History of Pomerania: Content
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Pomeranian_Griffin: Worldwide Group for Pomeranian History, Culture and Genealogy

4. From the Middle of the 13th Century to the Death of Bogislaw X (1250-1523)

If we look beyond the borders of Pomerania, in an eastward direction across the Leba, we see that, as already mentioned, since the 12th century a near relative, probably a brother, of the Duke of Pomerania-Stettin ruled. He and his descendants were called the Ratiborids. Since that time, the territory had also been claimed by the central entity in Stettin. From the perspective of administration - in so far as one can speak of administration at that date - Schlawe and Stolp were two "castle districts." The western one, Schlawe, temporarily belonged to Denmark at the beginning of the 13th century; ecclesiastically, it was part of the Pomeranian diocese of Kammin. The region around Stolp, however, until it became part of Pomerania in 1317, was the Archdeaconry of Gnesen. At that time it also came de facto to the Diocese of Kammin, which was, however, first officially established under canon law by means of the papal confirmation of the exemption in 1349.

After the Ratiborid dynasty died out in 1227, Stolp fell directly to East Pomerania, while Schlawe came under the influence of the Gryphon family. After 1236, both of them - Schlawe and Stolp - belonged to the eastern neighbor, Pomerania-Danzig (Pomerellen) under the Samborid dynasty. In Schlawe, the Danes ruled temporarily from 1217 until the Battle of Bornhoeved in 1227. Even after that, the Samborids were far from securely in possession of Schlawe. Between 1257 and 1347, under the Samborids and their successors, another family built up a nearly independent lordship. It first appears in history in the person of Swenzo the Elder, a "palatine" (Voivod, or representative of the sovereign in all civil and military matters) and is therefore called the Swenzons. This family disappeared in the middle of the 14th century, although a branch of it presumably survived in the von Puttkamer family, which uses the coat-of-arms of the Swenzons, the fish-gryphon. In 1312, the Swenzons gave the laws of Luebeck to Ruegenwalde; in 1317 to Schlawe, and in 1343 to Zanow.

When the dynasty in Pomerania-Stettin, the Samborids, became extinct in 1294, there were at first new disorders. In 1306, Schlawe-Stolp fell to the Ascanians in Brandenburg. Other portions of Pomerania-Stettin were purchased in 1309 by the religious-military order of the Teutonic Knights. In the Treaty of Templin in 1317, the Ascanians gave up Schlawe-Stolp to Pomerania-Wolgast. In 1329, Stolp and the territory that belonged to it (Stolper Land), which like all of Pomerania-Wolgast at that point was being administered as a regency or guardianship by the Stettin line, was pawned for twelve years until 1341, to the Teutonic Knights. In 1329, the Teutonic Knights also bought the territory of Buetow. It was not until 1455/66 that Lauenburg and Buetow became part of (Hither) Pomerania. By dint of great financial efforts on the part of the inhabitants of the town and rural areas of the city and territory of Stolp, the nobility, and the town citizens, Stolp was, in 1341, redeemed from its pawnship status on schedule. From that point onward, it belonged firmly to Pomerania (-Wolgast). As late as 1300, the thinly settled territory in the east had scarcely been Christianized. Christianity first became established in the 14th century. More or less at the same time, the region was settled by Germans, although Slavs continued to participate in the development of the territory.

By describing these developments in Schlawe and Stolp, we have gotten a little bit ahead of internal developments in Pomerania itself. We will now turn back to those. From the early 13th century onwards, the diocese of Kammin expanded its influence at the cost of Schwerin, Posen, and Gnesen. It became a very large bishopric. In 1240, Duke Barnim I took the tithes (church income) due to the Bishop of Kammin in fief. In return, he transferred the territory of Stargard t the bishop "as of right and as his own," by which the Bishop became the sovereign. In 1248, the diocese exchanged Stargard for the territory of Kolberg. The bishops became very energetic supporters of German settlement, and in 1255 raised Kolberg to the status of a city with the laws and privileges of Luebeck. In 1266, they founded Koeslin; about a decade later, before 1274, Naugard was also founded. Kolberg and Koeslin developed into governmental centers of the territory. In 1276, Kolberg became the residence of the bishop; the administration was located at Koeslin. In 1339, it acquired the territory of Bublitz. In 1356, the diocese was required to acknowledge the "protective overlordship" of the Pomeranian dukes.

