Help support New Advent and get the full contents of this website as an instant download. Includes the Catholic Encyclopedia, Church Fathers, Summa, Bible and more all for only $19.99...
The western part of the Sarmatian Plain together with the northern slopes of the Carpathians, i.e., the territory included between lat. 46° and 59° N., and between long. 32° and 53° E. of Ferro, with an area of about 435,200 square miles (twice as large as Germany), constituted the former Kingdom of Poland. Very likely Poland received its name on account of its extensive plains (in Polish the word for "field", or "plain", is pole), which are the characteristic feature of its topography. As an independent country (i.e., until the year 1772), Poland was bounded on the north by the Baltic Sea, on the east by the Russian Empire, on the south by the dominions of the Tatars and Hungary, on the west by Bohemia and Prussia. The rivers of Poland flow either to the north and west, and empty into the Baltic, or flow south into the Black Sea. The rivers that empty into the Baltic are the Oder, Vistula, Niemen, and the western Düna; those that empty into the Black Sea are the Dniester, Boh (Bug), and Dnieper. The climate is universally temperate, and the four seasons are sharply defined. The chief industry has always been agriculture, and little account has ever been made of either commerce or manufactures, although the country was situated on the direct line of communication between Europe and Asia.
The various divisions, by the union of which the Kingdom of Poland was formed, still bear their original names. They are: (1) Great Poland, in the basin of the Warthe. Cities: Gnesen, Posen on the Warthe; (2) Kujavia, north of Great Poland, at the foot of the Baltic ridge to the left of the Vistula. City: Bromberg; (3) Little Poland, the basin of the upper and middle Vistula. Cities: Cracow, Sandomir, Czenstochowa, Radom; (4) Silesia, at the headwaters of the Vistula and on the upper Oder, belonged to Poland only until the year 1335. Capital: Breslau; (5) Masovia, in the basin of the middle Vistula. Capital: Warsaw; (6) Pomerania, between the Baltic Sea, the Vistula and Netze. Cities: Kolberg and Danzig; (7) Prussia, originally the country between the Baltic, the Vistula, the Niemen and the Drewenz. Cities: Thorn, Marienburg, and Königsberg; (8) Podlachia, on the rivers Narew, and Bug. City: Bjelsk; (9) Polesia, in the valley of the Pripet. City: Pinsk; (10) Volhynia in the basin of the rivers Styr, Horyn, and Slucz. Cities: Vladimir and Kamenetz; (11) Red Russia, on the Dniester, San, Bug, and Prut. Cities: Sanok, Przemysl, Lemberg, and Kolomyia; (12) Podolia, in the basin of the Strypa, Seret., Sbrucz, and upper Boh. Cities: Kamenetz, on the Smotrycz, Mohileff, on the Dniester, Buczacz; (13) The Ukraine, east of the Dniester in the basin of the Bug and Dnieper. Cities: Kieff, Zhitomir, Poltava, Oczakow, and Cherson; (14) White Russia, on the upper Dnieper, Düna, and Niemen. Cities: Minsk, Vitebsk, and Polotsk; (15) Lithuania, on the middle Niemen, extending to the Düna. Cities: Vilna, Grodno, Kovno; (16) Samland, to the right of the lower Niemen. City: Worme; (17) Courland, on the Gulf of Riga, with the city of Mitau, belonged to Poland only indirectly; (18) Livonia, on the Gulf of Riga, and Esthonia, on the Gulf of Finland, belonged to Poland for a short time only.
Poland was, for the most part, populated by Poles; after the union of Lithuania with Poland were added Ruthenians and Tatars, and furthermore, though in no considerable numbers, Jews, Germans, Armenians, Gipsies, and Letts. As a matter of fact, the Poles inhabited the whole of Great Poland, Little Poland, and a part of Lithuania, as well as part of the Ruthenian territory. Moreover, the nobility, the urban population, and the upper and better educated classes in general throughout the whole country were either Poles or thoroughly Polonized. The total population was generally given as nine millions. The Ruthenians inhabited the eastern (White and Red Russia), and the south-eastern provinces (Red Russia and the Ukraine). The Lithuanians formed the bulk of the population in Samland and the waywodeships of Wilna and Troki. A political distinction was made between "Crown Poland" and Lithuania. These two divisions, which united after 1569, differed more particularly in that each country had its own officials. After 1569, also, the designation "Republic of Poland" became customary to denote not any definite polity, but a league of states (Lithuania and Crown Poland). Crown Poland was called a kingdom; Lithuania, a grand-duchy. In 1772, 1793, and 1795 the territory of Poland was divided among the three adjoining states: Lithuania and Little Russia were given to Russia; the purely Polish territories, to Prussia and Austria. The new boundary between these states was formed by the Pilica and the Bug. Thus Russia received 8500 square miles and 6,500,000 inhabitants; Prussia, 2700 square miles and 3,000,000 inhabitants; Austria, 2100 square miles and 4,275,000 inhabitants.
Napoleon took from Prussia the Polish territories annexed in 1793 and 1795 and out of them formed what he called the Duchy of Warsaw. New territorial changes were effected by the Congress of Vienna: Prussia received a part of the Duchy of Warsaw as the Grand duchy of Posen; Russia received the rest of the Duchy of Warsaw as a separate Kingdom of Poland (Congress Poland); Austria retained the territories previously acquired, under the name of the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria. Galicia now has a population of more than seven millions, of whom somewhat less than four millions are Poles, and 3,074,000, Ruthenians. Grouped according to religion there are 3,350,000 Catholics of the Latin Rite, 3,104,000 Greek Uniats, and 811,000 Jews.
The San, a tributary of the Vistula, divides Galicia into an eastern and western part. The latter is occupied by the Poles, the former by the Ruthenians, though there are also many Poles. For administrative purposes Galicia is divided into seventy-nine districts. The intellectual centre of the country is Cracow (150,000 inhabitants), but the actual capital is Lemberg (250,000 inhabitants). There are two universities, one at Cracow and one at Lemberg, one polytechnic institute at Lemberg, and one commercial academy in each of these two cities. In the Polish provinces belonging to Prussia there are approximately four million Poles. In Silesia they constitute two-thirds of the population; they are also found on the Baltic and in the provinces of East and West Prussia, being most numerous (more than 1,500,000) in the Grand duchy of Posen. The capital, Posen, numbers about 150,000 inhabitants. Among the Poles the Catholic religion predominates. The Poles under Russian rule are found chiefly in Congress Poland; also, in small numbers, in Lithuania, Volhynia, Podolia, and the Ukraine. The total probably amounts to nine millions. The capital of Russian Poland is Warsaw, with 800,000 inhabitants. The Greek Uniat Bishopric of Chelm (Kholm), situated within the boundaries of the Kingdom of Poland, was compelled by force to accept the schism in 1875; however, since 1905, a large majority of the former Uniats have returned to the Catholic Church.
