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Günther von Wüllersleben

Grand Master of the Teutonic knights
The basics
About
Date of birth Bad Hersfeld, Hersfeld-Rotenburg, Kassel Government Region, Hesse
Date of death May 04, 1252 Acre, Acre Subdistrict, Northern District, Israel
Authority VIAF id
The details
Biography

The Grand Master (German: Hochmeister; Latin: Magister generalis) is the holder of the supreme office of the Teutonic Order. It is equivalent to the grand master of other military orders and the superior general in non-military Roman Catholic religious orders. Hochmeister, literally "high master", is only used in reference to the Teutonic Order, as Großmeister ("grand master") is used in German to refer to the leaders of other orders of knighthood.

An early version of the full title in Latin was Magister Hospitalis Sanctae Mariae Alemannorum Hierosolymitani. Since 1216, the full title Magister Hospitalis Domus Sanctae Mariae Teutonicorum Hierosolymitani ("Master of the Hospital House of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Germans of Jerusalem") was used.

The offices of Hochmeister and Deutschmeister (Magister Germaniae) were united in 1525. The title of Magister Germaniae had been introduced in 1219 as the head of the bailiwicks in the Holy Roman Empire, from 1381 also those in Italy, raised to the rank of a prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1494, but merged with the office of grand master under Walter von Cronberg in 1525, from which time the head of the order had the title of Hoch- und Deutschmeister.

Coat of arms

The coat of arms representing the grand master (Deutschmeisterwappen) is shown with a golden cross fleury or cross potent superimposed on the black cross, with the imperial eagle as a central inescutcheon. The golden cross fleury overlaid on the black cross becomes widely used in the 15th century. A legendary account attributes its introduction to Louis IX of France, who on 20 August 1250 granted the master of the order this cross as a variation of the Jerusalem cross, with the fleur-de-lis symbol attached to each arm.

While this legendary account cannot be traced back further than the early modern period (Christoph Hartknoch, 1684) there is some evidence that the design does indeed date to the mid 13th century.

Before the Reformation

Compared to other medieval governments, transfer of power within the Teutonic Knights was run efficiently. Upon the death of a grand master, the vice master called a capitulum of the leading officers of the order. The general chapter would select a twelve-person electoral college composed of seven knights, four sergeants, and one priest. Once a majority-candidate for grand master was chosen, the minority electors would concede to support unanimity. These elections usually provided a succeeding grand master within three months.

Candidates for the position of grand master had experience as senior administrators for the order and were usually chosen on merit, not lineage. This changed only after the order had entered a steady decline, with the selection of Frederick of Saxony and Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach, members of the powerful Wettin and House of Hohenzollern dynasties.

When the Teutonic Knights were originally based in Acre in Outremer, the grand masters spent much of their time at the papal and imperial courts. The grand masters were most powerful after the order's 13th century conquest of Prussia during the Northern Crusades and the creation of the militarized State of the Teutonic Order (Ordenstaat), which lasted until 1525. After the order's capital moved from Venice to Marienburg in 1309, the grand master's power was at its height. He had ultimate control over Prussia, which gave him command over the Prussian commanders. When the general chapter would meet in Elbing, he was able to use this influence to ratify administrative measures he proposed. The grand master also served as the castellan of Marienburg and was aided by the order's treasurer. He was also a member of the Hanseatic League, allowing him to receive some of the league's custom dues.

Excavations in the church of Kwidzyn (Marienwerder) performed in 2007 yielded the skeletal remains of three Grand Masters of the late medieval period, Werner von Orseln (1324–30), Ludolf König von Wattzau [de] (1342–45) and Heinrich von Plauen (1410–13). The church had been known as the burial place of the bishops of Pomesania, but the discovery of the grand masters' burials was unexpected. The bodies had been buried in gold-painted wooden coffins draped in silk robes.

Leaders of the early Brotherhood, 1190–1198

The Teutonic Order as a hospice brotherhood in Outremer:

  • 1190 Master Sibrand
  • 1190—1192 Konrad
  • 1192 Gerhard
  • 1193/94 Heinrich, prior
  • 1195–1196 Ulrich
  • 1196 Heinrich, preceptor (probably identical with Heinrich Walpot, the first Grand Master-see below)

Grand Masters of the Order, 1198–1525

Hermann von Salza, fourth Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, in a Baroque-era portrait.
Coats of arms of the 29 grand masters (until 1470, Heinrich Reuß von Plauen) in the St. Gallen armorial (Cod. sang. 1084)
Grand Master Siegfried von Feuchtwangen enters Marienburg with his knights on 14 September 1309, representing the move of the order's main seat to Prussia (1825 history painting)

The Teutonic Order as a spiritual military order had a total of 37 grand masters between 1198 and 1525.

