Almost as famous as the Knight Templars, the Teutonic Knights and their popular imagery of extravagant horned-helmets on steel-clad horsemen have stoked the fascination of many a history aficionado. And though the latter was possibly only used for ceremonial purposes, there is without a shred of doubt a unique historical scope when it comes to the legacy of this medieval military order. Much of it perhaps has to do with the fact that the Teutonic Order made its military mark in the mysterious lands of north-eastern Europe, as opposed to the renowned Holy Land. It should also be noted that at the same time these ‘knights’ were more successful in establishing a full-fledged, economically viable monastic state (Ordensstaat) than their peer Crusader orders like the Templars and Hospitallers. So without further ado, let us take a gander at ten interesting things you should know about the Teutonic Knights.
1) From hospital to near extinction
While the Third Crusade was supposed to be the glorious military feat to reconquer the Holy Land from Saladin, the campaign though partly successful, ended in a disaster for the Imperial forces of the Holy Roman Empire. This was because of the untimely death of Emperor Frederick Barbarossa before his massive army (comprising 3,000 knights and other troops) could approach the contested areas. So only a remnant of his followers took part in the Crusade, and subsequently established a field hospital after the siege of Acre. This hospital was later granted recognition from the Papacy, which established the organization as a military order, christened as Fratres Domus Hospitalis Sanctae Mariae Teutonicorum (Brethren of the German Hospital of St Mary), which later became the Teutonic Knights.
Like other crusading orders, the Teutonic Knights (though not as powerful as the Templars and the Hospitallers in Levant), held small parcels of land and strongholds all throughout the Holy Land, with their primary headquarters pertaining to the suburb of Montfort in the region of northern Palestine. However in 1244 AD, many of the military orders suffered a fateful defeat at the hands of the Ayyubids, with the Teutonic Knights losing 397 of their 400 actual knights in the encounter. In spite of this massive reversal, the Teutonic Knights continued to exert influence in the nearby Armenian Kingdom of Cilicia – possibly to counter the Templars from the neighboring Principality of Antioch, thus suggesting how political rivalry was present even between Crusader religious orders. However the fall of Acre in 1291 AD finally symbolized the end of their crusading endeavors in the Holy Land, and the Teutonic Order then focused its attention towards the pagan regions of Europe itself.