Siege of Medvėgalis
|Siege of Medvėgalis|
|Part of the Lithuanian Crusade|
Medvėgalis hillfort in 2010
|Grand Duchy of Lithuania||Teutonic Order|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Unknown||Werner von Orseln and John of Bohemia|
|3,000 to 6,000||350 knights and 18,000 soldiers|
The Siege of Medvėgalis was a brief siege of Medvėgalis, a Lithuanian fortress in Samogitia, in February 1329 by the Teutonic Order reinforced by many guest crusaders, including King John of Bohemia. The 18,000-strong Teutonic army captured four Lithuanian fortresses and besieged Medvėgalis. The fortress surrendered and as many as 6,000 locals were baptized in the Catholic rite. The campaign, which lasted a little more than a week, was cut short by a Polish attack on Prussia in the Polish–Teutonic War (1326–32). As soon as the Teutonic army returned to Prussia the Lithuanians returned to their pagan practices and beliefs.
Medvėgalis was one of the strongest and most important Lithuanian fortresses in Samogitia. First mentioned in written sources in 1316, over the course of its history it was attacked about 20 times by the Teutonic Knights.
After the victorious Battle of Medininkai in 1320, Lithuania concluded a truce with the Knights. The Teutons resumed military incursions into Lithuania in 1328. On 1 January 1329, King John of Bohemia arrived at Toruń wishing to engage in the holy crusade against pagan Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Back in 1325 he promised Pope John XXII to launch another crusade and received permission to collect papal income tax for three years to finance the crusade. He brought many noblemen, including Walter VI, Count of Brienne, and Bolesław III the Generous with his brothers, and soldiers from Silesia, Germany, England. The king also brought poet Guillaume de Machaut so that his exploits could be memorialized in poems and songs (the campaign was described in Confort d'ami written in 1357). According to Peter von Dusburg, the Teutonic army which marched towards Medvėgalis Castle numbered 350 knights and 18,000-foot soldiers. Teutonic ambitions were high as parallels were drawn with King Ottokar II of Bohemia and his 1255 campaign which resulted in the conquest of the Sambians.
According to Jean d'Outremeuse, the vanguard of the Teutonic army first raided and appropriated livestock of Gelindėnai Hillfort in the present-day Plungė District Municipality perhaps in an attempt to provoke a pitched battle. Lithuanians, led by Margiris, pursued the robbers and engaged in a battle. However, soon the Teutonic vanguard was joined by the main forces and Lithuanians faced a slaughter. Recognizing King John, who had a reputation for participating in tournaments, Margiris challenged him to a face-to-face duel. King John agreed and they met next morning. However, Margiris' men attempted to interfere which was strictly against the rules of chivalry. Margiris surrendered to John and promised to pay a ransom, which was paid with coins stolen during the 1326 raid into Brandenburg.
On 1 February, the Teutonic army surrounded Medvėgalis. After the wooden fortress caught fire, Medvėgalis was captured and defenders were taken captive. Chronicler Wigand of Marburg mentioned that the Grand Master Werner von Orseln wanted to kill them all or at least resettle them in Prussia, but King John insisted that the captives be baptized and allowed to remain in Medvėgalis. About 6,000 Lithuanian men, women, and children were baptized in the Roman Catholic rite. According to Machaut, the Teutons also captured four other fortresses – Šiauduva (location is debated), Gediminas Castle (located in Kvėdarna), Gegužė, and Aukaimis (Xedeytain, Gedemine, Geguse, Aukaham).
At the same time King Władysław I of Poland, who was allied with Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas, took advantage of the fact that the main Teutonic force was in Lithuania and attacked Chełmno Land (Kulmerland). Plans for a further military campaign in Samogitia were scrapped and the Teutonic army returned home to deal with the war with Poland. The entire campaign in Lithuania lasted a little more than a week. Once the main army left, the Lithuanians rebelled, retook their fortress, and returned to their pagan beliefs. King John returned to Prussia to crusade against Lithuania twice, in 1337 and 1345.
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