Krzyzacy (Black Cross) (1960)




Director:  Aleksander Ford.

Starring:   Urszula Modrzynska (Jagienka,Jagna),  Grazyna Staniszewska (Danusia),  Andrzej Szalawski (Jurand of Spychw),  Henryk Borowski (Siegfried de Lwe),  Aleksander Fogiel (Macko of Bogdaniec),  Mieczyslaw Kalenik (Zbyszko of Bogdaniec),  Emil Karewicz (King Wladyslaw Jagiello),  Tadeusz Kosudarski (Rotgier),  Lucyna Winnicka (Duchess Anna Danuta),  Tadeusz Bialoszczynski (Duke Janusz I Mazowiecki),  Mieczyslaw Voit (Kuno von Liechtenstein),  Janusz Strachocki (Konrad von Jungingen),  Stanislaw Jasiukiewicz (Ulrich von Jungingen),  Leon Niemczyk (Fulko de Lorche), Zbigniew Skowronski (Tolima),  Mieczyslaw Stoor (Hlava),  Wlodzimierz Skoczylas (Sanderus),  Seweryn Butrym (Count Wende),  Barbara Horawianka (Teutonic Maid),  Alicja Krawczyk (Jurand's Wife),  Irena Laskowska (Lady Aleksandra).

Country:  Polish with English subtitles: to get the subtitles in English select Opcje from the menu; select Mapisy; select Wersia Angielska. Then select Menu to return to the Main Menu.  Then select film and you are set to go.  

defeat of the Order of Teutonic Knights of Prussia by the Polish-Lithuanians (1410)


Spoiler Warning:  if you don't want to know everything about the movie stop before the end.

The movie opens with the announcement that the Grand Master Ulrich von Jungincan summons your majesty and prince Witold to a battle to the death.  (This is a flash foward in time to the Battle of Grunwald.)

The story starts out with Count Jurand from Spychow and his men on horseback approaching a train of wagons led by some Teutonic Knights.  One of the prisoners asks to be saved by the Count because they are merchants from Plock who were only carrying grain from the mill.  But a Knight says that merchants can only travel with permission from commander Siegfried de Loewe.  The Count tells the Knights to let the men go; the Knights refused; the Count attacks. 

In retaliation, the commander has Polish forests and fields set afire.  The beautiful Danusia is caught amidst the fire.  Luckily for her, it starts to rain.  But suddenly Teutonic Knights appear at the settlement.  They ask for the wife of the master of Spychow.  When she says she is, the Knights attack.  They take her away and leave the settlement ablaze. 

The Count sees the fire and comes racing to the settlement.  He and Danusia find her, dead after having been dragged behind a horse and the Count vows vengeance. 

Princess Danuta arrives at an inn with her entourage.  Danusia is there to provide some entertainment.  A young man, Zbyszko of Bogdaniec, returning with his uncle from having fought in Lithuania under the Princess's brother, Prince Witold, takes a liking to Danusia and asks the Princess that he might be Danusia's knight.  Permission granted.  The knight promises to avenge the murder of Danusia's mother. 

The hot-headed knight goes after the first Teutonic Knight he sees, who turns out to be Knight Von Lichtenstein, an envoy to the Lithuanian king.  The Teutonic Knights wants the man to be punished and he is sentenced to be beheaded.

The uncle goes to the Grand Master but on the way is stopped and wounded by Fulko de Lorche from Lorraine serving the Order against the Saracens.  He is freed by an attack by Jurand.  About to be beheaded, Danusia saves her man by throwing a veil over his head and he is then given to her, as per an ancient custom.  And according to the custom, they are immediately betrothed. 

The Order wants Jurand and to get him they plan to kidnap the man's daughter, Danusia.  (The kidnapping is done by Siegfried de Lwe and his two sons, Gottfried and Rotgier.)

Zbyszko takes his uncle back to his home territory.  There he meets the pretty Jagna, with whom he grew up. Jagna is very stricken with Sbyszko.  She later gives him a man servant, a captive in war.

They find Jurand in the snow.  The king is informed of the event.  Jurand discovers that his daughter has been kidnapped through a ruse use to trick Danusia.  Zbyszko swears to Jurand that he will help him find his daughter. 

Jurand negotiates with Tolima for the return of his daughter.  The Order wants Jurand to free the prisoner Bergow, as well as others.  Jurand travels to the kidnappers, who taunt him until he turns to violence and slaughters nine of the Order, including one of the kidnappers Gottfried.  The Order via Rotgier, one of the kidnappers, reports a lie to the Mazovian prince and tries to get the land of Jurand in compensation for the nine deaths. 

Zbyszko fights a duel with the Rogier and kills him.  In retaliation, Rogier's father, Grand Master Ulrich von Jungincan, has Jurand's right eye put out and his right hand removed. 

The Order seized ships with grain which was sent to Lithuania, supposedly in retribution for supplying clandestine arms for Zmudz.  They do not want the Knights to crush Zmudz or Lithuania?  The Polish king suggests an alliance with Lithuania, Ruthenia and others to meet the power of the Order. They also want to avenge the taking of Pomerania.  But they first must negotiate.  They will demand that our ships with grain be returned.

Zbyszko is sent as an envoy to Malbork to see the Grand Master.  The envoys their grievances.  The younger men of the Order want war.  The Grand Master dies.  Ulrich will replace him and there will be war. 

 Jurand returns looking like an old beggar.  Zbysko is on the borderland looking for Danusia.  The Uncle finds him.  The men there want to ambush the Germans.  Two days previous, they were beaten at the castle in Nowe Kowno.  They attack the reinforcements and are successful in the battle.

