Post-classical history

Albert Suerbeer (d. 1272/1273)

Archbishop of Prussia (1246-1255) and Riga (1255-1272/ 1273).

Albert was born in Cologne (mod. Koln, Germany) in the late twelfth century. As a canon of the cathedral of Bremen, he was appointed bishop of Riga in 1229 by the archbishop of Hamburg-Bremen, Gerhard II; the cathedral chapter of Riga, however, chose a Premonstratensian canon from Magdeburg by the name of Nicholas, whose election was approved by Pope Gregory IX in 1231. Albert was made archbishop of Armagh in Ireland in 1240, but after taking part in the Council of Lyons (1245), he was appointed as archbishop of Prussia, Livonia, and Estonia by Pope Innocent IV (1246). A few months later he was also made papal legate for these lands and for Holstein, Rügen, Gotland, and Russia. The pope ordered the Prussians to hand over to the archbishop all the lands that had formerly belonged to the late Bishop Christian of Prussia, including a castle in what is believed to have been the newly founded town of Konigsberg (mod. Kaliningrad, Russia), then in the hands of the Teutonic Order in Prussia. It is likely that Albert desired to control the order by establishing his archbishopric in the town.

The Teutonic Order refused to accept the archbishop’s attempts to establish supremacy, and the conflict between them intensified in the following years. The order’s diplomacy brought about the loss of Albert’s position as legate, and eventually the pope was persuaded to move him to Livonia, appointing him as the first archbishop of Riga in 1255.

In his new see Albert continued his struggle against the military and political power of the order. In 1267 he allied himself with Gunzelin, count of Schwerin, in what was intended as a joint strike against both the order and the pagans in Livonia. The plan failed, however, and the following year Albert was taken prisoner by Otto von Lauterberg, the order’s Livonian master. He was only released after promising not to make any complaints to the pope and to desist from opposing the order. Sometime between November 1272 and March 1273, Albert died, without having been able to reduce the power of the Teutonic Order in the Baltic lands.

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