The Empire suffered its usual vicissitudes. Germanism throughout the fourteenth century made steady progress geographically and no progress at all politically. The crusaders against the pagans pushed their way north and north-east, and by dint of hard fighting and diplomacy succeeded in exterminating or assimilating the old Prussians and creating German territories in Esthonia and Livonia, with a flourishing trade and an activeoften militarily activeChurch. The Teutonic Order soon became a first-class Baltic power, cutting Poland off from the sea, and threatening steadily to expand into Slav regions. The pressure from north and west had, however, raised up a new foe by forcing on the quarrelling tribes of the heathen Lithuanian centralisation and unity. Under a series of fighting kings they not only blocked the path of the Teutonic Orders, but, taking advantage of the weakness of Poland and Russia, conquered or rather overran a broad belt of territory reaching to the Black Sea.
Poland, after many divisions, intestine quarrels, and foreign kings, acquired a native dynasty, and when the stock died out in the male line, the Polish nobility, hammered by foreign pressure into being Polish, insisted on the heiress to the crown, Jadwiga, giving up the thought of a Western marriage and espousing Jagiello, the Grand Duke of Lithuania. Jagiello finally accepted Christianity for himself and his people, and under the name of Vladislas V. created a new state, Polono-Lithuania, and added it to Western Christendom. The effect was immediate. At Tannenberg in 1407 the forces of Slavdom inflicted a decisive reverse on expanding Germanism. From that hour the Teutonic Order declined;
Poland had her access to the sea, and it was left to the house of Hohenzollern, a member of whom, the burgomaster of Nuremberg, was made margrave of Brandenburg, the kernel of Prussia, by the Emperor Sigismund, to take up the secular struggle against the Slavs.
The Polono-Lithuanian state was a logical creation, even if its enormous territorial expansion violated all the laws of political geography. It eventually ended the fantastic schemings of the dynasts of East Central Europe. The son of Ottocar, the Bohemian king who fell fighting against the Emperor Rudolf I. at the Marchfeld in 1278, had nearly succeeded in occupying at one and the same time the thrones of Hungary, Bohemia, and Poland, but the Poles preferred a Lithuanian heathen and the Magyar nobles a French Italian;
Charles of Anjou became King of Hungary in 1307. A Habsburg sat on the throne of Bohemia for a brief period, but once again a Westerner was eventually chosen, and a son of the Emperor Henry VII., John of Luxemburg, accepted the crown of St. Wenceslas.
In 1313 the Habsburgs had a furious contest with the Bavarians for the Empire, which lasted until 1322, when the latter temporarily triumphed. The Pope, John XXII., had sided against Louis of Bavaria, who as emperor elect invaded Italy, had himself crowned at Milan (1314)thus reviving the claim to the crown of Lombardyset up an anti-Pope and was crowned Emperor in Rome. The contest was waged with speech and pen by legalists and ecclesiastics seeking to find a formula to express a relationship between Pope, Emperor, and nationalism that would meet the needs of the age, and provoked a memorable declaration that the Imperial authority was derived from God and the electors without any intermediation on the part of the Pope. Clement V. retired to Avignon, and, wiping the dust of Rome from insulted feet, began what is known as the " Babylonish Captivity " (1305-77), during which the Popes at Avignon were under French influence.