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Knights of Malta ArmorialThe Order of Malta in Poland

History: Commanderies in Silesia


Bolesław's tomb in LubiążBolesław I Wysoki's tomb in LubiążNot long after the settlement of Hospitallers in Zagość, another Polish Commandery of Saint John was established independently in Strzegom (Germ. Striegau) in Silesia. It is probable that the Hospitallers were present at the consecration of a Church of Saint Peter in 1163. They were invited to settle in Strzegom by one of the local Lords, Gniewomir Strzegomita. This gesture, most likely, followed the pilgrimage to the Holy Land of Prince Władysław Wygnaniec [1105-59] or his son Prince Bolesław Wysoki in the entourage of King Wacław II [1300-1305].

The Commandery’s importance and growth is evidenced by subsequent donations. By the end of twelfth century, Bishop Żyrosław II increased the size and privileges of the settlement by donating the Church in Warta along with income from the thigh from several villages including Losiów (Germ. Lossen) and Pilawa (Germ. Beilau). Around 1202 the Knights received the right of patronage of the Church of Saint Peter and Paul in Strzegom from Imbram, the son of Lord Gniewomir Strzegomita. A Papal Bull in 1205 addressed to the Head of the Silesian Commanderies, Confrere Robert, confirmed their right in this respect. Bishop Żyrosław II proved to be a friend of the Order further extending the possessions of the Commandery in Tyniec (Germ Tinz) by granting the right of patronage of the Church in Tyniec in 1189.

The activities of the Order in Silesia changed with the growth of the possession of the individual Commanderies and increased wealth of the Order. From the initial military and Hospitaller role, the knights progressively moved to the establishment of schools (e.g. in Głubczyce), and played a significant role in the administration of the Faith. Increased patronage of Parish Churches meant also an increased number of chaplains and priests, which was matched by a decreased in the number of knights. However, the main factor in the decline in the number of knights was due to the Order in Silesia not being faced with an immediate Infidel enemy. The Order was able to concentrate on its local priorities.

It is worth noting that the above Commanderies in Silesia formed a part of a German Langue. The other Silesian Commanderies were subordinated in the early thirteenth century to the Grand Priory of Bohemia (Strzegom, Tyniec, Losiów, Pilawa, Brzeg, Złotoryja, Kłodzko, Grobniki, Głubczyce). There was also a Commandery of Corpus Christi in Wrocław (Germ. Breslau, Lat. Vratislavia). Its growth was related to acceptance by the Confreres of a patronage over the hospital and the Church of Corpus Christi in Wrocław in 1337. The Convent and the Commandery was administratively subordinate directly to the Grand Magistry and not the Grand Priory of Bohemia, as it was originally held. This direct relationship with the Headquarters of the Order was confirmed in 1454. From surviving documents (about 120 manuscripts - sermons, philosophical treaties and medical compendia), it is known that the Commandery was a intellectual centre which educated a number of contemporary scholars such as Bartlomiej Stein from Brzeg, known lecturer of Universities in Kraków, Vienna, and Wüttenberg.

Compared to the rest of Europe, the Silesian branches of the Order seem to have been rich and prosperous. In about 15 Commanderies there were about 200 confreres. The significance of the region to the Order as a whole was evidenced by the election of Michal of Tyniec (1325) and Gallus of Lwówek (1337) as the Grand Priors of the Bohemia and titular Priors of Poland. The fate of the Order in Silesia was not different to the political upheavals of the region. Initially the Hussiten Wars started the decline of the Wrocław Convent and Commandery. Later the Reformation took its toll. Consequently the Order lost its influences, patronage of Churches and Hospitals (Głubczyce 1534, Wrocław 1540, Strzegom in 1542, Kłodzko 1562, Brzeg 1573).

The anti-reformation movement of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries partially reversed the decline of the Order in Silesia but the Commanderies never returned to their past glory and prosperity. The religious character of the Order declined further. The number of priests could no longer support the Churches under the Order’s patronage and the activities of the Order’s Estates and Commanderies took on a business character. The above state of affairs continued until 1810 when the Government of Prussia confiscated all property of convents and religious orders. As in case of the Poznan Commandery, all property of the Order in Silesia was lost.


by Darius von Guettner-Sporzynski