The Crusade of the Teutonic Knights against Lithuania Reconsidered

crusade-and-conversion-on-the-baltic-frontier-1150-1500The Crusade of the Teutonic Knights against Lithuania Reconsidered 

By Axel Ehlers

Crusade and Conversion on the Baltic Frontier 1150–1500, edited by Alan V. Murray (Ashgate, 2001)

Between the late thirteenth and early fifteenth centuries ‘another Hundred Years’ War’ raged between the Teutonic Knights and Lithuania. According to the Teutonic Order’s chronicler Peter von Dursburg, the systematic war against the last pagans of Europe began in 1283, although there had been military encounters before. When the Grand Duke Jogaila of Lithuania (1377-86, king of Poland-Lithuania to 1434 as Wladsylaw II Jagiello) received baptism in 1386 in order to become king of Poland, the official reason for the war – the subjection of pagan Lithuania to Christendom and the defence of the church against pagan attacks – vanished. The Teutonic Knights, however, did not accept this development and fought on, claiming that Jogaila’s conversion had been only a sham and that the Lithuanians were still pagan. The Reisen, as the Order’s campaigns were called, reached a peak in the decade following Jogaila’s baptism. More members of the European nobility than ever before flocked to Prussia to take part in the famous expeditions against the heathen.

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