At the period when the authentic history of Poland begins, the Germans had already become the most powerful nation of Europe, and their kings sought to extend their dominion to the Slavic tribes beyond the Elbe. The latter were very soon partly exterminated, partly subjugated. The eastern boundary of Germany was advanced as far as the Oder; beyond this was Polish territory. But the German armies did not halt there; in the neighbourhood of where Frankfort now stands they crossed the Oder and attacked the Polish strongholds. Mieszko, the Polish ruler of Posen (962-92), acknowledged the German Emperor as his lord paramount, promising to pay a yearly tribute, and upon demand to aid him with an armed force. In 963 Mieszko bound himself and his people to embrace Christianity. Christian missionaries were at once sent to Poland; the first bishopric was that of Posen, which was placed under the supervision of the German archbishop at Magdeburg. This was the first contact of the Poles with European civilization. From Germany and Bohemia numerous missionaries entered the country to baptize the people, while from all the Western countries came immigrants and monks, and convents began to be built. The spread of Christianity was greatly furthered by the two wives of Prince Mieszko: first, Dabrowska, a sister of the King of Bohemia, and then Oda, formerly a nun whom Mieszko had married after the death of Dabrowska. Prince Mieszko considered himself a vassal of the pope, and as such paid him tribute. From this time on, the Church contributes so much to the national development that it will be impossible to trace intelligently the political history of Poland without at the same time following its ecclesiastical development.
Poland had hardly begun to play a part in history when it acquired extraordinary power. This was in the reign of the famous Boleslaw Chrobry (992-1025), the eldest son of the first Polish ruler. His dominions included all the lands from the Baltic to the country beyond the Carpathians, and from the River Oder to the provinces beyond the Vistula. He had at his command, ready for instant service, a well-equipped army of 20,000 men. In spite of his great power, Boleslaw continued to pay the customary tribute to Germany. By his discreet diplomacy he was successful in obtaining the consent of the pope, as well as of the German emperor, to the erection of an archiepiscopal see at Gnesen, and thus the Polish Church was relieved of its dependence upon German archbishops. To emphasize Poland's independence of Germany, Boleslaw assumed the title of king, being crowned by the newly created archbishop of Gnesen in 1024. The clergy in Poland were at that time exclusively of foreign birth; intimate relations between them and the people were therefore impossible. The latter did not become enthusiastic about the new religion, nor yet did they return to paganism, for severe penalties, such as knocking out the teeth for violating the precept of fasting, maintained obedience to the clergy among the people.
After the death of Chrobry disaster befell the Poles. Their neighbours attacked them on all sides. The son of Boleslaw, Mieczyslaw II (1025-34), unable to cope with his enemies, yielded allegiance to the emperor and lost the title of king. After his death there was an interregnum (1034-40) marked by a series of violent revolutions. Hosts of rebellious peasants traversed the country from end to end, furiously attacked castles, churches, and convents, and murdered noblemen and ecclesiastics. In Masovia paganism was re-established. Casimir, a son of Mieczyslaw II, surnamed the Restorer, recovered the reins of government, with the aid of Henry VIII, restored law and order, and rooted out idolatry. At his death the sovereignty devolved upon his son, Boleslaw II, Smialy (1058-79). This ruler was favoured by fortune in his warlike undertakings. His success at last led him to enter upon a conflict with the emperor. Conditions at the time were favourable to his securing political independence. The Emperor Henry IV was engaged in a struggle for supremacy with Pope Gregory VII, who allied himself with the vassal princes hostile to the emperor, among them Boleslaw Smialy, to whom he sent the kingly crown. Poland revolted from the empire, and the Polish Church began a reform in accordance with Gregory's decrees. By the leading nobles Boleslaw was thoroughly hated as a despot; the masses of the people murmured under the burden of incessant wars; the clergy opposed the energetic reformation of the Church, which the king was carrying on, their opposition being particularly directed against Gregory's decree enforcing the celibacy of the clergy. The dissatisfied elements rose and placed themselves under the protection of Bohemia, Bishop Stanislaw even placed the king under the ban of the Church, while the king declared the bishop guilty of high treason for allying himself with Bohemia and the emperor. The king's sentence was terribly executed at Cracow, where the bishop was done to death and hewn in pieces. In the civil war which ensued Boleslaw was worsted and compelled to take refuge in Hungary.
After his death Poland had to pass through severe and protracted struggles to maintain its independence. Towards the end of the eleventh century its power was broken by the Bohemians and Germans, and it was once more reduced to the condition of an insignificant principality, under the incompetent Wladislaw Herman (1081-1101). At this period the clergy constituted the only educated class of the entire population, but they were foreigners, and the natives joined their ranks but slowly. At all events they are entitled to extraordinary credit for the diffusion of learning in Poland. The convents were at that time the centres of learning; the monks taught the people improved methods of cultivating the soil, and built inns and hospitals. During the whole of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Poland was in a most unfortunate condition. Boleslaw III, Krzywousty (1112-39), at his death divided the country into principalities, which were bequeathed to his sons as hereditary possessions. The eldest son was to receive the territory of Cracow, with his capital at Cracow, and to be the overlord of the whole country. In course of time the other sons again divided their lands among their children, and thus Poland was split up into smaller and smaller principalities a process which proved fatal. The overlords were unable to effect permanent reforms; Wladislaw II (1139-46), Boleslaw the Curly-haired (1146-73), Mieczyslaw the Old (1173-77), Casimir II the Just (1177-94), Mieczyslaw the Old (supreme for the second time, 1194-1202), Wladislaw III (1202-06). The only spiritual bond that held the dismembered parts of Poland together was the Church. With this in mind Leszek the Wise (1206-27) increased popular respect for the clergy by giving them the right to elect their bishops, and territorial jurisdiction over church lands. His brother, Prince Conrad of Masovia, about this time summoned the knights of the Teutonic Order. The heathen tribes on the borders of Poland Jazygians, Lithuanians, and Prussians were constantly making predatory incursions into the country. The Prussians, who had settled east of the Vistula, were active in these raids.
