Die Bedeutung der päpstlichen Verfügungen über die Vereinigung des Schwertbrüderordens mit dem Deutschen Orden in den Konflikten zwischen dem Orden und den Rigaer Erzbischöfen bis zum Ende des 15. Jahrhunderts

In: Forschungen zur baltischen Geschichte
Author: Mihkel Mäesalu

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The Significance of Papal Charters on the Incorporation of the Order of the Swordbrothers into the Teutonic Order during the Conflicts of the Order with the Archbishops of Riga until the End of the 15th Century

Pope Gregory IX issued four almost identical charters in May 1237, which were addressed to the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, the Swordbrothers, the Bishops of Riga, Tartu and Osilia, the Papal Legate to Livonia and Prussia. The charters determined the legal foundations for the incorporation of the Order of the Swordbrothers into the Teutonic Order. The focus of this paper is on the importance of these charters for the troubled relations of the Teutonic Order in Livonia and the Archbishops of Riga during the following centuries.

Both parties of the conflict made use of the charters of Gregory IX, usually at the Papal Curia, but the Archbishop and the Canons of Riga employed them more often than the Teutonic Order. The charters were also referred to in negotiations between the parties in Livonia itself, but the sources on these meetings are rather scanty. The Church of Riga employed the charters as a basis for their accusations against the Teutonic Order, mainly to enforce their claim that the Order in Livonia is going against its original functions – to protect the church and its missionary activities, and fight the heathens. The Teutonic Order on the other hand used the charters to claim its independence from episcopal jurisdiction. The text of the charters was never used in its entirety. Rather some relevant passages were chosen to support an argument. In some cases, the charters were employed to support claims which were even contrary to its text. It seems that often the charters were referred through an earlier text which made use of them, without consulting the original charters at all.

Gregory’s charters were also the basis for an alternative view of the status of Medieval Livonia, which was a rather loosely connected part of the Holy Roman Empire. The Canons of Riga found a short passage in the charters – “the aforementioned lands (i.e Medieval Livonia; M. M.) are said to belong to the right and ownership of Saint Peter” – which they used as a basis for a claim that Livonia was actually the property of the Pope, which had been given over to the lordship of the Bishops and the Teutonic Order. These claims were first put forward at the turn of the 13th and 14th centuries, but did not receive papal acknowledgement. The claims resurfaced in the years 1479–1482 in a situation where the Teutonic Order had gained the support of Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich III. Now the Pope conceded to the claims of clerics in Riga and used this alleged legal status of Livonia as papal property to annul the charters Friedrich III had issued in favour of the Teutonic Order.


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