The Wendish Crusade (German: Wendenkreuzzug) was a military campaign in 1147, one of the Northern Crusades and a part of the Second Crusade, led primarily by the Kingdom of Germany within the Holy Roman Empire and directed against the Polabian Slavs (or "Wends"). The Wends are made up of the Slavic tribes of Abrotrites, Rani, Liutizians, Wagarians, and Pomeranians who lived east of the River Elbe in present-day northeast Germany and Poland.
The lands inhabited by the Wends were rich in resources, which played a factor in the motivations of those who participated in the crusade. The mild climate of the Baltic area allowed for the cultivation of land and livestock. Animals of this region were also thickly furred, supporting the dependence on fur trading. Access to the coast line also developed fishing and trade networks. The land was attractive for the resources it boasted, and the crusade offered an opportunity for noble families to gain part of it.
By the early 12th century, the German archbishoprics of Bremen and Magdeburg sought the conversion to Christianity of neighboring pagan West Slavs through peaceful means. During the preparation of the Second Crusade to the Holy Land, a papal bull was issued supporting a crusade against these Slavs. The Slavic leader Niklot preemptively invaded Wagria in June 1147, leading to the march of the crusaders later that summer. They achieved an ostensible forced baptism of Slavs at Dobin but were repulsed from Demmin. Another crusading army marched on the already Christian city of Szczecin (Stettin), whereupon the crusaders dispersed upon arrival (see below).
The Christian army, composed primarily of Saxons and Danes, forced tribute from the pagan Slavs and affirmed German control of Wagria and Polabia through colonization, but failed to convert the bulk of the population immediately.
The Ottonian dynasty supported eastward expansion of the Holy Roman Empire towards Wendish (West Slavic) lands during the 10th century. The campaigns of King Henry the Fowler and Emperor Otto the Great led to the introduction of burgwards to protect German conquests in the lands of the Sorbs. Otto's lieutenants, Margraves Gero and Hermann Billung, advanced eastward and northward respectively to claim tribute from conquered Slavs. Bishoprics were established at Meissen, Brandenburg, Havelberg, and Oldenburg to administer the territory. A majority of Wendish tribes had been Christianized from the German conquests, but in 983 they returned to paganism when a great Slavic rebellion reversed the initial German gains. While the burgwards allowed the Saxons to retain control of Meissen, they lost Brandenburg and Havelberg. The Elbe River then became the eastern limit of German-Roman control.
By the early 12th century, the Archbishoprics of Bremen, Magdeburg and Gniezno sought the conversion of the pagan Slavs to Christianity through peaceful means: notable missionaries included Vicelin, Norbert of Xanten, and Otto of Bamberg (sent to Pomerania by Bolesław III Wrymouth of Poland). Lacking support from the Salian dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire, secular Saxon princes seeking Slavic territory found themselves in a military stalemate with their adversaries. Christians, especially Saxons from Holstein, and pagans raided each other across the Limes Saxonicus, usually for tribute.
The idea of a crusade against the Wends first originated in the Magdeburg Letter, originally sent around 1107 to 1110, in which an anonymous author makes an appeal against the Wends. The Magdeburg Letter makes the case that the Wends are pagans and that any fight against them is justified and the land that they inhabit is "our Jerusalem". In the letter no formal spiritual indulgence is offered apart from a general salvation of the soul, but an emphasis is put on acquiring land. The author says, "these gentiles [pagans] are most wicked, but their land is the best, rich in meat, honey, corn, and birds; and if it were well cultivated none could be compared to it for the wealth of its produce. So say those who know it. And so, most renowned Saxon, French, Lorrainers, and Flemings and conquerors of the world, this is an occasion for you to save your souls and, if you wish it, acquire the best land in which to live." The references made to the wealth of resources in the Slavic lands would have been especially appealing to those who were motivated by material gain. The Magdeburg letter established the ideas of a northern crusade and land acquisition that would come to play defining roles of the Wendish Crusade.
