There is good reason for Castles, the Duchy, and Lithuanian heraldry found in the largest nation in Europe for over 220 years during the Middle Ages. Teutonic Knights from the south and southwest as well as invaders from the north threatened the homeland.
The start of the Teutonic Order’s regular offensive against Lithuania was noted by the famous words of Teutonic chronicler Peter of Dusburg:
In the year 1283 A.D., 53 years after the beginning of the war with Prussian tribe when all the nations of this land were already conquered and exterminated so that there was none who would not humbly bend to the Holy Roman Church, brothers of the Teutonic Order started the war with that mighty, stiff-necked and battle-trained tribe, which lived in the neighborhood of the Prussian Land, across the Nemunas River in the land of Lithuania.
The major fights ran along the Nemunas lower reaches, where the defensive system was still not sufficient to withstand the offensive. In 1290 the crusaders attacked the castle of Kolainiai (present Jurbarkas). Its captain Surminas resisted boldly. “Eventually all the men of the castle were wounded to death except for 12, and the blood ran down the walls flooding as a heavy rain,” – Peter of Dusburg wrote. Surminas managed to fend off the siege, but as soon as the crusaders withdraw, he deserted the Kolainiai castle, as it was too week to withstand the future attacks.
On April 22, 1291, Surminas built a new castle in the District of Junigeda. In the beginning sources called it Junigeda as well, but in 1315 the name of Veliuona appeared remaining till present.
Veliuona Castle was the strongest fortress in the Nemunas lower reaches. It had to resist the major offensive of the Teutonic Order, and the destiny of Lithuania itself was determined by its walls.
Something must be mentioned about these invaders to give perspective to the real happenings.
The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem, commonly the Teutonic Order (Today: German Order = Deutscher Orden, also Deutschherrenorden or Deutschritterorden), is a German medieval military order, and in modern times a purely religious Catholic order. It was formed to aid Christians on their pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to establish hospitals. Its members have commonly been known as the Teutonic Knights, since they also served as a crusading military order in the Middle Ages. The military membership was always small, with volunteers and mercenaries augmenting the force as needed. After the Reformation, the Bailiwick of Utrecht of the Order became Protestant; this branch still consists of knights, but the modern Roman Catholic order consists of Roman Catholic priests, nuns, and associates.
Active c. 1190 – present
Allegiance Holy Roman Emperor (1190-1806), Papacy
Type Catholic religious order (1192–1929 as military order)
Headquarters Acre (1192–1291) Venice (1291–1309) Marienburg (1309–1466) Königsberg (in Poland)(1466–1525) Mergentheim (1525–1809) Vienna (1809 – present)
Nickname Teutonic Knights, German Order
Patron The Virgin Mary, Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, & Saint George
Attire White mantle with a black cross
Commanders First Grand Master Heinrich Walpot von Bassenheim Current Grand Master Bruno Platter
Country State of the Teutonic Order (1237-1435), Livonian Confederation (1435-1561)
Branch Teutonic Order
Garrison/HQ Wenden(Cēsis), Fellin (Viljandi)
Battle honours: Livonian Crusade, Battle of the Ice, Livonian War
The Livonian Order was an autonomous Livonian branch of the Teutonic Order and a member of the Livonian Confederation from 1435 to 1561, across modern territory of Estonia and Latvia
After being defeated by Samogitians in the 1236 Battle of Schaulen (Saule), the remnants of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword were incorporated into the Teutonic Knights and became known as the Livonian Order in 1237.
The Teutonic Order fell into decline following its defeat in the Battle of Grunwald in 1410 and the secularization of its Prussian territories by Albert of Brandenburg in 1525, but the Livonian Order managed to maintain an independent existence.
During the Livonian War, however, the Order suffered a decisive defeat by troops of Muscovite Russia in the Battle of Ergeme in 1560. The Livonian Order then sought protection from Sigismund II Augustus, the King of Poland and the Grand Duke of Lithuania, who had intervened in a war between Bishop William of Riga and the Brothers in 1557.
After coming to an agreement with Sigismund II Augustus and his representatives (especially Mikołaj “the Black” Radziwiłł), the last Livonian Master, Gotthard Kettler, secularized the Order and converted to Lutheranism. In the southern part of the Brothers’ lands he created the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia for his family. Most of the remaining lands were seized by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The north of Estonia was taken back by Denmark and Sweden.
Livonian Brothers of the Sword
Livonian Brothers of the Sword (Fratres militiæ Christi Livoniae)
Country Terra Mariana
Allegiance Roman Catholic Church
Garrison/HQ Wenden (Cēsis), Fellin (Viljandi), Segewold (Sigulda). Ascheraden (Aizkraukle), Goldingen (Kuldīga), Marienburg (Alūksne), Reval (Tallinn), Weißenstein (Paide)
Battle honours Livonian Crusade
The Livonian Brothers of the Sword (Latin: Fratres militiæ Christi Livoniae, German: Schwertbrüderorden) were a military order founded by Bishop Albert of Riga in 1202. Pope Innocent III sanctioned the establishment in 1204. The membership of the order comprised German “warrior monks”. Alternative names of the Order include the Christ Knights, Sword Brethren, and The Militia of Christ of Livonia.
Albert, Bishop of Riga (or Prince-Bishop of Livonia), founded the Brotherhood in 1202 to aid the Bishopric of Livonia in the conversion of the pagan Livonians, Latgalians and Selonians living across the ancient trade routes from the Gulf of Riga eastwards.
The Brotherhood had its headquarters at Fellin (Viljandi) in present-day Estonia, where the walls of the Master’s castle still stand.