Today in Catholic History – The Battle of the Ice

On 5 April 1242, the forces of the Republic of Novgorod led by St. Alexander Nevsky were victorious over the forces of the Teutonic Knights at Lake Peipus, also known as Lake Chud.

The Battle of the Ice took place on the frozen Lake Peipus and many of the Teutonic knights would perish as the ice collapsed under the weight of their horses and heavy armor. There is some discrepancy over the number of Teutonic knights that died at the battle. The older chronicles give a number around six hundred but modern historians think somewhere between twenty and thirty died.

Lack of historical sources contributes to the historical disagreement over the significance of the battle. Some western historians, such as John Fennell do not see the battle as particularly significant. However, for Russian Orthodox, this battle is seen as the victory of the forces of Orthodoxy over the forces of Catholicism. Indeed, one of the sources of Russian Orthodox animosity towards Roman Catholics is the belief that at this time when Orthodox struggled against the might of the Mongol invasion, the Catholic Teutonic knights tried to take advantage of their weakness.

The Battle of the Ice was dramatically presented in the famous 1938 film Alexander Nevsky by Sergei Eisenstein in which the struggle between Alexander Nevsky and the Teutonic Knights became representative of the struggle between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

For more information on the Battle of the Ice

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