From 1140-43 Holsatian nobles advanced into Wagria to permanently settle in the lands of the pagan Wagri. Count Adolf II of Holstein and Henry of Badewide took control of Polabian settlements which would later become Lübeck and Ratzeburg; Vicelin was subsequently installed as bishop at Oldenburg. Adolf sought peace with the chief of the Obodrite confederacy, Niklot, and encouraged German colonization and missionary activity in Wagria.
The fall of Edessa in Syria in 1144 shocked Christendom, causing Pope Eugenius III and St. Bernard of Clairvaux to preach a Second Crusade to reinforce Outremer. While many south Germans volunteered to crusade in the Middle East, the north German Saxons were reluctant. They told Bernard of their desire to campaign against the Slavs at a Reichstag meeting in Frankfurt on 13 March 1147. The Wends were seen as a threat to Christendom as they were apostates, meaning the crusade against them would be justified. Approving of the Saxons' plan, Pope Eugenius III issued a papal bull known as the Divina dispensatione on 11 April 1147. As part of the bull, Eugenius III fulfilled and validated a promise made by Bernard that the same indulgences would be offered to those who crusaded against the Wends as those who went to fight in the Middle East. These indulgences offered a complete forgiveness of sin, meaning there was to be no difference between the spiritual rewards of the different crusaders. Those who volunteered to crusade against the Slavic pagans were primarily Danes, Saxons, and Poles, although there were also some Bohemians. In preaching the Crusade, Bernard feared that those who participated were doing so only for the possible material gain. In an effort to persuade crusaders to focus on spiritual conversion, Bernard said, "We prohibit completely that a truce be made for any reason with these people [Wends] either for money or tribute, until such time as, with the aid of God either their religion or their nation shall be destroyed," which was an condition added to the papal bull. The German monarchy took no part in the crusade, which was led by Saxon families such as the Ascanians, Wettin, and Schauenburgers. Papal legate Anselm of Havelberg was placed in overall command.
Upset at Adolf's participation in the crusade, Niklot preemptively invaded Wagria in June 1147, and, along with the Wagrians, murdered newly settled Fleming and Frisian villages, leading to the march of the crusaders in late summer 1147. By attacking first, Niklot gave further justification for the Crusade as he legitimized the Wends as a serious threat to the Christendom. After expelling the Obodrites from his territory, Adolf signed a peace treaty with Niklot. The remaining Christian crusaders targeted the Obodrite fort Dobin and the Liutizian fort Demmin.
The forces attacking Dobin included those of the Danes Canute V and Sweyn III, Archbishop Adalbert II of Bremen, and Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony. Avoiding pitched battles, Niklot ably defended the marshland of Dobin. One army of Danes was defeated by Slavs from Dobin, while another had to defend the Danish fleet from Niklot's allies, the Rani of Rügen. Henry and Adalbert maintained the siege of Dobin after the retreat of the Danes. When some crusaders advocated ravaging the countryside, others objected by asking, "Is not the land we are devastating our land, and the people we are fighting our people?" The Saxon army under Henry the Lion withdrew after Niklot agreed to have Dobin's garrison undergo baptism.
The Saxon army directed against Demmin was led by several bishops, including those of Mainz, Halberstadt, Münster, Merseburg, Brandenburg, Olmütz, and Bishop Anselm of Havelberg. While their stated goal was to achieve the conversion of the pagans, most also sought additional territory and tithe for their dioceses; Abbot Wibald of Corvey went in the hopes of acquiring the island of Rügen. The Demmin campaign also included the secular margraves Conrad I and Albert the Bear, who hoped to expand their marches. A Royal Polish contingent wanted to add to the Bishopric of Lebus. Marching from Magdeburg, Albert the Bear recovered Havelberg, lost since the 983 Slavic rebellion. The crusaders then destroyed a pagan temple and castle at Malchow. After an unsuccessful siege of Demmin, a contingent of crusaders was diverted by the margraves to attack central Pomerania instead. They reached the already Christian city Szczecin, whereupon the crusaders dispersed after meeting with Bishop Adalbert of Pomerania and Christian duke Ratibor I of Pomerania.