In 1295, the Holy Roman Emperor Adolph of Nassau confirmed the feudal suzerainty of Brandenburg over Pomerania that Emperor Frederick II had granted in 1231. On July 12, 1295, at Stettin, with strong participation of the Estates (the knights and the cities), a new partition of Pomerania occurred. The partition was done in such a way that although two family lines had separate sub-territories, the unity of the Duchy as a whole was maintained. Bogislaw IV received the northern part of Pomerania-Wolgast with Demmin and Anklam (the coastal regions). Otto I received the part south of the River Peene and the Ihna, with Stettin and Pomerania-Stettin (the Oder region). The administration of justice for serious crimes, all rivers, and all harbors, continued to be managed in common. The division into Pomerania-Wolgast and Pomerania-Stettin continued until the Stettin line of the dynasty died out in the year 1464.

It is interesting that the terms of this partition established the Magdeburg, or Stettin, legal system in Pomerania-Stettin, while Pomerania-Wolgast adopted the Luebeck law code. This is an example of the very strong position of the Estates, especially of the representatives of the cities, who took part in this partition. In addition to eight nobles, four citizens of Stettin were present. Representatives of the cities are documented to have been present at all meetings of the Estates [parliaments] after 1233. The first meetings can already be found in the 12th century, when the feudal vassals of the dukes met to consider and advise upon the concerns of the entire land. From 1231 onwards, these meetings can be regarded as the bearers of the unity of the territory and the laws of the territory. In 1278, they consented to a territorial tax. At that time, the clergy was probably represented as one of the Estates. However, the clergy was only consistently represented after 1415 (the bench of prelates). From the end of the 13th century onwards, the Estates of Pomerania had a very strong position. Their existence contributed significantly to the fact that during the numerous territorial partitions that took place at the end of the 14th century and in the 14th century, awareness of the unity of all Pomerania was not lost.

When the princely house of Ruegen died out in 1325, the Ruegen War of Succession broke out between Pomerania and Mecklenburg (1326-1328). At the Peace of Brudersdorf, the Dukes of Pomerania emerged as the victors. The principality of Ruegen became a part of the Duchy of Pomerania-Wolgast. After the Ascanian dynasty in the Margraviate of Brandenburg died out in 1319/1320, Pomerania renewed its attempts to shake off Brandenburg's feudal suzerainty. However, in 1323, the German King, Ludwig [Louis] the Bavarian, enfeoffed his son Louis, "the Brandenburger," not only with Brandenburg, but also with Pomerania. Pomerania's dukes thereupon did homage for their land to Pope John XXII, an opponent of Ludwig the Bavarian, and received it back from him as a fief. However, this maneuver did not have the hoped-for success.

It was not until after Pomerania defeated Brandenburg in 1332, at the Battle of Kremmer Damm, that Duke Barnim III of Pomerania-Stettin (circa 1300-1368), who was one of the most effective and successful of the Pomeranian dukes, managed to obtain a cancellation of Brandenburg's feudal suzerainty over Pomerania. At the Imperial Diet of Frankfurt am Main in 1338, representing the interests of all Pomerania, including those of the Wolgast line, he was acknowledged to be a direct vassal of the Holy Roman Emperor, with no intermediate feudal suzerain between Pomerania and the Empire. However, although he attained this "immediate" or "unmediatized" status, Barnim III had to accept the condition that Brandenburg would inherit Pomerania, or at least Pomerania-Stettin, in case that the Gryphon dynasty became extinct. It was also Duke Barnim III who began the construction of the castle in Stettin, among other things.

