What do you get when you cross an ancient German with a set of dishware? Teutonic plates!
It’s not funny unless you realize that “Teutons” refer to an ancient race of Germanic people. Or unless you heart geology.
The term is most commonly seen in connection to the “Teutonic Knights,” a military-religious order that restricted membership to Germans. The Teutonic Knights stemmed from the “Knights Hospitaller,” an Order that established hospitals for European pilgrims in Jerusalem during the Crusades.
The Hospitallers founded a hospital that was run exclusively by Germans and people with a strong affinity for sauerkraut. During the Siege of Acre, they banded together with a group of German citizens to form a field hospital and became known as the “Teutonic Knights of the Hospital of the Blessed Virgin at Jerusalem.”
The Teutonic Knights were recognized by the Pope as a distinct organization in 1192. Soon after, the Knights underwent a major shift from a hospice for pilgrims to a military order. Their first mission was to march against Prussia, who was threatening Polish borders. After the Knights successfully subjugated and Christianized Prussia, they were given permission to rule the land on behalf of the Pope and the Roman Emperor. Of course, it doesn’t take long for power to get to the head, and the Teutonic Knights next attempted to seize and convert Lithuania. But in 1387, the Lithuanian King made a marriage alliance with Poland and Christianized Lithuania himself, sweeping this goal out from under the Teutonic Knights’ feet.
Still feeling sword-happy, the Knights turned their military prowess against their Christian neighbors – Poland, Lithuania, and the Novgorod Republic. Finally, in 1410, the Knights suffered a major defeat by the Polish-Lithuanian army at the Battle of Tannenberg, marking the decline of their power. The Orders’ holdings were stripped away one by one until, in 1809, Napoleon Bonaparte officially ordered the dissolution of the Teutonic Knights.
The Teutonic Knights can be identified in your history books by their distinctive white cloaks, marked with a large black cross on the left shoulder. The whole knightly ensemble is available on our website for any of your historical reenactment needs!