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In the early morning hours of February 2nd 1945,
the advancing Russian 8th Army, headed for Berlin, enters the small Prussian town of Sonnenburg.
What they find in the Castle and Church of Sonnenburg, and later take with them, is a unique cultural
treasure, today known as the Sonnenburg Collection; 1140 wooden panels representing the Coats of Arms
of Royal and Noble individuals, mostly of German families, but several Noblemen from other European
countries are represented as well.
The Johanitter Order,
a Protestantic branch of the
Sovereign Military Order of Malta,
is the World's oldest existing spiritual Order. It is rooted in the Pilgrimage, and dates back to A.D. 1080.
Since 1426, the town of Sonnenburg had been the Order's main European stronghold. Numerous historically
important persons like the Princes of Nassau, Paul von Hindenburg, the Princes of Prussia,
the Land Counts of Brandenburg, von Zeppelin to mention but a few, donated their families' Coats of Arms,
as they became accepted Knights of the Order.
For many years the Collection was regarded as lost. Then, in the Eighties, all panels were found in the
cellars of the
Royal Castle of Warsaw
during restoration work. They were packed in heavy wooden crates and had obviously been stored here since
the end of World War II. Most of them were in remarkably good shape.
As the conferences of Jalta and Teheran had reshaped the boarders of Europe, the town of Sonnenburg no
longer was German territory. It was Polish, and bore the name of Slonsk. Thus the Sonnenburg Collection
was considered Polish property and confiscated.
In 1989, the Polish Government decided to sell the Collection, and it is presently owned
by a private Swedish corporation.
After being presented at an enormously popular exhibition at the
Historical Museum of Stockholm
in 1991, the Collection was aimed to be sold back to the German branch of the Order of S:t John. For various
reasons, this transaction was never fulfilled, which has resulted in the panels being sold back to,
primarily, relatives and descendants of the individual Knights of Sonnenburg.
Please feel free to download the complete list .DOC-format ( .ZIP-file; 62 kb) of
Knights of the Order of S:t John in Sonnenburg,
represented with Coats of Arms in the Collection if you wish. All Coats-of Arms are documented with photographs.
If you have inquiries, or if you wish to take a closer look at a certain panel, do mail me at
Please enter the family name in the space below, and select the "Send Form" button when you are through:
(DO NOT FORGET TO INCLUDE YOUR E-MAIL ADDRESS!)
(Please observe that each of these photographs is approximately 80kB...the same photographs in
a smaller format are shown in the Java-slide show!)