To put an end to this state of things a knightly order established by Germans in Palestine was summoned by Conrad for the conquest and Christianization of Prussia. These Knights of the Cross, so called from the black cross upon their white cloaks, established themselves on the Vistula in 1228. They were also known as the Teutonic Knights (Deutschen Ritter). In a short time they exterminated the Prussians, to replace whom German colonists were brought into the land, forming a powerful state controlled by the order, a state of strictly German character, which soon directed its attacks against Poland. The condition of Poland, meanwhile, was disastrously affected by another cause: it was subdivided into about thirty small states, and the supreme princes, Henry I the Bearded (1232-38), Henry II the Pious (1238-41), Boleslaw (1243-79), Leszek the Black (1279-88), Henry Probus (1288-90), Przemyslaw II (1290-95), and Waclaw II (1290-1305), could find no remedy for the evil. Moreover, in the years 1241 and 1259 the Tatars invaded the country, completely devastated it, and carried off vast multitudes into captivity. The territories thus depopulated were then occupied by well organized colonies from Germany. In the early thirteenth and late fourteenth centuries these colonists became possessed with a desire to seize the sovereign power in the State, weakened as it was by sub-division. But the magnates of Poland decided to oppose this scheme resolutely. The clergy issued instructions at synods against the admission of Germans to church benefices, the church being the only power that could supply any means of firm national organization. The Archbishop of Gnesen was the supreme religious head of all the Polish principalities. The clergy of the time, having been for fully a century native Poles, cultivated the Polish language in the churches and schools. It was among the clergy that the opposition to the German influence first took form. Above all, it was the clergy who took active measures to bring about the union of the various divisions of Poland into one great kingdom.
Circumstances favoured this plan. For during this period of incessant civil wars, Tatar invasions, famine, contagious diseases, conflagrations, and floods, the piety of the common people was remarkable. Never before or after was the number of hermits and pilgrims so large, never was the building of convents carried on so extensively. Princes, princesses, nobles, and knights entered the various orders; large sums of money were given for religious foundations. To this period belong the Polish saints whom the Church has recognized. The clergy gained extraordinary influence. In the convent-schools singing and preaching was henceforth carried on in the Polish language. Germans were not admitted to the higher dignities of the Church. At the same time the Polish clergy prepared to bring about a union of the several states into which the country was divided. This was accomplished after many years of war by the energetic prince Wladislaw, surnamed the Short (1305-33). He determined, furthermore, to have himself crowned king. After receiving the kingly crown from the pope, he crowned himself in the city of Cracow (1320). His whole reign was spent in warfare; in a way, he restored Poland and preserved it from foreign domination. His son and successor, Casimir the Great (1333-70), undertook to restore order in the internal affairs of the realm, demoralized by a century of almost uninterrupted warfare. He promoted agriculture, the trades, and commerce; he built fortresses and cities, constructed highways, drained marshes, founded villages, extended popular education, defended the laws made them known to the people by collecting them into a code (1347), established a supreme court at Cracow (1366), and offered a refuge in Poland to the Jews, who were then everywhere persecuted. He also founded a university at Cracow (1364) and organized a militia. When he inherited the Principality of Halicz (Galicia), a part of Little Russia, he brought this district to a high degree of prosperity by his policies. Casimir died without issue, and with him the Piast dynasty became extinct.
During Casimir's reign the clergy, on account of their services in bringing about the unification of the kingdom, gained extraordinary popularity, all the more because they were the only educated element of the nation. There were seven religious orders: Benedictines, Templars, Cistercians, Dominicans, Franciscans, Lateran Canons, and Præmonstratensians. Libraries and schools were to be found only in the convents, where, also, the poor, the sick, and the crippled received comfort and help. Besides promoting religion, some of the convents, especially those of the Cistercians, sought to promote agriculture by clearing forests, laying out gardens, and introducing new varieties of fruits, etc. The Cistercians employed the lay members attached to their order in manual labour, under strict regulations, in their fields, gardens and workshops. The Norbertine, Cistercian, Dominican, Franciscan, and Benedictine nuns devoted themselves more particularly to the education of girls. Laymen despised learning as something unworthy of them. On the other hand, the clergy only unwillingly admitted laymen into their schools, which they regarded as preparatory institutions for those intending to take orders. The first schools were established by the Benedictines at Tyniec, but as early as the thirteenth century this order, composed for the most part of foreign-born members, ceased teaching. The secular clergy established schools in the cathedral, collegiate, and parish churches.
While Casimir still lived the nobility elected as his successor Louis, King of Hungary (1370-82), who assumed the regency without opposition immediately after Casimir's death. Under him the relations existing between the people and the Crown underwent substantial changes. Louis had no sons, only daughters, and he was anxious that one of these should occupy the Throne of Poland. With this object in view he began to treat with the Polish nobles. The nobles assented to his plan and in return received numerous privileges. Thereafter there was bargaining and haggling with each new king, a course which finally resulted in the complete limitation of the royal power. On the other hand, the despotism of the aristocracy increased in proportion as the power of the kings declined, greatly to the detriment of the other estates of the realm. Louis was succeeded, after much hesitation on her part, by Queen Hedwig (Jadwiga), in the year 1384. The Poles urged her marriage to Jagiello, or Jagellon, the Prince of Lithuania, but on condition that he and all his people should embrace Christianity. As soon as Jagiello had accepted this proposal and had been baptized, he was crowned King of Poland (1386-1434) on the strength of being the consort of Queen Hedwig. Soon after the close of the coronation festivities at Cracow a large body of ecclesiastics crossed into Lithuania, where, after a short resistance on the part of the heathen priests, the people were baptized in vast multitudes. One of the most important tasks of the united kingdom of Poland and Lithuania was the final reckoning with the Teutonic Knights, whose power still threatened both countries. In 1409 began a war which was signalized by the crushing defeat of the order at Tannenberg-Grnfelde. The battle of Tannenberg broke for all time the power of the order, and placed Poland among the great powers of Europe. Until then Poland had been looked upon as a semi-civilized country, where the natives were little better than savages, and culture was represented by the German clergy and colonists. With the battle at Tannenberg this period of disrepute was at an end.
