Post-classical history

Winrich von Kniprode (d. 1382)

Grand master of the Teutonic Order (1352-1382); perhaps the most influential grand master in the fourteenth century as far as his policies toward the Prussian estates, Lithuania, and the Hanseatic League were concerned. His reign was considered to have been the golden age of the Teutonic Order in Prussia.

Born in the Rhineland, about 1310, Winrich made his career in Prussia, as commander at Danzig (mod. Gdansk, Poland) and Balga, then marshal and grand commander of the order. He was elected grand master after the resignation of Heinrich Dusemer and was the first grand master to be officially honored by the estates. He reorganized the campaigns against the heathen Lithuanians, supported by knights from Western Europe. In 1362, Kaunas was conquered and destroyed, and the order erected fortresses north of the river Nemunas, but military and political success was limited. In 1370, the Lithuanian princes Algirdas and Kçstutis even successfully attacked Sambia, only to be driven back by an army headed by the grand master himself. When Algirdas died and Jogaila became prince of Vilnius in 1377, Winrich’s plan to strengthen his position by supporting Jogaila against Kçstutis failed. After the grand master’s death (24 June 1382), the conflict with Lithuania was a legacy that weighed heavily on the order’s future.

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