The Order of Knights of Christ in Livonia, or of the lSword-Bearers. (24.)
In the year of our Lord m 1186. one Meinardus a holy and devout man, began to preach the Gospel in Livonia, and erected the Bishoprick of Riga. But this good man and his Successors met with great difficulties and opposition, in the propaga∣tion of Christianity, until the year 1200. about which time many of that Coun∣try embraced the Christian Faith; and one nAlbert, being then Bishop of Li∣vonia, instituted this Order, in imitation of the Knights Teutonicks, with design to extirpate Idolatry, and propagate the Christian Religion in those Territories, as the other had undertaken to do in Prussia.
He prescribed to the Knights the Cistertian Rule and Habit, namely, a long White Mantle and Black Hood, on the breast was sewed the Figure of a oRed Sword, or rather p two Red Swords, crossing one another in form of a Saltire, whence they had the Title qEnsiferi, velrGladiferi Fratres, or Brethren Sword-Bearers.
Pope uInnocent the Third gave approbation and confirmation to this Order, which became fully Instituted in the year of our Lord 1203.
And w because they could not of themselves accomplish the end for which they were instituted, they in the year x 1237. or 1239. united to the Teutonick Order, and submitted to their Rule and Habit, by whose help and assistance, they af∣terwards overcame the Idolatrous Livonians, and brought them to submit to the Christian Faith: thenceforward the yGreat Master of Livonia acknowledged him of Prussia for his Superior; and so continued until zWalter de Pletemberg their Great Master, contemporary with Albert of Brandenburg, Great Master of Prussia, separated this Order from its obedience to the Teutonick.
Finally, in the year 1561. Gothard de Ketler, the last Great Master of this Order, following the example of Albert Great Master of Prussia, became a Subject to the Crown of Poland; for on the * 5. of March in the year aforesaid, he (in the Ca∣stle of Riga) surrendred to the use of King Sigismund the Second (surnamed Au∣gustus) all the Lands belonging to this Order, together with his Cross, the Seal of the Order, the Charters and Grants of several Popes and Emperors, which concern'd the same; the Keys of the City and Castle of Riga, the Office of Great Master, the rights of Coynage, and all the Powers and Priviledges appertaining to it; receiving back again from Radzevill the Kings Commissioner, the Duke∣dom of Curland to him and his Heirs for ever.
In this manner this Order became extinguisht, after it had flourished 357 years.