The influence of the Polish clergy was still further increased after the union of Poland and Lithuania. The royal chancery was administered by clerics. The clergy now (1413-16) caused the adoption of a whole series of enactments against heresy with especially severe provisions against apostates. In the general synods, in which the Polish clergy had formerly been classed as German, its representatives in the course of time received even greater attention, and the candidacy of Polish church dignitaries for the papal Throne was considered in all seriousness. Polish ecclesiastics brought it about that the adherents of the Eastern Schism in the Province of Halicz (Galicia) made their submission to the Holy See at Florence in 1439. Jagiello's son Wladislaw (1434-44) in the year 1440 accepted the Hungarian Crown also, in order that, with the united forces of the two kingdoms, he might successfully resist the power of the Turks. He gained a brilliant victory over the Turks (1443), but, continuing the war at the pope's instance, in spite of the treaty of peace, met with disaster, and fell in the battle of Varna. His successors, Casimir the Jagellon (1447-92), John Albert (1492-1501), and Alexander (1501-06), wrought for the welfare of the State with varying success. The son of Alexander, Sigismund I (1506-48), sought to consolidate his military power and replenish his treasury. He succeeded in redeeming the mortgaged estates of the Crown, but could not obtain the consent of the nobility to the formation of a standing army and the payment of regular taxes. Sigismund also carried on several wars with the Russians, the Tatars, and the Wallachians. In his reign, too, the secularization of the domains of the Teutonic order took place. The grand master, Albert, with the whole chapter and a majority of the knights, abjured their allegiance to the emperor, and adopted Lutheranism, an example followed by a large part of the Prussian nobility and all the commonalty. At the same time the land which had heretofore belonged to the order was proclaimed as a secular Prussian principality. Poland, desirous of continuing its suzerainty over Prussia, sanctioned these changes (1525), on condition, however, that Albert should swear allegiance to the Polish king. Albert accepted these terms, and Prussia accordingly became a fief of the Jagellons.
Towards the end of Sigismund's reign, between 1530 and 1540, a powerful tendency towards reform in religious matters manifested itself throughout Poland. This reform was indeed necessary. At the close of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century the clergy were thoroughly depraved. As a memorial, presented to the papal nuncio by the better elements, proves, the bishops were concerned only about the attainment of new dignities and the collection of their revenues; they oppressed the labourers on church lands, keeping them at work even on Sundays and holy days; the priests were uneducated and in many cases were only half-grown youths; the clergy were venal; monks dressed in silken robes often shared in the carousals of the nobility. The nobles envied the flourishing estates of the clergy. Thus a fruitful soil was provided for the spread of heresies in Poland. The spread of Hussite doctrines was not arrested until as late as 1500. The aristocracy, especially the younger members, who had attended foreign universities, now began to turn more and more to Calvinism, because this religion gave laymen a voice in matters affecting the church. Complete freedom of speech and belief was introduced. From all sides the Reformers, driven from other countries on account of their teachings, migrated to Poland, bringing with them a multiplicity of sects. The depraved clergy were unable to maintain their supremacy. Zebrzydowski, Bishop of Cracow, was wont to say openly: "You may believe in what you will, provided you pay me the tithe". Moreover, many of the clergy married. The aristocracy regarded the new doctrines as an advance upon the old, drove the Catholic priests from the villages, substituted Protestant preachers, and ordered their dependents to attend the Calvinistic or Hussite devotions. But the common people opposed this propaganda.
The Reformation failed in Poland; but it stimulated the intellectual activity of the Poles and contributed very largely to the creation of a national Polish literature in place of the hitherto prevalent Latin literature. The sectarians were compelled to employ the vernacular in their addresses, if their teachings were to be effective with the masses. The Reformation gained momentum and growth especially after the death of Sigismund I, when his son Sigismund Augustus (1548-72) succeeded him. There was at the time much discussion as to convoking a national synod and establishing a national Church, independent of Rome. The representatives of various denominations in 1550 demanded the abolition of the ecclesiastical courts and complete religious liberty; they furthermore proposed the confiscation of church lands, the permission of marriage to the clergy, and communion in both kinds. But the king would not consent to these demands. The diet even passed stringent laws against the Protestant agitators, placing them on the footing of persons guilty of high treason. Nevertheless a decree was issued forbidding the payment of any and all tribute to the pope; at the same time the ecclesiastical courts were deprived of jurisdiction in cases of heresy, and the civil power was no longer obliged to execute their sentences. The heretics, however, did not gain complete equality of rights under the law. This curtailment of their liberty was because the sects were at variance with one another and because, furthermore, the Reformation was hardly more than a matter of fashion with the magnates, while the gentry and common people remained true to the Church; so that the heretics were unable to secure a majority in any part of Poland.
Still the number of Catholic churches converted to Protestant uses amounted to 240 in Great Poland and more than 400 in Little Poland, in addition to which the various sects had built 80 new churches, while in Lithuania, where Calvinism was particularly prevalent, there were 320 Reformed churches. As many as 2000 families of the nobility had abandoned the Faith. But the Protestants, although a very considerable portion of the population, were rendered incapable of successful effort by endless dissensions, while the Catholics, led by Hosius, Bishop of Ermland, sought to strengthen their position more and more. The latter took advantage of all the blunders committed by the sectarians, organized the better part of the Polish clergy, and with great energy carried into effect the reforming decrees of the Council of Trent. Furthermore, the Catholics adopted all that was good in the policy of the heretics. Polish works no longer appeared in Latin but in Polish, and it was even decided to translate the Holy Scripture into Polish. In the field of science the Jesuits also developed great activity after the year 1595. As a result of these measures, the dissidents steadily lost ground; the Senate and the Diet were exclusively Catholic. The plan of creating a national Church lost ground, and at last was entirely abandoned (1570).
Sigismund Augustus endeavoured to bring the nations under his sway into closer relations with one another, and he succeeded in effecting the union of Poland with Little Russia and Lithuania at the Diet of Lublin (1569), after which these three countries formed what was called the Republic (see above, under 1). With Sigismund the House of Jagiello came to an end. After his death the Archbishop of Gnesen, Primate of Poland, assumed the reins of government during the interregnum. As early as the reign of Sigismund the Old, the nobility had secured a fundamental law in virtue of which the king was to be elected not by the Senate but by the entire nobility. After the death of Sigismund the nobles elected Henry of Valois king (1574). But after five months, upon receiving news of his brother's death, he secretly left Poland to assume the Crown of France. Stephen Bathori, Prince of Transylvania, was next chosen king. His wise administration (1576-86) had many good results, more particularly in extending the boundaries of the kingdom. After his death the Swedish prince, Sigismund III, of the House of Vasa (1587-1632) was elected. This king was one of the most zealous champions of Catholicism. His main object was, besides completely checking the propaganda of the Reformation, to give Poland a stable form of government. In the very first years of his reign Catholicism gained considerably. At this time, also, the Jesuits came into Poland in larger numbers and very soon made their influence felt among the entire population. Their schools, founded at enormous expense of energy and capital, were soon more numerously attended than the schools of the heretics. Jesuit confessors and chaplains became indispensable in great families, with the result that the nobles gradually returned to Catholicism. Among the masses the Jesuits enjoyed great esteem as preachers and also because of their self-sacrifice in the time of the plague. Lastly, they pointed out to the nobility the exalted mission of Poland as a bulwark against the Turks and Muscovites. After the influence of the heretics in Poland had been destroyed, the Society of Jesus resolved to reclaim from the Greek schism the millions of inhabitants of Little Russia. To these efforts of the Jesuits must be ascribed the important reunion of the Ruthenian bishops with Rome in 1596. Ecclesiastically, the Polish dominions were at this time divided into two Latin archbishoprics with fifteen suffragan dioceses, while the Uniat Greeks had three archbishoprics with five bishoprics. The schismatical Greeks had the same number of archbishoprics (Metropolia), besides four bishoprics.
