The Battle of St. Matthew's Day

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21. September 1217

Being inspired by the success at Otepää, and hoping to form an alliance with the Russians, the elders of Saccalia, lead by Lembitu, begun to gather a larger army.

Word was sent all over Estonia, and people from Läänemaa, Harjumaa, Virumaa, Reval, Järvamaa and Saccalia gathered to the River of Navesti. Ugaunians had an agreement with the Germans, the absence of the Oeselians is explained with their plan to organize another sea campaign to Väina area. There were about 6000 men all together.

This army waited for Russians to start the campaign together.

The crusaders were aware of these plans, and decided to destroy the army before it joins the Russians. For this, a 3000 man elite force was put together, half of it being German and half Livonian-Latgalian.

On September 21, 1217, the two armies met 10 km north of Viljandi. Fierce battle followed, and Estonian line was unable to resist the attacks of the crusaders. Estonian army was totally destroyed, several Saccalian elders fell, among those Lembitu. But also the crusaders lost their main local ally, the leader of Livonians, Kaupo.

Saccalia was surrendered to the rule of the Germans once again. The battle of St. Matthew's Day was a great defeat to the Estonians, which complicated any kind of future cooperation. Estonian resistance, however, was not yet fully crushed, as they were able to battle the crusaders for several years to come.

Source: Sulev Vahtre. Muinasaja loojang Eestis: vabadusvõitlus 1208-1227. Tallinn: Olion. 1990
Eesti ajaloo atlas. Tallinn: Avita, 2006.                                                                                                  

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