Sunday, March 9, 2008

Foundation (part 3)

Master Heinrich von Walpot, who led the knights in their first decade, came from the Rhineland. He began by drawing up the Order's statutes, ready by 1199, which were confirmed by Innocent III in the Bull Sacrosancta romana of February 19, 1199. These divided the knights into two classes, knights and priests, the former being obliged to take the triple monastic vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as well as promise to aid the sick and fight the Infidel. Unlike the knights, who from the early thirteenth century had to prove "ancient nobility", the priests were relieved of this obligation and their function was to celebrate the Mass and other religious offices, to administer the sacraments to the knights and the sick in their hospitals and follow them as almoners into war. Priests brothers could not become Masters, Commanders or even Vice-Commanders in either Lithuania or Prussia, but could become Commanders in Germany. Later these two ranks were augmented by a third class, of serving brothers (Sergeants), who wore a similar mantle but in gray rather than blue and charged with only three branches of the Cross to indicate that they were not full members of the confraternity.