Wiłkomierz) on September 1, 1435, which claimed the lives of the master and several high-ranking knights, brought the order closer to its neighbors in Livonia. The Livonian Confederation agreement (eiine fruntliche eyntracht) was signed in Walk on December 4, 1435, by the Archbishop of Riga, the bishops of Courland, Dorpat, Ösel-Wiek and Reval; the representatives of the Livonian Order and vassals, and the deputies of Riga, Reval and Dorpat city municipal councils. [5]

During the Livonian War, however, the order suffered a decisive defeat by troops of Muscovite Russia in the Battle of Ergeme in 1560. The Livonian Order then sought protection from Sigismund II Augustus, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, who had intervened in a war between Bishop William of Riga and the Brothers in 1557.

After coming to an agreement with Sigismund II, Augustus and his representatives (especially Mikołaj "the Black" Radziwiłł), the last Livonian Master, Gotthard Kettler, secularized the order and converted to Lutheranism. In the southern part of the Brothers' lands he created the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia for his family. Most of the remaining lands were seized by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The north of Estonia was taken back by Denmark and Sweden.

From the 14th to the 16th centuries, Middle Low German as spoken in the towns of the Hanseatic League was the established language, but was subsequently succeeded by High German as official language in the course of the 16th and 17th centuries. [6]

Masters of the Livonian Order

The Livonian Master, like the grandmaster of the Teutonic Order, was elected by his fellow knights for a life term. The grandmaster exercised supervisory powers and his advice was considered equal to a command. The grandmaster of Teutonic knights did not limit local autonomy, he rarely visited Livonia or sent ambassadors for oversight. [7]

     Hermann Balk 1237–1238
     Dietrich von Grüningen 1238–1242
     Dietrich von Grüningen 1244–1246
     Andreas von Stierland 1248–1253
     Anno von Sangershausen 1253–1256
     Burchard von Hornhausen 1256–1260
     Werner von Breithausen 1261–1263
     Konrad von Mandern 1263–1266
     Otto von Lutterberg 1266–1270
     Walther von Nortecken 1270–1273
     Ernst von Rassburg 1273–1279
     Konrad von Feuchtwangen 1279–1281
     Wilken von Endorp 1281–1287
     Konrad von Herzogenstein 1288–1290
     Halt von Hohembach  –1293
     Heinrich von Dinkelaghe 1295–1296
    Bruno 1296–1298
     Gottfried von Rogga 1298–1307
     Gerhard van Joeck 1309–1322
     Johannes Ungenade 1322–1324
     Reimar Hane 1324–1328
     Everhard von Monheim 1328–1340
     Burchard von Dreileben 1340–1345
     Goswin von Hercke 1345–1359
     Arnold von Vietinghof 1359–1364
     Wilhelm von Vrymersheim 1364–1385
     Robin von Eltz 1385–1389
     Wennemar Hasenkamp von Brüggeneye 1389–1401
     Konrad von Vietinghof 1401–1413
     Diderick Tork 1413–1415
     Siegfried Lander von Spanheim 1415–1424
     Zisse von Rutenberg 1424–1433
     Franco Kerskorff 1433–1435
     Heinrich von Bockenvorde 1435–1437
     Heinrich Vinke von Overbergen 1438–1450
     Johann Osthoff von Mengede 1450–1469
     Johann Wolthuss von Herse 1470–1471
     Bernd von der Borch 1471–1483
     Johann Freytag von Loringhoven 1483–1494
     Wolter von Plettenberg 1494–1535
     Hermann Hasenkamp von Brüggeneye 1535–1549
     Johann von der Recke 1549–1551
     Heinrich von Galen 1551–1557
     Johann Wilhelm von Fürstenberg 1557–1559
     Godert (Gotthard) Kettler 1559–1561

Commanderies of the Livonian Order

Across modern territory of Estonia and Latvia



Related Research Articles

Livonia Historical region on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea

Livonia is a historical region on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea. It is named after the Livonians, who lived on the shores of present-day Latvia.

