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Flags in the 'Banderia Prutenorum' Manuscript (Teutonic Order, Germany)

Last modified: 2007-12-08 by
Keywords: banderia prutenorum | dlugosz: jan | teutonic order |
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The Banderia Prutenorum Manuscript

Banderia Prutenorum is a manuscript made by Jan Dlugosz (1415-1480) containing 56 images of flags captured from the Teutonic Knights by the Polish after the battle of Tannenberg (15 July 1410, Grunwald, nowadays in Poland) and designed in 1448 by the Polish painter Stanislao Durink. The flags were still conserved in the Wawel cathedral in Krakow until 1603, later they disappeared. The manuscript has always been considered a very important document: on 19 May 1940 the German General Governor for Poland, [Hans] Frank, gave it, with a solemn ceremony, to the Gauleiter of Danzig and East Prussia, Forster, to be conserved in the [Teutonic] Knights' castle in Marienburg (nowadays Malbork, Poland). Today the manuscript is conserved in the library of Krakow University. Most of the flags reproduced in the manuscript are higher than longer, as was common at the time, sometimes with a Schwenkel [Editor's note: a long, occasionally tampering tail continuing the flag's top].
Mario Fabretto, 19 Jul 1998

The Choragwie Pruskie cz. 1 - Jan Dlugosz [Jan Dlugosz's Prussian Standards] website has flags captured from the Teutonic Knights at the battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg), where the joint Polish-Lithuanian hosts, with their allies (Rusins - presumably Ukrainians and Byelorussians, if I recall correctly), as well as some Tartars if I am not mistaken, defeated the Teutonic Knights. The defeat spelt the beginning of the end for the Teutonic Knights.
The italics under each flag give its dimensions. The first (Grand Master's) flag "has a length of three elbows (Lokcie) and a width of two and a quarter elbows" (don't ask me what an elbow is).
Robert Czernkowski, 6 Sep 2000

No doubt it is 'cubit' - the distance from the elbow to the fingertip - generally taken to be 18 inches or about half a metre (actually over 45 cm). There is also a textile unit called an 'el', which I believe is also 18 inches. Either way, a banner 3 elbows long by 2.25 elbows is about 1.35 m long by 1 m wide.
Dean McGee, 9 Feb 2002

The 25 images in the Choragwie Pruskie cz. 1 — Jan Dlugosz website seem to be only a subset of the total amount. Adam Kromer's webpage about Banderia Prutenorum shows these and some other flags.
My images follow all the specs shown in the Choragwie Pruskie cz. 1 — Jan Dlugosz website, supposedly fac-similes of the original Banderia Prutenorum [dugXX] images. Irrespective of their original position shown in this site, I rotated all my images so that the hoist is at the viewer's left hand - though some of these are obviously supposed to be hung vertically and nothing is said about the reverse.
António Martins, 8 Feb 2002


An English Translation

[Editor's note: the following translation by Chrystian Kretowicz of the Banderia Prutenorum manuscript is based on a translation from Latin into Old Polish, available at the Choragwie Pruskie cz. 1 - Jan Dlugosz webpage. Also this appears to be only a first part of the manuscript.]

Jan Dlugosz was a contemporary historian and royal scribe, who among many other things, wrote a very vivid account of the 1410 Battle of Grunwald-Tannenberg. He was an eyewitness and was watching the battle from king's encampment. The original was written in Latin, the text on the Choragwie Pruskie cz. 1 - Jan Dlugosz [Jan Dlugosz's Prussian Standards] webpage is a translation into old Polish which is nowadays very archaic and obsolete. In the following translation please note that 'banner' [choragwie] in Polish means both a piece of cloth with symbols and a military unit (like a regiment).

 Prussian Banners, part 1 - Jan Dlugosz

Lifted (the banners) in AD 1410 (on the holiday of the Apostles) against the Polish King Ladislaus Jagiello and fallen by him and send to Cracow, hang in the cathedral church. There, they are painted as below:

1. Banner of the Great Master of the Teutonic Order. Under the leadership of Grand Master Ulrich von Junigen were there most illustrios knights and aristocrats. His tunic, in which he was killed, was made out of the finest Arras textile. Presently, that clothing is in possession of the parochial church in Kije. (Note: Banner is 3 cubits long, 2 and 1/4 cubits wide.) [Editor's note: about 150 cm × 112 cm.]

2. Banner of the Master of Teutonic Order (smaller) under which served the most famous Teutonic knights and also, heavily-armored knights who came from Germany and other lands. Some of the servants of the Grand Master and members of his court served in this unit as well. (Note: Smaller Banner or Pursuit Banner is a cubit and a quarter long, only one cubit wide). [Editor's note: about 62 cm × 50 cm.]

