Pribislav of Mecklenburg

Pribislav (German: Pribislaw; died 30 December 1178) was an Obotrite prince and the first Prince of Mecklenburg (1167–1178).

Pribislav of Mecklenburg
Wappen Mecklenburg 2.svg
Mecklenburg coat of arms
Prince of Mecklenburg
as Prince of the Obotrites
SuccessorHenry Borwin I
as Lord of Mecklenburg
Nicholas I
as Lord of Rostock
Died(1178-12-30)30 December 1178
Noble familyHouse of Mecklenburg
Spouse(s)Woizlava of Pomerania
IssueHenry Borwin I, Lord of Mecklenburg


Pribislav was one of three sons of the Obotrite chieftain Niklot, who was killed in 1160 (this does not match death date) during a joint campaign by Duke Henry the Lion of Saxony and King Valdemar the Great of Denmark. The territory of the Obotrites was largely partitioned between Saxon lords, but Pribislav continued to fight against Henry from the fortification at Werle on the River Warnow near Rostock,[1] the only territory remaining to Pribislav and his brother Wertislav.

Niklot's sons engineered a widespread revolt against Saxon rule in 1163. While Wertislav and much of the Slavic nobility were imprisoned by Henry during the siege of Werle, Pribislav destroyed many of the former Obotrite castles including Mecklenburg where all the male Fleming (settlers from Flanders) defenders were slaughtered.[2] After Pribislav recaptured Malchow and Quetzin, Henry the Lion suppressed the revolt with much bloodshed. Wertislav was publicly hanged at Malchow. Supported by a Danish fleet, the Saxon army defeated the Slavs in the bloody Battle of Verchen in 1164. Pribislav fled to Pomerania afterward, but later led raids into the counties of Schwerin and Ratzeburg.

The Cistercian missionary Berno of Amelungsborn convinced Pribislav to side with the Christians against the pagan Slavs. In conflict with the Saxon nobility and seeking an ally, Henry restored Pribislav to power in 1167 as the Prince of Mecklenburg, Kessin, and Rostock; the County of Schwerin remained in Frankish Saxon control. Pribislav's restoration to power established an originally Slavic dynasty in Mecklenburg that lasted until 1918. In comparison, the lands of the Polabians and Wagrians to the west had been taken over by Saxon lords.

Karl Pfannschmidt:
Baptism of Pribislaw (1855)

The date of Pribislav's conversion to Roman Catholic Christianity is disputed; it has been dated to before the death of Niklot in 1160[3] or to the prince's restoration to power in 1167.[4] Allied with the Saxon duke, Pribislav fought against the pagan Rani of Rügen.

Pribislav founded the monastery of Doberan in 1171 and endowed the Bishopric of Schwerin. He participated in a pilgrimage to Jerusalem with Henry the following year. The prince also negotiated a marriage between his son Henry Borwin I and a daughter of Henry's.

He married Woizlava, daughter of Wartislaw I, Duke of Pomerania.

Pribislav died from a wound received at a tournament in Lüneburg on Dec. 30, 1178, and his body was interred in St. Michaelis Church, Lüneburg. In 1219 his remains were transferred by his son Heinrich Borwin to the newly completed Doberan Minster, where they lie in a sarcophagus in the Chapel of Pribislav.


  1. ^ Tschan, (HCS LXXXVIII), p. 232
  2. ^ Tschan, (HCS XCVIII), p. 255
  3. ^ Christiansen, p. 61
  4. ^ Herrmann, p. 356


  • Christiansen, Erik (1997). The Northern Crusades. London: Penguin Books. pp. 287. ISBN 0-14-026653-4.
  • Herrmann, Joachim (1970). Die Slawen in Deutschland. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag GmbH. p. 530.
  • Tschan, Francis Joseph (1935). The Chronicle of the Slavs by Helmold, Priest of Bosau. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 321.

External linksEdit

Pribislav of Mecklenburg
Born: ? ? Died: 30 December 1178
Regnal titles
Preceded byas Prince of the Obotrites Prince of Mecklenburg
Succeeded byas Lord of Mecklenburg
Succeeded byas Lord of Rostock