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Bishop Albert of Riga founded the military order of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword ( , ) in 1202; Pope Innocent III sanctioned the establishment in 1204. The membership of the order comprised German "warrior monks". Alternative names of the Order include the Christ Knights, Sword Brethren, and The Militia of Christ of Livonia.

Following their defeat by the Samogitians and Semigalians in the Battle of Schaulen in 1236, the surviving Brothers merged into the Teutonic Order as an autonomous branch and became known as the Livonian Order.



Albert, Bishop of Rigamarker (or Prince-Bishop of Livonia), founded the Brotherhood in 1202 to aid the Bishopric of Livonia in the conversion of the pagan Livonians, Latgalians and Selonians living across the ancient trade routes from the Gulf of Rigamarker eastwards. From its foundation, the undisciplined Order tended to ignore its supposed vassalage to the bishops. In 1218 Albert asked King Valdemar II of Denmarkmarker for assistance, but Valdemar instead arranged a deal with the Brotherhood and conquered the northern Estoniamarker (now known as Danish Estonia) for Denmark.

The Brotherhood had its headquarters at Fellin marker in present-day Estoniamarker, where the walls of the Master's castle stand. Other strongholds included Wenden marker, Segewold marker and Ascheraden marker. The commanders of Fellin, Goldingen marker, Marienburg marker, Reval marker, and the bailiff of Weißenstein marker belonged to the five-member entourage of the Order's Master.

Pope Gregory IX asked the Brothers to defend Finlandmarker from the Novgorodian attacks in his letter of November 24, 1232.However, no known information regarding the knights' possible activities in Finland has survived. (Swedenmarker eventually conquered Finland following the Second Swedish Crusade in 1249.)

The Order was decimated in the Battle of Schaulen in 1236 against Lithuanians and Semigallians. This disaster led the surviving Brothers to become incorporated into the Order of Teutonic Knights in the following year, and from that point on they became known as the Livonian Order. They continued, however, to function in all respects (rule, clothing and policy) as an autonomous branch of the Teutonic Order, headed by their own Master (himself de jure subject to the Teutonic Order's Grand Master).


See also


  1. Letter by Pope Gregory IX. In Latin. Hosted by the National Archive of Finland. See and Diplomatarium Fennicum from the menu.

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