3. Banner of the Teutonic Order, under which Grand Marshal of Prussia, Friedrich Wallerod, native of Franconia and of illustrous lineage, who, with his family, has a coat-of-arms of the river marked with cross and on the helmet, a crowned rooster. He was killed in this battle and his remains transported to Malbork (Marienburg). He was an uncle of Christopher, bishop of Lubusz. In this unit served mostly knights from Franconia. Note: Banner is 3 and 1/4 cubits long, 3 cubits wide. [Editor's note: about 162 cm × 150 cm.]

4. Banner of Conrad the White, prince of Olesno (Rosenberg) from Silesia. He commanded the banner [here a military unit] personally and it was composed of his own people-knights from the Principality of Wroclaw (Breslau) and from Silesia. He was captured and lost his banner as well as his fortune, but was freed by magnanimous King Ladislaus. It has to be noted, that among all the Silesian (or Polish) princes, only he and Casimir, prince of Slupsk (Stolp) went over to the Grand Master's side and it is a horrendous shame they betrayed their Fatherland and their native-tongue helping the enemy in the destruction of their own country. Both however were forgiven, together with their captured knights, by King Ladislaus. Note: this Banner is 2 and 1/4 cubits long and 2 cubits wide. [Editor's note: about 112 cm × 100 cm.]

5. Banner of St. George on the Teutonic side, which was led by an enormously brave, never abandoning the battlefield, Georg Kerzdorff. He stood fearlessly on the battlefield, holding the banner until Polish knights captured him physically and tore the banner from his hands. Under that banner were excellent and courageous knights from various German tribes and lands, all extremely brave and battle-hardened. And almost all were killed, except the very few who managed to escape. Whichever place one of them took in battle, he held it to the last, facing his opponents and dying rather than surrendering.

6. Banner of Chelm (Kulm) town, which was carried into the battle by Nicholas, also known as Niksz, native of Swabia. Some say that he was executed by the Grand Master for lack of courage in the battle. The banner [here a military unit] was led later by Janusz Orzechowski and Conrad von Ropkow. Others say it is not true Nicholas was murdered for cowardice by Grand Master Heinrich von Plawyen, successor to, fallen in battle, Ulrich von Junigen. These say Nicholas was brave and respected for his military skills, but when he saw the total defeat of his side and himself wounded and in rags, finally captured, he asked for and got permission to access King Ladislaus and begged for mercy. He received it from the magnimonious king and then asked to see the banner which he carried in the battle. Next day, the banner was shown to him, he embraced it and died on the spot. The king ordered his burial at the scene. Under that banner served knights and the city-folk from the Land of Chelm and Chelm town. Note: this banner is 3 cubits and one hand long, 3 cubits wide. The tail [schwenkel] runs 3 and 1/4 cubits and tapers to the end. [Editor's note: the flag is about 160 cm × 150 cm, the schwenkel about 162 cm long.]

7. Teutonic Banner which was led by Thomas Moerheym, vicetreasurer of the Order. He was killed in the battle together with most of his armored knights and servants, whom he led under the sign of his office.

8. Banner of the Bishop of Pomezan, led by Maekward von Reszemburg, composed of knights from the Pomezan Bishopric and mercenary knights. That banner was taken by force by Polish knights led by Mikolaj Morawiec from Kunosowka near Ksiaz, knight of Powale coat-of-arms. Ladislaus, the Polish King, sent it on tour of the country, first to his wife, Anne, then to the Archbishop of Gniezno, Mikolaj Kurowski, to Cracow and all over the country, as a sign of his victory with the help of God and annihilation of the Teutonic Order [?].

9. Banner of the Komturia and Town of Grudziac (Graudenz) led by Wilhelm von Ellfenstein, the Komtur. Composed of knights and city-folk from Graudenz, the majority of them belonged to the clan which bore the oxhead in its coat-of-arms, that is why they were given this banner. It is another proof that the land of Chelm was always part of the Polish kingdom. Komtur Wilhelm von Ellfenstein was killed in the battle, as most of his people.

10. Banner of the Komturia and Town of Balgi. It was led by the Komtur himself and was composed of the knights of the Order (brothers) and some hired mercenaries. Note: banner is 3 cubits long, 2 cubits without half of the quarter [i.e. 1.875 cubits] wide. [Editor's note: about 150 cm × 94 cm.]

11. Banner of the Komturia and Town of Schonsze (Kowalewo) led by Komtur Nicholas Wylcz with brothers of the Order and hired mercenaries.

