Livonian Order

Livonian Order

1. Seal of the Livonian Order's master
2.Coat of Arms of Teutonic Knights in the Livonian Order
Active 1237–1561
Country State of the Teutonic Order (1237–1435)
Livonian Confederation (1435–1561)
Branch Teutonic Order
Garrison/HQ Wenden (Cēsis), Fellin (Viljandi)
Battle honours Livonian Crusade, Battle of the Ice, Livonian War

The Livonian Order was an autonomous branch of the Teutonic Order,[1] formed in 1237. It was later a member of the Livonian Confederation, from 1435 to 1561.


The Order was formed from the remnants of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword after their defeat by Samogitians in 1236 at the Battle of Schaulen (Saule). They were incorporated into the Teutonic Knights and became known as the Livonian Order in 1237.[2] Between 1237 and 1290, the Livonian Order conquered all of Courland, Livonia and Semigallia, but the Order's attempts to invade the neighboring Novgorod Republic were unsuccessful and its army was eventually defeated in the Battle of Lake Peipus (1242), in the Battle of Rakvere (1268) and Battle of Kernavė (1279) where master of the Teutonic Order Ernest Rasburg died.[3] In 1298 Lithuanians took Karkus castle north of Riga, and defeated the order in the Battle of Turaida, killing Livonian Land Master Bruno and 22 knights.[4] In 1346, the Order bought the Duchy of Estonia from King Valdemar IV of Denmark. Life within the Order's territory is described in the Chronicle of Balthasar Russow (Chronica der Provinz Lyfflandt).

The Teutonic Order fell into decline following its defeat in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410 and the secularization of its Prussian territories by Albert of Brandenburg in 1525, but the Livonian Order managed to maintain an independent existence.

The Livonian Order's defeat in the Battle of Swienta (Pabaiskas) on September 1, 1435, which claimed the lives of the master and several high-ranking knights, brought the order closer to its neighbors in Livonia. The Livonian Confederation agreement (eiine fruntliche eyntracht) was signed in Walk on December 4, 1435 by the archbishop of Riga, the bishops of Courland, Dorpat, Ösel-Wiek and Reval; the representatives of the Livonan Order and vassals, and the deputies of Riga, Reval and Dorpat city municipal councils.[5]

During the Livonian War, however, the Order suffered a decisive defeat by troops of Muscovite Russia in the Battle of Ergeme in 1560. The Livonian Order then sought protection from Sigismund II Augustus, the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania, who had intervened in a war between Bishop William of Riga and the Brothers in 1557.

After coming to an agreement with Sigismund II Augustus and his representatives (especially Mikołaj "the Black" Radziwiłł), the last Livonian Master, Gotthard Kettler, secularized the Order and converted to Lutheranism. In the southern part of the Brothers' lands he created the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia for his family. Most of the remaining lands were seized by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The north of Estonia was taken back by Denmark and Sweden.

From the 14th to the 16th centuries, Middle Low German as spoken in the towns of the Hanseatic League was the established language, but was subsequently succeeded by High German as official language in the course of the 16th and 17th centuries.[6]

Masters of the Livonian Order

Body armor used by the Livonian Order

The Livonian Master, like the grandmaster of the Teutonic Order, was elected by his fellow knights for a life term. The grandmaster exercised supervisory powers and his advice was considered equal to a command. The grandmaster of Teutonic knights did not limit local autonomy, he rarely visited Livonia or sent ambassadors for oversight.[7]

    Hermann Balk 1237–1238
    Dietrich von Grüningen 1238–1242
    Dietrich von Grüningen 1244–1246
    Andreas von Stierland 1248–1253
    Anno von Sangershausen 1253–1256
    Burchard von Hornhausen 1256–1260
    Werner von Breithausen 1261–1263
    Konrad von Mandern 1263–1266
    Otto von Lutterberg 1266–1270
    Walther von Nortecken 1270–1273
    Ernst von Rassburg 1273–1279
    Konrad von Feuchtwangen 1279–1281
    Wilken von Endorp 1281–1287
    Konrad von Herzogenstein 1288–1290
    Halt von Hohembach –1293
    Heinrich von Dinkelaghe 1295–1296
    Bruno 1296–1298
    Gottfried von Rogga 1298–1307
    Gerhard van Joeck 1309–1322
    Johannes Ungenade 1322–1324
    Reimar Hane 1324–1328
    Everhard von Monheim 1328–130
    Burchard von Dreileben 1340–1345
    Goswin von Hercke 1345–1359
    Arnold von Vietinghof 1359–1364
    Wilhelm von Vrymersheim 1364–1385
    Robin von Eltz 1385–1389
    Wennemar Hasenkamp von Brüggeneye 1389–1401
    Konrad von Vietinghof 1401–1413
    Diderick Tork 1413–1415
    Siegfried Lander von Spanheim 1415–1424
    Zisse von Rutenberg 1424–1433
    Franco Kerskorff 1433–1435
    Heinrich von Bockenvorde 1435–1437
    Heinrich Vinke von Overbergen 1438–1450
    Johann Osthoff von Mengede 1450–1469
    Johann Wolthuss von Herse 1470–1471
    Bernd von der Borch 1471–1483
    Johann Fridach von Loringhofe 1483–1494
    Wolter von Plettenberg 1494–1535
    Hermann Hasenkamp von Brüggeneye 1535–1549
    Johann von der Recke 1549–1551
    Heinrich von Galen 1551–1557
    Johann Wilhelm von Fürstenberg 1557–1559
    Godert (Gotthard) Kettler 1559–1561

Commanderies of the Livonian Order

Across modern territory of Estonia and Latvia




  1. Urban, William (2005). The Teutonic Knights: A Military History. pp. 259–273. ISBN 1-85367-667-5.
  2. Frucht, Richard C. (2005). Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture. ABC-CLIO. p. 69. ISBN 1-57607-800-0.
  5. Raudkivi, Priit (2007). Vana-Liivimaa maapäev. Argo. pp. 118–119. ISBN 9949-415-84-5.
  6. Koch, Kristine (2002). Deutsch als Fremdsprache im Russland des 18. Jahrhunderts. Die Geschichte des Deutschen als Fremdsprache (in German). 1. Berlin/New York: Walter de Gruyter. p. 59. ISBN 3-11-017503-7.
  7. Urban, William L (2004). Livonian Crusade. Lithuanian Research and Studies Center. pp. 12, 14. ISBN 0-929700-45-7.
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