The Church of the Divine Earth


Christianity or Fire and Sword - II

 

THE CONQUEST OF THE EAST BALTIC LANDS, 1200-1292

During the thirteenth century, the east Baltic world...was transformed by military conquest. First, the Livs, Letts and Estonians, then the Prussians and the Finns, underwent defeat, baptism, military occupation and sometimes dispossession or extermination by groups of Germans, Danes and Swedes. Four new countries were born:  the 'dominions' of Livonia and Prussia, and the 'duchies' of Estonia and Finland, all firmly anchored to Latin Christendom and open, to a greater extend than ever before, to the influx of people, ideas, trade and technical innovations from the West. In 1200 the limit of Latin Christendom could be taken as a line running 700 miles north from Danzig, by way of Gotland and the Aland Islands to the mouth of the Umea River on the Swedish coast. By 1292, it ran between 150 and 300 miles east of that line, including a land-mass equal to areas to the whole of Britain and supporting a population probably less than a quarter of the supposed 5 millions then inhabiting Britain. All this conquering was in some sense a fulfillment of the program first put forward by Alexander III in Non parum animus noster. A new archbishopric and eight new bishoprics shared responsibility for these souls, many of them new converts or still unbaptized, and garrisons of knights and armed monks were posted along the new frontier to keep them from the world of heathendom and Greek Orthodoxy that lay to the east. For knights and armed monks had carved these lordships and bishoprics on the backs of indigenous populations for whose benefit all holy writ had been simplified into the catch-phrase 'Compel them to come in.'

The Northern Crusades
Eric Christiansen
Penguin Books Ltd., London, England, 1997
P.93

 

PRUSSIA

The Christian 'land of Prussia' began c. 1200 as a mission by monks from Lekno in Poland; was fostered by Innocent III; furthered by Bishop Christian with Danish help; but won by Teutonic Knights in two simultaneous wars:  one against the heathen Prussians, the other against any possible Christian competitors. The second was sometimes open, as in 1242-8, when they were fighting Duke Swantopelk of Danzig (Pomerelia), but it was usually diplomatic. Throughout the conquest, the knight-brothers had to manouver carefully lest any other power gain a claim or a foothold in their territory. Lubeck wanted to found colonies on the coast, and succeeded in doing so at Elbing. The Knights of Dobrzyn wanted to retain their lands on the southern Prussian frontier. The princes of Poland wanted shares of conquered Prussia in return for their help, and German princes hoped for dominion over all of it. Papal legates wanted to reserve more land for the bishops, and more liberty for converts, than the Order was prepared to give. German colonists were not always docile. And, without help from Lubeckers, Poles, papal legates and colonists, the conquest would have been impossible, yet such was the luck and acumen of the Order that in the end it was achieved with only a minimal sharing of sovereignty to placate the bishops.

The Northern Crusades
Eric Christiansen
Penguin Books Ltd., London, England, 1997
P.104-105