The Wendish Crusade achieved mixed results. While the Saxons affirmed their possession of Wagria and Polabia, Niklot retained control of the Obodrite land east of Lübeck. The Saxons also received tribute from Niklot, enabled the colonization of the Bishopric of Havelberg, and freed some Danish prisoners. However, the disparate Christian leaders, mostly Canute and Sweyn, regarded their counterparts with suspicion and accused each other of sabotaging the campaign.
According to Bernard of Clairvaux, the goal of the crusade was to battle the pagan Slavs "until such a time as, by God's help, they shall either be converted or deleted". However, the crusade failed to achieve the conversion of most of the Wends. In preaching the Crusade, Bernard had urged to not make truce or accept any form of tribute, but the crusaders did receive tribute from Niklot as mentioned, which contributed to Bernard's perception of the crusade as a failure. The Saxons achieved largely token conversions at Dobin, as the Slavs returned to their pagan beliefs once the Christian armies dispersed; Albert of Pomerania explained, "If they had come to strengthen the Christian faith ... they should have done so by preaching, not by arms". There was no Wendish clergy established nor any Christian literature translated into the language of the Wends. Without any institutions in place, the forced conversion of the Wends was not sustainable. The only successful conversions were achieved by the Danes. The Danes recaptured the island of Rugen in 1168 and was able to re-Christianize it through the establishment of churches and by allowing Prince Jaromit of Rugen to remain in power after he fully accepted Christianity. The Danes were able to be successful through their method of encouraging Christianity rather than focusing solely on controlling the newly acquired land.
The countryside of Mecklenburg and central Pomerania was plundered and depopulated with much bloodshed, especially by the troops of Henry the Lion. Of Henry's campaigns, Helmold of Bosau wrote that "there was no mention of Christianity, but only of money". The Slavic inhabitants also lost much of their methods of production, limiting their resistance in the future. In this way, the Crusade could be viewed as a success in terms of its successful acquisition of Slavic lands as it encouraged colonization by German peasants. It also began a long-lasting crusade against the Wends that lasted the rest of the twelfth century. By the 1160s, most of the Wends had come under the control of the Saxons or the Danes. However, in 1180 when Henry the Lion and Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa had a falling out, the Danes were able to assert political control over a majority of the region. The effects of the Wendish Crusade was long-lasting through the impacts it had on extending political and colonial power in the Baltic region.
Adalbert of Pomerania (German: Adalbert or Albert von Pommern, Polish: Wojciech I) (born before 1124; died 1162) was the first bishop of the 12th century Pomeranian bishopric, with its see in Wolin (also Jumne, Julin). He was a monk of the Michaelsberg Abbey, Bamberg and former chaplain to Bolesław III Wrymouth of Poland, whence he knew the Pomeranian language of the temporarily Polish-subjugated West Slavic population, whereas the Joms Vikings and other Germanic inhabitants of the Pomeranian coast understood his old German language.
The territory was put under the jurisdiction of the archbishopric of Magdeburg by Holy Roman emperor Otto I, King of Germany. In 1133 the Magdeburg archbishop Saint Norbert received verification by the pope of his jurisdiction over a number of dioceses, including those in Pomerania. However, bishop Otto of Bamberg had actually baptized the Pomeranians and therefore thought to add it to his southern Bamberg archdiocese and in order to avoid conflicts, pope Innocent II exempted the Pomeranian bishopric(s). When Wolin was destroyed several times by Danes, the diocese was moved to Cammin (also Kammin, now Kamień Pomorski ); this bishopric became known as the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kammin.