The Northern Crusades or Baltic Crusades were Christian colonization and Christianization campaigns undertaken by Catholic Christian military orders and kingdoms, primarily against the pagan Baltic, Finnic and West Slavic peoples around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, and to a lesser extent also against Orthodox Christian Slavs.

The Livonian Brothers of the Sword was a Catholic military order established in 1202 by Albert, the third bishop of Riga. Pope Innocent III sanctioned the establishment in 1204 for the second time. The membership of the order comprised German "warrior monks" who fought Baltic and Finnic pagans in the area of modern-day Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Alternative names of the Order include Christ Knights, Swordbrothers, Sword Brethren, Order of the Brothers of the Sword, and The Militia of Christ of Livonia. The seal reads: +MAGISTRI ETFRM MILICIE CRI (Christi) DE LIVONIA.


Semigallians were the Baltic tribe that lived in the southcentral part of contemporary Latvia and northern Lithuania. They are noted for their long resistance (1219–1290) against the German crusaders and Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades. Semigallians had close linguistic and cultural ties with Samogitians.

State of the Teutonic Order Baltic state, 1200s-1525

The State of the Teutonic Order, also called Deutschordensstaat or Ordensstaat, was a medieval crusader state, located in Central Europe along the southeastern shore of the Baltic Sea. It was formed by the knights of the Teutonic Order during the 13th century Northern Crusades in the region of Prussia. The Livonian Brothers of the Sword merged in 1237 with the Teutonic Order of Prussia and became known as its branch, the Livonian Order, while their state became a part of the Teutonic Order State. At its greatest territorial extent, in the early 15th century, it encompassed Chełmno Land, Courland, Gotland, Livonia, Neumark, Pomerelia, Prussia and Samogitia, i.e. territories nowadays located in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Germany, Poland, Russia and Sweden.

Duchy of Estonia (1219–1346) Former Danish possession in Baltics

The Duchy of Estonia, also known as Danish Estonia, was a direct dominion of the King of Denmark from 1219 until 1346 when it was sold to the Teutonic Order and became part of the Ordensstaat.

Gotthard Kettler Duke of Courland and Semigallia

Gotthard Kettler, Duke of Courland was the last Master of the Livonian Order and the first Duke of Courland and Semigallia.

Semigallia Place

Semigallia, also spelt Semigalia, is one of the Historical Latvian Lands located in the south of the Daugava river and the north of the Saule region of Samogitia. The territory split between Latvia and Lithuania, previously inhabited by the Semigallian Baltic tribe. They are noted for their long resistance (1219–1290) against the German crusaders and Teutonic Knights during the Northern Crusades. Semigallians had close linguistic and cultural ties with Samogitians.

Battle of Durbe 1260 battle of the Livonian Crusade

The Battle of Durbe was a medieval battle fought near Durbe, 23 km (14 mi) east of Liepāja, in present-day Latvia during the Livonian Crusade. On 13 July 1260, the Samogitians soundly defeated the joint forces of the Teutonic Knights from Prussia and Livonian Order from Livonia. Some 150 knights were killed, including Livonian Master Burchard von Hornhausen and Prussian Land Marshal Henrik Botel. It was by far the largest defeat of the knights in the 13th century: in the second-largest, the Battle of Aizkraukle, 71 knights were killed. The battle inspired the Great Prussian Uprising and the rebellions of the Semigallians, the Couronians, and the Oeselians. The battle undid two decades of Livonian conquests and it took some thirty years for the Livonian Order to restore its control.

Bishopric of Courland

The Bishopric of Courland was the second smallest (4500 km2) ecclesiastical state in the Livonian Confederation founded in the aftermath of the Livonian Crusade. During the Livonian War in 1559 the bishopric became a possession of Denmark, and in 1585 sold by Denmark to Poland–Lithuania.