Under Sigismund III Poland waged wars of self-defence with Sweden, Russia, the Tatars, and the Turks. Poland's power at that time was so great that the Russian boyars requested a Polish prince, the son of Sigismund III, to be their ruler; but the king refused his consent. Sigismund transferred the royal residence from Cracow to Warsaw. After his death the nobility elected Wladislaw IV king (1632-48). Towards the end of this reign the warlike Cossacks, a tribe of Little Russia on the River Dnieper in the Ukraine, who defended the southeastern frontier of Poland against the Turks and Tatars, revolted, joined forces with the Tatars, and with their combined armies inflicted a severe defeat upon the Poles. But even worse times were in store for Poland under the succeeding rulers, John Casimir (1648-68) and Michael Chorybut Wisniowiecki (1669-73). The Cossacks and Tatars made terrible ravages on the eastern frontiers of Poland. Then the Swedes, under Charles Gustavus, conquered (1665) almost the whole of Poland; King Casimir was compelled to flee to Silesia. After that the Russians invaded the country and occupied Kieff, Smolensk, Polotsk, and Vilna. In the autumn of 1655 the State, as such, ceased to exist. Lithuania and the Ukraine were under the power of the Czar; Poland had been conquered by the Swedes; Prussia was occupied by the Brandenburgers. No one dared offer any resistance. But when the Paulite monks of Czenstochau repelled an attack of 2000 Swedish troops, the spirit of the nobles and magnates revived. The clergy made this a religious war, the victory of Czenstochowa was ascribed to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, whose gracious image was venerated in that convent; she was proclaimed "Queen of the Crown of Poland", and John Casimir, at Lemberg (1656), devoutly placed himself and the entire kingdom under her protection. In the event, the Swedes were soon routed. The wars almost simultaneously conducted against Lutheran Swedes, the schismatic Muscovites, and Mohammedan Tatars intimately associated Catholicism with patriotism in the minds of the Poles. "For Faith and Fatherland" became their watchword.
Overwhelmed by so many reverses, John Casimir abdicated in 1668. He was succeeded by Michael Wisniowiecki, during whose reign anarchy steadily increased. The Cossacks and Tatars again invaded Poland, as did a large army of Turks. The latter were defeated, however, by Sobieski, at Chotin, when barely 4000 out of 10,000 escaped death. In gratitude for this glorious achievement the nation, after the death of Wisniowiecki, elected John Sobieski king (1674-96). An excellent general and pious Christian knight, Sobieski, immediately after his accession to the throne, entered upon a struggle with the Turks. He aimed at the complete annihilation of the Turkish power, and for this purpose zealously endeavoured to combine the Christian Powers against the Turks; he also entered into a defensive and offensive alliance with the German Emperor. When the grand vizier, Kara Mustafa, at the head of about 200,000 men, had crossed the German frontier and was besieging Vienna, Sobieski with a Polish army hastened to its relief, united his forces with the emperor's, and utterly defeated the Turks (1683). This campaign was the beginning of a series of struggles between Poland and Turkey in which the latter was finally worsted. Under Augustus II, Elector of Saxony, Sobieski's immediate successor (1697-1733), Poland began to decline. Charles XII, King of Sweden, invaded Poland and occupied the most important cities. The Elector of Brandenburg, a former vassal of Poland, took advantage of the internal dissensions to make himself King of Prussia with the consent of Augustus II, thereby increasing the number of Poland's enemies by the addition of a powerful neighbour. Charles XII deposed Augustus II, and a new king, Stanislaus Leszczynski (1704-09), was elected by the nobility. Civil war followed, and the Swedes and Russians took advantage of it to plunder the country, pillaging churches and convents, and outraging the clergy. Augustus II resumed the throne under the protection of Russian troops, and Leszczynski fled to France.
From that time on Russia constantly interfered in the internal affairs of Poland. The next king, Augustus III, of Saxony (1733-63), was chosen through the influence of Russia. The political parties of Poland endeavoured to introduce reforms, but Russia and Prussia were able to thwart them. The king promoted learning and popular education; he was inspired with the best intentions but was weak towards Russia. From the very beginning Russia had the partition of Poland in view, and for that reason fomented discord among the Poles, as did Prussia, especially by stirring up the magnates and the heretics. As early as 1733 the Diet deprived non-Catholics of political and civil rights, and Russia made use of this fact to stir up open revolt. The question of equal rights for dissidents was discussed, it is true, at one session of the Diet, but in 1766 the protest of the papal nuncio resulted in the rejection of the proposed change. At the same time a keen agitation was carried on against even the slightest concession in favour of non-Catholics. The latter, together with some of the aristocracy, who were dissatisfied with the abrogation of several aristocratic prerogatives, altogether 80,000 in number, placed themselves under the protection of Russia, with the express declaration that they regarded the Empress Catherine II as protectress of Poland, binding themselves to use their efforts towards securing equal rights for the dissidents, and not to change the Polish laws without the consent of Russia. But the patriotic elements could not submit to so disgraceful a dependence on Russia: they combined, in the Confederation of Bar (in Podolia), in defence of the Catholic Faith and the rights of independence under republican institutions. At the same time, through the efforts of the Carmelite monk Marcus, the religious brotherhood of the Knights of the Holy Cross was organized.
