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Warmia in 1547 as part of Royal Prussia

Warmia (Polish: Warmia, Latin: Varmia) or Erm(e)land (German: About this sound Ermland ) is a region between Pomerania and Masuria in northeastern Poland. Together with Masuria, it forms the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship.

To the west of Warmia is Pomesania, to the south is Chełmno Land, Sassinia, and Masuria (earlier called Galindia), to the east is Sambia, and to the north is the Vistula Bay. Warmia has been under the dominion of various states and peoples over the course of its history, most notably the Old Prussians, the Teutonic Knights, the Kingdom of Poland, and the Kingdom of Prussia. The history of the region is closely connected to that of the Archbishopric of Warmia (formerly, Duchy of Warmia).

The area is associated with the Prussian tribe, the Warmians,[1] who settled in the northern part of the area. According to folk etymology, the area of Warmia is named after the legendary Prussian chief Warmo, whereas the name Ermland derives from his widow Erma.




Early history

The first traces of human settlement in the region come from roughly 14 to 15 thousand years ago: traces of settlements made by the Lusatian culture (thirteenth—fifth century BC), including above-ground water housings and artificially created islands.[citation needed] By the early Middle Ages, the area was inhabited by the Warmians, an Old Prussian tribe.

The beginning of the Northern Crusades

In the 13th century, the area became a battleground in the Northern Crusades. Having failed to gather an expedition against Palestine, Pope Innocent III resolved in 1207 to organize a new Crusade; beginning in 1209, he called for Crusades against the Albigenses, in against the Almohad dynasty of Spain (1213), and, around that time, the pagans of Prussia.[2] The first Bishop of Prussia, Christian of Oliva, was commissioned in 1209 to convert the Prussians, at the request of Konrad I of Masovia.

The Teutonic Order

Warmians and other Prussian tribes during the 13th century

After a number of years Duke Konrad I of Masovia invited the Teutonic Knights to Christianize the pagan Prussians in 1226. He supplied the Teutonic Order and allowed the usage of Chełmno Land (Culmerland) as a base for the knights. They were to establish secure borders between Masovia and the Prussians, with the assumption that conquered territories would be joined to Masovia. The Order waited until they received official authorisation by the empire, which Emperor Frederick II granted by issuing the Golden Bull of Rimini. The grant was confirmed by the papal Golden Bull of Rieti from Pope Gregory IX in 1234, although Konrad of Masovia never recognized the rights of the Order to rule Prussia. Later, the Knights were accused of forging these land grants.

By the end of the 13th century most of the Prussian region, including Warmia, was conquered and Christianized by the Teutonic Order. Of the native Prussians many were reduced to the status of serfs and gradually Germanized. Over several centuries the colonists, native Prussians and the immigrants gradually intermingled.

The Archbishopric of Warmia was one of four dioceses created in 1242 by the papal legate William of Modena. Since the 13th century the two Meistertums of Prussia (with Warmia) and Livonia were colonised by Germans and Poles (the from 1525 onwards Lutheran Duchy of Prussia gave refuge to Protestant Lithuanians, Scots, Salzburgers). The bishopric was exempt and was governed by a prince-bishop, confirmed by Emperor Charles IV. The Bishops of Warmia were usually Germans or Poles, although Enea Silvio Piccolomini, the later Pope Pius II, was an Italian bishop of the diocese.

After the 1410 Battle of Grunwald, Bishop Heinrich Vogelsang of Warmia surrendered to King Jogaila of Poland, and later with Bishop Henry of Sambia gave homage to the Polish king at Marienburg Castle (Malbork). After the Polish army moved out of Warmia, the new Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, Heinrich von Plauen the Elder, accused the bishop of treachery and reconquered the region.[3]

Polish Crown

Map of Episcopatum Warmiensem in Prussia by Endersch, 1755. Yellow tags with modern day Polish names were added later

The Second Peace of Thorn (1466) removed Warmia from the control of the Teutonic Knights and placed it under the sovereignty of the Crown of Poland as part of the province of Royal Prussia, although with several privileges.

