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Livonian Brothers of the Sword

From Academic Kids

The Livonian Brothers of the Sword (Latin Fratres militiae Christi, literally the "brothers of the army of Christ"), also known as the Christ Knights, Sword Brethren or The Militia of Christ of Livonia, was a military order started in 1202 by Albert of Buxhoeveden, bishop of Riga (or Prince-Bishop of Livonia), and composed of German "warrior monks." It was primarily based on the rules of the Templars.

Since its founding, the order tended to ignore its supposed vassalage to the bishops. In 1218 the bishop asked for help from the Danish king, Valdemar II—but Valdemar arranged a deal with the Sword Brothers and conquered the north of Estonia.

The Sword brethren headquarters were at Viljandi (Fellin) in Estonia, where the walls of the master's castle are still standing. Other strongholds included Cesis (Wenden), Sigulda (Segewold) and Aizkraukle (Ascheraden). The commanders of Viljandi (Fellin), Kuldiga (Goldingen), Aluksne (Marienburg), Tallinn (Reval), and the bailiff of Paide (Järva) belonged to the 5-member entourage of the Order's master.

The Lithuanians and Semigallians annihilated the Brothers at the Battle of Šiauliai in 1236. The Swordbrethren were incorporated into the order of the Teutonic Knights the following year. From that moment, they were in all respects (Rule, clothing and policy) an autonomous branch of the Teutonic Knights, headed by their own Master (who was de jure subject to the will of the Order's grandmaster). Between 1237 and 1290 they managed to conquer all of Courland, Livonia and Semigallia. In 1346 the Order bought the rest of Estonia from Valdemar IV Atterdag, king of Denmark.

With the decline of the Teutonic Order by the middle of the fifteenth century, the Livonian branch of the Teutonic Knights managed to remain independent. During the Livonian War the order was defeated by Russian troops in the Battle of Ergeme in 1560. The Order sought protection from the Polish king Sigismund II Augustus who had already in 1557 intervened in a war between the bishop of Riga and the Brothers.

After an agreement with the Polish king and his representatives (especially Mikołaj 'Czarny' Radziwiłł) the last master, Gotthard Kettler secularized the order and converted to the Lutheran Church. In the southern part of the Brothers' lands he created a Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. Most of the other lands were seized by Poland-Lithuania. The north of Estonia was taken back by Denmark and Sweden.

Masters of the order include:

  • Wenno (von Rohrbach?) 1204–1209
  • Volquin (von Naumburg?) 1209–1236

The Masters of Livonia (Teutonic Order):

See also


de:Schwertbrüder-Orden et:Liivi ordu fi:Kalparitaristo lv:Livonijas ordenis no:Sverdbroderordenen pl:Zakon Kawalerów Mieczowych ru:Орден меченосцев sv:Svärdsriddarorden cs:Řád Mečových bratří

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