Short History of Pomerania: Content
Pommern zwischen Polen, Dänemark, Sachsen und Brandenburg: Diese Seite in Deutsch
Pomeranian_Griffin: Worldwide Group of Pomeranian, Culture and Genealogy

2. Pomerania between Poland, Denmark, Saxony and Brandenburg (1135-1194)

The political development of Pomerania, accompanied by devastating military campaigns, was as turbulent as the process of its conversion to Christianity had been smooth and even. In 1135, the Polish Duke Boleslaw II was compelled to accept Pomerania-Stettin as a fief from Lothar von Supplinburg, so that the territories of the Gryphon Duke came within the sphere of influence of the Holy Roman Empire. Somewhat later, the powerful Duke of Saxony became involved. Until the fall of Henry the Lion, Duke Wartislaw I acknowledged the feudal suzerainty of Saxony for his territories west of the Oder River, as well as the feudal suzerainty of Poland for his territories east of the Oder. The Holy Roman Emperor was, in turn, the feudal lord over both of these.

In regards to the church, the Diocese of Wollin was responsible for the entire territory of the Gryphon Duke, so that there was a congruence of ecclesiastical and secular authority for the duke. His duchy of Pomerania (-Stettin) was not a random collection of inherited, but not contiguous, fiefs. Rather, it was a geographically compact, or territorial, duchy. The feudal suzerainty of Poland ended in 1138 at the death of Boleslaw II. After that, Poland became preoccupied with internal struggles.

Under the successors of Duke Ratibor I, who died in 1156, the territory was divided between the lines of Pomerania-Stettin and Pomerania-Demmin (which included Wollin). This territorial division between different branches of the ruling family, and later between different foreign powers, was an occurrence that would become the rule in Pomerania for centuries. From the beginning of its independent history in the 12th century until today, Pomerania has been unified for only comparatively short periods of time. The Demmin line became extinct in 1264.

Soon, danger again threatened from the direction of Denmark. In 1162, Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (1152-1190) had assigned the task of conquering the �lands of the Wends� to King Waldemar I the Great of Denmark (1157-1182). In the process of carrying out this assignment, in 1168 (or 1169?), Denmark conquered the Slavic principality of Ruegen, to which not only the island of Ruegen itself, but also the portion of the mainland across the strait, belonged. Denmark destroyed the pagan Swantewit shrine in the powerful walled fortress at Arkona. Pomerania took part in this campaign.

After his defeat, Prince Jaromar of Ruegen accepted his land as a fief from Denmark. The island of Ruegen was placed ecclesiastically under the Danish diocese of Roskilde, but the mainland portions of the principality were assigned to the diocese of Schwerin. In the entire principality, the conquest by the western powers and Christianization resulted in the founding of monastic institutions. In 1193, Cistercian nuns founded Bergen; in 1231, Neuenkamp; and finally in 1296 the Cistercian abbey of Hiddensee. In the interior of the island of Ruegen itself, which was difficult of access, pagan customs continued to exist for a long time. Ruegen remained a Danish fief until 1438.

After the conquest of Ruegen, the Danes also threatened Pomerania-Stettin and, as has already been mentioned, destroyed Wollin. However, there is evidence that in 1178 the Uckermark belonged to Pomerania. In light of the threat from Denmark, and after the deposition of Henry the Lion, Duke Bogislaw I of Pomerania, a son of Wartislaw I, sought protection from the Holy Roman Empire. In 1181 at Luebeck, Pomerania became an imperial fief. This meant that the Holy Roman Empire now included a Slavid duchy. The duke secured himself doubly by marrying a Polish princess.

In 1184, while the Pomeranians, at the direction of the emperor, were conducting a crusade against Prince Jaromar of Ruegen, who was now a Danish vassal, the Danes defeated them in a naval battle near Greifswald. The emperor was unable to protect and support his own vassal, because he was deeply involved in Italian politics. In 1185, Pomerania became a Danish fief, and remained one until 1227, even though the Holy Roman Empire never gave up its claim to sovereignty. Allied troops from Holstein, Mecklenburg, Saxony, Luebeck, Hamburg, and Bremen finally put an end to the Danish push for conquest by defeating its troops on July 22, 1227, at the Battle of Bornhoeved.

After the Battle of Bornhoeved, Pomerania managed to shake off Danish suzerainty in 1227. However, they subsequently had to accept that of the Ascanian rulers of Brandenburg. Philip of Swabia (1198-1208), a German king from the Hohenstaufen line, had promised the feudal suzerainty over Pomerania to Brandenburg. After the Battle of Bouvines in 1214, Emperor Frederick II renounced his claims to all lands on the eastern side of the Elde and Elbe Rivers in favor of Denmark. After the defeat of Denmark in 1227, Frederick II in 1231, at Ravenna, confirmed the Margraviate of Brandenburg�s feudal authority over Pomerania, which thereby became imperial territory.

In 1236, Pomerania-Demmin acknowledged the Ascanian overlordship in the Treaty of Kremmen and transferred the territory of Stargard to Brandenburg. In 1250, the Pomeranian dukes Barnim I and Wartislaw III, in the Treaty of Hohenlandin, were compelled to give up the northern portion of the Uckermark to Brandenburg. In turn, the Margrave enfeoffed the two dukes jointly with Pomerania. This meant that within its boundaries, each had property and inheritance claims to the total area, and no piece of land could be sold or otherwise alienated by one of them without the other�s consent. To a certain extent, this secured the duchy against future partitions and guaranteed a certain amount of cohesion. However, it also provided the legal basis for the much later acquisition of Pomerania by Brandenburg-Prussia. Simultaneously, through the same treaty, Duke Barnim I acquired the castle and territory of Wolgast.

The oldest evidence for the coat of arms of the Pomeranian ducal house can be found in this period when the duchy�s boundaries were being defined and the earliest partitions were occuring. A seal was suspended from a document issued in 1194 by Duke Bogislaw II of Stettin (who died on January 23, 1220) and his cousin Duke Kasimir II of Demmin. The seal contained a shield with an upright gryphon. This seal is known only by means of a written description from the year 1384. However, there is a document from the year 1214 which still has the actual gryphon coat of arms of Duke Bogislaw II. The color (�tinting�) of the coat of arms probably also goes back as far as the 12th century: a red gryphon, picked out with gold, upright upon a silver background. The gryphon was a chimeric animal combining the eagle and lion, who were considered to be respectively the strongest and noblest animals in the air and on the ground. The gryphon thus became the symbol of Pomerania already in the Middle Ages, during the youth of the duchy, and has remained so until the present day.

Next Chapter: 3. The German Settlement of Pomerania (1150-1350)