The former Johanniter center in the Balley Brandenburg

The city of Sonnenburg (Słonsk)* is located in the region once known as the Neumark, at a distance of about 12 km from Küstrin (Kostrzyn), in the nature reserve where the Warthe River joins the Oder River.  The Johanniter Order, active in the region since the early 14th century, was a force driving the history and development of the Neumark.  During the rule of Prince Johann Moritz von Nassau-Siegen as Herrenmeister of the Johanniter, Sonnenburg as the seat of the Order experienced a significant upswing following the devastation wrought by the Thirty Years’ War.  Prince Johann Moritz was counselor and friend to the Grand Elector Friedrich Wilhelm of Brandenburg.  Brandenburg as an electorate principality has him to thank for many impulses.  He was involved in settling the country, left his mark on the cultivation and development of the land, and instituted the principle of freedom of religion.  The dictum on Potsdam that “the entire isle must become a paradise” is his statement, made in 1664.  He restored the church in Sonnenburg and built a new castle for the Order, funding these projects largely from his personal assets.  The castle remained in the ownership of the Johanniter Order until 1945, falling victim in 1976 to a deliberately set fire.  Its still imposing ruin bears witness to its past glory.