Posts Tagged ‘teutonic knights’

I don’t often post with the sole intention of sharing a link, but this is one of those rare occasions when I think it’s worth it.  CBC Radio’s Ideas ran a documentary about the Holy Orders and the concluding segment (aired on June 6th) centred on the Teutonic Knights.  The Story of the Teutonic Knights – The Iron Fist gives an excellent overview of the Teutonic Knights’ establishment in the Holy land, its height during the Baltic Crusades, and the continued significance of the Order to the national identities of Poland and Germany long after its fall.

I have a long…er, history with the Baltic Crusades, starting with watching the Polish film Krzyzacy (1960); my fascination culminated with a paper I wrote for a seminar during the final year of my undergraduate degree.  While the paper focused specifically on Paul Vladimiri’s submission to the Council of Constance (1417) arguing against the continued existence of the Teutonic Knights’ Ordenstaat in Prussia, I devoted a great deal of time to considering the ideological underpinnings of that particular Order.  If you’re interested in my ramblings about the Baltic Crusades, you can find some here.

In 2010 I attended the anniversary of the Battle of Grunwald, fought in 1410 between the Kingdom of Poland-Lithuania and the Teutonic Order. So, in lieu of analyzing the importance of Grunwald in Polish historical memory, I provide you with pictures to accompany the documentary (all photographs copyright me &c.):

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“The Middle Ages” often evokes images of priests and crosses.  The dominance of Catholic, and to some degree Orthodox, Christianity tends to form the popular conception of what it was to, erm, get medieval, and also leads to questionable beliefs about the period.  Namely, we have the idea that the dominance of Christianity made the Middle Ages a time of ignorance, which is one of those arguments that doesn’t bear much scrutiny because a) the institutions of the Church actually helped preserve Classical learning by keeping writing alive and well, and b) much of the Middle Ages was defined by a complex relationship between paganism and Christianity.  In rural areas in the “central” part of what would become Christendom (and, later, the cultural conglomerate known as Europe), pagan practices survived long after conversion during the early Middle Ages.  However, I’m focusing on the more obvious case of just how long it took for Christianity to really grab hold in northern and Eastern Europe.

The Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the largest state in Europe during its prime, remained officially pagan until 1386 when it joined crowns with the Kingdom of Poland.  That alone is fairly telling.


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