The confederation, therefore, was of a religious character: it desired, on the one hand, to free Poland from its dependence on Russia, on the other to reject the demands of the dissidents. After it had declared an interregnum, the king's Polish regiments and the Russian forces took the field against it. The confederation had hardly been dispersed when Austria, Russia, and Prussia occupied the Polish frontier provinces (altogether about 3800 square miles with more than four million inhabitants). The manifesto of occupation set forth as reasons for the partition: the increasing anarchy in the republic; the necessity of protecting the neighbouring states against this lawlessness; the necessity of readjusting conditions in Poland in harmony with the views and interests of its neighbours. Prussia received West Prussia and Ermland; White Russia fell to Russia; Galicia was given to Austria. In the countries thus annexed each state began to pursue its own policies. In White Russia there were many Ruthenian Uniats: the Russian government at once took active measures to sever their union with Rome, and bring them into the schism. The parishes of the Uniats were suppressed, and their property confiscated. A systematic course of oppression compelled them to adopt the schism. Austria and Prussia, in their turn, sought to repress the Polish national spirit; in particular, colonization of Polish territory with German colonists was begun systematically, and on a vast scale. The Poles were excluded from all official positions, which were now filled by Germans imported for that purpose in large numbers. The state schools became wholly German.
Such treatment by the neighbouring states roused all Poland to energetic action, so as to prevent a second partition. The Poles now learned the value of popular education, and their ablest men zealously applied themselves to improve the schools. The Four Years Diet (so called because its deliberations lasted four years without interruption) busied itself with reform, on 3 May, 1791, the Constitution was proclaimed. According to this fundamental law the Catholic remained the dominant religion, but the dissidents were granted complete civil equality and the protection of the law. The new ordinances curbed licentiousness, and thus caused dissatisfaction, especially among the higher nobility, who formed the Confederation of Targowitz for the purpose of annulling the Constitution which had just been granted, and called Russian troops to their assistance. The king sided with this deluded faction. Thus Russia and Prussia had another opportunity of making annexations; once more they both seized large tracts of Polish territory and thus was consummated the second partition of Poland (1793). The Poles, resolved to defend their independence, rose, under the leadership of Tadeusz Kosciuszko, against Russia and Prussia. Victorious over the Russians at Raclawice (4 April, 1794), he occupied Warsaw, but was defeated and taken prisoner at Maciejowice (10 October, 1794). The revolt had miscarried: Russia, Prussia, and Austria divided among them the rest of the Polish kingdom. The king abdicated. And thus the third and last partition of Poland was effected (1795). The occupation by hostile armies of the territory thus divided proceeded without resistance on the part of the inhabitants. The Polish people were exhausted by wars and so humbled by numerous defeats that they seemed to look on with unconcern.
After Poland had disappeared from the political map of Europe, each of the three states which had absorbed it began to carry out its own policy in the annexed territory. In Prussia all church lands were confiscated just as after the first partition, and the clergy as a body were made answerable for the political crimes of individuals. In Austria likewise, the policy of germanization prevailed. Under Russian rule official hostility to the Polish national spirit was not entirely open, but the persecution of the Uniats continued. In 1796 all the Uniat dioceses, except Plotsk and Chelm, were suppressed. Poland had lost its independence, but liberty-loving patriots did not lose courage, for they counted on foreign aid. Dabrowski and Kniaziewicz organized in Italy a force composed of Polish emigrants, the "Polish Legions", which served Napoleon in the hope that, out of gratitude, he would re-establish the Polish Kingdom. These expectations came to naught. Napoleon did not reestablish the Kingdom of Poland, but, after the defeat of Prussia, he created the independent "Grand duchy of Warsaw" which continued in existence from 1807 to 1815 out of the Polish territories that were affected by the second and third partitions. This small state had an area of 1860 square miles, with 2,400,000 inhabitants. Frederick Augustus, King of Saxony, became grand-duke. After .the war with Austria in 1809, the Grand-duchy of Warsaw became a factor which the European diplomats could not afford to overlook in their calculations.
After the fall of Napoleon, the Czar Alexander, in the Congress of Vienna, claimed the grand duchy for himself. At first there was some opposition to this demand, but an agreement was finally reached, with the result that the grand-duchy was divided: the westerly part, with Posen, fell to Prussia; Cracow, with the territory under its jurisdiction, became a free state, and the rest of the grand-duchy, with Warsaw, as the autonomous Kingdom of Poland, came under Russian dominion. The new Kingdom of Poland (or Congress Poland) was taken by the Czar Alexander I, who had himself crowned as its king in the year 1815. In the territory annexed to Prussia the Poles received complete equality of rights, and Polish was recognized as the official language. But from the very beginning a difference was apparent in the treatment accorded to districts whose inhabitants were Poles and those in which the population was mixed. In the latter regions German officials were appointed; schools and courts were conducted in German, and the process of germanizing the Polish minority was begun. A policy similar to that of Prussia was adopted by the Russian Government in Congress Poland, where Polish culture was in a particularly flourishing condition. The new Kingdom of Poland was connected with Russia only through its rulers, who belonged to the reigning dynasty of the latter state. The governor was the king's brother, the Grandduke Constantine. His government of Poland was despotic in the extreme; he paid not the slightest regard to the Constitution, which had been confirmed by the king, but ruled as in a barbarian country. This despotism growing still worse after the death of Alexander I, when Nicholas I succeeded him upon the Russian throne, provoked, on 29 November, 1830, an insurrection in Congress Poland, which was put down, however, by the overwhelming military force of Russia (end of October, 1831). Thereupon the Czar Nicholas abolished the Diet and the Polish army, and assigned the government of Poland to Russia, whose administration was characterized by harsh persecution of the Catholic faith and the Polish nationality. While the Russian Government preserved at least the semblance of justice in Congress Poland, it did not deem it necessary to restrict itself in this respect in Lithuania and Little Russia. All the Polish schools were closed, and Russian schools founded in their stead. Even the clergy were subjected to manifold restraints: the church lands were confiscated, admittance to the seminaries for the training of priests was made more difficult, and communication with Rome forbidden.
The suppression of the revolt in Congress Poland involved a severe defeat of Polish nationality in all the three neighbouring states. In Galicia the system of germanization grew more and more oppressive. In the Grand-duchy of Posen the use of the Polish language was restricted, German teachers were appointed in the schools, and the prerogatives of the Poles were curtailed. In 1833 provision was made for the purchase of Polish lands, the money for this purpose being supplied from a special public fund. At this time also the last of the surviving convents were suppressed, and their revenues applied to the support of religious schools. The Prussian Government ventured even to lay violent hands upon the clergy. In the year 1838 the government engaged in a dispute with Archbishop Dunin concerning mixed marriages, and the archbishop, fearlessly defending the position of the Church, was imprisoned. In Congress Poland Russian became the official language; a large number of schools were closed. At the same time an attempt was made to introduce Russian settlers into Poland, but proved a complete failure. In Lithuania the persecution of the Uniats had indeed the desired effect, but it brought discredit upon the Russian Government: in 1839, at the instance of Bishop Siemiaszko, 1300 Uniat priests signed a document announcing their desertion to the schism. The Polish nation, unable to accomplish anything by fair means, had recourse to conspiracies. A national uprising in all the territories that had been Polish was planned for February, 1846, but the insurrection was not general, and wherever it made its appearance it was promptly crushed. Cracow, where the manifesto of the insurrection was published, was permanently occupied by the Austrians; the Austrian Government incited the peasants against the insurgents, and, as a bounty was furthermore offered for every corpse, the peasants attacked the residences of the nobility, set them on fire, and inhumanly massacred "the lords" (altogether 2000 nobles).