12. Banner of Komturia Stargard, led by Wilhelm Nyppen with brothers of the Order, own knights and hired help.

13. Banner of the Bishop and Bishopric of Sambia, led by Heinrich, Count of Chemnitz in Meissen [Saxony]. Composed of vassal knights of the Bishop, members of the Bishopric Court and hired armored knights. Note: this Banner is 2 and 1/2 cubits long, 2 and 1/4 cubits wide. [Editor's note: about 125 cm × 112 cm.]

14. Banner of the Komturia and Town of Tuchola [Tuchel], led by one Heinrich (Komtur of Tuchola) with brothers of the Order, apprentice-knights from the region and hired, armored help. This Heinrich, native of Franconia, from the beginning to the end of this war, displayed extreme arrogance, over self-confidence and contempt. He ordered two naked swords to be carried always in front of him and his troop, as to celebrate the victory before the fact. He was admonished by the Grand Master and other officials, to no avail. He stated that he would put away both swords only after they drew Polish blood. But, God willing, when he shamefully ran from the battlefield to the village of Wielhnio, he was caught by the Polish knights and butchered mercilessly — a punishment for his extraordinary arrogance.

15. Banner of the Great Komturia of Sztum [Stuhm], led by distinguished gentleman, Brother Conrad Lichtersten and composed of hired knights from Austria with few brothers of the Order. Note: this banner is 3 and 1/4 cubits long, 3 cubits wide. [Editor's note: about 162 cm × 150 cm.]

16. Banner of the Komturia of Nieszawa, led by Godfryd Hoczfelth with brothers and hired help.

17. Banner of the knights from Westphalia. They came to help the Order on their own [initiative] and at their own cost, that is why they wanted to fight under their own banner. Note: this Banner is 2 and 1/4 cubits long and 2 cubits wide. [Editor's note: about 112 cm × 100 cm.]

18. Banner of the Town and Commune of Rogozno, led by Friedrich von Wed. Composed of the knights of the Doliwa coat-of-arms, which is yet another proof that the area belonged to the Polish realm.

19. Banner of Komturia and Town of Elblag (Elbing). Led by Komtur Werner Thetinger, composed of brothers, knights and city-folk of Elbing and some hired help.

20. Banner of the Komturia and Town of Engelsburg (Pokrzywno), led by the Komtur, Burkard Wobek. Composed of brothers and hired hands.

21. Banner of the Komturia and Town of Brodnica (Strasburg), led by Baldemin Stoll, brothers and hired help. Note: banner is 2 cubits minus a quarter [i.e. 1.75 cubits] long, 1 and 1/2 cubits wide. [Editor's note: about 87 cm × 75 cm.]

22. Banner of Bisphoric and Bishop of Chelm, led by member of the Court, one Teodoryk von Sowemburg. Domestics, court-members and vassal knights composed that banner [here a military unit]. Note: Banner is 2 and 1/4 cubits long, 2 cubits without half-quarter [i.e. 1.875 cubits] wide. [Editor's note: about 112 cm × 94 cm.]

23. Banner of the Castle of Brettchen (Brattian) and Neumark, led by Johann von Redere, Bailiff of Brattian. Composed of brothers, city-folk from Neumark and hired help.

24. Banner of the Town of Braunsberg (Braniewo), led by ...(?), composed of city-folk, vassals and some hired help.

25. Banner of German Knights from ...(?) led by ...(?). Composed of German knights, who came at their own expense to help the Order.

Sources: Chrystian Kretowicz, 2 Jun 2001

I'm sure this discrepancy must have been pointed out to you. The dates of Jan are 1415-1480. He therefore cannot have been an eyewitness to the Battle of Tannenburg 1410. His stated location in the king's camp exacerbates the discrepancy and leads one to think the author was making it all up.

There are some other mistakes. Stanislao for example should be Stanislaw. The w is pronounced as a v: Stanislav.

Also there is a statement in the section on Prussians that the Prussians were absorbed into the Germans after the disappearance of Prussian. It didn't quite happen that way. Prussian disappeared because the last pocket of remaining speakers died of the plague. There were thousands of them, a very sad event and certainly unintended. This was just to the east of Königsberg. The region was depopulated. Protestants of the Swiss reform were brought in from the lowlands to repopulate it. There were of course families prior to that time that had assimilated to the Germans. They've left a trace in such German names derived from Old Prussian names as Copernicus (Kapernik or "coppersmith") and Von Clausewitz (Klausewingi or "confessor"). Prussia has a very sad story, really, a spark shot into the air to burn brightly for a moment and then die. I note that the former Hanseatic towns cling to their flags given by the Teutonic Knights. And, they are no longer even German (more amazing still).
Dave Butterfield, 16 Aug 2006


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