The condition of a contingent inheritance to Brandenburg was lifted by the next ruler of Germany in 1348. The German king Charles IV (1347-1378), who belonged to the Luxemburg dynasty, enfeoffed Duke Barnim III and his Wolgast cousins jointly with all of Pomerania and Ruegen on June 12, 1348. He also entrusted them, as princes of the Holy Roman Empire, with the office of Masters of the Imperial Hunt. Pomerania had become an immediate principality of the Empire. In spite of the enfeoffment of all the dukes with Ruegen, the dukes of Pomerania-Wolgast continued to acknowledge the Danish feudal suzerainty over this principality. In 1355, after Charles IV's coronation as Holy Roman Emperor, Barnim III had the enfeoffment confirmed; it was repeated once more in 1357 in full ceremonial form. In 1365, he accompanied the emperor to Avignon. Charles IV had previously, in 1363, married Elizabeth (1347-1393), daughter of Duke Bogislaw V of Pomerania-Wolgast, as his fourth wife.

In the years 1346-1350, and then repeatedly throughout the second half of the 15th century, the Black Death, or bubonic plague, was epidemic in Pomerania. By the end of the century, it had killed between a fourth and a third of the population. During the same period, about the same portion of the settled land was deserted. Simultaneously, grain prices fell, while manufactured products from the cities, because of the shortage of workers, became consistently more expensive. All levels of the rural population became impoverished.

In 1359, the County of Guetzkow, which had already been a Pomeranian fief since 1216 or 1219, fell to Pomerania-Wolgast. With this acquisition, Pomerania had now attained, basically, its final external territorial boundaries. [Internally, the boundaries between the sub-principalities continued to change.] The splintering of Pomerania had begun with the partition of 1295. The sub-duchy of Wolgast underwent additional subdivisions. In 1368, and finally in 1372, it was divided in such a manner that the lands east of the Swine River made themselves independent as "Hither Pomerania" or "Pomerania-Stolp." This partial duchy continued until 1459, when it was divided between Wolgast and Stettin. The western portions of Pomerania-Wolgast, with Ruegen, were divided in 1376, 1425, and 1457 into the sub-duchies Barth and Wolgast. None of these divisions proved to be permanent: in 1393, in 1451, and then finally in 1478, Pomerania-Barth was reabsorbed into Pomerania-Wolgast.

During these years, when there were major conflicts between the Order of the Teutonic Knights and its opponents, especially Poland, the dukes of Pomerania did not follow any consistent policy. Rather, almost every individual duke had his own, variable, position. Once more, Pomerania and its sub-territories were the objects of historical events and not participants in a position to direct the developments. During these centuries when the many partitions of Pomerania were occurring and it was politically completely insignificant, there were two developments through which Pomerania temporarily attained significance throughout Europe, if only for a short time, and in the second case with an unfortunate outcome. Many of the towns with German legal systems that had been founded in Pomerania and Ruegen in the 13th century attained, over the course of time, significant economic importance. Some of them became members of the loose confederacy of cities called the Hanseatic League. In addition to Stettin, Greifswald, Anklam, Stargard, and, most importantly, Stralsund are noteworthy. Altogether, there were eighteen Hanseatic towns in Pomerania.

In 1361 Waldemar IV Atterdag, the king of Denmark, conquered the island of Gotland, one of the most significant trade and exchange locations of the Hanseatic League, and demolished its fleet. Having become master of the Sound, he thus threatened the trade between the Baltic Sea and the North Sea, which was of crucial importance for the Hanseatic League. In 1367, the affected cities finally joined in an alliance against Denmark, called the Confederation of Cologne. The alliance was extraordinarily successful from a military perspective: it took Copenhagen, Schonen, and Helsingborg. The peace treaty was worked out by the cities in 1370 at Stralsund. During this glorious period of the Hansa's existence, Bertram Wulflam, who had been mayor of Stralsund since 1360, was its leading political thinker and had, along with his Luebeck colleagues, great influence throughout the northern parts of Europe. The provisions of the peace treaty made in his city guaranteed the preeminence of the Hanseatic League in the Baltic Sea, and Shonen came temporarily under the administration of the Hansa.