The Bishropic of Reval was a Latin Church ecclesiastical territory or diocese of the Catholic Church in Reval, Duchy of Estonia created by Valdemar II of Denmark in 1240. Contradictory to canon law, Valdemar II reserved the right to appoint the bishops of Reval to himself and his successor kings of Denmark. The decision to simply nominate the see of Reval was unique in the whole Catholic Church at the time and was disputed by bishops and the Pope. During the era, the election of bishops was never established in Reval and the royal rights to the bishopric and to nominate the bishops was even included in the treaty when the territories of the Duchy of Estonia were sold to Teutonic Order in 1346.

Livonian Crusade German and Danish conquest of medieval Livonia during the 13th century

The Livonian crusade refers to the various military Christianisation campaigns in medieval Livonia – in what is now Latvia and Estonia – during the Papal-sanctioned Northern Crusades in the 12-13th century. The Livonian crusade was conducted mostly by the Holy Roman Empire and the Kingdom of Denmark. It ended with the creation of Terra Mariana and the Danish duchy of Estonia. The lands on the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea were one of the last parts of Europe to be Christianised.

Hermann Balk

Hermann Balk, also known as Hermann von Balk or Hermann Balke, was a Knight-Brother of the Teutonic Order and its first Landmeister, or Provincial Master, in both Prussia and Livonia. From 1219 to 1227, he served as the Deutschmeister in the Order's Province of Alemannia. Balk led the crusaders during the Prussian Crusade and became Master of Prussia in 1230. From 1237 to 1238, he also served in the additional role as Master of Livonia.

Treaty of Vilnius (1561) 1561 transfer of territory from the Livonian Confederation to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania

The Treaty of Vilnius or Vilna was concluded on 28 November 1561, during the Livonian War, between the Livonian Confederation and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in Vilnius. With the treaty, the non-Danish and non-Swedish part of Livonia, with the exception of the Free imperial city of Riga, subjected itself to the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Sigismund II Augustus with the Pacta subiectionis . In turn, Sigismund granted protection from the Tsardom of Russia and confirmed the Livonian estates' traditional privileges, laid out in the Privilegium Sigismundi Augusti.

The Battle of Turaida or Treiden was fought on June 1, 1298, on the banks of the Gauja River near the Turaida Castle. The Livonian Order was decisively defeated by the residents of Riga allied with the Grand Duchy of Lithuania under command of Vytenis.

Daugavgrīva castle Castle in Latvia

Daugavgrīva Castle is a former monastery converted into a castle, located at Vecdaugava oxbow on right bank of Daugava, in the northern part of Riga city, Latvia. Nowadays here are seen only earthen ramparts.

Terra Mariana Principality in the Holy Roman Empire

Terra Mariana was the official name for Medieval Livonia or Old Livonia. It was formed in the aftermath of the Livonian Crusade, and its territories were composed of present-day Estonia and Latvia. It was established on 2 February 1207, as a principality of the Holy Roman Empire, but lost this status in 1215 when Pope Innocent III proclaimed it as directly subject to the Holy See.

Landmeister in Livland High office in the Teutonic Order

Landmeister in Livland was a high office in the Teutonic Order. The Landmeister administered the Livonia of the Teutonic Order. These lands had fallen to the Teutonic Order in 1237 by the incorporation of the former Livonian Brothers of the Sword. The seat of the Landmeister was castle Wenden. The Landmaster's function in Livonia lasted until 1561, when in aftermath of Livonian War the last Landmeister Gotthard Kettler relinquished the northern parts of the Mastery and in the Union of Vilna secularized the part still left to him and, as the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, took fief from the Polish king and Grand Duke of Lithuania Sigismund II Augustus. The non-recognition of this act by Pope, Holy Roman Empire and the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order had no factual effect.

Dietrich von Grüningen was a Knights Templar, Landmeister in Livonia and Landmeister of Prussia and Deutschmeister of the Teutonic Order. One of the most outstanding figures of the Teutonic Order in the 13th century.


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