The priest Adalbert participated in the conversion of the pagan inhabitants of Pomerania (Lutici and Slavic Pomeranians) during the missionary expeditions of Otto of Bamberg in 1124 and 1128, when he aided Otto as his assistant and interpreter. Adalbert is assumed to be of Polish origin.In 1139 Otto of Bamberg died and was followed by Egilbert of Bamberg, who received the jurisdiction over the Pomeranian diocese. In 1140 Adalbert went to Rome, where he was invested as bishop of Pomerania in Wolin from 1140 to 1162.Adolf II of Holstein
Adolf II of Holstein (c. 1128 – 6 July 1164) was the Count of Schauenburg and Holstein from 1130 until his death, though he was briefly out of Holstein from 1137 until 1142. He succeeded his father Adolf I under the regency of his mother, Hildewa.
After the death of the Emperor Lothair II (1137), the new king, Conrad III, granted the Duchy of Saxony to Albert the Bear. Adolf was consequently deprived of Holstein because he was a Welf supporter and refused to recognise Albert as duke. He only received it back in 1142 when Conrad and Henry the Lion were reconciled.
In 1143, Henry and Adolf divided the rule of the conquered Slavic lands to their east. Adolf received Wagria with its chief city, the castle of Sigberg, built by Lothair, and Henry received Polabia with Ratzeburg as its capital. Sigberg became Adolf's chief fortress and most regular seat. Adolf promoted Christianity in his new lands, especially through the missionary work of Vicelinus. Adolf, encouraged by Lothair, promoted German colonisation of his Slavic territories, especially with colonists from not only his own lands but also from Westphalia, Flanders, Holland, Utrecht, and Frisia.
In 1143 or 1144, Adolf built Lübeck, the first German port on the Baltic Sea. Adolf also built the first castle (1143) in Lübeck: a wood and earth construction. In 1157, Lübeck was burned and rebuilt by Henry the Lion, to whom Adolf transferred it in 1159.
Adolf supported Sweyn III of Denmark against the claimant Canute V in a dispute over the Danish throne. Canute, with the help of Etheler von Dithmarschen, attacked Holstein and burned Oldenburg in Holstein, devastating the German north coast.In 1159, Adolf accompanied the Emperor Frederick I into Italy and in 1164 he aided Henry the Lion against the Obotrites, dying in the Battle of Verchen. He was buried in Minden. He was succeeded by his son, Adolf III, under the regency of his widow, Mechtild of Schwarzburg-Käfernburg.Albert the Bear
Albert the Bear (German: Albrecht der Bär; Latin: Adelbertus, Adalbertus, Albertus; c. 1100 – 18 November 1170) was the first Margrave of Brandenburg (as Albert I) from 1157 to his death and was briefly Duke of Saxony between 1138 and 1142.Anselm of Havelberg
Anselm of Havelberg (c. 1100 – 1158) was a German bishop and statesman, and a secular and religious ambassador to Constantinople. He was a Premonstratensian, a defender of his order and a critic of the monastic life of his time, and a theorist of Christian history. According to Friedrich Heer, "the peculiar course of Anselm's life made this much-travelled man the theologian of development, of progress, of the right of novelty in the Church".Canute V of Denmark
Canute V Magnussen (Danish: Knud V Magnussen) (c. 1129 – 9 August 1157) was a King of Denmark from 1146 to 1157, as co-regent in shifting alliances with Sweyn III and Valdemar I. Canute was killed at the so-called Bloodfeast of Roskilde in 1157. Nothing certain is known about his person and character.Christianization of Pomerania
Medieval Pomerania was converted from Slavic paganism to Christianity by Otto von Bamberg in 1124 and 1128 (Duchy of Pomerania), and in 1168 by Absalon (Principality of Rügen).
