POLAND, CHRISTIANITY IN.
I. Before the Reformation: (§ 1). Slavic Foundations. When Poland received Christianity in the tenth century, it comprised the territory between the Russian grandduchy in the east, Prussia and Pomerania in the northeast and north, the Wendish tribes in the northwest, the German empire as far as the Oder in the west, and Moravia in the south and south west. After Duke Mieczyslaw of Poland had been defeated in 963 by the Wends, he sought protection from them by submission to the German emperor. But in spite of the favorable opportunity thus afforded for the introduction of Christianity from Germany, no efforts were made in this direction. Christianity was introduced as a resultant of the Slavonic mission of the Greek Oriental Church; and, in particular, according to the oldest and most reliable reports from Bohemia, where it had obtained a permanent foothold under Duke Boleslaw I. the Pious. Duke Mieczyslaw married in 966 Dambrowka, the sister of Boleslaw II., duke of Bohemia, and in 967 accepted Christianity, followed immediately by the nobles and a part of the people. Further expansion was promoted by priests from Bohemia; and at the order of the duke all his subjects were baptized. All idols were to be broken, burned, or thrown into the water.
(§ 2). German Influence and Organization. At this point Germany began missionary work in Poland. Under the protection of the emperor, Jordan, a German priest, worked with great zeal and under many difficulties, as missionary. The Poles had indeed accepted Christianity after the example of their duke, nominally; but in secret they were still attached to their old gods, and at a later time heathenism was yet strong enough to produce a reaction. The ecclesiastical organization of the country soon followed the acceptance of Christianity by the duke. This could not possibly have been accomplished by the efforts of the Slavonic-Greek mission; but the close political connection of Poland with Germany and the feudal relation of the duke to the emperor effected in the course of time close relations with the German-Occidental Church, and from these a firm foundation and organization of Polish Christianity proceeded. Mieczyslaw, in 977, after the death of his first wife, married Oda, the daughter of the Saxon Margrave Dietrich, under whose influence the Greek rite gave way to the Roman forms of church service (see ROMAN CATHOLICS, "Uniate Churches"). Otto the Great conceived comprehensive plans for a permanent Christianization of the Slavonic people who were compelled to submit to his power. At his instance and with his cooperation, the first Polish bishopric, Posen, was founded in 968. At first included under the archbishopric of Mainz, it was later incorporated in the archbishopric of Magdeburg. Thus the connection of the Polish Church with the Roman Church was established, and under the influence of the political conditions the Roman Church gained the ascendency over the unwilling Greek element. As the Roman missionaries from Germany did not speak the Polish language, they could not gain that influence over the people to which the Slavonic missionaries owed most of their success. Conflicts arose, and it became very difficult to introduce the institutions of the Roman Church. The pope found it necessary to make temporary concessions; and preaching and liturgy were allowed in the vernacular. Until his death in 992 Mieczyslaw remained a faithful adherent of the imperial power. Under his son from his first marriage, Boleslaw Chrobry, "the Brave" (992 to 1025), one of the most powerful and valiant of the old Polish dukes, the tie of Poland with the Roman Church became still closer. Although Poland had not been fully Christianized even externally, it became under him a center for the further expansion of Christianity among the neighboring peoples, in that he made the mission serve his warlike undertakings. Boleslaw Chrobry had safeguarded St. Adalbert (see ADALBERT OF PRAGUE) on his missionary tour to Prussia and afterward redeemed his remains; and over his grave in Gnesen he contracted an intimate friendship with Emperor Otto III. Gnesen became an archbishopric and the center of the Polish Church. Seven bishoprics were placed under its jurisdiction, among them Colberg, Cracow, and Breslau; and thus there was established the first comprehensive organization of the Polish Church. But with the foundation of the archbishopric of Gnesen Poland's connection with the archbishopric of Magdeburg and with the German Church and empire was loosened, and there gradually grew up a more immediate connection with Rome. As he had protected Adalbert on his missionary tour to Prussia, so Boleslaw aided powerfully the bold undertaking of Brun of Querfurt, the enthusiastic disciple of Adalbert, to bring the Gospel to the wild people of the far east. Boleslaw also sent to Sweden missionaries whose efforts were very successful. The further he extended his power over the neighboring Slavonic people, the stronger became his desire for a great Christian-Slavonic kingdom, the crown of which he asked from the pope. In 1018 the Greek empire in Constantinople feared its power and the Russian kingdom, in the capital of which, Kief, he erected a Roman Catholic bishopric, succumbed to it.
