KWIDZYN, Poland – The Teutonic Knights have long been reviled in Poland, where the Germanic warriors swept in during the Middle Ages and converted pagans to Christianity at the point of a sword.

Many here see them as an early incarnation of a Germany that has attacked Poland over the centuries, most recently in World War II.

But now one Polish town is putting all grudges aside and celebrating the memory of the Teutonic Knights in an attempt to highlight the rich history of this once-German municipality and stimulate tourism in a region still catching up with Western Europe economically.

In an elaborate ceremony Saturday that drew hundreds of people, Roman Catholic priests consecrated the newly discovered remains of three of the order’s 14th- and 15th-century leaders — or “grand masters” — with a Mass in the city’s St. John the Evangelist Cathedral.

The cathedral is part of a massive red-brick fortress that was once a base for the knights’ notorious raids, an imposing reminder to the town’s 40,000 inhabitants of its German past.

The ceremony was celebrated by priests and modern-day representatives of the Teutonic order, which today exists as a religious order in Austria and six other European countries, and is devoted to helping the needy and doing educational and pastoral work. It was led by the Rev. Bruno Platter, who holds the title of Grand Master of the Teutonic Order. He was clad in the order’s trademark white coat with a black cross.

“Looking at this monumental cathedral which our order built in the 13th century, we feel a strong link with this place and we draw strength from it,” Platter said.

Kwidzyn was once the German town of Marienwerder and a key fortress of the Teutonic Knights in the Middle Ages. But the city fell to Poland in 1945 with Hitler’s defeat.