|Hochmeister des Deutschen Ordens|
|Reports to||Holy See|
|Term length||Life tenure|
|First holder||Heinrich Walpot von Bassenheim|
The Grand Master of the Teutonic Order (German: Hochmeister des Deutschen Ordens; Latin: Magister generalis Ordo Teutonicus) is the holder of the supreme office of the Teutonic Order. It is equivalent to the grand master of other military orders and the superior general in non-military Roman Catholic religious orders. Hochmeister, literally "high master", is only used in reference to the Teutonic Order, as Großmeister ("grand master") is used in German to refer to the leaders of other orders of knighthood.
An early version of the full title in Latin was Magister Hospitalis Sanctae Mariae Alemannorum Hierosolymitani. Since 1216, the full title Magister Hospitalis Domus Sanctae Mariae Teutonicorum Hierosolymitani ("Master of the Hospital House of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Germans of Jerusalem") was used.
The offices of Hochmeister and Deutschmeister (Magister Germaniae) were united in 1525. The title of Magister Germaniae had been introduced in 1219 as the head of the bailiwicks in the Holy Roman Empire, from 1381 also those in Italy, raised to the rank of a prince of the Holy Roman Empire in 1494, but merged with the office of grand master under Walter von Cronberg in 1525, from which time the head of the order had the title of Hoch- und Deutschmeister. From 1466 to 1525, the Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order were vassals and princes of the Polish Crown.
The coat of arms representing the grand master (Deutschmeisterwappen) is shown with a golden cross fleury or cross potent superimposed on the black cross, with the imperial eagle as a central inescutcheon. The golden cross potent overlaid on the black cross becomes widely used by the 14th century, developing into a golden cross fleury by the 15th century. A legendary account attributes the introduction of the cross potent to John of Brienne, King of Jerusalem, who granted the master of the order this cross as a variation of the Jerusalem cross, while the fleur-de-lis was supposedly granted on 20 August 1250 by Louis IX of France. While this legendary account cannot be traced back further than the early modern period (Christoph Hartknoch, 1684) there is some evidence that the design does indeed date to the mid 13th century.
Compared to other medieval governments, transfer of power within the Teutonic Knights was run efficiently. Upon the death of a grand master, the vice master called a capitulum composed of the leading officers of the order. The general chapter would select a twelve-person electoral college composed of seven knights, four sergeants, and one priest. Once a majority-candidate for grand master was chosen, the minority electors would concede to support unanimity. These elections usually provided a succeeding grand master within three months.
Candidates for the position of grand master had experience as senior administrators for the order and were usually chosen on merit, not lineage. This changed only after the order had entered a steady decline, with the selection of Frederick of Saxony and Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach, members of the powerful Wettin and House of Hohenzollern dynasties.
When the Teutonic Knights were originally based in Acre in Outremer, the grand masters spent much of their time at the papal and imperial courts. The grand masters were most powerful after the order's 13th century conquest of Prussia during the Northern Crusades and the creation of the militarized State of the Teutonic Order, which lasted until 1525 (from 1466 to 1525 as part of the Kingdom of Poland as a fief). After the order's capital moved from Venice to Malbork (Marienburg) in 1309, the grand master's power was at its height. He had ultimate control over Prussia, which gave him command over the Prussian commanders. When the general chapter would meet in Elbl?g (Elbing), he was able to use this influence to ratify administrative measures he proposed. The grand master also served as the castellan of Marienburg and was aided by the order's treasurer. He was also a member of the Hanseatic League, allowing him to receive some of the league's custom dues.
Excavations in the church of Kwidzyn (Marienwerder) performed in 2007 yielded the skeletal remains of three Grand Masters of the late medieval period, Werner von Orseln (1324-30), Ludolf König von Wattzau (1342-45) and Heinrich von Plauen (1410-13). The church had been known as the burial place of the bishops of Pomesania, but the discovery of the grand masters' burials was unexpected. The bodies had been buried in gold-painted wooden coffins draped in silk robes.
Since the 1466 Second Peace of Toru?, the Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order were vassals of the Kingdom of Poland, and every Grand Master of the Teutonic Order was obliged to swear an oath of allegiance to the reigning Polish king within six months of taking office. The Grand Masters were also princes and counselors of the Polish kings and the Kingdom of Poland. The State of the Teutonic Order was a part of Poland as a fief.
The Teutonic Order as a spiritual military order had a total of 37 grand masters between 1198 and 1525.
Several armorials of the 15th and early 16th century depict the coat of arms of the grand masters. These include the Chronica by Ulrich Richenthal, an armorial of St. Gallen kept in Nuremberg, an armorial of southwest Germany kept in Leipzig and the Miltenberg armorial. Conspicuously absent from these lists are three grand masters, Gerhards von Malberg (1241-1244) and his successors Heinrich von Hohenlohe (1244-1249) and Gunther von Wüllersleben (1250-1252), so that pre-modern historiographical tradition has a list of 34 grand masters for the time before 1525 (as opposed to 37 in modern accounts).
The last Hochmeister, Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach, converted to Lutheranism and, with the consent of his overlord and uncle, King Sigismund I of Poland, turned the State of the Teutonic Order into the secular Duchy of Prussia per the Treaty of Kraków, which was sealed by the Prussian Homage in Kraków in 1525. The commanderies in the autonomous Livonian Terra Mariana likewise were lost by 1561, as that region also became Protestant. However, the Order retained its bailiwicks in the Holy Roman Empire (Germany and Italy), which had been administered by the Deutschmeister since 1219.
As the Order was now limited to its possessions in the German kingdom, incumbent Deutschmeister Walter von Cronberg was also appointed Hochmeister by Emperor Charles V in 1527. The administrative seat was moved to Mergentheim Castle in Franconia. The Hoch- und Deutschmeister was ranked as one of the ecclesiastical Princes of the Holy Roman Empire until 1806; when Mergentheim fell to the newly established Kingdom of Württemberg, their residence was relocated to the Deutschordenshaus in Vienna. The dual title lasted until in 1923, when the last secular Grand Master, Archduke Eugen of Austria, resigned from office.
A Franconian Teutschmeister regiment of the Imperial Army was formed under Count Palatine Francis Louis of Neuburg in 1696; organized as 4th Infantry Regiment in 1769 and deployed at Vienna, it was known as the Lower Austrian Hoch- und Deutschmeister regiment from 1814. Chiefly known for its popular military band, the regiment's tradition was adopted by the Wehrmacht 44th Infantry Division in 1938 and today is maintained by the 1st Jäger Battalion of the Austrian Armed Forces.
Time of the Teutonic Order as a clerical Roman Catholic religious order
Die Identität H.s mit dem Bruder Heinrich, der 1193 und 1194 als Prior, 1196 als ,,Preceptor" des Deutschen Hospitals in Akkon genannt wird, ist wahrscheinlich. Er empfängt als solcher Schenkungen für das Hospital und darf, da man über die Amtsbezeichnungen in diesem Hospital in jener Frühzeit sonst fast nichts weiß, wohl als Oberhaupt des Hospitals gelten. Als das Deutsche Hospital in Akkon am 5.3.1198 durch die Führer des deutschen Kreuzzugsheeres, das Heinrich VI. vorausgeeilt war, in einen Ritterorden verwandelt wurde, war es nur natürlich, daß man H. als ersten Hochmeister ausersah. Der Orden wurde 1199 von Papst Innozenz III. bestätigt. [...] Über die Dauer seiner Amtszeit ist nichts Sicheres bekannt. Sein Nachfolger Otto von Kerpen amtierte im September 1208 [...]