The Battle of Grunwald: A Medieval Conflict Still Bringing People Together

This year marks 611 years, since the Battle of Grunwald. The event, which took place on this day in 1410, saw Polish-Lithuanian forces clashed with the Teutonic Knights, supported by knights from Western Europe.

Whilst the exact causes of this historic conflict remain shrouded in mystery, what is established is that a dispute between Polish Archbishop Mikolaj Kurowski and Grandmaster of the Teutonic Knights Ulrich von Jungingen, created tension around the borderland of Dobrzyń.

On 15 July, 1410, one of the greatest battles in the history of medieval Europe took place. The combined forces of the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the troops of the Teutonic Order, stood in front of each other at Grunwald.

Before the battle commenced, Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights had sent two heralds to King of Poland Władysław Jagiełło and Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas. The heralds gave Jagiełło and Vytautas two swords, an act many believe to be a provocation. There would be doubts over this assertion if it were not for the insulting words with which they presented their proposals.

The message from the Grand Master warned his rivals to “not be so sluggish and more courageous,” and to not hide in these forests and bushes.”

The swords were accepted, and the harsh statement was dismissed. Historians, including Jan Długosz, interpreted it as a foretelling of the Teutonic defeat. It is suggested that the Teutonic Knights were committing the gravest of all possible sins – superbia, or the sin of pride.

The Battle of Grunwald broke the power of the Teutonic Knights in Europe. The feared militia never threatened Poland and Lithuania again. It also confirmed the importance of the union between Poland and Lithuania.

The victory at Grunwald was recognised in Poland and Lithuania as a breakthrough in the struggle with the Teutonic Order. In 1412, King Jagiełło declared the 15th July a bank holiday, and this tradition survived until 1794. Solemn masses were celebrated in churches. The chronicle of the conflict between the King Jagiełło and the Teutonic Knights, which has survived to this day, has been retained in the form of a sermon preached during these solemn masses.

This year’s Battle of Grunwald re-enactment was to take place on 17th July 2021. However, due to the pandemic, just like last year, the event has been cancelled. To commemorate the Battle of Grunwald, on the 611th anniversary of the glory of the Polish-Lithuanian army, a solemn appeal will be organised in an appropriate sanitary regime with the participation of official delegations.

The event has been organised since 1998. Every year more than three thousand medieval enthusiasts from all over the world meet on the fields near Grunwald, including Germany, Italy, France, Finland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and even the United States. It is the largest historical outdoor event in the country.

The culminating point is the re-enactment of the memorable battle of 1410, in which 1500 knights from Poland, Germany, Italy, France, Finland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and even the United States take part in the event. Their clash is watched by nearly 100 thousand spectators.

The conflict all those years ago, which brought the people of Lithuania and Poland together, now unites historical enthusiasts from further afield. Whilst the event has been disrupted, thousands of fans will hope to gather once more very soon.