(§ 3). Reaction and Turmoils. After the external reception of Christianity, the people still clung tenaciously to heathenism. The annual celebration of the destruction of the old gods at which their images were thrown into the water, took place for a considerable time with the singing of dirges. Only by harsh penal codes were the uncultured minds of the people turned to the observance of Christian morals and church usages. Adultery and fornication were punished with mutilation, and eating of flesh during Lent with the knocking out of teeth. Mieczyslaw II. carried out his father's policy for the maintenance and extension of the Church. He built churches and founded a new bishopric, Cujavia, in the territory of the Wends on the Vistula. But the terrible disorders in Poland following his death in 1034 involved also the Church. The external and forced Christianization had been so ineffective that the very existence of the Church was threatened. Many of the nobility and the people fell back into heathenism; cities and churches were destroyed, and the laity rebelled against the clergy. From Germany efforts were no longer made to aid and strengthen the Polish Church. Under Conrad II. the archbishopric of Magdeburg had forgotten its missionary duty to the east and especially to Poland. Since 1035 its influence upon the Polish church and the latter's connection with the German Church ceased. The bishopric of Posen was placed under the archbishopric of Gnesen; Gnesen was destroyed by the duke of Bohemia; Casimir, the son of Mieczyslaw II., found refuge in Germany, and after the recovery of his inheritance reestablished the Church by placing land and church under the protection of the royal power of Germany. But a long time passed before the old order was reestablished. Under Boleslaw II., who had regained the throne, a terrible civil war ensued. In the following period the progress of the Church was hindered by political disturbances, so that prosperous development by the planting and fostering of Christian life was impossible, though the missionary activity of the Polish Church was revived under Boleslaw III. From Poland in the second quarter of the twelfth century the Christianization of Pomerania was accomplished by Otho of Bamberg, while Pomerania became politically dependent upon Poland. Strenuous efforts were made to expand the church in Prussia in order to subjugate it the more securely to the dominion of Poland. Such missionary efforts, however, did not indicate vigorous life in the Church so much as political energy in the sovereigns. The division of the kingdom after Boleslaw's death (1139) among his four sons wrought new ecclesiastical troubles and disturbances; and before the time of the Reformation peaceful developments did not obtain. The princes either showered possessions and privileges upon the clergy from selfish or party interests at the expense of the nobility and the people, whose hatred was thus intensified while the moral condition of the clergy was corrupted, or they violently attacked the rights and property of the bishoprics. A synod at Leucyka in 1180 forbade princes to appropriate the property of deceased bishops under penalty of excommunication. The favors of the princes to the clergy involved the latter in continual battles with the nobility; violent dissensions between clergy on the one side and nobility and laity on the other were caused by the payment of tithes to the Church, and by the arbitrary extension of clerical jurisdiction.