The Peace of Stralsund guaranteed the allied cities of the Hanseatic League a voice in the election of the next king of Denmark. With the assent of the Hansa, the crown of Denmark went to Waldemar IV's daughter Margaret (1374/87-1412), one of the strongest personalities among the rulers in northern Europe during the Middle Ages. She was also Queen of Norway (which included the Faroe, Shetland, and Orkney Islands, Iceland, and Greenland). Since 1380, Norway had been joined with Denmark in a "personal union" and continued to be part of Denmark until 1814. In 1388, Margaret was also acknowledged as Queen by the magnates of Sweden (which included Finland, the Aland Islands, Gothland, and Oeland). Thus, she united in her person, the three northern kingdoms. In combination, they were the largest national grouping of the medieval period, although, to be sure, they lacked permanent bonds and therefore the union did not have a long duration. The widowed Queen Margaret only had one son, Olof, who predeceased her [leaving no children]. She therefore chose her great-nephew Bogislaw (born in 1381 or 1382, the son of Duke Wartislaw VII of Pomerania-Stolp) as her successor. The child went to Denmark in 1389 and assumed the name Erik (Erich). He is recorded in history as Erik the Pomeranian. [He was simultaneously Duke Erich I of Pomerania-Stolp and King Erik VII of Denmark.]

In 1397, Margaret the Great summoned the magnates of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden together at Kalmar, where they confirmed the personal union of the three kingdoms as the "Union of Kalmar." She also had Erik crowned as king of the Union, although he did not rule alone until after the queen's death in 1412. He called upon numerous towns in his lands to combine against the Hanseatic League. Between 1427 and 1429, he introduced tolls at the Sound, which continued to exist until 1857. In 1423, on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he passed through Pomerania and drew the Pomeranian duchies of the Wolgast and Stettin lines into a closer alliance. This was an important step towards his ambition of obtaining dominance over the whole Baltic region, a "dominium maris Baltici." Later, Erik began a long, bloody, and fruitless war against the counts of Holstein over the possession of southern Jutland, or Schleswig, which continued until 1435.

Even as king of the Union of Kalmar, Erich I, a twig of the Gryphon tree, did not forget his native Pomerania and his duties as a Duke of Pomerania. Consequently, in the so-called Diocese of Kammin Controversy, he acted as arbitrator. Since 1387, the dukes of Pomerania had claimed the right to administer the episcopal territories around Kolberg and Koeslin. This controversy also occupied the [Roman Catholic Church] Councils of Constance (1414-1416) and Basle (1431-1449). In 1417, at Constance, the bishop was enfeoffed with his diocese, which in 1422 received Imperial status (that is, became an immediate Imperial territory in its own right). In 1436, through the arbitration of King Erik VII, it was determined that the dukes of Pomerania must confirm every election of a Bishop of Kammin and every election of a member of the Cathedral Chapter at Kammin. It confirmed them in the "protective overlordship" that had been founded in 1356. In 1438, Erik the Pomeranian released Ruegen from the feudal suzerainty of Denmark.

The costs of Erik's war against Holstein, the blockade of the northern harbors by the hostile Hansa (whose privileges he had been forced to restore in 1435 under humiliating conditions), and an unfortunate internal policy directed against the interests of the magnate families of Sweden and Norway, caused the component countries of the Union of Kalmar to revolt against the king. In 1435, after making peace with the Hansa and with Holstein, he was forced to give up his plan of installing his nephew, Duke Bogislaw IX of Pomerania-Stolp, as his successor. He was first deposed in Denmark in 1439; then in Sweden; and in 1442 also lost the crown of Norway In 1439, a sulking Erik withdrew to Gothland. From this base, he conducted a guerilla campaign against his former kingdoms. When, in 1449, Sweden organized itself with the intention of conquering Gothland, the king returned to his native land, the little duchy of Pomerania-Stolp. There, he personally took over the administration, and didn't do a bad job. In the middle of renewed controversies within his own dynasty and simultaneous feuds between individual cities and individual noble families, Erik the Pomeranian died in 1459. He was the only member of the Gryphon dynasty who attempted - even if, in the last instance, unsuccessfully - to function politically as one of the great powers [of Europe].

