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The men-at-arms of knight Gotard - 13th c. Mazovia
Mazovia - the end of the first half of the 13th century. Since not even 30 years earlier Prince Konrad, having had no real reason to do so, had voivode Krystyn, the victor of mighty Roman of Halicz from Zawichost, blinded and strangled - the wall that had been Mazovia has all but crumbled. The marauding raids of the fierce Balts have started anew; armed bands of Prussian invaders, attacking without warnings nor premises, have turned the borderlands into one desolation and graveyard. Konrad the First brings the Teutonic Knights to these lands, who - by conquerring the pagans' lands - quickly force them into defensive. However, the farther tribes - the Jatzvig - have begun no less destructive raids into the neighbouring Rus and Polish lands. The Prince has the Dobrzyń Knights' order settled in Drohiczyn - the knights who have split from the Dobrzyń Order, incorporated into the Teutonic knights. Six years after that, the Polish principalities face an onslaught by the Mongols and their conquered nations of Asia and Rus - the devastating offensive fortunately goes past Mazovia, leaving it virtually untouched.
It is in such a world that the knight Gotard, the antecedent of the Wierzbowiec-Radwan family, came to live, appearing on the arena of times for the first time in the legal grant of Raków hamlet under year 1231. In 1245, after the Mongol incursion into Lesser Poland and Silesia, prince Konrad the First grants him the village of Służew. In dealing those grants in thois particular way, the prince had his own political and military aims. He wanted the fortified town of Jazdów to have a solid backing in local armoured knights, so that in dire times requiring fast and efficient troop mobilization he could gain a realible support against the hostile Jatzvig and Lithuania.
In historical sources, Gotard is described by the prince Konrad as 'milites nostri' - 'our knight', which is an evidence of him being in a very close surrounding of the prince and possibly being one of his sovereign's closest allies. Gotard the son of Łukasz, now in the post of 'comes', was marked by his exceptional valour - in one of the victorious battles, he took prisoners as many as seven of the Jatzvig princes, whom he brought before prince Konrad. To ransom each one of them, the Jatzvig had to pay Konrad 700 grzywnas (ca. 130 kilos) of pure silver.
Such common fighting against the northern and north-eastern neighbours' incursions and the more peaceful and lively contacts with the Rus have resulted in Mazovian knights borrowing much of their adversaries' arms and armour, which sets them apart from the rest of Polish knighthood of the time. The Mazovian princes are depicted in contemporary sources (e.g. document seals) as wearing armour close in its appearance to the one which has appeared on the Rus, which in its turn strongly influenced the Baltic peoples. THey always appear dressed in lamellar armour and open-face helmets but again always with a double-edged sword in one hand and the prussian shield - the 'pavise' shield - in the other.
But spiritually the mazovian knights have been connected with the western cultural circle. Their aspirations at taking as their own the cultural and religious model of the contemporary Europe can be seen in giving the family widespread christian names, such as Gotard and Łukasz (Luke).
Gotard served the mazovian princes with his valour defending the farthest north-eastern borders of their lands - the Wizna castellanship. Governorship over this particular land, set on the mazovian-jatzvig borderland and the one closest to the lithuanian tribes' lands, required constant armed encounters with the troops of the Prussians, the Jatzvig and the Lithuanians and gave possibilities for many a victory. It was here that the deepest and the most intense mutual borrowings of combat modes and equipment must have been taking place.
Skirmishes with the last pagans of Europe amidst the desolate borderlands, Poland split up into petty principalities, the crusader knights on their conquest of the Prussian lands, the boyars of the Rus - this is the world of knight Gotard's men-at-arms.
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