In the year 1848, when the long-expected revolution broke out in almost the whole of Western Europe, the Poles under Prussian rule also revolted, but without success. In April, 1848, serfdom was abolished in Galicia (in Prussia as early as 1823), and suitable compensation out of the public treasury was granted to the nobility. After 1848 the Polish districts in Prussia and Austria received the Constitution, as did the other districts subject to those Governments. In Galicia conditions began to improve, especially after the year 1860, when it was granted a certain degree of autonomy and its own diet. In Prussia, too, the Constitution gave the Polish inhabitants opportunity to develop their national resources independently. The educated clergy devoted themselves with wholehearted zeal to elevating the morals of the people, and in this way helped to form a middle class that was both well-to-do and, from a national point of view, well instructed. The most unfortunately situated Poles were those under the Russian Government. Russian was the language heard in all the public offices, to fill which natives of Russia were introduced into the country in ever-increasing numbers. Under these adverse conditions Congress Poland steadily declined; in ten years (1846-56), the number of inhabitants was diminished by one million. The Government, during the long-continued state of war (not suspended until 1856), was of a despotic character. The clergy, however, constituted a force not to be neglected, for it amounted to 2218 priests, 1808 monks, and 521 nuns, in 191 convents, while the teachers and professors of every sort numbered 1800. The clergy exercised a vast influence over the people, and all the more so because the long struggle between the Government and the Catholic Church had given the clergy the character of an opposition party.
Conditions in Poland generally improved after the year 1856, after Russia had been defeated in the Crimean War. The Government of Congress Poland was entrusted to the Pole Wielopolski, who, with the best intentions, attempted to check the revolutionary activity of the Polish youth by too severe measures. It was the purpose of the younger Poles to awaken the national spirit by means of pageants in commemoration of national events and by great parades of the people to give utterance to their protests. These manifestations acquired a religious character from their association with practices of piety, an association permitted by the clergy, who were hostile to the Government. Prayers were continually offered in the churches "for the welfare of the fatherland". The clergy, with Archbishop Fijatkowski at their head, favoured these manifestations, upon the repetition of which Russian troops entered the churches and arrested, not without violence, several thousands of the participants. By the bishops' orders, the churches were closed. In January, 1863, an insurrection broke out which was doomed to pitiful failure. About 10,000 men were involved, scattered in very small bands throughout the whole country, and wretchedly armed. Opposed to them was an army of 30,000 regular troops with 108 field-pieces. In March, 1864, to keep the peasants from joining the insurrection, the Russian Government abolished serfdom, and the uprising collapsed in May of the same year.
The Government now exerted all its energy to blot out Polish nationality, especially in Lithuania and Little Russia: Russian became the official language in all schools and public offices; Poles were deprived of their employments, and all societies were suppressed. Confiscated lands were distributed among Russians, and every pretext was seized to expropriate the Poles. A decree was even issued forbidding the use of the Polish language in public places. Peculiarly energetic measures were taken against the Catholic Church in Lithuania. Obstacles raised by the Government to hinder vocations were so effective that in the seven years immediately following 1863 not more than ten priests were ordained in Lithuania. Public devotions, processions, the erection of wayside crosses, and the repair of places of worship were forbidden; convents were suppressed; large numbers of the people forced to accept the schism. An attempt was even made, though unsuccessful, to introduce the use of Russian in some of the popular devotions. To remove all traces of Polish nationality in Lithuania and the Ukraine, the Polish place-names were changed to Russian; in the cities, inscriptions and notices in the Polish language were forbidden; the cabmen were obliged to wear Russian clothing and drive Great-Russian teams. In the Kingdom of Poland conditions were the same. Pupils were forbidden to speak even a single Polish word in school. In addition, Congress Poland was completely stripped of its administrative independence.
In 1865 diplomatic relations were interrupted between Russia and Pius IX, who was favourably disposed towards the Poles. The Uniat Church was attacked, and then the Government sought to organize a national Polish Church independent of Rome. The bishops were strictly forbidden to entertain relations of any kind with Rome. A college of canons of the most various dioceses was formed at St. Petersburg, to be the chief governing body of the Polish Church, in all Russia, but the bishops as well as the deans and chapters in Lithuania and Poland opposed this measure. Recourse was then had to violence and some of the high dignitaries of the Church were deported to Russia. The clergy, however, courageously held their ground and refused to yield. After the last defeat of 1863-64, a strong reaction set in among the Poles of all of the three neighbouring states. The clergy were active in inspiring the people with new courage. In Prussia the Polish clergy worked diligently to establish and maintain social and agricultural organizations, as well as societies and loan offices for artisans and labourers, industrial associations, etc.
The oppression of the Poles continued, especially after Bismarck became chancellor. The schools had to serve as instruments in the process of germanization; the Polish towns and villages received German names. Bismarck also began his conflict with the Catholic Church (see KULTURKAMPF). On the motion of Bismarck, the Prussian Diet, in the year 1886, granted the Government one hundred million marks for the purpose of buying up Polish lands and colonizing them with German peasants and labourers. In 1905 Congress Poland was again the scene of an insurrection, which was set on foot largely by workingmen, and the Government, compelled by necessity, somewhat mitigated the existing hardships.
Even before Poland became Christian under Prince Mieczyslaw I (962-92), there were Christians in Polish territory. This explains the comparatively peaceful acceptance by the people of a new faith and a new code of morals. It may be assumed that the Faith reached Poland from the neighbouring country of Moravia when, after the Hungarian invasion, numerous Christians found a refuge in Poland, so that there must have been a certain number of Christians among the heathen Poles, though no organized Church existed. Definite conclusions, however, as to the progress of Christianity before the accession of Mieczyslaw I are impossible. This prince, having married the Catholic Dabrowka, a daughter of the King of Bohemia, embraced Christianity, with all his subjects, in 966. He did this partly because he wished to protect himself against the Germans. Priests for the new Christian parishes were obtained from Bohemia and Germany. As early as 970 a Polish bishopric was established at Posen, under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Magdeburg. In 1000 the Emperor Otto III and Pope Sylvester II erected the metropolis of Gnesen for the bishoprics of Posen, Plotsk, Cracow, Lebus, Breslau, and Kolberg.
