- Wendish Crusade
The Wendish Crusade ( _de. Wendenkreuzzug) was an 1147 campaign, one of the
Northern Crusadesand also a part of the Second Crusade, led primarily by the Kingdom of Germanyinside the Holy Roman Empireand directed against the Polabian Slavs(or " Wends").
By the early 12th century, the German archbishoprics of Bremen and Magdeburg sought the conversion of neighboring pagan
West Slavsto Christianity through peaceful means. During the preparation of the Second Crusade to the Holy Land, however, a papal bull was issued which supported a crusade against these Slavs.
The Slavic leader
Niklotpreemptively invaded Wagriain June, 1147, leading to the march of the crusaders in late summer, 1147. They achieved an ostensible baptism of Slavs at Dobinand were repulsed from Demmin. Another crusading army marched on the already Christian city Stettin, whereupon the crusaders dispersed upon arrival.
The Christian army, composed primarily of
Saxonsand Danes, forced tribute from the pagan Slavs and affirmed German control of Wagria and Polabia, but failed to convert the bulk of the population immediately.
Ottonian dynastysupported eastward expansion of the Holy Roman Empiretowards 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 Geroand 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 great Slavic rebellion in 983 reversed the initial German gains, however. While the burgwards allowed the Saxons to retain control of Meissen, they lost Brandenburg and Havelberg. The ElbeRiver thus became the eastern limit of German-Roman control.
By the early 12th century, the Archbishoprics of Bremen and Magdeburg sought the conversion of the pagan Slavs to Christianity through peaceful means: notable missionaries included Vicelin,
Norbert of Xanten, and Otto of Bamberg. Lacking support from the Salian dynastyof 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.
From 1140-43 Holsatian nobles advanced into
Wagriato permanently settle in the lands of the pagan Wagri. Count Adolf II of Holsteinand Henry of Badewidetook control of Polabian settlements which would later become Lübeckand 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. [Barraclough, p. 263]
The fall of Edessa in 1144 shocked
Christendom, causing Pope Eugenius IIIand St. Bernard of Clairvauxto preach a Second Crusadeto 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 Frankfurton 13 March 1147. Approving of the Saxons' plan, pope Eugenius issued a papal bullknown as the "Divina dispensatione" on 13 April; there was to be no difference between the spiritual rewards of the different crusaders. Those who volunteered to crusade against the Slavs were primarily Danes, Saxons, and Poles, [Davies, p. 362] although there were also some Bohemians. [Herrmann, p. 326] The German monarchy took no part in the crusade, which was led by Saxon families such as the Ascanians, Wettin, and Schauenburgers. [Herrmann, p. 328] Papal legate Anselm of Havelbergwas placed in overall command.
Upset at Adolph's participation in the crusade, Niklot preemptively invaded Wagria in June 1147, leading to the march of the crusaders in late summer 1147. After expelling the Obodrites from his territory, Adolf signed a peace treaty with Niklot. The remaining Christian crusaders targeted the Obodrite fort
Dobinand the Liutizianfort Demmin.
The forces attacking Dobin included those of the Danes Canute V and Sweyn III, Archbishop
Adalbert II of Bremen, and Duke Henry the Lionof 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?" [Christiansen, p. 55] 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 Corveywent 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 Pomeraniainstead. They reached the already Christian city Stettin, whereupon the crusaders dispersed after meeting with Bishop Albert of Pomeraniaand Christian Prince 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 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". [Christiansen, p. 53] However, the crusade failed to achieve the conversion of most of the Wends. The Saxons achieved largely token conversions at Dobin, as the Slavs resorted 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". [Christiansen, p. 54]
The countryside of
Mecklenburgand central Pomeraniawas plundered and depopulated with much bloodshed, especially by the troops of Henry the Lion. [Barraclough, p. 263] Of Henry's campaigns, Helmold of Bosauwrote that "there was no mention of Christianity, but only of money". [Barraclough, p. 263] The Slavic inhabitants also lost much of their methods of production, limiting their resistance in the future. [Herrmann, p. 327]
*cite book|last=Barraclough|first=Geoffrey|title=The Origins of Modern Germany|year=1984|publisher=W. W. Norton & Company|location=New York|pages=481|isbn=0-393-30153-2
*cite book|last=Christiansen|first=Eric|title=The Northern Crusades|year=1997|publisher=Penguin Books|location=London|pages=287|isbn=0-14-026653-4
*cite book|last=Davies|first=Norman|authorlink=Norman Davies|title=Europe: A History|year=1996|publisher=Oxford University Press|location=Oxford|pages=1365|isbn=0-06-097468-0
*cite book|last=Herrmann|first=Joachim|authorlink=|title=Die Slawen in Deutschland|year=1970|publisher=Akademie-Verlag GmbH|location=Berlin|pages=530|isbn=
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