Knights of the Teutonic Order

Aleksander Ford
Dedicated to the memory of Aleksander Ford

The film of Knights of The Teutonic Order was based on the novel ‘Krzyzacy’ by the Polish author Henryk Sienkiewicz. The novel was focusses on the events leading up to the Battle Of Grunwald which took place in 1410 between the Kingdom of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and their allies on one side and the Knights of The Teutonic Order on the other. It was the decisive engagement of the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic war (1409-11) and the greatest battle of medieval Europe. The novel was written in a time when no Polish state existed and Poles lived in areas controlled by other states (the empires of Germany, Russia and Austria-Hungary). Sienkiewicz is said to have written it to encourage Polish confidence and pride against Germany. It was originally published as series of magazine episodes between 1987-89 and printed as a full book 1900. It was reputed to be the fi rst book published in Poland after the Second World War.

The Teutonic Knights were a crusading German military order under Roman Catholic vows who formed at the end of the 12th Century in Acre in Palestine. Following the end of the Crusades they moved back to Transylvania but were expelled when they requested that they be placed under Papal authority rather than that of Andrew of Hungary. In 1226 they were asked by Konrad I, Duke of Masovia in west central Poland, to help him defend his territory and subdue the ‘pagan’ Baltic Prussians. Over the next 50 years the Knights waged a campaign of aggression against the Prussians. They eventually conquered them and ran the land as a sovereign monastic state. Those Prussians who remained un-baptised either fell in battle, were enslaved or forced into exile. To further facilitate the spread of Christianity the Knights encouraged immigration from other Christian Central European territories. Throughout this time the Knights continued to carry out attacks on the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

In 1386 Jogaila the Grand Duke of Lithuania was baptized into Christianity and married Queen Jadwiga of Poland and became Wladyslaw II, King of Poland. The alliance conversion of Wladyslaw removed the rationale for their crusade against pagan Lithuania. However, their attacks still continued and they invaded both, now Christian, states in 1398. At this time neither Poland or Lithuania were militarily prepared to engage the Knights in battle. Following a series of uprisings and political manoeuvre the Knights declared war on the two states and invaded again in the summer of 1409. An armistice was agreed that ran until the next summer. The Poles and Lithuanians used this time to prepare to remove the Knights from their land once and for all. In July 1410 the Polish/Lithuanian forces marched into the Knights territory.

Taken by surprise the Knights fell back and organised a line of defence along the river Drweca. On the morning of July 15 the opposing armies met near the villages of Grunwald and Tannenberg. There are only two reliable accounts of the battle – one by Polish historian Jan Dlugosz and another anonymous incomplete document from the 16th century. Various other accounts claim that over 3 million soldiers were on the field of battle. More recent historians put this figure in the tens of thousands. What is known is that following a day of fighting the numbers and tactical superiority of the Polish and Lithuanian forces completely routed the Knights. Their Grand Master and the majority of the upper order were killed and their army left in disarray. The battle precipitated a slow decline that resulted in the end of the Teutonic Order as a force in Central Europe.

The battle is regarded as one of the most important in the history of Poland. Even now every July thousands of re-enactors gather at Grunwald to reconstruct the battle and a festival is held to commemorate the day.



DVD Reviews

(as and when they come in)


Historical background
Film Polski (in Polish only)

Disc Info

Knights of the Teutonic Order Boxshot

Poland 1960
Length: 165 minutes Certificate: PG
Sound: Original Mono (restored)
Colour 1.77:1 16x9 Enhanced
Language: Polish
Subtitles: English On/Off
RRP: £12.99
Release Date: 16th October 2006


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