In spite of the decisions and [Imperial] privileges of the years 1338 and 1348, and in spite of disorders within the Margraviate of Brandenburg, its electors did not give up their claim to feudal suzerainty over Pomerania. The hostilities between Pomerania-Stettin and the Margraviate revived (or continued). In 1412 a war began over possession of the Uckermark. In 1420, Pomerania, along with its allies, Mecklenburg, Magdeburg, Denmark, and Poland, lost the deciding battle at Angermuende and had to renounce the Uckermark, which since 1354 had again belonged to Pomerania. In the course of the campaigns, which almost totally devastated the Uckermark, the dukes of Pomerania were declared outlaws by the Holy Roman Empire. In spite of this, they received (like Duke Wartislaw IX of Pomerania-Barth a short time previously) an Imperial letter of enfeoffment at Constance in 1417. For the Dukes of Pomerania-Stettin, however, this was granted only under the condition that the hereditary claims of Elector Frederick I of Brandenburg, who was a member of the House of Hohenzollern, be recognized. Thereby, everything that had been achieved in 1338/1348 was again placed into question.

Duke Erich II, who governed from 1457 to 1474, was able, in an alliance with Poland against the Teutonic Knights, was able to acquire the lands of Lauenburg and Buetow in 1455. This addition to his territories was confirmed in the Second Peace of Thorn in 1466 as a possession held in pawn from Poland. In 1459, he inherited the possessions of Erik I (the Pomeranian), Duke of Pomerania-Stolp. When the Pomerania-Stettin line of the Gryphon dynasty died out in 1464, the issue of inheritance of its territories arose. It ended in the Stettin War of Succession, because Elector Frederick II of Brandenburg claimed the Duchy of Stettin as an escheated fief. He and his brother, Albrecht Achilles, were successful. In 1466, they received Stettin as an Imperial fief from Emperor Frederick III (1440-1493). This grant was renewed in 1470. At Soldin in 1466, and in the Treaty (or Peace) of Prenzlau of May 31, 1472, Albrecht Achilles of Brandenburg, who in the meantime had become the sole ruler of the Margraviate, enfeoffed Dukes Erich II and Wartislaw with the part [of Pomerania that was the] Duchy of Pomerania-Stettin, which was confirmed by the emperor in 1473.

The Uckermark, which had again suffered greatly during the hostilities, remained in the possession Brandenburg, which had gained an intermediate goal - feudal suzerainty over at least the Stettin portion [of the Duchy of Pomerania]. It also attained the right to continue to include the Pomeranian coat of arms (with the exception of that of Ruegen) in its own. In spite of these limitations, Pomerania Stettin, as of 1472/1473, was again, for the first time since the partition of 1295, again united with the Wolgast portion of the territory. The Gryphon dynasty, in its struggle to retain Pomerania-Stettin, has been supported effectively by professors at the duchy's new University of Greifswald. Dr. Matthias von Wedel (who died in Wiener Neustadt in 1466) deserves special mention as an especially talented and eloquent negotiator. Bogislaw X, the son of Erich II, held a united Pomerania in his hands from 1476 onwards. He is regarded as the most successful duke of the Gryphon dynasty, which is valid for at least the first three decades of his rule. In regard to external affairs, he sought to obtain an end to the suzerainty of Brandenburg. His first marriage, unhappy and childless, was with Margaret, the daughter of Elector Frederick II of Brandenburg. The marriage alliance did not prevent war from breaking out between the two old enemies in 1476. Elector Albrecht successfully invaded Pomerania from Koenigsberg in the Neumark. After an unsuccessful arbitration attempt by the Polish king, the Dukes of Mecklenburg managed to persuade the opponents to come to an agreement and Prenzlau at the end of June 1479. The Pomeranian, however, had to do homage for his entire land - that is, also for the Wolgast portion - to Brandenburg, which was still occupying a series of locations.

