Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
When one of the princes – called Kondrad Mazowiecki – asked the Teutonic Order to settle down in a part of Poland that was repeatedly invaded by pagan tribes, nobody expected that it would bring so much trouble to the country. The Knights of the Teutonic Order helped to Christianize the tribes but they also created a powerful state that endangered the lands of Poland. They gained more and more power and territory, hoping also to get the rule over Zmudz – part of Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania.
In 1409 both – Wladyslaw Jagiello (the king of Poland and Lithuania) and the Teutonic Order Knights’ grand master knew that the conflict would lead to the military moves. Both states started to prepare for the war. The biggest battle (also one of the biggest battles of Medieval Europe) took place on 15th of July 1410 nearby the village called Grunwald.
The legend of Grunwald battle is still alive thanks to the mentions in the Polish chronicles, painting by Jan Matejko and the book by Henryk Sienkiewicz (called ‘the Teutonic Order knights’) as well as the movie based on it. It says about the intelligence of the king Wladyslaw Jagiello who made his knights and warriors wait in the woods while the warriors fighting for the Teutonic Order waited for the start of the battle (dressed in armour) for hours in the sun. The grand master of the Teutonic Order – Ulrich von Jungingen – took it as a cowardice. To encourage the Polish king he presented him two swords, that showed his doubts in the power of the united Polish and Lithuanian warriors. Jagiello, however, did not refuse them.
The Grunwald Battle was of course a big victory of Poles and Lithuanians. Although they might not have used the success as much as they could (but still saved Zmudz from the Teutonic Order’s rule). However, from then on the Teutonic Order was becoming less and less powerful. The 15th century brought more conflicts with the Teutonic Order and 100 years later the Teutonic Order was dissolved and its land was changed into the laic princedom.
The Grunwald Battle was always remembered by the Poles. During the partition, when the weak country was divided between 3 other countries, the issue of the battle was brought back to remind of the moments of powerful country that could still revive. The painting by Jan Matejko is still one of his most popular works while the movie called ‘the Teutonic Order knights’ is one of the most popular in Polish history.