Grand Master

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Old seal of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order

The Grand Master is the highest office in the Teutonic Order . It corresponds to that of a general superior and is not only present in the Teutonic Order: the Order of St. George , the Mercedarian Knights and, in the German official designation, the Kreuzherren with the Red Star know the title of Hochmeister .

The title originated in 1199, when the previous hospital fraternity was elevated to a religious knightly order with a master at its head. While the office could also be exercised by religious priests in the beginning, Pope Honorius III determined. in 1216 that the Grand Master was to be chosen from among the professed knights . This regulation was in force until 1923; only with the change into a clerical order did the office (again) come to the priestly brothers.

After the secularization of the order under the last Grand Master residing in Prussia, Albrecht von Brandenburg, in 1525, the German master Walther von Cronberg received from Emperor Charles V the right to call himself “Administrator of the Grand Master’s”. From 1530 to 1929 the office was therefore colloquially called "Hoch- und Deutschmeister".

Today the Grand Master is also the Superior General of the Teutonic Sisters and the Superior of the Institutes of Knights of Honor and Familiar . He receives the abbot's benediction , wears a shepherd's staff and miter and has the right to wear episcopal clothing. In addition to the pectoral cross, he also wears the knightly high master's cross on the koulanten and this also on the order's mantle. Since 2010 the Grand Master has also had the title of Abbot General .

Grand Master's Cross

Coat of arms of the Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order
Bronze statue of the 4th Grand Master Hermann von Salza , Marienburg
Monuments in the Marienburg

The Hochmeisterkreuz consists of a black cross on a silver background. Inside there is a golden rod cross with a lily at the ends, on it in the middle a coat of arms with a black eagle on a golden background.

Effective range

The Grand Master was and is the highest superior of the Teutonic Order. In Europe he was represented by the national masters, since he originally resided in the Holy Land as the highest secular and spiritual authority of the order . When he moved his seat to Europe after the fall of Acre , he had to assert himself against his landmasters. After moving to Prussia, he became the sovereign there and mainly took over the external representation of the order. Within the Order, however, its authority declined, as evidenced by the fact that various Grand Masters were forced to resign from the General Chapter . After the Reformation , his office was primarily a symbolic one, which was higher in rank than the power connected with it. Kammergut was the Meistertum Mergentheim , which, as imperial territory , granted the Grand Master - as ecclesiastical prince - both a seat and a vote on the ecclesiastical bench of the imperial council as imperial prelate. Most of the knights were in the service of foreign masters, so that through them he could exert a certain influence on their politics. One example is Caspar Anton von Belderbusch , Prime Minister in Kurköln . The Grand Master at the time ordered him back on his comrade, which de facto disempowered Belderbusch. Only the personal request of the Archbishop of Cologne was able to keep him at his post.

After the secularization, the influence of the office was derived from its holder, who was always a prince of the Austrian imperial family. The order, which now never included more than about 20 nobles, was mainly in the military of the k. and k. Represented monarchy . The Grand Master was therefore a special dignitary from Austria, who came from the imperial family and was in charge of a house order.

The end of the First World War ended the “shadowy existence” of the order. The leadership and thus the high master's office now came to the clergy of the order. According to Bishop Norbert Klein , the first cleric as Grand Master, the order threatened to disappear into oblivion. In order to counteract this, the Pope granted the Grand Master the dignity of abbot and in clothing the privileges of a bishop. As high as his reputation is today, he has the rank of ambassador in Austria. Within the order, he is of particular symbolic importance, but is in fact a guest of the prior of the Province of Austria. He is dependent on the taxes of the provinces, whose Ordinarius is not he, but the respective prior.

The Grand Master is at the same time the superior general of the Teutonic Sisters, who are incorporated into the Teutonic Order, and of the families of the Teutonic Order. He is elected by delegated brothers and sisters at the General Chapter for a six-year term.

Grand Master's residence

The residence of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order was originally Acre . This is where the order was founded, this is where it had its most important field of activity. After the fall of Acre (1291) he moved the seat to Venice. On the one hand, this was due to the fact that people still believed in returning to the Holy Land and, on the other hand, to the good relations with the Republic of Venice . It was not until 1309 that the seat was moved to the Marienburg in Prussia . This was associated with securing the independent own portfolio; for both the Papal States and the Republic of Venice were not a safe haven in times of upheaval. In addition, there was a strong current within the order, which saw the future of the order in the Baltic States. In June 1457 the seat was then transferred to Königsberg , as the order had lost the Marienburg.

After the Reformation and the loss of the Teutonic Order , the headquarters of the order was moved to Mergentheim , which belonged to the Deutschordensballei Franken . Its chamber property was the mastery of Mergentheim . Even if the grand masters did not necessarily reside here, the main administration of the order was in the Teutonic Order Palace there ; today the Teutonic Order Museum is located there . It was not until the secularization that the headquarters were relocated. After Mergentheim came to the Kingdom of Württemberg in 1809 , the new seat of the Grand Master was relocated in the same year in Vienna in the Teutonic Order House, where it is still today, with a second seat at the Moravian Freudenthal Castle until 1945 .

Clothing of the grand masters

Until 1923 the Grand Masters were always knights of the order. Like all knights of the order, he wore a white cloak over his shoulders, which reached slightly above the knee and, as seen from the wearer, on the right, was decorated with the Grand Master's Cross. He wore a ring on his right hand. After 1806 he wore a uniform consisting of a white top, black trousers and black boots, and the high masters cross on the coulant on the collar .

After the first clerical high master was bishop, the second clerical high master was elevated to the rank of abbot . At the same time he was granted a violet cassock , as worn by the bishops. On the head he wears a purple pileolus (skull cap) and a purple or white biretta as headgear . He wears the Grand Master's Cross on a black coulant on his neck and a pectoral (bishop's cross) on his chest . He wears a white coat over his shoulders, which extends to the floor and on which the high master's cross can also be seen. He wears a ring on his right hand. At Mass he is given the pontificals of the crosier and the miter.

See also


  • Udo Arnold (Ed.): The Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order 1190–2012 (= Sources and studies on the history of the Teutonic Order. Vol. 40 = Publications of the International Historical Commission for Research on the Teutonic Order. Vol. 6). Elwert, Weimar 2014, ISBN 978-3897398108 .
  • Uwe Ziegler: Cross and Sword. History of the Teutonic Order. Böhlau Verlag GmbH & Cie, Cologne et al. 2003, ISBN 3-412-13402-3 .

Web links

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