Teutonic Order

or Teutonic Knights officially House of the Hospitallers of Saint Mary of the Teutons

Religious order important in eastern Europe in the late Middle Ages. Founded in 1189–90 to nurse the sick in Palestine during the Third Crusade, it was militarized in 1198 and given land in Jerusalem and Germany. It transferred its base of operations to eastern Europe in the 13th century, gaining control of Prussia by 1283 and making Marienburg the centre of a military principality (1309–1525). The order extended its influence until it was defeated at the Battle of Tannenberg (1410). Another Polish victory in 1466 forced the knights to cede lands to Poland and become vassals of the Polish king. In 1525 the grand master in Prussia converted to Protestantism, dissolved the order in Prussia, and became a duke under Polish suzerainty. In other parts of Europe, especially Austria, the order survived the Reformation. Napoleon declared the order dissolved in 1809 and redistributed most of its remaining lands. In 1834 the Austrian emperor refounded it as a charitable religious order, and it is now headquartered in Vienna.

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