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a name from an area called Prignitz.

A summary of historical events, eventually leading to the appearance of the name in the western part of Brandenburg, which is called: The Prignitz.

Table of contents




The landscape......................................................................


The colonisation from the Stone Age to the Iron Age.................


The Prignitz at the time of early history....................................


The people of the Wends ......................................................


The Prignitz as border area of the Wends to the Carolingian Empire .................................................................................


The Saxon kings....................................................................


The Slavs regain their autonomy ............................................


Partial christianisation of the Slavs .........................................


The crusade against the Wends 1147.....................................


The recolonisation of the Prignitz under German supremacy.....


Bibliography .........................................................................


1. Introduction.

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Some contemporaries in some parts of the world bear the name Stavenow. The following essay is an attempt to find out, where it comes from. For the time being, I will confine myself to the geographical origin. Findings about the origin of the name in the Slavonic language area will be inserted later or will even be presented in a separate chapter. The same applies to the people and the families, who bore the name in earlier times and who can be traced back by means of literary documents as far as the early Middle Ages.

This essay is an excerpt out of numerous literature sources, which does not make great demands on scientific qualities or completeness. It is, however, the serious attempt of a layman to explain the historical background of how this name came into the Prignitz to those people who share this name. Without going too far into any details, wider connections between events are presented, which became important then in the early Middle Ages. For further reading on this subject, please refer to the bibliography at the end of this essay.

Where did everything start? In the Prignitz? Even though the name of Gerhard von Stavenow appears there as early as in 1252 for the first time in an official document, its origin is from an entirely different country and from a much earlier time. But we will hear about that later.

2. The landscape

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At the beginning of the german colonization, the Prignitz was the north-western part of Brandenburg, whose boundaries to the West and to the South were formed of the glacial valleys of the river Elbe and the lower river Havel and whose borders to the North and to the East were marked by the rivers Dosse and Elde. The Prignitz was at that time a softly undulated landscape, which, to a large extent, was covered with dense, almost impassable primeval forests and bogs and whose landscape-structure was formed in glacial times. The area in the East of the river Dosse between Wittstock and Zechlin was integrated into the Prignitz only in the 14th century.

3. The colonisation from the Stone Age to the Iron Age.

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As traces from the Middle Stone Age were found in the Prignitz, one can assume that, in this period people migrated into the Prignitz from the North searching for food. It can also be assumed that they were hunters and fishermen and that they had definetly not settled down yet.

Finds (stone axes) were made from a population from the younger Stone Age, who supported themselves by agriculture and cattle breeding, and who therefore seddled down in permanent settlements. They were the ancestors of the ancient Germanic people. Comparing finds from the Bronze Age proves, that the inhabitants of the Prignitz were part of a comprehensive germanic culture. Without any doubt, there are finds of this period originating from foreign countries which proves that there was already a "long-distance-trade" with cultures far to the South. The colonisation of the Prignitz, however, proceeded exclusively from North to South.

In the Iron Age, a decline of the colonisation must have happened at least on the tablelands due to changes of geological, climatical and therefore also hydrological circumstances.  

4. The Prignitz in early history.

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The population of the Prignitz at that time belonged to the people of the Semnones, who seddled in Brandenburg between river Elbe and river Oder. There is no evidence, wether there were already Langobards residing in the northern part of the Prignitz.

In the year 9 BC and in the year 5 AD, the Romans forged ahead even as far as river Elbe, but they never actually crossed it. The Langobards and the Semnones, residing in the Altmark (roughly the area around Magdeburg) at that time, seem to have pulled back across river Elbe into the area of the Prignitz.

At the end of the second century parts of the Semnones moved in the direction of river Main, where they appeared at a later time as Alemanni. The Prignitz however was filled up again by related tribes. The reason for this migration must be seen in altered living conditions: soil fatigue and recovering of cultured surfaces with woods must have been the reasons for reduced nutrition conditions. The migration increased dramatically between the 4th. and the 5th. century. The last Germanic finds in the Prignitz can be dated roughly to the year 600. Remains of the germanic people must have stayed in the Prignitz however: an Arabic merchand, Ibrahim ibn Jaqu‘ûb, who crossed the country in the 10th. century heading for Mecklenburg, reported about other people amongst the Slavs, who were predominant there at that time.

