Crusading and Holy War in the Teutonic Order’s Struggle for Žemaitija. Written and Visual Perspectives
Volume 41 (2020): Aspects of Southeast Baltic Social History: The 14th to the 18th Centuries = Baltijos pietrytinės pakrantės socialinės istorijos aspektai XIV–XVIII amžiais, pp. 25–52
Pub. online: 18 December 2020 Type: Article Open Access
18 December 2020
18 December 2020
In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, the region of Žemaitija (Samogitia) was still contested between the Teutonic Knights and the Grand Dukes of Lithuania. Its conquest and conversion were the final objective of the Teutonic Order’s campaigns in the southern Baltic region. The article assesses the language and ideology of crusading and holy war concerning the conquest of Žemaitija, as reflected in selected correspondence from the period by the Teutonic Order. It begins with a historical overview of the problem, along with a brief outline of the donations of Žemaitija to the Teutonic Knights at the end of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century. Following this, the paper outlines the use of specific themes from the crusading movement in the 14th century in Prussia, before examining the presence (or lack thereof) of these elements concerning Žemaitija. Other specific themes are identified and discussed concerning the ideological expression of the Teutonic Order’s mission and image in its external correspondence, one being the depiction of Žemaitija as the end of Christendom (daz ende der cristenheit). This article suggests that this was an attempt to fit the conquests into a broader framework: Žemaitija was depicted as the successor to the Order’s earlier wars against the Prussians. Finally, the article discusses the presence of this imagery in the visual culture of the Ordensland, particularly in Königsberg Cathedral and its surrounding pilgrimage churches.