But where is Danusia?  She is with old man De Loewe.  They raid his hide-out and capture De Loewe.  And then they find Danusia.  He is taken to Jurand, but he frees him. They take De Loewe to the border and release him.  De Loewe then shortly commits suicide by hanging. 

Zbyszko takes Danusia back to Spychow where she dies.  They take her body to her father for burial.  A rider arrives shouting the news that they are now at war. 

The Polish king has his men wait in the woods.  Tthe Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg) soon begins.  The Order wanted to draw the Poles out of the woods.  They come up with the idea of a personal challenge to the Polish King and Prince Witold.  This was rejected and the two sides engaged in battle with the Poles and Lithuanians winning. 

Sbyszko returns home, but even though he lost Danusia, Jagna is very willing to assume her role. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.


Historical Background:



1000  --  in the Congress of Gniezno, the Holy Roman Empire and the Pope recognized Poland as a state. 

1025-1138  --  Kingdom of Poland of the first Piasts.

1138-1320  --  the Period of Fragmentation: rule by Piast dukes. 

1187?  -- birth of the future Konrad I of Masovia to Kazimierz II the Just.

1194  --  the death of Kazimierz II the Just. 

end of the 12th century  --  foundation of the Teutonic Knights, a German crusading military order in Acre, Palestine. (Their uniform was a white surcoat with a black cross.) 

1202  --  Konrad received Masovia and Kuyavia.  He took a wife, the Russian princess Agafia. 

1209  --  Konrad tried and failed to conquer Prussia.  He also failed on other occasions.

1211  --  after the Crusades went bad, the Teutonic Knights moved to Transylvania, modern Romania. 

1225  --  the Teutonic Knights thrown out of Transylvania. They moved to Prussia.

1226  -- frustrated by his failures with the Prussians, Konrad invited in the religious-military order of Teutonic Knights to fight the Prussians. This move would bring great pain to Poland because the Teutonic Knights took advantage of the situation and occupied much of the Baltic coast. By this time the order of  Teutonic Knights was more interested in plunder than spreading Christianity and the Knights launched many brutally cruel attacks on Poles and Lithuanians.

The Knights of the Teutonic Order needed fighting men.  They appealed to well-armed knights to join their "Lithuanian Crusade," Lithuania then being a "pagan" state. The knights came from France, England, Luxembourg, Austria, Hungary, Bohemia and the Low Countries.  This group of knights was referred to as the Krzyzacy

1247  --  death of Konrad I. 

1320-1385  --  Kingdom of Poland of the later Piasts.

1385-1569  --  Kingdom of Poland of the Jagiellons: the beginning of Poland's "Golden Age"

1385  --  several things occurred:  the Union of Kreva joined the crown of Poland and Lithuania; Grand Duke Duke Jogaila of Lithuania married Queen Jadwiga of Poland;  and Jogaila accepted Christianity.

After the marriage Jogaila ceded power in Lithuania to his cousin Vytautas the Great.

1386  --  Jogaila became King of Poland as Wladyslaw Jagiello. 

1398  --  The Knights invaded largely with impunity the now Christian states of Poland and Lithuania.

1409-1411  --  the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War.

1409 (August 14)  --  Teutonic Grand Master Ulrich von Jungingen declared war on the Polish-Lithuanian union. The Poles repelled the invasion and reconquered Bydgoszcz (Bromberg).  An armistice was signed. 

1410 (June 24)  --  end of the armistice. 

1410 (June 30)  --  Greater and Lesser Poland crossed the Vistula to join with the forces of Masovia and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. 

 1410 (July 2)  --  Jagiello's Polish forces and the Lithuanian soldiers of Vytautas the Great assembled together.

1410 (c. July 9) --  the combined forces crossed into the territory of the Teutonic Knights, catching them by surprise.  The plan was to attack the enemy's headquarters at the castle of Marienburg.

1410 (July 13)  --   the Poles-Lithuanians marched towards Marienburg, along the way capturing the castles at Soldau and Gilgenburg.

1410 (July 15)  --  at the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg) a united Polish-Lithuanian order defeated the Teutonic Knights, breaking their military power.  The exact numbers of troops on either side are not known.  It was one of the greatest battles of medieval Europe.

The Polish-Lithuanian army was set up in front of the villages of Łodwigowo/Ludwigsdorf and Stębark/Tannenberg and consisted of:

1)  on the left flank were the Polish forces King Wladyslaw Jagiello (composed mostly of heavy cavalry);

2)  on the right flank was the army of Grand Duke Vytautas; (composed of mostly light cavalry);

3) other forces on the right flank were from all over the Grand Duchy; Tartar skirmishers and Moldavian mercenaries.

The Teutonic Order has mostly heavy cavalry and infantry.

The Lithuanians attacked first and then feigned a retreat;  the Order heavy cavalry followed them; the Lithuanians turned on the attacking Order heavy cavalry.  Kept busy this way, when the Order's heavy cavalry returned to the main battlefield, they were too late and not of much help. 

On the left flank, the Order was having more success, but whit his troops near wavering, the Polish king sent in all his reserves and they pushed the Order's troops back.  The Grand Master himself was killed.   

The superiority of the Polish-Lithuanians numbers and tactical prowess proved too much for the Teutonic Order.  The Order would never again recover its former influence.

1434  --  Wladyshaw III of Varna became king of Poland.  

1520  --  the Reformation. 

1525  --  end of the Teutonic Knights as the Grand Master, Albert of Brandenburg, resigned and converted to Lutheranism. 


The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (1572-1795)


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