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Albert of Buxhoeveden

From Academic Kids

The career of Albert of Buxhoeveden (ca 1165 - Riga, January 17, 1229) and his brother Hermann exemplify the double nature of power, ecclesiastical and secular, especially on the marches of Europe, where Roman Catholicism was pushing aggressively to the East. Albert, who was venerated as a Catholic saint until the Reformation, headed the armed forces that forcibly Christianized the eastern Baltic region, in the nature of a crusade that was undertaken at just the same time as the Fourth Crusade was sacking Constantinople. Hermann, his brother, who succeeded him as Prince-Bishop, built a cathedral at Dorpat and ruled there, but is best known for suffering defeat at the hands of Alexander Nevsky in the famous "Battle on the Ice" of 1242, which stopped the eastward push of the Teutonic Knights.

Albert and his brother were members of the powerful family of the Buxhoeveden (now Bexhövede). Albert was a mere canon in Bremen, however, when his uncle Hartwig, Archbishop of Bremen and Hamburg, named him Bishop of Livonia (today Latvia and southern Estonia), provided that he could conquer and hold it, and convince the pagan inhabitants to become Christians. The patent was granted March 28, 1199, and by the beginning of spring 1200 he started, with a Baltic fleet of 23 vessels and more than 1500 armed crusaders. He had the support of the Hohenstaufen German King, Philip of Swabia, and the more distant blessing of Pope Innocent III.

In 1201, together with merchants from Gotland, the island in the Baltic Sea, he founded Riga, where a small community of Hanse traders from Lübeck held a tentative trading encampment. He successfully converted many Livs under their leader Caupo and later also some Letts, offereng them protection against neighboring Lithuanian and Estonian tribes. He created a knightly Order, the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, and subsequently (in 1215) began to build his cathedral. King Philip made him a Prince of the Holy Roman Empire, with Livonia for a fief, and thus he was an excellent example of a "Prince-Bishop". In 1225 King Henry VII of Germany confirmed the title of Prince for Albert and his brother, Bishop of Dorpat Hermann I of Buxhoeveden. Albert declared his diocese independent of Bremen, and later Riga was raised to an archbishopric.

The full conquest of Livonia occupied almost three decades of his life. A first-hand account of Albert is in the contemporary Chronicle of Henry of Livonia ("Henricus Lettus").

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