Post-classical history

Paul von Rusdorf (d. 1441)

Grand master of the Teutonic Order (1422-1441), who witnessed a significant decline of the order’s power.

Rusdorf was born into the lesser nobility of the Rhineland. Nothing is known about his early career. From 1412 he held different offices in Prussia, before being elected grand master on 10 March 1422. Shortly afterward a war with Poland- Lithuania led to the peace of Lake Melno (27 September 1422), by which the order finally lost Samogitia, the area that connected its main territories of Prussia and Livonia. The Prussian estates demanded greater independence from the order’s lordship and subsequently founded the Prussian Union (Ger. PreuBischer Bund) in 1440. At the same time the different branches of the order were drifting apart. In Prussia different factions quarreled over influence, and the German master opposed Rusdorfs policies. In 1439-1440 Rus- dorf faced open rebellion: the German master even declared him deposed on the grounds of the so-called statutes of Grand Master Werner von Orseln (Ger. Orselnsche Statuten), a forgery that served to weaken the grand master’s position. Despite his attempts to reunite the brethren, Rusdorf could not settle the order’s internal affairs. On 2 January 1441 he resigned. A week later, on 9 January, he died at Marienburg (mod. Malbork, Poland), where he was buried in St. Anne’s chapel.

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