A German prose chronicle that describes the history of the Teutonic Order from its foundation in 1190 until 1433, the Altere Hochmeisterchronik can be regarded as the single most useful account of the order’s history of that period and of the crusades to, and early history of, Prussia.
Twenty-one manuscripts survive, of which ten date from the fifteenth century, originating from Prussia and from the Teutonic Order’s centers in the empire, notably Cologne and Mergentheim. The chronicle was written between 1433 and 1440; its author’s identity is unknown, but he is thought to have been a cleric in the order and certainly had access to its archives at Marienburg in Prussia. Sources used for the earlier section include Nicolaus von Jeroschin’s Kronike von Pruzinlant, the Livonian Rhymed Chronicle, Henry of Livonia’s Chronicon Livoniae, and the list of the grand masters of the order. From the second half of the fourteenth century the account relies on eyewitness testimony and official reports and documents. The single most important source is Jeroschin’s chronicle, which forms the basis of three-quarters of the text.
The Altere Hochmeisterchronik is continued in three separate sections. The first, written by a supporter of the Teutonic Order, gives an account of battles fought in 1454 and 1455. The second, which is much shorter, was written by a member of the order and is critical of the grand masters, but also of the role of the Polish kings and Prussian cities. The third was written in 1472 by a cleric from Warmia. The first version was the most widely distributed. Four manuscripts survive, of which three date from the fifteenth century.