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Theocratic rule, native agency and transformation: post-crusade sacred landscapes in the eastern Baltic

Pluskowski, A. ORCID:, Valk, H. and Szczepański, S. (2018) Theocratic rule, native agency and transformation: post-crusade sacred landscapes in the eastern Baltic. Landscapes, 19 (1). pp. 4-24. ISSN 1466-2035

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1080/14662035.2018.1561009


The crusades against eastern Baltic societies from the end of the twelfth century saw the reorganisation of the conquered territories into new Christian polities - Livonia and Prussia - largely ruled by a militarised theocracy consisting of the Teutonic Order, bishops and cathedral chapters. This was accompanied by the reconfiguration of land ownership and intensification in resource exploitation aimed at sustaining the new regime, alongside the growing urban and rural populations. An ecclesiastical administration was also imposed on the conquered territories, alongside the construction of churches and monasteries, confronting native religions which attached sacred importance to natural places and cemeteries. This paper compares the transformation of sacred landscapes in Livonia and Prussia and provides an interpretation of variability in relation to theocratic authority, native and migrant populations. Encompassing the role of settlements, cemeteries and the tempo of change, the paper is situated within a new archaeological framework contextualising religious transformation in the Middle Ages. It also provides the first detailed, comparative perspective for the two regions. The landscape was not uniformly transformed and its variability, particularly the post-crusade endurance and even proliferation of native sacred sites, reflects the limits of theocratic authority and the pragmatic necessities of ruling a conquered population. That strong contrasts exist in the nature and process of Christianisation in even superficially similar areas like Livonia and Prussia should serve as a warning to resist generalising across limited data sets.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Archaeology
ID Code:81384


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