Battle of Hemmingstedt

The Battle of Hemmingstedt took place on February 17, 1500 south of the village of Hemmingstedt, near the present village of Epenwöhrden, in the western part of present-day Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It was an attempt by King John of Denmark and his brother Duke Frederick, who were co-dukes of Schleswig and Holstein, to subdue the peasantry of Dithmarschen, who had established a peasants' republic on the coast of the North Sea. John was at the time also king of the Kalmar Union.

Battle of Hemmingstedt
DateFebruary 17th, 1500
Result Victory for Dithmarschen's peasantry
Peasantry of Dithmarschen Kalmar Union Kalmar Union
Denmark Denmark
Commanders and leaders
Wulf Isebrand John, King of Denmark
Frederick I of Denmark
Thomas Slentz
1,000 - 4,000 peasants 4,000 mercenaries (Great Guard)
2,000 armoured cavaliers
1,000 artillery-men
5,000 commoners
Casualties and losses
unknown 4,000, thereof 360 nobles
Memorial in Epenwöhrden reciting the battlecry: "Wahr di, Garr, de Buer de kumt" (Beware, Guard, of the farmer[, who is] coming)


The ducal army consisted of the "Great Guard", 4,000 Landsknechts, commanded by a petty noble (Junker) named Thomas Slentz, 2,000 armoured cavaliers, about 1,000 artillery-men and 5,000 commoners. The defenders were about 1,000 men, all peasants.[1] These men were a well-armed and well-organized militia, not the desperate, badly armed rabble associated with the term "peasant army".

Use of terrain

After seizing the village of Meldorf, the ducal army advanced, but was stopped at a barricade equipped with guns (Geschütz). The defenders opened at least one dike sluice in order to flood the land, which quickly turned into morass and shallow lakes. Crammed together on a narrow road with no solid ground on which to deploy, the ducal army was unable to make use of its numerical superiority. The lightly equipped peasants were familiar with the land and used poles to leap over the ditches. Most of the ducal soldiers were not killed by enemy arms, but drowned. The conquest attempt was thus repelled.[2] The casualties among the Dithmarsians are not known, but the Danish and the Dutch lost together more than half of their army, making about 7,000 men killed and 1,500 men wounded.

Personalities; real and imagined

Max Koch Schlacht bei Hemmingstedt
The Battle of Hemmingstedt in a history painting of 1910 by Max Friedrich Koch, assembly hall of the former District Building in Meldorf. The legendary virgin Telse waving the banner of the then Ditmarsian patron saint Mary of Nazareth.

The farmer Wulf Isebrand (died 1506) was the leader and organiser of the peasants' defence. While he was a real person, the existence of other participants of the battle is not proven. For instance, the legendary Reimer von Wiemerstedt is said to have killed Junker Slentz, the chief of the "Great Guard"; another doubtful participant was the "virgin" Telse.

Propaganda use

Many details about the battle were made up later in order to heroize the defenders. In 1900 a monument to the defenders was raised. The cult reached its peak in the Nazi era, when local party members used the names of the battle participants for their propaganda. Today there is a more neutral museum at the site commemorating the battle.


The Battle of Hemmingstedt is a prime example of the use of terrain in military tactics. The Ditmarsians had taken a vow to donate a monastery in honour of the then national patron saint Mary of Nazareth if they could repel the invasion. In 1513 the Ditmarsians founded a Franciscan Friary in Lunden fulfilling their vow.[3] The Ditmarsians also captured diverse banners and standards of the defeated enemies, among them the Danebrog. They were presented in St. Nicholas Church in Wöhrden until Frederick II of Denmark, victorious in the Last Feud against Dithmarschen in 1559, forced the Ditmarsians to return them.


  1. ^ Birch, J.H.S., Denmark in History, London: John Murray, 1938, p. 141
  2. ^ Elke Freifrau von Boeselager, „Das Land Hadeln bis zum Beginn der frühen Neuzeit", in: Geschichte des Landes zwischen Elbe und Weser: 3 vols., Hans-Eckhard Dannenberg and Heinz-Joachim Schulze (eds.), Stade: Landschaftsverband der ehem. Herzogtümer Bremen und Verden, 1995 and 2008, vol. I 'Vor- und Frühgeschichte' (1995; ISBN 978-3-9801919-7-5), vol. II 'Mittelalter (einschl. Kunstgeschichte)' (1995; ISBN 978-3-9801919-8-2), vol. III 'Neuzeit' (2008; ISBN 978-3-9801919-9-9), (=Schriftenreihe des Landschaftsverbandes der ehem. Herzogtümer Bremen und Verden; vols. 7–9), vol. II: pp. 321–388, here p. 333.
  3. ^ Thies Völker, Die Dithmarscher Landeskirche 1523–1559: Selbständige bauernstaatliche Kirchenorganisation in der Frühneuzeit, section 'Konfliktauslöser: Besetzung der Pfarrstellen und Klosterprojekt', posted on 16 July 2009 on: Das Netzwerk der Autoren.