(§ 4). Ecclesiastical Independence. In close connection with the national element and the opposition of Slavism to Romanism and Teutonism, the opposition to the popes is one of the characteristic features of the Polish church. The princes energetically guarded their right to fill bishoprics, granted them by Otto III. Pope Martin V. complained in letters to the king of Poland that the rights and liberties of the Church were trampled under foot and that the authority of the Holy See was not obeyed. The clergy shared with princes this desire for independence of the pope. Hence the complaint of Gregory VII. in a letter of 1075, "the bishops of your land are absolutely independent and unsubmissive to regulation." A bishop of Posen dared to refuse to announce an interdict of Innocent III. against one of the dukes. Marriage of priests had come in through the Greek origin of the Polish church; thence came general opposition to the law of celibacy among the Polish clergy. About 1120 all priests in the diocese of Breslau were married. In the middle of the twelfth century the majority of the Polish clergy were the same; and a synod of Gnesen (1219) complained that the former prohibitions of the marriage of priests had remained without effect. The appeal of the Polish nation from the pope to a general council at the time when Pope Martin V. did not condemn the work of John of Falkenberg, the Dominican monk who in the interest of the Teutonic order had preached murder and rebellion against the Polish people and their king, was a memorable protest against the absolutism of the papacy. The immorality of the clergy; their simony, unchastity, political intriguing, and lack of church discipline produced an anticlerical and antiecclesiastical movement among the people. The religious needs of the country, which had been so shamefully disregarded by the clergy, were so urgent that the Reformation found open doors among the Poles.
II. Reformation and After: (§ 1). Need and Preparation. In the middle of the fifteenth century Poland bordered in the west upon Hungary, Bohemia, and Silesia; in the north on the Eastern Sea from Danzig to Courland; in the east it included Lithuania and the greater part of White Russia; and in the south, Red Russia, Volhynia, Podolia, and Kief; while its influence spread over Moldavia and Walachia (Roumania), and the Crimea. A grandson of Ladislas Jagiello (1348-1434) was king of Bohemia and Hungary. Relations by marriage brought neighboring dominions under the kings of Poland, which was now at the zenith of its power and extent. Three sons of Casimir (1444-92) became kings of Poland; the third one, Sigismund (1513-48), taking for second wife the Italian princess Bona Sforza, who wrought an influence detrimental to Poland and the Reformation. The heart of the kingdom, namely, Little Poland, was Slavic, and thus mild, peaceable, and deeply religious. Cyril and Methodius, the Slavic apostles of the ninth century, had translated a part of the Scriptures into the mother tongue; the pious people held firmly to worship in the vernacular and to ecclesiastical independence; and thus the foundation for the Reformation spirit was laid. The king was only the chief of the nobles, who in a century of strife had risen to an eminence of independence and power which stood also in defense of the bishops and resisted the popes. The bishops had been appointed by the lords for centuries and stood by their side; for they were first of all Poles. An archbishop of' Gnesen had been regent. In 1176 Waldensians from the south of France and later the Hussites found refuge in Poland, in spite of the individual opposition of the bishops, the synods, and the Inquisition; and they were protected. As elsewhere so in Poland the revival of learning and humanism prepared the way for the Reformation. The classics were read by nobles and clergy; German and Italian scholars were welcomed; multitudes of young Poles returned from schools abroad, bringing back the spirit of the humanities; and Erasmus obtained the most enthusiastic admirers. But perhaps nowhere else was the moral and spiritual destitution so great as in Poland. The law of celibacy was generally violated among the priesthood; nepotism prevailed among the bishops; and ecclesiastical positions were sold to the highest bidder.
