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Bishops of Pomesania
AD 1243 - 1587

The Pomesanians were one of the Old Prussian tribes, located at the westernmost end of Prussian territory. The Polish Prince Konrad of Mazovia invited the Teutonic Knights to settle in the Lower Vistula on the border with the Pomesanians as part of his attempts to secure the disputed Mazovia from Prussian attacks. Once the Knights began their campaigns in Prussia, the Pomesanians were the first of the tribes to fall. Neighbouring them to the east, and the next to fall, were the Pogesanians. Both regions were joined together in a diocese within the new Order state of Prussia. The Papal legate, William of Modena, oversaw the creation of the diocese in 1243, along with those of Culm, Ermland, and Samland, placing the seat at Riesenburg (modern Prabuty).

During this period the inhabitants of Prussia were in a dismal state. Treaties signed between the Prussians and the Order had not been fulfilled; the Prussians were forbidden to live in towns, and they were driven out of their native areas and moved to the eastern districts of the state. Large numbers of Prussians died and their farms were destroyed during the crusade, with almost all the western and northern Prussian provinces now being under the control of the Order, and also in the revolts of 1260-1274. The Order ordered the colonisation of Prussia by German peasants with the result that the few Prussians who survived found themselves surrounded by Germans and were gradually assimilated. It was only in Samland with one of the heaviest concentrations of Balts that they constituted a majority.

The colonisation and Germanisation of the Prussian lands began immediately. By 1400, the Teutonic Order could boast fifty-four towns, nearly a thousand villages, and almost twenty thousand farms of new colonists. During the wars the Prussian upper class and its leaders had perished. The survivors yielded to the control of the Order, were baptised, and in striving for social status gradually accepted German customs and language. The lower and lower-middle classes were underprivileged and peasants were forced into serfdom. The language and customs of the Prussians were preserved by this lower, underprivileged class, and Prussian continued to be spoken for another four hundred years. The western provinces were more rapidly Germanised than was the Samland peninsula where the old population lived in compact groups. Catechisms published in Prussian in the sixteenth century show that not everyone understood German. It is known that at the beginning of the seventeenth century sermons were preached with the help of translators, but the Prussian language was living through its last stages at the end of this century. It was only spoken by the old people in villages.

(Additional information by Leitgiris Living History Club, from The History of the Baltic Countries, Zigmantas Kiaupa, Ain Mäesalu, Ago Pajur, & Gvido Straube (Eds, Estonia 2008), from Królestwo rowerowe Warmia i okolice (Cycling Kingdom, Warmia and Surroundings), Green Velo tourist publication, 2015, and from External Links: The Balts, Marija Gimbutas (1963, previously available online thanks to Gabriella at Vaidilute, but still available as a PDF - click on link to download or access it), and Leitgiris.)

1243 - 1248

Although the diocese is created in 1243, it takes until 1248 or 1249 for the first bishop to be appointed.

1248/49 - 1259

Ernst von Torgau

First bishop of Pomesania.

1252

The bishopric of Samland is formed in northern Prussia, comprising the Frisches Haff (Vislinskii Zaliv) and Kurisches Haff (Kurskii Zaliv), with Königsberg serving as the administrative headquarters.

Riesenburg Castle in Prussia
The Order castle of Riesenburg was built on the site of an ancient Prussian fortress and was first mentioned in historical records in 1250

1259 - 1286

Albert

1260 - 1274

The Livonian Knights, along with the Teutonic Knights, are abandoned by their Estonian and Couronian vassals and severely defeated at the Battle of Durbe in Livonia by the Samogitians. As a result, numerous rebellions break out against the Teutonic Knights all across the Baltics, including a general uprising throughout Prussia. The Prussians win several battles against the hard-pressed Knights and by 1264 the situation is critical. Reinforcements arrive from Germany and the Order launches an attack against the rebels, with final defeat of the Prussians coming in 1274. Several uprisings occur in the thirteenth century, but none as serious as this.

1277/78 - 1286

Heinrich

Counter bishop in opposition to Albert.

1286 - 1303

Heinrich

1303 - 1308/09

Christian

1309 - 1321

Ludeko

1321 - 1331

Rudolf

1331 - 1346

Bertold von Riesenburg

1347 - 1360

Arnold

1360 - 1376

Nikolaus von Radam / Nikolaus I

1376 - 1409

Johannes Mönch / Johannes I

1409 - 1417

Johannes Rymann / Johannes II

1417 - 1427

Gerhard Stolpmann

1427 - 1440

Johannes von Mewe / Johannes III

1440 - 1463

Kaspar Linke

1464 - 1479

Nikolaus is nominated for the position but does not take up his post, leaving it vacant for fifteen years which are filled with war between Prussia and Poland. Vincent Kielbasa becomes the administrator for the empty seat in 1467.

1464 - 1466

Nikolaus II / Mikolaj

Nominated but did not fill the post.

1466

At the conclusion of the Thirteen Year War, along with the Teutonic Knights, the bishopric of Pomesania falls under the suzerainty of Poland.

1467 - 1478

Vincent Kielbasa

Administrator.

1479 - 1501

Johannes IV Christiani von Lessen

1501 - 1521

Hiob von Dobeneck

1521 - 1523

Georg von Polenz / Achille de Grotis

Sources conflict on this bishop's name.

1523 - 1529

Erhard von Queis

Converted to Lutheranism in 1526.

1525

The Teutonic Knights' Ordenstaat is secularised and converted to Lutheran Protestantism as the duchy of East Prussia. The bishop of Pomesania also converts to Lutheranism and retains his position, and all subsequent bishops are also Lutherans. In the same year, the reverberations of the Peasants' War in Germany reach Prussia.

1530 - 1551

Paul Speratus

1551 - 1561

There is a ten year gap between bishops at this point (some sources make it a sixteen year gap), which remains unexplained.

1561 - 1574

Georg von Venediger

1569

The Union of Poland-Lithuania, Ruthenia, Livonia, Polotsk, and Samogitia is effected, establishing the Commonwealth of Poland. Sigismund II Augustus becomes king of a united Poland-Lithuania.

1575 - 1587

Johannes Wigand / Johannes V

1587

The bishopric of Pomesania is dissolved and the secularised territory is submerged within the duchy of East Prussia. The remaining Catholic areas of the former bishopric are attached to neighbouring Culm, which still survives. Pomesania eventually becomes part of Poland after the conclusion of the Second World War.