The preceptory of Chojnice

Translation : Andrew Zolnai
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Pologne, Województwo Pomorze

Poland, Pomerania Voivodeship, around 60 km south of Bytów, city of Chojnice.

Reconstitution de la cité médiévale de Chojnice
The medieval city of Chojnice
Source : Zamki i Obiekty Warowne - Pomorza Gdańskiego
A: Lake "Zielone" ; B: Lake "Jeleńcz" ; C: The moat
1: The "Mill" Gate ; 2: The wall and its 22 towers ; 3: The "Teutonic" Gate ; 4: The city hall ; 5: The Gate of Gdańsk; 6: The Gate of Czluchów, the Main Gate; 7: The Parish Church ; 8: The Teutonic preceptory.

The date of creation of Chojnice is not known, but archaeological excavations conducted a few years ago near the parish church, have revealed the foundations of a fortified house - or a castle - that could be dated from the 11th or early 12th century.
It is also known that the first dukes of Pomerelia(1) (or Pomerania of Gdańsk) arrived in the region in the first half of the 12th century, which could correspond with the dating of the excavations.

The first document which mentions Chojnice is dated from 1275. It is a letter written by Duke Mściwój(2) addressed to the Augustine convent located in the village of Swornegacie(3), in which is mentioned the name of "Mislibous Malowy of Choyniz" as an inhabitant of Chojnice.

After the conquest of Pomerelia(4) by the Teutonic Order in 1308, the whole region gradually fell under their control, and it was the same for Chojnice which fully fell under their control in the first months of 1309.

From that moment, expansion, development and protection works were carried out by the Order. Thus the Order will, first, build a fortified house near the banks of Lake Zielone, probably on the location of the old fortification or gród(5). This house will be directly attached administratively to the fortress of Człuchów, around fifteen kilometers to the west.

Then, the Order will start fortifications of the city by surrounding it with an imposing wall flanked by more than twenty towers and three large fortified gates, the largest of which is called the Gate of "Człuchów".

Chojnice - La porte de Czluchów
Chojnice - The Gate of Czluchów
Source : Wikimédia Commons

In 1346, Chojnice received a charter of privilege that gave it the status of a city in its own right. This date is disputed, however, because it seems that there is an earlier document, dating from the early 14th century, mentioning a certain Reynard as mayor and two brothers, Frick and Jan Saxo, as citizens of the city. According to this document, it seems that the city could have been founded several years before by Przemysł II, the successor of Mściwój II and future king of Poland.

Placed under the aegis of a governor dependent of Człuchów, the city continued to develop itself throughout the 14th and 15th centuries. At the end of the 14th, the governor organized a company of crossbowmen among the inhabitants of the city to ensure its protection. In the 15th century, we see the emergence of guilds, such as bakers, butchers, shoemakers, weavers, blacksmiths, ...

The development of the city also came from its location on the "Via Marchonis", the main route that connected the territories of the Order to Brandeburg and the rest of Europe. Chojnice was the first Teutonic city that the Western European Crusaders reached on the way to Malbork and Königsberg, to take part in the fighting against Lithuanians and other peoples of the East.

This development will end in the early 15th century, when tensions with the kingdom of Poland will reach their peak. At that time Chojnice will become a military base of the Order, from which military expeditions to the regions of Greater Poland and Krajna(6) will begin.

After the defeat of the Order in Grunwald in 1410, the city feld to the Polish army, but in 1411, when the Treaty of Toruń(7) was signed, it was returned to the Order. In 1433, a Hussite army(8) besieged the city, seized and devastated it.

In 1440, the notables of the city formally asked to be part of "The League of Prussia"(9), but in 1446, they renounced to be part of this league. In 1454, one of the first battles of the "Thirteen Years War"(10) unfold under its walls and sees the victory of the Teutonic Order against a Polish army. In 1466, at the end of this war, the city is again besieged and taken definitively by the Polish army.

Notes :

(1)The first Pomeralian (or Pomeranian of Gdańsk) dukes are originated from the dynasty created by Sobiesław 1st Gdański, the first Duke mentioned in the archives, born around 1130 and died around 1177. According to the texts, Sobiesław was a Palatine Count in the court of King Bolesław III Krzywousty (Torn Mouth) and reportedly received this area as a reward for services to the Royal Piast Dynasty. On the death of Sobiesław, his son Sambor 1st Gdański succeeded him and perpetuated the dynasty which was then to be known as "Samborides".

