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European Kingdoms

Eastern Europe


Bishops of Samland (Sambia)
AD 1252 - 1577

The Old Prussian peoples were Balts who were closely related to the tribes of Lithuania and many of those in Latvia. One of their tribes, the Sambians, lived in the heavily populated region of northern Prussia, in an area roughly to the immediate north and west of Königsberg (now called Kaliningrad), on the peninsula which reaches out towards the Baltic Sea. Once the area had been conquered by the Teutonic Knights a bishopric was formed in 1252, comprising the districts between the Frisches Haff (Vislinskii Zaliv) and Kurisches Haff (Kurskii Zaliv), with Königsberg serving as the administrative headquarters. It was the youngest of the four bishoprics of Prussia, with those of Culm, Ermland, and Pomesania being formed in 1243.

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 or tap on link to download or access it), and Leitgiris.)

1252 - 1254

Dietrich I

First bishop of Samland.

1254 - 1274

Heinrich I von Streittberg

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.

1274 - 1276

Hermann of Cologne

Died 1287.

1276 - 1295

Christian of Mühlhausen

1295 - 1318

Siegfried von Reinstein

1318 - 1320

The position is vacant for two years.

Pobethen Church in Samland
Pobethen Church in Samland, known known as 'the Old Church' and in a rather poor condition, dates to the fourteenth century, very much a solid stronghold church of the Crusader period

1320 - 1344

Johann I

1344 - 1354

Jakob von Kulm

1354 - 1378


1378 - 1379

Winrich von Kniprode

Later bishop of Ösel-Wiek (1385).

1378 - 1379

The bishop's seat of Ösel-Wiek is vacant for the fourth time until the post is filled by Winrich von Kniprode. His mother is Margarete von Uexküll, linking him to what will become one of the most prominent Baltic-German families. His uncle is the identically-named Winrich von Kniprode, grand master of the Teutonic Knights.

1379 - 1386

Thilo von Marburg

1387 - 1395


1395 - 1414

Heinrich II von Seefeld

1415 - 1416

Heinrich III, Graf von Schanenburg

1416 - 1425

Johann II Saalfeld

1425 - 1442

Michael Jung

Died 1443.

1442 - 1470

Nikolaus I Schlotterkopf


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

1470 - 1474

Dietrich II von Kulm

Died 1477.

1474 - 1497

Johann III von Rehewinkel

1497 - 1503

Nikolaus II Krender

1503 - 1505

Paul von Watt

1505 - 1518

Günther von Bünau

1518 - 1550

Georg von Polenz


The Teutonic Knights' Ordenstaat is secularised and converted to Lutheran Protestantism as the duchy of East Prussia. In the same year, the reverberations of the Peasants' War in Germany reach Prussia. The inhabitants of Samland, Prussian and German peasants, revolt, demanding personal liberty and the abolition of indentured labour. However, the forces pitted against them are overwhelming and the revolt is put down.

1550 - 1571

Joachim Mörlin


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.

1571 - 1577

Tilemann Hetzhusius


The bishopric of Samland is dissolved and the territory is submerged within the duchy of East Prussia. Samland is the last region of Prussia in which the Old Prussian language is spoken before the native people become extinct at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Samland eventually becomes part of Kaliningrad after the conclusion of the Second World War.

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