(§ 2). Reformation. The fires of the Reformation first broke into flame along the German border. As early as 1520 the Dominican Andreas Samuel at the cathedral of Posen and later John Seklucyan, a preacher at the church of Mary Magdalen, preached the Gospel, emphasizing the need of a reformation of the Church. In 1519, Jacob Knade, a vicar at the church of Peter and Paul in Danzig, married; and this step, together with his fearless reform preaching, met with wide public approval. In Posen, the castellan Lukas of Gorka received the Evangelical preachers under his protection against the bishop. The archbishop of Gnesen hurried to Danzig to suppress the movement but the magistrate upheld his right, even against the king, to permit Evangelical preaching and the entrance of the Reformation. From here it spread by way of Elbing into Prussia; George of Polentz, bishop of Samland, joined it; Albert of Brandenburg, Grand Master of the German Order in Prussia, called as preacher to Königsberg Johann Briessman (q.v.), Luther's follower (1525); and changed the territory of the order into a hereditary grand duchy under Polish protection. From these borderlands the movement penetrated Little Poland which was the nucleus for the extensive kingdom. All measures on the part of the church powers and king to stem the tide proved ineffective. In spite of the prohibition, especially against Wittenberg, the nobility continued to send its sons to the universities of Bologna, Padua, Orleans, and Paris, and even to Strasburg, and Geneva, whence Calvin's "Institutes" were welcomed in Poland. The Italian Lismanin, confessor to Queen Bona, joined the Reformation; and placed himself as well as Prince Radziwil, chief reformer in Lithuania, in communication with Calvin. The latter dedicated his commentary on Hebrews to the king of Poland (1549), which honor the latter accepted. From 1545 a constantly widening circle of spiritually awakened Poles collected at the house of the eminent and wealthy Andreas Trzecieski of Cracow; among these were Wojewodka, later prefect of Cracow, Orzechowski, Przyluski, author of the "statues of the realm," and, in particular, Rej and Fricius Modrevius. From this source the movement spread everywhere among the minor as well as the greater nobility; but the prime cause of the Reformation is to be sought in the deep religious sense of the Slavic people, who eagerly accepted the preaching of the Gospel in place of the means of the deteriorated Church. In the mean time the movement proceeded likewise among the nobles of Great Poland; here the type was Lutheran, instead of Reformed, as in Little Poland. Before the Reformation the Hussite refugees had found asylum here; now the Bohemian and Moravian brethren, soon to be known as the Unity of the Brethren (q.v.), were expelled from their home countries and, on their way to Prussia (1547), about 400 settled in Posen under the protection of the Gorka, Leszynski, and Ostrorog families. During 1553-1579, this band increased to seventy-nine congregations, due to their industrious and sane activity, during the quarter-century leadership of George Israel. In Little Poland, owing to political conditions, there was for a long time a lack of organic home leadership. The churches could not continue successfully under the control of Geneva and the Rhine. Efforts were made to import proper men from abroad, which resulted most wisely in the choice of Johannes a Lasco (q.v.). He was a Pole, acquainted with the Reformers of his native land, a fugitive first in East Friesland and then in England, and one who had specially proved his fitness for organization and leadership. His return was delayed and the Synod of Kozminek (1555), under the pressure of threatened disorganization, adopted a plan of union, the result of which would have meant absorption into the Unity of the Brethren. A year later, upon his arrival, Lasco insisted upon the integrity and independence of the home church. In the fifth decade of this century the movement entered into its final tests in the struggles of the bishops and the nobles of the Reformation in the diets. In the diet of 1552, Leszynski refused to bow the knee and remove the hat at the opening of the mass. This diet secured freedom of conscience by granting the Roman Catholic Church the right of judgment on heresies but not of penalty. The Diet of Warsaw (1556) provided that every noble was free to establish in his house and on his estate that worship which seemed to him fitting, if it were grounded on the Scriptures. It also voted an address to Pope Paul IV. demanding of the Council of Trent worship in the vernacular, communion in both forms, consecration of priests, abolition of the papal contributions, and the calling of a national council for the correction of abuses and the unification of church bodies. However, the king was weak. He sent the bishop of Przenysl as delegate; the diet was unrepresented and never accepted the resolutions of the council. King Sigismund August died in 1572 without heir, and unfortunately at this stage the country was thrown into the strife of electing a sovereign. The choice fell upon Prince Henry of Valois, duke of Anjou, who had been recommended by Coligny before Sigismund's death. In spite of the division, united action was taken at the Diet of Warsaw (1573) under the Reformed leadership of Crownmarshal Firley of Little Poland, guaranteeing equal rights and freedom to all creeds. The Reformed representatives of Poland also exacted a pledge from the king of France before they cast their votes for his brother, guaranteeing freedom of faith and worship and a safe return of the fugitives to his kingdom. Until the time of coronation the Jesuits plotted to make this oath void, and when Henry showed signs of weakening before reaffirming the oath at the coronation, Firley fearlessly stepped forward, seized the crown in his hand, and cried out in a loud voice, "If thou wilt not swear thou shalt not reign." The frightened king forthwith took the oath.