5. The Wends.

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It was not until the 7th century that Slavic peoples started to migrate from the East into the Prignitz area. They came from Poland and Slovakia, their original homeland being the "Pripet-swamps" in nowadays Belarus (White-Russia). The climatic conditions had deteriorated and the woods had spread further, so that only the valleys alongside the rivers left enough space for the immigrants to seddle down. As they were hunters, fishermen, and cattle breeders who were used to till only light soil, the country matched their requirements to a large extend.

It was an assosiation of the peoples of the Wilzes or Welatabs who colonised the country between river Elbe and river Oder. Their neighbours to the South were the Linones, (also known as Lingones or Lines) who formed a closer community of peoples together with the Bethenizers, the Smeldingen and the Morizanes. One may safely assume that the Linones seddled down in the area between river Löcknitz and river Stepnitz, i.e. in the same country, where nowadays the hamlet Stavenow is located. (at river Löcknitz)

Some of the Slavic settlements were fortified. Relating to the descriptions of the a.m. Arabic merchant Ibrahim ibn Jaqu‘ûb one can imagine such a fortress as a round or square place, surrounded by a moat and a rampart built up by means of the excavated earth and protected by palisades. The relics of such a fortress can still be found about 1 1/2 miles North of Stavenow.

The people of those times lived in rather crude huts, built from wickerwork, brushwood and mud. They must, however, have been experts in producing arms.

Ibrahim ibn Jaqu‘ûb reported: The country was rich on horses and the inhabitants were fully equipped with suits of armour, helmets and swords. It can be assumed that war was the focal point of their life and an important factor for their living.


6. The Prignitz as a border area of the Wends towards the Carolingian Empire.

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In the year 805, emperor Charles issued an order (Kapitular), the purpose of which was to prevent all merchants travelling into the countries of the Wends from selling weapons there.(This could well be a very early form of an arms embargo). It is very likly, that as early as this a rather brisk trade took place in this area: Horses and cattle from East to West, salt from Magdeburg and cloth in the opposite direction and slaves (people who where cought and subjected during their wars) in southern countries.

The times between 780 and 1147 were characterised by the warlike charakter of the peoples living between river Elbe und river Oder at that time. The Wilzes or Lutizes did not only attack their neighbours in the later Mecklenburg (the Abodrites), but they were also constantly at war with Saxons on the other side of river Elbe. An attackof the Wilzes against the Abodrites, who were allied with the Saxons and the Franconians made King Karl, the later emperor, make a thrust way up to river Elbe. He crossed the Prignitz and defeated Dragowit, the King of the Wilzes at river Peene. Some more wars were following in order to safeguard the eastern borders of the Carolingian empire.

In the year 808, a franconian army under the command of King Charles, the emperor's son moved over river Elbe into the land of the Lines und Smeldings and devastated it.But already in 810 the Wilzes started a successfull counterattack, which made the Saxonians and the Franconians again enter the land of the Lines in 811, seeking for revenche. Still in 812 campaigns were conducted into the Slavic country.

For the time to follow, peace seemed to be established at the Eastern border of the empire. The warlike Wilzes, however,  continued their attacks against the Saxonians. As a consequnence there were six more revenge campaigns from 820 till 877 across river Elbe.

In 844 "Ludwig der Deutsche" subjected all Slavic tribal chiefs. But even that proved to be a temporary success only. The attacks of the Slaves on one hand, and the attemps to establish peace in the land of the Slaves on the other, caused a development wich gained, counting from 877 on, some 270 years later an enormous significance for the recolonisation of the Prignitz.


7. The Saxonian kings.

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Heinrich, King of Saxonia, did not only have his own Saxonian military means at his disposal, but even the means of power of the whole empire. Consequently, he applied them to subject the Slavic peoples once and forever and to convert them to Christianity. In 928/929, he took the "Havelburg Brandenburg" with the result, that the Wilzes and the Abodrites submitted themselves for the time being.

In the same year, though, a fraction of the Wilzes hit back and marched through the Prignitz, heading West towards the Altmark. In a decisive battle, the Saxons, though having the smaler army, gained victory.

