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The Teutonic Knights

Formation of the Teutonic Knights Order

The Teutonic Knights Order, one of the most important Religious Military Orders in Europe, was formed during the Crusades.

The Teutonic Knights, known as the "Servants of St. Mary of the German House," were fully organized as a Religious Military Order by 1190.

Master of the Teutonic Knights
Master of the Teutonic Knights-
From Braun & Schneider-History of Costume

The inception of the Teutonic Knights Order dates back to the beginning of the century, when a wealthy German, who had taken part in the siege and capture of Jerusalem, built a hospital, with a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. He managed to secure financial help from other wealthy fellow countrymen, and they formed an organization with a dual purpose: to take care of the sick and poor, and to defend its members through the power of arms. This organization was placed under the direction of the Grand Prior of the Hospitallers of St. John of Jerusalem, without actually joining that Order.

During the siege of Acre, citizens of Bremen and Lübeck founded a field hospital in order to help the German soldiers. They were soon joined by the brethren of the Hospital of the Blessed Virgin at Jerusalem, and the body thus formed was named The Teutonic Knights of the Hospital of the Blessed Virgin at Jerusalem.

It is supposed that the Order of the Teutonic Knights owed its constitution to Frederick, Duke of Swabia. The Order was confirmed by Pope Celestine III, and its constitution and rules were modelled after those of the Templars and Hospitallers.

The first Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights was Henry de Walpot. This happened about 1190, with some authors mentioning 1191. Acre was taken in July, 1191, by the united forces of Philip Augustus, King of France, and Richard Coeur de Lion, King of England. After the capture of Acre, Henry de Walpot purchased a site within the city, and built a church and hospital for his Order. Latter were added lodgings for pilgrims and for the ordinary soldiers. The money came from the wealthy members of the Teutonic Knights, or from benefactors like Frederick, Duke of Swabia. In recognition, when he died at Acre, he was interred in the church of the knights.

Classes of the Teutonic Knights Order

The members of the Teutonic Knights Order were divided in two main classes: The knights, and the clergy, both exclusively of German birth. The knights were required to be of a noble family, and, besides the ordinary three-fold monastic vows, they had to take a fourth vow, that they would devote themselves to the care of the sick and to fight the enemies of the faith. The clergy were not necessarily of noble birth, their duties being to minister to the Order in their churches, and to the sick in the hospitals and on the battlefield.  The dress of the Teutonic Knights was black, wearing a white cloak with a black cross upon the left shoulder.

To these two classes were added serving brethren, called Heimlike and Soldner. Many of these were volunteering, others received payment as real servants. The Teutonic Knights' squires were selected from the ranks of the serving brothers, and wore a dress of the same colours as the knights.

Rules governing the Teutonic Knights

The original rules of the Teutonic Knights Order were very severe. All the members lived in common. They slept in dormitories on hard beds, and they took their simple meals together in the refectory. They were required to attend the daily services in the church, and to recite prayers privately. They were not permitted to leave their convent, or to write or receive letters, without permission of their superior. Gold and jewels were strictly forbidden, and their clothes, armour, and the harness of their horses were simple. When they marched to battle, each knight had three or four horses, and a squire carried his shield and lance.

Teutonic Knights organization

Teutonic Knights
Teutonic Knights
By Michal Elwiro Andriolli Jagiellonian Library, Krakow
The Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights was elected from the class of the knights only. Next in rank was the Preceptor, or Grand Commander, who had the general supervision of the clergy and serving brethren, and who presided in chapter in the absence of the Grand Master. Next to the Preceptor came the Marshal, who acted as Lieutenant General in the field, under the Grand Master.

The third dignitary of the Teutonic Knights was the Grand Hospitaller, in charge with the management of the hospitals. The fourth officer was the Trappier, who supplied the knights with their clothing and their equipment. And, lastly, there was the Teutonic Knights' Treasurer, who managed the money of the Order. All these officers were usually changed every year.

As the Teutonic Knights Order extended, other officers appeared, like the provincial masters of countries where the Order obtained possessions. They ranked next after the Grand Master. There were also many local officers.

The Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights was not an absolute suzerain. He had to consult with the chapter before taking any important decision. He appointed a lieutenant to take over in case of his absence, and to govern until the successor of a dead Master was elected.

Teutonic Knights History

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