(§ 3). Counter-Reformation. This episode was an outward mark of a Counter-Reformation which had been developing for some time. Two movements within the bosom of Protestantism exposed it the more to the reaction. First, antitrinitarianism, imported from Italy, toward which even Lismanin inclined, had its sup porters and centered itself at Pinczow. Against this, Lasco (q.v.) placed himself in energetic and successful opposition. In the second place was the irreconcilable division of the three Protestant bodies over against the united front of the Jesuit Roman Catholics. The Church of Little Poland and Lithuania was Calvinistic; that of Greater Poland and Prussia, and, with occasions, that of Courland and Livonia, was Lutheran, the churches of which were early intermingled with many congregations of the Unity of the Brethren. Lasco strove for such a union with his last energy, but failed. Ten years after his death a general synod at Sendomir (1570) adopted a consensus identifying themselves in a union against the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation. It was shaken by conflict as soon as it had been adopted. The general synod at Thorn (1595) reendorsed the consensus of Sendomir, making it binding upon all the c1ergy and subscriptions necessary under the penalty of dismission. Yet the measures fell into oblivion. In 1728 the general synod of Danzig recalled it from obscurity and resolved to adhere to it; but though never revoked, it was in time forgotten. Meanwhile the Counter-Reformation proceeded, conducted sagaciously by Rome, not only by availing of these internal divisions of Protestantism, but also by following its own independent designs, regardless of the survival of the Polish nation. The foreigner Stanislaus Hosius (q.v.), bishop of Ermland, was the leader and an irreconcilable antagonist of the dissidents. The Jesuits who worked by his side did perhaps nowhere else so effective and pernicious a work. While these laid their insidious plans in the houses of the nobles, Hosius knew how to make the most of the dissident polemical writings for the cause of Rome. A further aid was the papal nuncio at Cracow, Commendone, but most of all the king, Sigismund III. (1586-1632), called by contemporaries "king of the Jesuits." The Evangelicals lost their rights and liberty of conscience. The Jesuits also directed their efforts against the Eastern Church so that in 1599, at Wilna, a compact of Evangelicals and Greek adherents was made to which either side made appeal from time to time until the final dismemberment of Poland. After a decade of warfare the Jesuits came out victorious, and the Evangelical cause and the kingdom went down together. Two centuries more, however, ensued before the victory was complete.
(§ 4). Later History. The correspondence of Hosius reveals the return of the descendants of the illustrious fathers of the Reformation to Roman Catholicism. At an assembly in the palatinate of Cracow, in 1606, a warning call went up from the knighthood, referring to the compact, for the king to heed the senate; but the Protestant party was vanquished in that body, though at a diet in 1609, freedom from penalty and the right of legal appeal were obtained. The Jesuits continued their machinations; the king was wholly in their power, and in Cracow, Posen, Wilna, and elsewhere, they incited the populace and students to destroy the churches of the dissidents. At the close of Sigismund's reign, Poland was in rapid decline; the Jesuits had smothered the spiritual life and obtained complete possession of the schools; the people had lost a sense of their rights; and abroad the nation had fallen from its rank of influence. Wladislas IV. (1632-48), just and irenic, who called a colloquy at Thorn in 1645 looking toward the union of all churches, would not restrain the Jesuit activities. August II. (1696-1733) lent himself to their policies, having himself, as king of Saxony, apostatized to Roman Catholicism, in order to secure the throne of Poland. At the Diet of Grodno (1719) Casimir Ancuta, the Jesuit lawyer of Wilna, secured unlawfully the expulsion of the last dissident, Piotrowski. With the triumph of the Counter-Reformation is associated also the doom of the once glorious kingdom. The further history of Poland is involved in that of the countries among which its territory was divided.