Earlier attempts at Christianization, undertaken since the 10th century, failed or were short-lived. The new religion stabilized when the Pomeranian dukes founded several monasteries and called in Christian, primarily German settlers during the Ostsiedlung. The first Pomeranian abbey was founded in 1153 at the site where the first Christian duke of Pomerania, Wartislaw I, was slain by a pagan. The Duchy of Pomerania was organized by the Roman Catholic Church in the Bishopric of Cammin in 1140. Pomeranian areas not belonging to the duchy at this time were attached to the dioceses of Włocławek (East), Roskilde (Rügen) and Schwerin (West).Conrad, Margrave of Meissen
Conrad I (c. 1097 – 5 February 1157), called the Great (German: Konrad der Große), a member of the House of Wettin, was Margrave of Meissen from 1123 and Margrave of Lusatia from 1136 until his retirement in 1156. Initially a Saxon count, he became the ruler over large Imperial estates in the Eastern March and progenitor of the Saxon electors and kings.Conrad I, Duke of Zähringen
Conrad I, Duke of Zähringen (c. 1090 – 8 January 1152 in Constance) was Duke of Zähringen from 1122 until his death and from 1127 also Rector of Burgundy. He spent most of his life stemming the growing power of the House of Hohenstaufen and to this end, allied himself with the House of Guelph.Divina dispensatione
Divina dispensatione is the name for two papal bulls issued by Pope Eugene III. The first was issued on 5 October 1146 to the clergy of Italy, urging Italians to join the Second Crusade. The second was issued on 11 April 1147 at Troyes and called for the Wendish Crusade against the pagan Slavs. In the second bull Eugene declared:
Certain of you, however, (are) desirous of participating in so holy a work and reward and plan to go against the Slavs and other pagans living towards the North and to subject them, with the Lord's assistance, to the Christian religion. We give heed to the devotion of these men, and to all those who have not accepted the cross for going to Jerusalem and who have decided to go against the Slavs and to remain in the spirit of devotion on that expedition, as it is prescribed, we grant that same remission of sin...and the same temporal privileges as to the crusaders to Jerusalem.Helmold
Helmold of Bosau (ca. 1120 – after 1177) was a Saxon historian of the 12th century and a priest at Bosau near Plön. He was a friend of the two bishops of Oldenburg in Holstein, Vicelinus (died 1154) and Gerold (died 1163), who did much to Christianize the Polabian Slavs.Henry the Lion
Henry the Lion (German: Heinrich der Löwe; 1129/1131 – 6 August 1195) was a member of the Welf dynasty and Duke of Saxony, as Henry III, from 1142, and Duke of Bavaria, as Henry XII, from 1156, the duchies of which he held until 1180.
He was one of the most powerful German princes of his time, until the rival Hohenstaufen dynasty succeeded in isolating him and eventually deprived him of his duchies of Bavaria and Saxony during the reign of his cousin Frederick I Barbarossa and of Frederick's son and successor Henry VI.
At the height of his reign, Henry ruled over a vast territory stretching from the coast of the North and Baltic Seas to the Alps, and from Westphalia to Pomerania. Henry achieved this great power in part by his political and military acumen and in part through the legacies of his four grandparents.Jindřich Zdík
Henry Zdík (in Czech: Jindřich Zdík) (c. 1083 - 1150 Prague) was bishop of Olomouc from 1126 to 1150.
In 1141, with papal authorization, Zdik undertook a mission against the Prussians, leading directly to his involvement with the Wendish Crusade of 1147.After his pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1138 he had the idea of founding a monastery of regular canons in Prague, which would materialize as Strahov Monastery. Zdík had the support of the bishops of Prague, the Duke of Bohemia Soběslav I, and—after his death—Vladislav II. After Zdík's first unsuccessful attempt to found a Czech variant of the canons' order at the place called Strahov in 1140, an invitation was issued to the Premonstratensians, whose first representatives arrived from Steinfeld in the Rhine valley (Germany).
