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Coat of arms of the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order.

The grand master (German language: Hochmeister; Latin language: Magister generalis) 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 Sancte Marie Alemannorum Jerosolimitani. Since 1216, the full title Magister Hospitalis Domus Sancte Marie Theutonicorum Jerosolimitani ("Master of the Hospital House of St. Mary of the Germans at Jerusalem") was used.

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 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.[1]

Candidates for the position of grand master had experience as senior administrators for the order and were usually chosen on merit, not lineage.[2] 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.[3] 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 (Ordenstaat), which lasted until 1525. After the order's capital moved from Venice to 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 Elbing, he was able to use this influence to ratify administrative measures he proposed.[2] 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.[4]

Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach converted to Lutheranism and turned the Ordenstaat into the secular, Lutheran Duchy of Prussia in 1525. The Teutonic Order retained its holdings in Germany and autonomous Livonia, however. Due to being limited to their possessions in other parts of Germany, which were led by the Deutschmeister, the titles Hochmeister and Deutschmeister were combined during the reign of Walter von Cronberg, who was appointed by Emperor Charles V. This dual-title lasted until 1923. For centuries the "Jägerregiment Wien" of the Military of Austria was known as the "Hoch- und Deutschmeister Regiment". The Teutonic Order is still led by a grand master, although the organization is now a clerical Roman Catholic religious order.

List of Grand Masters of the Teutonic Order

Leaders of the early Brotherhood, 1190–1198

The Teutonic Order as a hospice brotherhood in Outremer:

  • 1190 Meister Sibrand
  • 1192 Gerhard
  • 1193/94 Heinrich, prior
  • 1195–1196 Ulrich
  • 1196 Heinrich, preceptor (probably identified with Heinrich Walpot von Bassenheim)

Grand Masters of the Order, 1198–1525

Hermann von Salza, the fourth Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights.

The Teutonic Order as a spiritual military order:

Hoch- und Deutschmeister, 1530–1929

  • 1527–1543 Walter von Cronberg
  • 1543–1566 Wolfgang Schutzbar
  • 1566–1572 Georg Hundt von Weckheim
  • 1572–1590 Heinrich von Bobenhausen
  • 1590–1618 Maximilian of Austria
  • 1619–1624 Karl I of Austria
  • 1625–1627 Johann Eustach von Westernach
  • 1627–1641 Johann Kaspar von Stadion
  • 1641–1662 Archduke Leopold Wilhelm of Austria
  • 1662–1664 Archduke Karl Josef of Austria
  • 1664–1684 Johann Caspar von Ampringen
  • 1685–1694 Ludwig Anton of Palatinate–Neuburg
  • 1694–1732 Ludwig Franz of Palatinate–Neuburg
  • 1732–1761 Prince Clemens August of Bavaria
  • 1761–1780 Prince Charles Alexander of Lorraine
  • 1780–1801 Archduke Maximilian Franz of Austria
  • 1801–1804 Archduke Charles, Duke of Teschen
  • 1804–1835 Archduke Anton Victor of Austria (office becomes hereditary to Imperial House of Austria)
  • 1835–1863 Archduke Maximilian of Austria–Este
  • 1863–1894 Archduke Wilhelm Franz of Austria
  • 1894–1923 Archduke Eugen of Austria (end of hereditary status)
  • 1923–1933 Norbert Klein

1929 – present-day

Bruno Platter, 2000–present

Time of the Teutonic Order as a clerical Roman Catholic religious order

  • 1923–1933 Norbert Klein
  • 1933–1936 Paul Heider
  • 1936–1948 Robert Schälzky
  • 1948–1970 Marian Tumler
  • 1970–1988 Ildefons Pauler
  • 1988–2000 Arnold Othmar Wieland
  • 2000–present Bruno Platter


  1. Christiansen, 203
  2. 2.0 2.1 Christiansen, 204
  3. Christiansen, 78
  4. Christiansen, 205
  5. The pretender Wilhelm von Urenbach (1253-1256) was chosen in opposition to Poppo von Osterna.
  6. Burchard von Schwanden's first year in office is given as 1282 on the Teutonic Order's German site and 1283 on the Austrian site.
  7. Ludwig von Erlichshausen's first year in office is given as 1449 on the Teutonic Order's German site and 1450 on the Austrian site.

See also


  • Christiansen, Erik (1997). The Northern Crusades. London: Penguin Books. p. 287. ISBN 0-14-026653-4. 

External links

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