Thereafter, the resistance was broken for some time. In order to safegard the hinterland, the defence was organiced by building fortresses and armed castles at important locations in the landscape or at stretegic points, as this was usual in Germany. In this period the Christian Church Constitution was established: the diocese of Havelberg was created  in 968. As a consequence, the first churches were built in the Prignitz in the second half of the 10th. century. Although Otto I was still involved in wars and battles - under his reign the integration of the country between the two rivers Elbe and Oder into the German empire was executed. At least again for a while. This peace, however, was missleading too: the stubbornness and the ancient religion of the Slavs stayed alive. The Germans were only able to keep the situation (and the Slavs) under their control, as long as they were able to put military pressure on them.


8. The Slavs regain their independence.

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The measures to suppress the Slavs resulted finally on June 29th 983 at Havelberg in an open revolt against margrave Dietrich. Three days later, even the Brandenburg was taken.

This was the end of german culture in the East of river Elbe for quite some time. In 995, Otto III carried out a campain against the Abodrits, which in its first part, was quite successfull. After some time, however, the Wends desroyed Arneburg Castle, which had been fortified just before. After the death of Otto an upraising broke out, which eliminated the last traces of Christianity and German power in the East of river Elbe.Afterwards, i.e. in the first half of the 11th century, again several attacks of the Lutizes were followed by campaigns of the germans searching for revenge (such as 1036 and 1045), which resulted in the total destruction of the settlements in the Priegnitz. It is easy to understand, that these events were followed by a couple of relativly calm years. It eas not untill 1055 that there were new attacks from the Prignitz. A counterattack, wich was started right away, ended with the total loss of the German army on the 10th of September 1056. It is said, that emperor Heinrich III died of a broken heart a few days later at the 05thof October 1056.

Also the years to come were also marked by german campaigns against the Slavs, e.g. the one in the winter in 1067/68, led by Bishop Burchard von Halberstadt and in the winter 1069 by the young king Heinrich IV. As we will see later on, both campaigns were mainly motivated by religious reasons.

The heavy losses on the Slavic side, internal processes within the people of the Wends finally resulted in a certain tiredness, the Slavs gave up their aggressive politcs against the Germans.


9. The partial Christianisation of the Slavs.

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A profound change happened in the middle of the 11th. century, when Gottschalk, a prince of the Abodrits who declared his faith in Christianity, was able to subject all the Slavic princes of the area up north to river Peene. His plan to establish under his leadership a christian state in accordance with the german example, seemed to be successfull, at least for a while.

In this time, the first monastery was founded in the Prignitz, though being one of the central countries of the Wends.

But even Gottschalk, as a Slav himself, did not succeed in breaking the Slavic desire for indepence nor in leading to a longlasting change of their faith. The very opposite happened: Gottschalk had formed an alliance with the Saxons in order to enshure his reign and supremacy. And these saxons raged amongst the Wends with cruelty and greed. In the light of the aforementioned it was nothing more than a logical consequence, that the unification of the Slavic tribes was renewed in order to restore with religious fanaticism the old believe and the independence of the Slavs.

Gottschalk got defeated by this counter-movement  on 7th Juin 1066 when he and his supporters were killed.

For this reason, the campaigns in 1067/68 and 1069 have to be regarded as attempts to save the countries of the Slavs for Christianity.

In 1110, Heinrich besieged Havelberg and his campaign against the Brizanes was successfull. But his attempt to unify the Slaves in the christian faith under a "rex slavorum" had to fail too.

The struggles between the Saxoians and the Lutizes continued and led to campaigns during which the Saxons crossed the land of the Lutizes in the years 1114, 1121 and 1123/24. During these campaigns, they went even as far north as the island of Rügen at the border of the Baltic Sea.

Havelberg remained a trouble-spot to an extend, that King Lothar saw himself compelled to attack and to conquer "Avelenberg" or "Avelenburg" i.e. Havelberg in the year 1131. The two sons of Widukind recaptured it in a counter attack and destroyed the new christian church. It could again be recaptured by Albrecht the Bear, who was the margrave of the Nordmark at that time. But it is very likely, that the incidences and the humiliation of the year 1136 formed the main reason for the crusade against the wends in 1147.


10. The crusade against the Wends in 1147

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In the year 1144, Edessa, a christian center in Mesopotamia was lost to the Emir of Mossul. Edessa had become an important Christian trade place after the first crusade to Jerusalem. This loss resulted in the 2. crusade under the leadership of the german King Konrad III and the french King Louis VII, which took from 1147 till 1149 and led to a meeting of the two kings in Jerusalem in the year 1148. Both kings were under the sway of the french abbot Bernhard of Clairvaux.

