Carlsberg Fellowship 2: did the Teutonic Order possess lands in Medieval Denmark?

Authors: Mihkel Mäesalu and Stefan Pajung, Carlsberg fellowship grantees.

Historical research works in peculiar ways. Sometimes historians discover new facts, but choose not to give significance to them and so these facts can remain unknown to the wider circle of history enthusiasts. This is the case with the possessions of the Teutonic Order in Medieval Denmark. Although the sources have long been published even most historians do not know, that the Teutonic Order held landed property in the Kingdom of Denmark during the 13th and 14th centuries.

As Mihkel and Stefan were looking through the publications of medieval documents on the history of Denmark, they discovered an interesting charter issued by the Master of the Livonian Branch of the Teutonic Order in the summer of 1353. Namely, the Master gave the Teutonic Orders goods in Linde as a fief to the influential Danish nobleman Stigot Andersen Hvide. The goods consisted of fields, meadows, pastures, fishing places, woods and certain unnamed rights and income, and were situated within the royal demesne of king Valdemar IV of Denmark (1340–1375).

These possessions of the Teutonic Knights lay without a doubt somewhere in Denmark. But where? And who might have donated them? These are the questions we set out to work with. At the moment we have found only one other source with any connection to these possessions. It is a list of documents taken by the Swedes from the archive of the Dukes of Curonia in 1621 and brought to Stockholm. As the first Duke of Curonia, Gotthard Kettler (1561–1587), was also the last Master of the Livonian Branch of the Teutonic Order, his archives contained a significant part of the archives of the Teutonic Order in Livonia. This list mentions a copy made in the year 1299 of a charter by a king Eric of Denmark on goods in Lyndell. Unfortunately, this copy nor the original charter have yet to be found and have probably perished. So we do not even know which of the three Erics who ruled Denmark during the 13th century issued the original charter, let alone if this Lyndell truly was the same place as Linde. Can we say that either Eric IV (1241–1250), Eric V (1259–1286) or Eric VI (1286–1319) granted Linde to the Teutonic Order? It seems likely, but this charter of Eric’s could also have been a confirmation of a donation to the Teutonic Knights by some other Danish nobleman. We simply do not know.

We faced an even bigger problem, when we began to look for where in Denmark this particular Linde actually was. There are (and were) a number of places named Linde in Denmark, some of which have changed names during the centuries. For example, Store Linde was called just Linde during the Middle Ages. In spite of all our efforts we have yet to identify the Linde which belonged to the Teutonic Knights. We did find out that we were not the first to have tackled this problem. Dr. Eric Ulsig and Dr. Anders Bøgh had both tried to solve this mystery, but came to no satisfying conclusions. It may be that the lack of sources simply does not enable historians to say anything certain on this case. Can we finally solve this puzzle? That is certainly our goal. The research continues.

Famous 13th century German poet Tannhäuser depicted wearing the habit of the Teutonic Knights. The image is from a manuscript from the beginning of the 14th century.