(2)Mściwój II (Mszczuj, Mściwoj, Mściwuj or Mestwin) was Duke of Pomerelia from 1270 until his death in 1294. He was the son of Duke Świętopełk II Wielki (Great) and Eufrozyna Odonic. In 1275, he married Eufrozyna Opolska (Opole). He died in Gdańsk on December 25, 1294.

(3)The name of this village is mentioned for the first time in 1272 in a letter that Pope Gregory X sends to Friedrich von Hausen, the Teutonic Bishop of Chełmno, about the installation of these Augustinians in the village.

(4)At the beginning of the 14th century, Poland began reunification under the aegis of future king Władysław IV Łokietek. The death of Mściwój II, Duke of Pomerelia, at the end of the previous century did not help the future king in his plans. In 1308, Władysław IV Łokietek, who was busy establishing peace in the south of the country, sent Bogusza as royal governor for Pomerelia in Gdańsk. At the beginning of July of the same year, a revolt of the inhabitants of the city, led by the powerful family of Święca (Święca was voivode -governor- of Pomerelia) with the help of the troops of Henry 1st, Margrave of Brandenburg, forced Bogusza and his troops loyal to the king, to take refuge in the castle.
Following the advice of his Dominican prior, Bogusza resolved to seek help from the Teutonic Order to help him to quell the revolt and drive the troops out of Brandenburg. In the middle of autumn, a troop of 100 Teutonic Knights and more than 200 men-at-arms arrived at the castle to help Bogusza. On November 13th, this Teutonic troupe broke into the city, where the great fair of Saint Dominic took place, and exterminated everything in its path. If the German chroniclers of the time speak of a few hundred deaths, the Polish chroniclers speak of more than 10,000 dead. This destruction of the city will be the beginning of the installation of Teutonic power in this Duchy and will also be one of the facts that will lead to the open conflict between Poland and the Order and the famous Battle of Grunwald in 1410.

(5)A gród is a fortification made of wood and of clay, often a small village or hamlet of some houses surrounded by a boarding, with or without keep or watch tower.

(6)Krajna was a historic region of Poland situated at the intersection of modern regions of West Pomerania, Pomerania (Gdansk), Greater Poland and Kuyavian-Pomeranian, southwest of Chojnice.

(7)It is the first Toruń peace treaty signed on 01st February 1411 between the Polish-Lithuanian Union and the Teutonic Order, ending a two-year war between 1409 and 1411. Following this peace agreement, the Teutonic Order renounced its claims on the Lithuanian province of Samogitia for the duration of the reign of the King of Poland Władysław II Jagiełło and the Grand Duke of Lithuania Vitold the Great. Poland obtained the territory of Dobrzyń and its ally of Mazovia obtained the territory of Wkra. On the other hand, Pomerelia and the Prussian possessions taken by the King of Poland in the summer of 1410, after the battle of Grunwald, were returned to the Order.

(8)Hussites were followers of a religious movement founded by Jean Hus, a Czech preacher of the early 15st century. A follower of John Wycliff's thought, he preached a return to an apostolic, spiritual and poor church. He maintained that the reform of the Church must pass through the secular power, which found a favorable echo in the nobility, which saw the opportunity to appropriate ecclesiastical property. John Hus was excommunicated in 1411, but wanted to go to the Council of Constance in 1414 to defend his opinions. He would be arrested, sentenced and burned on July 6, 1415.
His execution will provoke an enormous uprising of the nobility and the Czech people, as well as in the neighboring regions against the authority of the pope and against that of Sigismund of Luxembourg, king of Bohemia and future German emperor, faithful to the pope. Between 1419 and 1436, five crusades against this reforming movement ensued, which set part of current Poland and the Czech Republic on fire.

(9)The League of Prussia, also known as "League Against Violence", is an agreement between 53 lords and 19 cities of Prussia on March 14, 1440 in Marienwerder (Kwidzyn) that wanted to free themselves from the tyrannical authority of the Teutonic Knights. In 1454, these towns and lordships declared war on the Teutonic Order and placed themselves under the protection of King Casimir IV of Poland. The ensuing war will be known as the "Thirteen Years War".

(10)It is the Thirteen Years War, a new war between the Teutonic Order and the Kingdom of Poland from 1454 to 1466. It ended with the victory of Poland and the 2nd Treaty of Toruń signed by both belligerents in 1466.


  1. "Zamki i Obiekty Warowne - Pomorza Gdańskiego"
    Agnieszka i Robert Sypek; Almapress
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Translation : Andrew Zolnai
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