Post-classical history

Karl von Trier (d. 1324)

Grand master of the Teutonic Order (1311-1318); the first grand master to start his reign in Prussia.

Born in Trier in western Germany about 1265, Karl began his career in the French houses of the order. He is first mentioned in a document of 1291 as commander of Beauvoir in Champagne, and from 1296 he was land commander of the bailiwicks of France and Lorraine. In 1303, he participated in the chapter general of the order in Elbing (mod. Elbląg, Poland) that deposed Gottfried von Hohelohe. Karl was elected as grand master after the death of Siegfried von Feuchtwangen, probably in July or August 1311.

Resident at Marienburg (mod. Malbork, Poland) from August 1311, Karl had to face several serious problems: the struggle with the pagan Lithuanians, a dispute with Poland over Pomerelia, and conflict within the order. He continued the order’s policy of erecting castles in border regions as bases for attacks by crusading armies, especially by building and defending Christmemel near Ragnit (mod. Neman, Russia). However, he was not in a position to control the strife between the factions within the order, which caused frequent changes of offices and finally led to his enforced resignation in 1317. When he was reinstated by a chapter general at Erfurt in March 1318, he left the administration of Prussia to the also reinstated grand commander Werner von Orseln and to Friedrich von Wildenberg, master of Prussia, while he travelled to the papal Curia at Avignon to strengthen the order’s position. Afterward he took up residence in his home town of Trier, where he died on 10/12 February 1324.

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