Monday, August 02, 2010

Once deadly warriors, today tourist draw: Polish city trying to cash in on Teutonic knights

The Teutonic Knights have long been reviled in Poland, where the Germanic warriors swept in during the Middle Ages and converted pagans to Christianity at the point of a sword. Many here see them as an early incarnation of a Germany that has attacked Poland over the centuries, most recently in World War II.

But now one Polish town is putting all grudges aside and celebrating the memory of the Teutonic Knights in an attempt to highlight the rich history of this once-German municipality and stimulate tourism in a region still catching up with Western Europe economically.

In an elaborate ceremony Saturday that drew hundreds of people, Roman Catholic priests consecrated the newly discovered remains of three of the order's 14th- and 15th-century leaders -- or "grand masters" -- with a Mass in the city's St. John the Evangelist Cathedral.

The cathedral is part of a massive red-brick fortress that was once a base for the knights' notorious raids, an imposing reminder to the town's 40,000 inhabitants of its German past.

"This history belongs to this city," said Wojciech Weryk, who leads a drive to promote Kwidzyn. "It is a very good product from the point of view of history and tourists."

Click here to read the article from CBS News