Leighton (2017 Congress)

Gregory Leighton
(School of History, Archaeology and Religion,
Cardiff University, United Kingdom

Intraverunt terram horroris et vaste solitudinis:
The Teutonic Order and Landscape Sacralisation in the Crusade to Prussia”

Abstract of Paper
To be Presented at the 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies
(Kalamazoo, 2017)

Session on “Military Orders and Crusades in Comparative Perspective
(The Levant, Spain, and the Baltic Region)”

Co-sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence and
the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Florida
Organized by Mildred Budny and Florin Curta
2017 Congress Program

Abstract of Paper

[Published on 15 March 2017]

The crusades to the Baltic Sea region lasted between the 12th and the 15th centuries. Their enemies, however, were neither the Saracens of the Eastern Mediterranean, the Moors in Spain, nor heretics in Southern France. Their forces blended crusading language and themes common to expeditions to the Holy Land, though the land to be conquered was not the navel of Christianity. While crusading as a phenomenon and institution was customarily centred on a sacred landscape (i.e. the recovery of Jerusalem), the Baltic expeditions reverse the order. Crusading could create a sacred landscape.

The Baltic expeditions also saw the first creation of a state controlled by a military order: namely the Teutonic Knights in Prussia and Livonia. As a military institution the knights were indispensable in terms of the conversion of the tribes inhabiting the eastern and western Baltic lands. The knights also dotted the formerly pagan landscape with churches and monasteries. The multi-faceted nature of the military orders’ involvement in the crusades to the Baltic Sea has generated much scholarship, which is reaching an international audience of researchers.

I wish to discuss how the Teutonic Order aided in creating and propagating a new Christian landscape in the Baltic Region, by focussing especially on Prussia in the thirteenth century. The material culture in the Baltic region, combined with the ideological function of the histories produced by brothers in the Order, makes for an interesting case to understand how landscapes became Christian through crusading. I would like to explore this case further by analysing the texts and using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to visually represent this process, and thus generate new results and points of departure for reassessing these unique expeditions to the frontiers of Christendom.