The idea of crusades in this period was very much influenced by the interplay of two different motivations:

Predominant of course were the ideas of a holy land, Jerusalem and the country where the Lord used to live to be occupied by Moors, by heathens. However, the heathens were much closer. From a point of view of the German knights, the heathens lived next door to them in the Prignitz. The crusade against the Wends therefore was only a logical consequence. This crusade was also dominated by the ideas of Bernhard of Clairvaux. Even the pope supported it by assuring remission of sins and the promiss to protect property, even the newly aquired one.

The crusade was carried out mainly by two campaigns.The first one went North against the Abodrites. They defendet themselfes, however, by starting an own attack prior to the one of the german knights. The campaign to the North remained without a success worth mentioning. The second campaign starting from Magdeburg was targeted against the Lutizes, who, nither in Havelberg nore in the hinterland offered stronger resistance. The campaign forged up North to the baltic Sea and even reached the Island of Rügen. It finally got stuck due to endless sieges.

The real success of this crusade must therefore be seen in the recolonisation of the country by German and Dutch farmers, which started right after the armed conflict had ended.

11. The recolonisation of the Prignitz under German supremacy

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While the leaders of the crusade, belonging to the high nobility, pursued their objectives of overriding importance, the military leaders of the middle- and lower graded nobility and their knights focussed their intensions on the acquisition of property, mainly landed property. The most outstanding people were first of all the nobleman von Gans and nobleman von Plotho, who took posession of the land South of river Elde and the river Dosse. (with the exception of Havelberg county and Wittstock county).

These conquered lands had to be safguarded now . Summons were made in Germany, mainly in Western Germany, but also in the Netherlands and in Flanders. The remaining Slavic population that was still living in settlements across the whole Prignitz area, was integrated into the new population, as they were farmers and therefore they were badly needed for the nutrition and for services, which had to be renderd to the landowners. Even farmers from the Altmark, the foreland of the Harz mountains and from the Magdeburg area followded their noble masters and and settled ither in already existing Slavic vilages or founded new ones. (Karstädt, for instance) In this mixture of different cultural influences, relics of the Slavic culture survived, such as names of persons or towns, which can still be found nowadays. (e.g. Stavenow)

In order to safeguard the new sphere of control, Albrecht the Bear, one of the leaders of the crusade, covered the whole country with a network of about 40 fortresses and castles. Part of them, however, are nowadays known to us only by their names. From most of them, no visible traces can be found any longer.

One of these castles was built on river Löcknitz, not far from the above mentioned Slavic fortress, a spot vehemently fought over. It can be assumed that it received the name of the old fortress or the Slavic village nearby: Stavenow.

Tha Slavic origin cannot only be derived from its name, but also from finds which were made close to today's Karstädt ( especially in Postlin) and to the West of it alongside of river Löcknitz - some of them at spots, where also early German and medieval pieces of broken pottery were recovered. This fact of course strongly supports the theory of the mix between the newly arrived Germans and the Wends.

As allready mentioned above, it were mainly the knights around the nobleman von Gans, who conquered the country and who, thereafter, received the property from their masters as a loan. Some of these knights kept their old names in order to show their relation to their old home country. Some of them, however, assumed the names of the castles or villages, they owned. The latter possibility can be safely assumed in the case of Stavenow, as allready on June 9th 1252, a Gerhard von Stavenow appeared as a witness on an official document.

In another essay I discribed where the name appeared in the Middle Ages and later and where it was found between river Elbe and river Oder. Just have a look at the chapter "The theory of the gap."


12. Bibliography.

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G.C.F. Lisch

Die Familie von Stavenow

Jahrbücher d. Vereins f. mecklenburg. Geschichte
und Altertumskunde 13


Fr. Budczies

Die von Stavenow in der Mark Brandenburg

Märkische Forschungen


O. Vogel

Slavische Ortsnamen der Prignitz

Wissensch. Beil. zum Jahresber. des Königl. Realgymn., Perleberg.


J. Sack

Die Herrschaft Stavenow

Mitteldeutsche Forschungen 18


Johannes Schultze

Die Prignitz

Mitteldeutsche Forschungen 8


Christa Plate

Siedlungsgeschichlicher Beitrag.

Brandenburgisches Namenbuch Teil 6
von Sophie Wauer


Silvia Goraus
Amt Karstädt

Chronik 725 Jahre Karstädt