Bogislaw X remarried in 1491 to Duchess Anna, the daughter of King Kasimir IV of Poland, who had been widowed since 1469. At the beginning of the 1490s, the disturbances with Brandenburg again led to war. In March 1493, as the result of arbitration by Emperor Frederick III and King Maximilian I (who ruled from 1493 to 1519), these ended in the Treaty of Pyritz. Elector Johann freed Bogislav from the feudal obligations and feudal oath, but retained the feudal suzerainty. This was expressly recognized by Maximilian in 1495, but was reduced to the right of the Brandenburg Hohenzollern dynasty to inherit Pomerania in case of the extension of the Gryphon dynasty in the male line. Bogislaw's external policies reached a certain conclusion in 1521 - although he had long since lost most of his energy and effectiveness - when he received an Imperial letter of enfeoffment at the Diet of Worms, over Brandenburg's protest.

When the Holy Roman Empire was divided in six (or ten) Imperial Circles [administrative districts] at the beginning of the 16th century, Pomerania, along with the Margraviate of Brandenburg, Saxony, and a few smaller territories, was included in the Upper Saxon Circle. [There were six administrative districts if one considers only those within the boundaries of modern Germany; ten circles if one considers all of those in the Holy Roman Empire, which included Austria, the Netherlands, and other territories which now fall into other nations. Germany and the Holy Roman Empire were not co-terminous. Or, to put it another way, Germany was only one part of the Empire.]

In 1496, Bogislaw responded to Emperor Maximilian's call for a pilgrimage to Rome. He first went to Innsbruck, where he decided to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He left from Venice in 1497 and returned to Europe in November of the same year. In Rome, he met with Pope Alexander VI and obtained from him a so-called "Privilegium de non evocando," which granted him legal authority over ecclesiastical matters within his territories. In Italy, he made the acquaintance of the famous Jurist Petrus of Ravenna, whom he persuaded to leave Padua and come to the University of Greifswald, where he taught from 1496 to 1503. However, he was not able to bring about a complete adoption of the practices of Roman Law [as opposed to German customary law] in Pomerania. In April 1496, the duke was again in Stettin, which had been his permanent residence since 1491. This establishment of a permanent residence is one indication that, from the perspective of internal policy, Bogislaw X was the actual founder of the Pomeranian state, which up to that point had functioned more as a dynastically determined personal union.

At his palace in Stettin, Bogislaw X created a central administration in the form of a collegial advisory council made up of clergy and nobles. He reorganized the chancery under the chancellor and the financial system under the territorial supervisor of revenue, as well as the judiciary. In the local administrative districts, the customary bailiffs were replaced by district administrators, appointed by the duke, who had to present their accounts to the supervisor of revenue. The district administrators, to be sure, were mostly drawn from the local nobility. In addition to the feudal military service owed by the knights, there were now also soldiers paid by the territorial ruler. He successfully repressed the custom of private feuds between noble families, and mounted patrols enforced order in the countryside.

From 1502 onwards, the great Augsburg trading company, the Fugger, had an agency in Stettin, and later also one in Stolp. The Stettin merchant house of Loitz was, under the duke, in the process of gaining a monopoly over the salt trade in all of northern Europe, and exported train to, for example, Marseilles. Its collapse in 1572 led to an economic crisis on Pomerania. During the rule of Bogislaw X, Pomerania said farewell to the Middle Ages and became a modern territorial state with firm boundaries and an administrative structure that was typical for the period.

Next Chapter: 5. The Era of Reformation and Wars of Religion (1500-1657)