Karl of Trier

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Karl of Trier
Grand Master's coat of arms of Karl von Trier

Karl Bessart von Trier (* around 1265 in Trier ; † February 11, 1324 ) was the 16th Grand Master of the Teutonic Order from 1311 to 1324.


Born around 1265, Karl came from the von Oeren patrician family in Trier . Two of his brothers, a nephew and even, in old age, his father had also joined the Teutonic Order. As members of the order, they also rose to some high positions.

Religious career

Karl was considered a man with a high level of education and brilliant diplomatic skills. He is said to have been so eloquent that supposedly his opponents also listened to him.

In the early 1290s he exercised the post of Commander in Beauvoir in the county of Champagne and was soon entrusted by the order with the management of the Balleien Lorraine and France. In 1304 he held the office of Grand Commander for a short time and in this function was the governor of Grand Master Siegfried von Feuchtwangen in Venice . As his successor, he was elected the new Grand Master in the summer of 1311 and resided at the new headquarters of the order at the Marienburg Order Castle near Danzig .

The years as head of the order

First term until 1317

Charles's tenure was marked by internal and external conflicts. Above all, the Archbishop of Riga, who was at the papal court, acted against the rule of the order in the Baltic States and initiated an inquisition against the religious. The relationship with the emerging Polish royal state under Wladyslaw I was also strained because of the Pomeranian question. In 1308/09 the Prussian friars occupied this land by force and incorporated it into the state. The new Grand Master tried to find a balance, especially with regard to the city of Danzig and the large Cistercian monasteries of Pelplin and Oliva . This earned him great sympathy outside the order, but his efforts met with internal resistance. Military campaigns by the order against the Lithuanians under their prince Gedimin were without long-term success, but were able to stabilize the border in the greater Ragnit area . Around 1315 there was also great famine in large parts of Europe. In the Prussian order association, factions were increasingly formed within the order leadership. Karl's opponents seemed to have reached their goal when they forced him to resign in 1317, presumably on a rural chapter in Thorn , and he apparently left Prussia voluntarily.

Reinstatement and diplomatic successes

The process of deposition immediately aroused resistance in the general order and as early as the Lent of 1318, Karl von Trier was once again confirmed in the dignity of Grand Master at the General Chapter in Erfurt . In terms of foreign policy, he achieved a brilliant diplomatic success a little later at the papal court in Avignon, when he was able to prove the untenability of the accusations of the Archbishop of Riga and received far-reaching privileges for the order. His former supporters in Prussia returned to their old offices, but his opponents also retained part of power. The intended settlement with Poland no longer came about.

End of life and overall appreciation

Apparently weakened by illness, Karl spent the last years of his life in his home town of Trier , where he died around February 11, 1324 and was buried in the local chapel. In those years he also combined the dignity of a German master with the office of grand master, but the development in the Prussian and Livonian order areas slipped away from him. Thus, the term of office of this so far only definitely verifiable Grand Master of bourgeois origin in the Middle Ages stands for an exciting transition phase in the history of the Teutonic Order, which resulted in the development of largely autonomous order countries. The von Piechowski family , a noble family of royal origin incorporated into the Polish Leliwa tribe , received the coat of arms of Karl Bessart von Trier out of gratitude: a golden crescent moon placed under the star.


Web links

Commons : Karl von Trier  - Collection of images, videos and audio files