Soon after, in 1467, the Cathedral Chapter elected Nicolas von Tüngen against the wish of the Polish king. The Estates of Royal Prussia did not take the side of the Cathedral Chapter. Nicholas von Tüngen allied himself with the Teutonic Order and with King Matthias Corvinus of Hungary. The feud, known as the War of the Priests, was a low scale affair, affecting mainly Warmia. In 1478 Braniewo (Braunsberg) withstood a Polish siege which was ended in an agreement in which the Polish king recognized von Tüngen as bishop and the right of the Cathedral Chapter to elect future bishops, which however would have to be accepted by the king, and the bishop as well as Cathedral Chapter swore an oath to the Polish king. Later in the Treaty of Piotrków Trybunalski (December 7 1512), conceded to the king of Poland a limited right to determine the election of bishops by choosing four candidates from Royal Prussia.[4]

After the Union of Lublin in 1569 Duchy of Warmia was officially directly included as part of the Polish crown within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. At the same time the territory continued to enjoy substantial autonomy, with many legal differences from neighbouring lands. For example, the bishops were by law members of Polish Senat and the land elected MP's to the Sejmik resp. Landtag of Royal Prussia as well as MP's to the Sejm of Poland.

Warmia was under the Church jurisdiction of the Archbishopric of Riga until 1512, when Prince-Bishop Lucas Watzenrode received exempt status, placing Warmia directly under the authority of the Pope (in terms of church jurisdiction), which remained until the resolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806.


By the First Partition of Poland in 1772, Warmia was politically reunited with the surrounding parts of East Prussia and annexed by the Kingdom of Prussia; the property of the Archbishopric of Warmia was confiscated by the Prussian state. Ignacy Krasicki, the last prince-bishop as well as a Polish writer, friend of Frederick the Great, was nominated to the Archbishopric of Gnesen (Gniezno). The Prussian census in 1772 showed a total population of 96,547, including an urban population of 24,612 in 12 towns. 17,749 houses were listed and the biggest city was Braunsberg (Braniewo).

From 1772-1945 Warmia was part of Lutheran East Prussia, with the exception that the people of Warmia remained largely Catholic. Most of the German population of Warmia spoke High Prussian, while a small area in the north spoke Low Prussian; southern Warmia was mostly populated by Polish-speaking Warmiaks. Warmia became part of the German Empire in 1871.

In 1873 according to a regulation of the German government, school lessons at public schools inside Germany had to be hold in German, as a result the Polish language was forbidden in all schools in Warmia, including Polish schools founded in the sixteenth century. In 1900 Warmia's population was 240,000. In the jingoistic climate after World War I, Poles were subject to persecution by the German government, and Germans by the Polish government. Polish children speaking their language were punished in schools and often had to wear signs with insulting names, such as "Pollack".[5]

After the First World War in the aftermath of the East Prussian plebiscite the region remained in Germany, as in the Warmian district of Allenstein (Olsztyn) 86,53% and in the district of Rössel (Reszel) 97,9% voted for Germany. The reciprocal persecutions of the German and Polish governments and militias worsened in the late 1930s, and the Poles in Warmia were subject to harsher persecution by German authorities and militias, such as attacks on schools and centers.[citation needed] During World War II Germany sought to suppress all elements of social and political life of the Polish minority in Germany by interning and murdering Polish activists and leaders.


After the Potsdam Conference, following World War II, East Prussia was divided into the two parts now known as Oblast Kaliningrad and Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship. Most ethnic Germans were evacuated during the war, and most of those remaining were expelled to Germany. Only a small minority of Germans remained in what became Poland.

Major towns

Famous Warmians

See also


  1. ^ Also called the Warms, Varms, Varmi, Warmians, Varmians, and, in Latvian, the Vārmieši.
  2. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Crusades
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  • (Polish) Erwin Kruk, "Warmia i Mazury", Wydawnictwo Dolnośląskie, Wrocław 2003, ISBN 83-7384-028-1

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From LoveToKnow 1911

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