External links

Coordinates: 54°08′50″N 9°04′19″E / 54.14722°N 9.07194°E


Year 1500 (MD) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.

The year was seen as being especially important by many Christians in Europe, who thought it would bring the beginning of the end of the world. Their belief was based on the phrase "half-time after the time", when the apocalypse was due to occur, which appears in the Book of Revelation and was seen as referring to 1500.This time was also just after the discovery of the Americas in 1492, and therefore was influenced greatly by the new world.Historically, the year 1500 is also often identified, somewhat arbitrarily, as marking the end of the Middle Ages and beginning of the Early Modern Era.

1500s (decade)

The 1500s ran from January 1, 1500, to December 31, 1509.

Adolph, Count of Oldenburg-Delmenhorst

Adolph, Count of Oldenburg-Delmenhorst (German: Adolf (Alf) von Oldenburg; b. before 1463 – 17 February 1500) was a Count of Oldenburg from 1482 until his death.

Battle cry

A battle cry is a yell or chant taken up in battle, usually by members of the same combatant group.

Battle cries are not necessarily articulate (e.g. "Eliaaaa!", "Alala"..), although they often aim to invoke patriotic or religious sentiment. Their purpose is a combination of arousing aggression and esprit de corps on one's own side and causing intimidation on the hostile side. Battle cries are a universal form of display behaviour (i.e., threat display) aiming at competitive advantage, ideally by overstating one's own aggressive potential to a point where the enemy prefers to avoid confrontation altogether and opts to flee. In order to overstate one's potential for aggression, battle cries need to be as loud as possible, and have historically often been amplified by acoustic devices such as horns, drums, conches, carnyxes, bagpipes, bugles, etc. (see also martial music).

Battle cries are closely related to other behavioral patterns of human aggression, such as war dances and taunting, performed during the "warming up" phase preceding the escalation of physical violence. From the Middle Ages, many cries appeared on standards and were adopted as mottoes, an example being the motto "Dieu et mon droit" ("God and my right") of the English kings. It is said that this was Edward III's rallying cry during the Battle of Crécy. The word "slogan" originally derives from sluagh-gairm or sluagh-ghairm (sluagh = "people", "army", and gairm = "call", "proclamation"), the Scottish Gaelic word for "gathering-cry" and in times of war for "battle-cry". The Gaelic word was borrowed into English as slughorn, sluggorne, "slogum", and slogan.

Bay of Meldorf

The Bay of Meldorf also called Meldorf Bay (German: Meldorfer Bucht), is a bay on the coast of the North German state of Schleswig-Holstein, which forms part of the Heligoland Bight.

Black Band (landsknechts)

The Black Band was a formation of 16th century mercenaries, largely pikemen, probably serving as Landsknechts. They fought in the French army for ten years, seeing service in several notable engagements, including the Battle of Marignano and the Battle of Pavia.


Dithmarschen (German pronunciation: [ˈdɪtmaʁʃən], Low Saxon pronunciation: [ˈdɪtmaːʃn̩], archaic English: Ditmarsh, Danish: Ditmarsken, Medieval Latin: Tedmarsgo) is a district in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It is bounded by (from the north and clockwise) the districts of Nordfriesland, Schleswig-Flensburg, Rendsburg-Eckernförde, and Steinburg, by the state of Lower Saxony (district of Stade, from which it is separated by the Elbe river), and by the North Sea.

From the 15th century up to 1552 Dithmarschen was an independent peasants' republic within the Holy Roman Empire and a member of the Hanseatic League.


Epenwöhrden is a municipality in the district of Dithmarschen, in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany.

February 17

February 17 is the 48th day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. 317 days remain until the end of the year (318 in leap years).

Flag of Denmark

The flag of Denmark (Danish: Dannebrog, pronounced [ˈdanəˌbʁoˀ]) is red with a white Scandinavian cross that extends to the edges of the flag; the vertical part of the cross is shifted to the hoist side.

A banner with a white-on-red cross is attested as having been used by the kings of Denmark since the 14th century.

An origin legend with considerable impact on Danish national historiography connects the introduction of the flag to the Battle of Lindanise of 1219.

The elongated Nordic cross reflects the use as maritime flag in the 18th century.

