In September 1351 in Marienburg, at a huge general meeting - he was called the chapters - they chose the supreme ruler of the Teutonic Order. As a result, Vinrich von Kniprode had to lead the powerful Order - a man who at that moment already held the position of the great commander (that is, the deputy grand master).
Winrich came from an old noble family, and at the time of his election as a master, he was listed in the Order for more than 15 years and managed to rise to his post from the very bottom. Moreover, in the middle of the XIV century, Winrich in the status of a marshal commanded the Teutonic army - with varying success fought with pagans and Lithuanians. By the way, at the time, von Kniprode lived in Koenigsberg, which was actually considered the main headquarters of all hostilities.
With the move to Marienburg, this city can be called the capital of the Teutonic Order, there, at least, traditionally the master lived - von Kniprode engaged in completely different tasks: his duties included the development of trade and the establishment of relations with other states. Therefore, it is not surprising that after the death of the master his place was taken just by Kniprode.
Having unlimited power, Winrich immediately started a military campaign in the northern Lithuanian lands. For the Teutons, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, despite the obvious similarities of cultures and languages, was, perhaps, the key opponent - the constant raids of the Lithuanians ravaged the border lands, and the Order itself, to justify its existence, had to constantly fight back the eastern neighbors. The war was fought for a long time and with varying success - the Teutons entered Vilna and Kaunas, then the Lithuanians suddenly found themselves near Königsberg.
However, the first military campaign, which Winrich entered into, was not very successful - the army was not able to advance deep into the principality, so the Lithuanians soon had to sit at the negotiating table. Having concluded a brief truce, von Kniprode, naturally, did not lose hope of conquering Lithuanian lands.
Despite the unsuccessful attempts to defeat the enemy, inside the Order, the master did everything in perfect order: agriculture developed at an unprecedented pace, trade with the cities of the Hanseatic League was gaining momentum, and on other fronts besides Lithuanian, calm reigned: the master’s did not show to the Order of aggression. So the Teutonic Order gradually became the most powerful state in the Baltic States.
After the first campaign against the Lithuanians, Winrich waited for almost ten years - it took him a while to restore the army and settle all the issues with his neighbors, having built in parallel strong economic relations. In 1360, the Teutons again moved to the Principality of Lithuania - now much more successfully. The Crusaders were able to destroy the most important fortress of Kaunas, and also reached the main Lithuanian cities - Grodno, Trakai and Vilna. Moreover, the knights were able to capture the brother of the Lithuanian ruler Olgerd: a relative was held for a long time in a special cell in Marienburg.
At the same time, in 1368, a new conflict broke out in Europe: the cities of the Hanseatic League declared war on the Danish king. Despite the fact that the Teutons were firmly connected with the Hansa, they behaved diplomatically and officially remained neutral. However, this did not prevent the Prussian cities involved in the Hanseatic League from entering into conflict.
The climax of Winrich von Kniprode was the year 1370: then Hansa defeated the Danes, and the Order in the Battle of Rudau defeated the forces of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. At that time, the knightly culture in the Order flourished: nobles from all over Europe, considering the Teutons to be the only bulwark of honor and the struggle for the faith, hurried to Koenigsberg and Marienburg to join the fraternity. They were also attracted by the master’s figure - the venerable and gray-haired Winrich von Kniprode was reputed to be a fearless warrior and the wisest ruler.
Over the next decade, the master dealt primarily with state affairs: according to his contemporaries, he was extremely respectful of the peasants and tried to encourage them to cultivate more and more land. Meanwhile, von Kniprode put things in order in the leadership of the Order - arranged checks and cleaned those who, in his opinion, could tarnish their honor with bribery. Moreover, when the master von Kniprode appeared the first institution of higher education for members of the Order.
The master died in the summer of 1382 at a respectable age. Death found him in his own residence in Marienburg. After retiring from life, von Kniprode left behind him a powerful one — from a military and an economic point of view — a state whose flourishing, however, was left behind.
- Maschke E. German Order
- Yakshina D. The golden shadow of Königsberg
- Lohmeyer K. Winrich von Kniprode
- Image source on the main: wladcy.net / Source image lead: flickr.com