A brief History
The Teutonic Order's history
reaches back more than 800 years and is characterized by many twists and
After the Order of the Temple and the Order of St. John (Hospitallers), the
Teutonic Order became the third large order of Christian chivalry. During the
third crusade, burghers from the Northern German cities of Lübeck and
Bremen reached the holy land. Upon their arrival, they were overwhelmed by
the need for medical care among their fellow Germans.
This initiative was warmly seconded by Duke Friedrich of Hohenstaufen, who
officially founded the order on November 19, 1190. He secured the support of
his brother, Heinrich VI, and of the Patriarch of Jerusalem. When they asked
Pope Clement III (1187-1191) to approve the new
monastic order, he did so quickly by the papal bull
Quotiens Postulatur of February 6, 1191.
The brothers were to do hospital work like the
Hospitallers and to live under the Templar rule. The
new foundation was to be named the Order of the
Hospital of St. Mary of the Germans in Jerusalem.
Over time, the shorter name German Order or
Teutonic Order became widely known.
The Order was taken under Pope Celestine III's (1191-1198) protection on
December 21, 1196. Pope Celestine also authorized the black cross on the
white mantle that members of the order wear to this day.
After the loss of Acre in 1291, the order's main theater of operations shifted
from the Holy Land to Europe. In the XIII century, the knights operated in
Eastern Europe, first in Transylvania, to protect the Kingdom of Hungary from
the incursions of nomadic Cumans at the request of King Andrew II of
Hungary. From there they moved further north and made their headquarters in
Marienburg, today's Malbork in Poland. They established a state (Ordensstaat)
and expanded their territory along the coastline of the Baltic Sea.
Their dominance in the region subsequently led them to clash both with the
Russian Orthodox of Pskov and Novgorod and with the Polish-Lithuanian. The
latter, led by King Władysław II Jagiełło, inflicted a
heavy defeat on the order at the Battle of Tannenberg
(or Grunwald) on July 15, 1410.
At the end of the Thirteen Years’ War, the second Treaty
of Torun reduced the territorial domain of the Order only
to East Prussia (as well as various smaller estates in
the territory of Germany) and to the status of vassals of
the Polish crown. In 1525 the thirty-seventh Grand
Master of the order, Albert of Hohenzollern-Ansbach,
converted to Lutheranism and secularized the Prussian
possessions, taking the title of Duke of Prussia. This
marked the end of the Teutonic Ordensstaat.
Following the loss of Prussia and the transfer of the order's headquarters to
Bad Mergentheim in southwest Germany, the majority of the members of the
Order in the Netherlands converted to Protestantism. In 1580 members of the
Bailiwick of Utrecht, composed of various Dutch commanderies, rejected the
jurisdiction of Bad Mergentheim. In 1637, the Bailiwick of the Teutonic Knights
in the Netherlands became an independent order under the protection of the
United Provinces of the Netherlands, continuing to operate until today as a
Hospitaller order, but without its Catholic character.
The continuation of the Order in its old form was no longer possible, and the
property of the Order was threatened with confiscation as it was viewed as
property of the Imperial House of Habsburg. To ensure the survival of the
Teutonic Order and its possessions, Archduke Eugene voluntarily resigned in
1923 as the order's Grandmaster.
in Italy and started again after 1945 in Austria and Germany. This Roman
Catholic order is today under the leadership of Abbot General Dr. Bruno
Platter. Its headquarters is still in Vienna.
Apart from the Roman Catholic Teutonic Order and the protestant Teutonic
Order in the Netherlands, there is the ecumenical Teutonic Order who admits
baptized Christians from different church backgrounds as knights and dames.
The latter order, of which this Grand Priory is an expression, has been formed
for the specific purpose of continuing the chivalric character of the Teutonic
Order that had been abandoned in 1929.
After a break of 64 years, since 1993, the Teutonic Order continues as an
order of Christian chivalry. In that year Prince Paolo Francesco Barbaccia
Viscardi, a descendant of Duke Friedrich of Hohenstaufen (the founder of the
original Teutonic Order), reclaimed the rights of the imperial order that was
the prerogative of the Holy Roman Empire. The official name of this branch of
the Teutonic Order is Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Mary
(Teutonic Order) of Jerusalem of the House of Antioch and Swabia. The rights
of iure sanguinis and fons honorum are protected in the Proceedings of the
Archives of the Presidency of the Council of Ministries of the Italian Republic
(2009) with the transcript of "Sovrana Casa di Svevia Principato di Leuca"
(Sovereign House of Swabia, Principality of Leuca) in the Ceremonial of State
and in accordance with Italian laws. The Italian Ministry of Defense has
recognized and listed the order in its circular as a "non-national Order of
Chivalry" (Ordine Cavalleresco non nazionale).
This branch of the Teutonic Order, which is also
referred to as Dynastic Teutonic Order, has currently
ca. 2200 members and is active in Europe, Asia,
Oceania, North and South America. Grandmaster
Barbaccia Viscardi directed the order's worldwide
activities from the order's headquarters in Poggibonsi,
Tuscany, until his passing in 2016. He was succeeded
by Prince Vito Caterini di Castel di Mirto.
As the Christian church in the
fallen world has lost its unity,
so has the Teutonic Order.
Our prayer is that on that future
day when full and visible unity
among all Christians will be
achieved, there will be complete
unity among the different branches
of the Teutonic Order as well.
Pope Clement III
Pope Celestine III bestows the black cross on the Teutonic knights
The birth of the Teutonic Order in the Holy Land
They used the sails of
their ships (called
cogs to build a
hospital near the port
city of Acre.
In 1834 the royal House of Habsburg wanted to
regain the original chivalric order, adopting the rule
of the 1606. The order's headquarters was
transferred to Vienna.
In 1894 Archduke Eugen of Austria Habsburg
became the Grand Master. As it turned out, he
should be the last hereditary Grandmaster of the
House of Habsburg.
In 1918, with the collapse of the Austrian Empire,
Archduke Eugen, forced into exile along with all the
members of his dynasty, retired in Lucerne and then
in Basel where he lived from 1918 to 1934 .
He was followed by Norbert Jan Nepomucký Klein,
a priest of the order and Bishop of Brünn in Moravia.
On November 27, 1929, the order received a new
constitution as The brothers of the House of
St. Mary of the Germans in Jerusalem, which was
formally ratified by Pope Pius XI. This step
fundamentally changed the character of the
Teutonic Order from a chivalric order of knighthood
into a purely clerical order of the Roman Catholic
Church. No more knights were invested, and the
last one (Friedrich Graf Belrupt-Tissac) died in
1970. The order suffered during World War II when
it was abolished by the Nazis in Austria and
Czechoslovakia, but as a clerical order it survived
|Grand Priory of the
United States of America
|The Sovereign Military and
Hospitaller Order of
Saint Mary of Jerusalem
Teutonic Dynastic of Swabia
|The Sovereign Military and Hospitaller Order of St. Mary
of Jerusalem Teutonic Dynastic of Swabia
Grand Priory of the United States of America
|" Pray for the
hold no office,
use their time
and zealously in
worship, so that
those who hold
office and they
be useful and
From the Statutes of
the Teutonic Order