« Albert of Prussia Albert of Riga Alberti, Valentin »

Albert of Riga

ALBERT OF RIGA: Founder of the German power among the Esthonians and Letts; d. at Riga Jan. 17, 1229. He was a nephew of Hartwig, archbishop of Bremen, and is first mentioned as canon in that city. In 1199 he was ordained bishop of Uexküll, in the territory of the Livonians, as the successor of Bishop Berthold (see Berthold of Livonia) who had perished the previous year in an uprising of the pagan inhabitants. Though organized missionary work had been carried on among the Letts and the Livonians since 1184, they had shown themselves hostile to the new creed, and it fell to Albert to maintain his episcopal title and to spread the Gospel by the sword. Aided by a papal bull he succeeded in raising a large force of crusaders, and in the year 1200 appeared on the shores of the Dwina, where he met with little resistance from the Livonians. In 1201 he founded the town of Riga, and for the protection of his dominions and the extension of his conquests organized the Order of the Brothers of the Sword, whose grand master was made subordinate to his authority. The Christianizing of the country was promoted by the introduction of Cistercian and Premonstrant monks, and by 1206 almost the entire Livonian population had been baptized. In 1207 Albert received Livonia as a fief from the German king, together with the title of “Prince of the Empire.” Three years later he was confirmed by Innocent III. as bishop of the territories of the Livonians and the Letts, and, without receiving the dignity of archbishop, was granted the right to nominate and ordain bishops for such territorial conquests as might be made from the heathen peoples to the northeast. He now met with formidable rivalry from the Brothers of the Sword, whose grand master desired to make himself independent of the bishop. The Danes, also, by the acquisition of Lübeck in 1215, became a powerful factor in the politics of the eastern Baltic. Though forced for a time to make concessions to both, Albert by courage and a wise use of circumstances, succeeded in retaining his power unimpaired. From 1211 to 1224 vigorous campaigns were carried on against the heathen Esthonians to the northeast, who although sided by the Russian rulers of Novgorod and Pskov, were compelled to submit to the German power. The Danish influence speedily disappeared, and the 109 Brothers of the Sword were forced in time to take their lands in Esthonia as a fief from Albert and from his brother Hermann, whom he had made bishop of southern Esthonia, with his seat at Dorpat. In 1227 the island of Oesel, the last stronghold of the heathen resistance and the refuge of pirates who held the eastern Baltic in terror, was overrun by a crusading army, and the conversion of the country was completed. Albert is a striking type of the militant ecclesiastic of the Middle Ages. In spite of his great services in the spread of Christianity in the Baltic lands, it is as the warrior, prince, and diplomat, rather than as bishop, that he stands out most prominently.

(F. Lezius).

Bibliography: Heinricus de Lettis, Chronicon Livoniæ, 1125-1227, in MGH, Script., xxiii. (1874) 231-332; K. von Schlözer, Livland und die Anfänge deutschen Lebens im Norden, Berlin, 1850; F. Winter, Die Prämonstratenser des zwölften Jahrhunderts, ib. 1865; idem, Die Cistercienser des nordöstlichen Deutschlands, Gotha, 1868; R. Hausmann, Das Ringen der Deutschen und Dänen um den Besitz Estlands, Leipsic, 1870; G. Dehio, Geschichte des Erzbistums Hamburg-Bremen, ii. 160 sqq., Berlin, 1877; T. Schiemann, Russland, Polen und Livland, in Allgemeine Geschichte, ii. 1 sqq., ib. 1887.

« Albert of Prussia Albert of Riga Alberti, Valentin »
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