Livonian Brothers of the Sword

Livonian Brothers of the Sword
Livonian Brothers of the Sword (Fratres militiæ Christi Livoniae)
SwordBrothers.svg Zakon Kawalerów Mieczowych COA.svg
1. Seal of the Swordbrothers
2.Coat of Arms of the Swordbrothers
Active 1204–1237
Country Terra Mariana
Allegiance Roman Catholic Church
Garrison/HQ Wenden (Cēsis), Fellin (Viljandi), Segewold (Sigulda). Ascheraden (Aizkraukle), Goldingen (Kuldīga), Marienburg (Alūksne), Reval (Tallinn), Weißenstein (Paide)
Battle honours Livonian Crusade

The Livonian Brothers of the Sword (Latin: Fratres militiæ Christi Livoniae, German: Schwertbrüderorden) were a military order founded by Bishop Albert of Riga in 1202. Pope Innocent III sanctioned the establishment in 1204. The membership of the order comprised German "warrior monks". Alternative names of the Order include the Christ Knights, Sword Brethren, and The Militia of Christ of Livonia.

Following their defeat by the Samogitians and Semigallians in the Battle of Schaulen (Saule) in 1236, the surviving Brothers merged into the Teutonic Order as an autonomous branch and became known as the Livonian Order.




Albert, Bishop of Riga (or Prince-Bishop of Livonia), founded the Brotherhood in 1202 to aid the Bishopric of Livonia in the conversion of the pagan Livonians, Latgalians and Selonians living across the ancient trade routes from the Gulf of Riga eastwards. From its foundation, the undisciplined Order tended to ignore its supposed vassalage to the bishops. In 1218 Albert asked King Valdemar II of Denmark for assistance, but Valdemar instead arranged a deal with the Brotherhood and conquered the northern Estonia (now known as Danish Estonia) for Denmark.

The Brotherhood had its headquarters at Fellin (Viljandi) in present-day Estonia, where the walls of the Master's castle still stand. Other strongholds included Wenden (Cēsis), Segewold (Sigulda) and Ascheraden (Aizkraukle). The commanders of Fellin, Goldingen (Kuldīga), Marienburg (Alūksne), Reval (Tallinn), and the bailiff of Weißenstein (Paide) belonged to the five-member entourage of the Order's Master.

Pope Gregory IX asked the Brothers to defend Finland from the Novgorodian attacks in his letter of November 24, 1232.[1] However, no known information regarding the knights' possible activities in Finland has survived. (Sweden eventually conquered Finland following the Second Swedish Crusade in 1249.)

The Mecklenburgian swordbrother Helmold III. von Plesse.

The Order was decimated in the Battle of Schaulen (Saule) in 1236 against Lithuanians and Semigallians. This disaster led the surviving Brothers to become incorporated into the Order of Teutonic Knights in the following year, and from that point on they became known as the Livonian Order. They continued, however, to function in all respects (rule, clothing and policy) as an autonomous branch of the Teutonic Order, headed by their own Master (himself de jure subject to the Teutonic Order's Grand Master).


  • Wenno (von Rohrbach) 1204–1209
  • Volkwin (Schenk von Winterstein) 1209–1236

See also


  1. ^ Letter by Pope Gregory IX. In Latin. Hosted by the National Archive of Finland. See and Diplomatarium Fennicum from the menu.

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