The Teutonic Order of the Hospital of St. Mary was founded in 1190 as a brotherhood to serve the sick. These warrior-monks took arms in the Crusades, fighting in the Holy Lands. However, upon sustaining a string of military defeats, they were forced to retreat to Europe. In 1226, Polish Duke Konrad of Mazovia enlisted the Knights to subdue pagan Prussians in the West. Around 1276, the Knights began construction of the Malbork Castle and named it Marienburg (the Fortress of Mary). The Knights were ruthless and highly disciplined, and eventually came to rival the Polish kings for control over the vital Baltic Sea trade, including the amber trade. Towns that came under the Knights' control included Torun, Elblag, and Kwidzyn. A century later, in 1410, Poles, along with Lithuanians and troops of other lands, joined forces to defeat the religious warriors at the epic Battle of Grünwald (also referred to as the "Battle of Tannenberg" in history books). This marked the beginning of the end of the Knights' dominion in northwestern Poland. In 1457, King Kazimierz Jagieo forced the Knights to abandon the Malbork Castle and dispatched them to East Prussia. Today, the Teutonic Order still exists, but they are devoted to the peaceful endeavors of running schools and hospitals.
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