Hildebert and Everwin, two medieval manuscript illuminators, worked in the scriptorium under Bishop Zdík.Niklot
Niklot or Nyklot (1090 – August 1160) was a chief or prince of the Slavic Obotrites and an ancestor of the House of Mecklenburg. He became chief of the Obotrite confederacy, including the Kissini and the Circipani, between the years 1130 and 1131. He remained in this position until his death in 1160. At the same time he was Lord of (Herr zu) Schwerin, Quetzin and Malchow. For nearly 30 years he resisted Saxon princes, especially Henry the Lion during the Wendish Crusade.Northern Crusades
The Northern Crusades or Baltic Crusades were religious wars undertaken by Catholic Christian military orders and kingdoms, primarily against the pagan Baltic, Finnic and West Slavic peoples around the southern and eastern shores of the Baltic Sea, and to a lesser extent also against Orthodox Christian Slavs (East Slavs). The crusades took place mostly in the 12th and 13th centuries and resulted in the mass extermination, subjugation and forced baptism of indigenous peoples.
The most notable campaigns were the Livonian and Prussian crusades. Some of these wars were called crusades during the Middle Ages, but others, including most of the Swedish ones, were first dubbed crusades by 19th-century romantic nationalist historians. However, crusades against northern pagans were authorized by Pope Alexander III in the bull Non parum animus noster, in 1171 or 1172 .Pope Eugene III
Pope Eugene III (Latin: Eugenius III; c. 1080 – 8 July 1153), born Bernardo Pignatelli, called Bernardo da Pisa, was Pope from 15 February 1145 to his death in 1153. He was the first Cistercian to become Pope. In response to the fall of Edessa to the Muslims in 1144, Eugene proclaimed the Second Crusade. The crusade failed to recapture Edessa, which was the first of many failures by the Christians in the crusades to recapture lands won in the First Crusade.
He was beatified on 28 December 1872 by Pope Pius IX on the account of his sanctity.Ratibor I, Duke of Pomerania
Ratibor I (Racibor) (c. 1124 – 1156) of the House of Pomerania (Griffins) was Duke of Pomerania. He was married to Pribislawa, and was the ancestor of the Ratiborides sideline of the Griffins.
Initially he might have ruled the Land of Słupsk-Sławno and also ruled the duchy of his brother Wartislaw I who was slain by pagans in place of his minor sons from 1136 to 1156.
In 1135, he raided the Norwegian city of Kungahälla (now Kungälv in Sweden).
During the Wendish Crusade in 1147, he managed to end the siege of Szczecin together with Wolin bishop Adalbert.
In 1153, Ratibor and Adalbert founded Stolpe Abbey at the Peene River near Gützkow.
With Pribislawa Iaroslavovna (Princess of Volhynia), he had at least four children.
Swantepolk II (or Swantopolk), who succeeded his father in Słupsk-Sławno
Margareta (or Margarete) ∞ Bernhard I of Ratzeburg
Bogislav (or Wartislaw)
DobroslawaSweyn III of Denmark
Sweyn III Grathe (Danish: Svend III Grathe) (c. 1125 – 23 October 1157) was the King of Denmark between 1146 and 1157, in shifting alliances with Canute V and his own cousin Valdemar I. In 1157, the three agreed a tripartition of Denmark. Sweyn attempted to kill his rivals at the peace banquet, and was subsequently defeated by Valdemar I at the Battle of Grathe Heath and killed.Vicelinus
Saint Vicelinus (also Vicelin, German: Vizelin; 1086 – December 12, 1154) was a German bishop of Oldenburg in Holstein who was considered the apostle of Holstein.Wibald
Wibald (Latin: Wibaldus abbas Stabulensis et Corbeiensis) (early 1098 – 19 July 1158) was a 12th-century Abbot of Stavelot (Stablo) and Malmedy, both in present-day Belgium, and of Corvey in Germany.
In the Holy Land (1095–1291)
Northern Crusades (1147–1410)