The flag became popular as national flag in the early 19th century. Its private use was outlawed in 1834, and again permitted in a regulation of 1854. The flag holds the world record of being the oldest continuously used national flag.

Frederick I of Denmark

Frederick I (7 October 1471 – 10 April 1533) was the King of Denmark and Norway. His name is also spelled Frederik in Danish and Norwegian,

Friedrich in German and Fredrik in Swedish. He was the last Roman Catholic monarch to reign over Denmark, when subsequent monarchs embraced Lutheranism after the Protestant Reformation. As King of Norway, Frederick is most remarkable in never having visited the country and was never crowned King of Norway. Therefore, he was styled King of Denmark, the Vends and the Goths, elected King of Norway.


Hemmingstedt is a German municipality in the district of Dithmarschen in the state of Schleswig-Holstein.


Isebrand is a German given name, secondarily also a surname.

It is composed of the Old High German elements isan "iron" and brand "sword".

surnameWulf Isebrand (d. 1506), peasant leader at the Battle of Hemmingstedt

Marion Isebrand, wife of William Harrison (clergyman)

Johann Rode von Wale

Johann Rode von Wale (c. 1445 – 4 December 1511, Vörde; distinguished from his namesake uncle as Johann Rode the Younger; also Johann Roden Bok, or Rhode, Latinised: Iohannes Rufus de Wale) was a Catholic cleric, a Doctor of Canon and Civil Law, a chronicler, a long-serving government official (1468–1497) and as John III (German: Johannes III.) Prince-archbishop of Bremen between 1497 and 1511.

John, King of Denmark

John (Danish, Norwegian and Swedish: Hans; né Johannes) (2 February 1455 – 20 February 1513) was a Scandinavian monarch under the Kalmar Union. He was king of Denmark (1481–1513), Norway (1483–1513) and as John II (Swedish: Johan II) Sweden (1497–1501). From 1482 to 1513, he was concurrently duke of Schleswig and Holstein in joint rule with his brother Frederick.

The three most important political goals of King John were the restoration of the Kalmar Union, reduction of the dominance of the Hanseatic League, and the building of a strong Danish royal power.


The Landsknecht, (pronounced [ˈlantsknɛçt]), plural: Landsknechte, were mercenary soldiers who became an important military force through late 15th- and 16th-century Europe. Consisting predominantly of German mercenary pikemen and supporting foot soldiers, they were the universal mercenaries of early modern Europe, sometimes fighting on both sides of a conflict.

Magnus I, Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg

Magnus I of Saxe-Lauenburg (1 January 1470 – 1 August 1543) was a Duke of Saxe-Lauenburg from the House of Ascania.


Meldorf is a town in western Schleswig-Holstein, Germany, that straddles the river Miele in the district of Dithmarschen.

It was first mentioned in writing before 1250 AD. In 1265 it received its municipal rights and served as the capital of Dithmarschen, a peasant republic with Allies in the Hanseatic league dating from 1468. The city was sacked in 1500 AD when King John of the Kalmar Union attempted to conquer the republic. His forces were routed by a force with poor arms and inferior numbers in the Battle of Hemmingstedt. In 1559, the republic was conquered. The city lost its municipal rights again in 1598 and would not regain them until 1870. It was county town until 1970 of the district Süderdithmarschen. After a district reform Süderdithmarschen and Norderdithmarschen merged to Dithmarschen and Meldorf lost the capitalship to the town of Heide.

The St. John´s Church (St.-Johannis-Kirche), also called Meldorfer Dom, is the largest church in Dithmarschen, the most important medieval church building at the North Sea coast in Schleswig-Holstein and has a neogothic style.

Meldorf is the birthplace of mathematician Olaus Henrici, and the seat of the collective municipality Amt Mitteldithmarschen.

St. Mary's Cathedral, Hamburg

Saint Mary's Cathedral in Hamburg (German: Sankt Mariendom, also Mariendom, or simply Dom or Domkirche, or Hamburger Dom) was the cathedral of the ancient Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hamburg (not to be confused with Hamburg's modern Archdiocese, est. 1994), which was merged in personal union with the Diocese of Bremen in 847, and later in real union to form the Archdiocese of Hamburg-Bremen, as of 1027.

In 1180 the cathedral compound turned into the cathedral close (German: Domfreiheit; i.e. cathedral immunity district), forming an exclave of the Prince-Archbishopric of Bremen within the city of Hamburg. By the Reformation the concathedral was converted into a Lutheran church. The cathedral immunity district, since 1648 an exclave of the Duchy of Bremen, was seized by Hamburg in 1803. The city then prompted the demolition of the proto-cathedral between 1804 and 1807.

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