The Church of the Divine Earth

Old Prussia and the Baltic Shore
(Spiritual Annihilation)

The identities of the Baltic States and their boundaries, unclear from pre-history, also shifted radically following the Frankish incursions of the tenth century, but their attitude to religion did not. These countries retained official Paganism well into the medieval period. The tribes of Old Prussia were devoutly Pagan. It was only through wars of extermination at the behest of Christian prelates that official Paganism was ended. The genocide of the Old Prussians was not accomplished easily. They took part with the Wends in the Baltic rebellion of 983, considering Christianity to be the worship of the Teutonicus deus. In 997, Adalbert, bishop of Prague, was killed in his attempt to Christianize Old Prussia. He was following by Bruno of Magdeburg, who was killed by the Yatvegians (southern Lithuanians/East Prussians, around the river Niemen) in 1009, when Christianity was extirpated from the country.

Because of these failures, Bishop Bertold asserted that only the conquest of Old Prussia and the Baltic lands would end paganism. He died in battle in 1198, but his call was taken up by the founding of Christian military orders. In 1200, the Livs were subdued by Bishop Albert of Bremen, which led to the foundation of Riga, and in 1202, the establishment of the Fratres Militiae Christi, the ‘Order of the Sword.’ These knights attempted to impose Christianity by force, but they were resisted strongly. In 1225, the Teutonic Order (The Order of St. Mary’s Hospital of the Germans at Jerusalem, founded at Acre in 1190) were expelled from their feudal lands in Transylvania by the Pagan Kumans, and went to Prussia to take Baltic lands for their order. Then began a sixty-year war, which was by no means a one-sided affair. The Knights of the Sword were defeated in battle by a Pagan army of Lithuanians at Saule near Bauska in 1236. In 1260, the ‘Great Apostasy’ in Old Prussia led the Teutonic Knights to institute the same test of loyalty as the Romans had when faced with the Christian menace twelve hundred years before. All inhabitants of the country were made to swear allegiance to the national deity, in this case the Christian god. Those who did so were rewarded with civil privileges. Between 1270 and 1273, an official campaign of extermination was waged by the Christian military orders – the Teutonic Knights, the Knights of the Cross and the Knights of the Sword – against the Pagan Sambian nation of Old Prussia. A few years later (1280-1283), the crusade reached Sudovia, east of Old Prussia. The country was reduced to desolation, its inhabitants massacred or expelled. Until 1525, Prussia was an Ordenstaat, a country owned by a Christian military order, and it gave its name and its militaristic reputation to its successor state, Brandenburg.

A History of Pagan Europe
Prudence Jones & Nigel Pennick
Routledge Press – 1995
pp. 170-171