Post-classical history

Hermann Balk (d. 1239)

Prussian master (1230-1238) and Livonian master (1237-1238) of the Teutonic Order.

Hermann probably belonged to a family from the east of Lower Saxony. He went to Prussia as leader of the order’s second contingent of brethren and servants in 1230. They crossed the river Vistula in 1231, (re-)erecting a castle at Thorn (mod. Torun, Poland). When a crusading army reached the Vistula in 1232, Hermann and the brethren of the order built another castle at Altkulm (mod. Starogrôd, Poland) and probably subdued most of the Kulmerland (territory of mod. Chelmno, Poland). In the summer of 1233 he was in Bohemia (and Silesia) to subject the order’s bailiwick to the control of the Prussian branch and to gain men and money for Prussia. After this, Hermann turned to neighboring Pomesania, where the towns of Marienwerder (mod. Kwidzyn, Poland) and Elbing (mod. Elbląg, Poland) were founded in 1234 and 1237. Hermann probably instituted two land commanders for the Kulmerland and Prussia.

After the Order of the Sword Brethren was defeated by the Lithuanians at the battle of Saule in September 1236 and its unification with the Teutonic Knights was publicly declared in June 1237, Grand Master Hermann von Salza nominated Hermann Balk as first master of Livonia. There, he had to face stern opposition by the former Sword Brethren because of the surrender of northern Estonia to Denmark as part of an agreement with Pope Gregory IX. Finally Hermann was forced to resign in favour of Dietrich von Grüningen, and he returned to Germany. In February 1239 he was at Würzburg,and he probably died in the following month.

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