Several armorials of the 15th and early 16th century depict the coat of arms of the grand masters. These include the Chronica by Ulrich Richenthal, an armorial of St. Gallen kept in Nuremberg, an armorial of southwest Germany kept in Leipzig and the Miltenberg armorial. Conspicuously absent from these lists are three grand masters, Gerhards von Malberg (1241-1244) and his successors Heinrich von Hohenlohe (1244-1249) and Gunther von Wüllersleben (1250-1252), so that pre-modern historiographical tradition has a list of 34 grand masters for the time before 1525 (as opposed to 37 in modern accounts).

1. 1198–sometime before 1208 Heinrich Walpot von Bassenheim
2. documented for 1208 Otto von Kerpen
3. 1208–1209 Heinrich von Tunna [de]
4. 1209–1239 Hermann von Salza. As a friend and councillor of emperor Frederick II, Hermann achieved the recognition of the order as of equal status with the older military orders of the Knights Hospitaller and the Knights Templar by Pope Honorius III. In 1237, he also oversaw the incorporation of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword into the Teutonic order.
5. 1239–1240 Konrad von Thüringen
(6.) 1240–1244 Gerhard von Malberg
(7.) 1244–1249 Heinrich von Hohenlohe
(8.) 1249–1252 Gunther von Wüllersleben [de]
6. (9.) 1252–1256 Poppo von Osterna [de] (the pretender Wilhelm von Urenbach (1253-1256) was chosen in opposition to Poppo von Osterna).
7. (10.) 1256–1273 Anno von Sangershausen
8. (11.) 1273–1282 Hartmann von Heldrungen
9. (12.) 1282 or 1283 –1290 Burchard von Schwanden
10. (13.) 1290–1297 Konrad von Feuchtwangen [de]. After the fall of Acre, Konrad moved the Order's headquarters to Venice.
11. (14.) 1297–1303 Gottfried von Hohenlohe
12. (15.) 1303–1311 Siegfried von Feuchtwangen, of the same family as his pre-predessor Konrad von Feuchtwangen. Siegfried moved the order's headquarters to Prussia in 1309.
13. (16.) 1311–1324 Karl von Trier
14. (17.) 1324–1330 Werner von Orseln
15. (18.) 1331–1335 Luther von Braunschweig (Lothar)
16. (19.) 1335–1341 Dietrich von Altenburg
17. (20.) 1342–1345 Ludolf König von Wattzau [de]
18. (21.) 1345–1351 Heinrich Dusemer [de]
19. (22.) 1351–1382 Winrich von Kniprode
20. (23.) 1382–1390 Konrad Zöllner von Rotenstein [de]
21. (24.) 1391–1393 Konrad von Wallenrode
22. (25.) 1393–1407 Konrad von Jungingen
23. (26.) 1407–1410 Ulrich von Jungingen
24. (27.) 1410–1413 Heinrich von Plauen
25. (28.) 1414–1422 Michael Küchmeister von Sternberg
26. (29.) 1422–1441 Paul von Rusdorf
27. (30.) 1441–1449 Konrad von Erlichshausen
28. (31.) 1449 or 1450–1467 Ludwig von Erlichshausen
29. (32.) 1467–1470 Heinrich Reuß von Plauen
30. (33.) 1470–1477 Heinrich Reffle von Richtenberg
31. (34.) 1477–1489 Martin Truchseß von Wetzhausen
32. (35.) 1489–1497 Johann von Tiefen
33. (36.) 1497–1510 Frederick, Duke of Saxony
34. (37.) 1510–1525 Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach, Duke of Prussia

After the Reformation

The last Hochmeister Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach converted to Lutheranism and turned the Ordenstaat into the secular Duchy of Prussia in 1525. The commandries in the autonomous Livonian Terra Mariana likewise were lost by 1561. The Teutonic Order retained its bailiwicks in the Holy Roman Empire (Germany and Italy), however, which were administrated by the Deutschmeister since 1219,

Due to being largely limited to their possessions in the German kingdom, the two titles were combined during the incumbency of Deutschmeister Walter von Cronberg, who was also appointed Hochmeister by Emperor Charles V in 1527. The administrative seat was moved to Mergentheim Castle in Franconia. The Hoch- und Deutschmeister were ranked as ecclesiastical Princes of the Holy Roman Empire until 1806; when Mergentheim fell to the newly established Kingdom of Württemberg, their residence was relocated to the Deutschordenshaus in Vienna. The dual-title lasted until in 1923 the last secular Grand Master Archduke Eugen of Austria resigned from office.

A Franconian Teutschmeister regiment of the Imperial Army was formed under Count Palatine Francis Louis of Neuburg in 1696; organized as 4th infantry regiment in 1769 and deployed at Vienna, it was known as the Lower Austrian Hoch- und Deutschmeister regiment from 1814. Chiefly known for its popular military band, the regiment's tradition was adopted by the Wehrmacht 44th Infantry Division in 1938 and today is maintained by the 1st Jäger battalion of the Austrian Armed Forces.

Hoch- und Deutschmeister, 1527–1929

1929 – present-day

Time of the Teutonic Order as a clerical Roman Catholic religious order

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