The formation of this ecclesiastical hierarchy for Poland was effected by a clever political move on the part of Boleslaw the Great (992-1025), and had important results. For since that time the Church of Poland has ceased to be dependent on Germany, and has been under the protection and patronage of the Polish princes, with whose history its own is most intimately connected. The Polish ruler thus obtained the right to found and endow churches, to take the same important part in the establishment of dioceses and the appointment of bishops as the emperor took in Germany. Poland did not cease to be a German fief, but in ecclesiastical matters it became absolutely independent. Henceforth Boleslaw the Great assumed the supervision of the Polish church, and the Church, founded and organized with the co-operation of the rulers, was placed in the service of the State. Although Boleslaw exercised his right of supervision rather arbitrarily, he nevertheless always entertained a great respect for the clergy. The first bishops were appointed by the pope; canons regular were appointed to assist them. The Camaldolese Order also came (997) and settled in Great Poland, but being attacked by robbers, who expected to obtain a large amount of booty from them, they came to a terrible end in 1005. In 1006 the Benedictines came to Poland and settled in three places. They cleared forests and spread religion and civilization. Boleslaw granted the churches tithes, which the nobility were unwilling to pay; the resulting disturbances (1022) were soon suppressed. The king also procured for the churches valuable gifts, such as vessels of silver and gold. After the death of his son Mieczyslaw II (1025-34), a strong feeling against Christianity and its teachers manifested itself among the people; many even relapsed into paganism. The nobility discontinued the payment of tithes, and the masses attacked the churches and the estates of the aristocracy. Bishops and priests were massacred, and the cathedrals of Gnesen and Posen were destroyed.
After six years of such disturbances Casimir I (1040-58), having ascended the throne, restored Christianity and respect for the clergy; he also built churches and convents. His activity was continued by Boleslaw II the Bold (1058-80), so persistently that the number of Polish bishoprics had risen to fifteen by the year 1079. As early as this reign native Poles attained the episcopal dignity. The question of heathen marriages, which were condemned by Bishop Stanislaus of Cracow, gave rise to a quarrel between the king and the bishop. The latter, having formed a conspiracy with the magnates, who were incensed at the despotic rule of the king, was slain by the king himself. A revolt, caused by this act, drove Boleslaw to seek an asylum in Hungary. The church thereupon gained in esteem and influence even in political matters. Bishops were elected by the chapters, and consecrated by the archbishops of Gnesen as metropolitans. Under the next ruler, Wiadislaw Herman (1080-1102), the clergy took a lively interest in public affairs. Boleslaw Krzywousty (1102-39) showed his great concern for the welfare of Church and clergy by various benefactions, founding new convents and embellishing those already in existence. At this period, too, Count Piotr Wlast Dunin (d. 1153) is said to have built forty places of worship. All of these works perished when Boleslaw's will stirred up a series of terrible wars that raged for almost two hundred years throughout Poland. (See above: II.) During these struggles the Church alone preserved the national homogeneity, and this circumstance, more than any other, increased the influence of the clergy in political matters. It was at this time that Henry, Duke of Sandomir, with a numerous retinue of Polish nobles undertook a crusade to the Holy Land and spent an entire year there. Upon their return to Poland these pilgrims introduced the knightly orders of the Templars, of St. John, and of the Holy Sepulchre. The clergy, now more numerous, held synods in which, among other matters, education was dealt with. At the instance of the bishops, schools were established in connexion with the churches and convents. The first provincial synod of this kind, at Leczyca (1180), decreed excommunication as the punishment for the robbery of church property.
The clergy now began more and more to carry into effect the plans of the murdered Bishop Stanislaus by their efforts to secure the supremacy of the Church. The Church succeeded in freeing itself from the fetters with which the temporal rulers had bound her. For the reform for which Gregory had striven had not been carried out in Poland. While it had long been customary in the West for cathedral chapters to elect the bishops, so that the Church was in this respect no longer dependent on the temporal power, in Poland the bishops were still appointed by the sovereign, who furthermore claimed for the state treasury certain fees from the lands held by the clergy. The pope's demand for the celibacy of the clergy had also been disregarded. Pope Innocent III first undertook to free the Polish clergy from dependence upon the temporal sovereign; he found an active supporter in the Archbishop of Gnesen, Henry Kietticz. The latter enforced the celibacy of the clergy under him and obtained for the decrees of the ecclesiastical courts both force and validity; he also excommunicated the senior prince, Wiadislaw Laskonogi (1202-06), for trying to keep the Church in its condition of dependence and refusing to give up the old royal prerogatives of appointment of bishops, jurisdiction over the church lands, and the exaction of fees and other payments from them. From that time a growing movement for the deliverance of the Church from oppression by the State is manifest, a relief which had already been secured in the neighbouring kingdoms to the west. The Church, now freed from the guardianship of the State, made an energetic stand against the encroachments of the princes and the immorality of the people. At the synods held at this time severe penalties were imposed, by the direction of the papal legates, upon those laymen who claimed for themselves the right of granting benefices. From that time bishop and prince were considered titles of equal rank in Poland.
In 1210 two Polish princes jointly conferred privileges upon the clergy, thereby recognizing the independence of the Church, not only within its own organization, but also (within the confines of church lands) over all its own subjects, together with exemption from taxation. The Church of Poland was now organized in conformity with the canon law; its jurisdiction covered, not only the clergy, but also the inhabitants domiciled on the church lands and, in many matters, the whole Catholic community as such. The Church wielded the powerful weapons of interdict and excommunication. Church and clergy together formed an independent political division of the population, endowed with complete power of self-government. Not only had the dependence of the bishops on the princes ceased, but the lesser clergy, too, no longer sought the favour of the prince: it was well known to them that, if they preserved the spirit of the Church and guarded its interests, distinction and honours awaited them within its domain. Thanks to their really enormous financial resources and their influence in the domain of morals, the clergy represented a power with which temporal rulers had to reckon. The highest legislative bodies of the Catholic Church in Poland, the synods, provided for the independence of the Church, and occupied themselves in strengthening its influence over the laity. Literature and all that pertained to education were wholly in the hands of the clergy, the members of the various religious orders, in particular, rendering great service in this direction.
In this period, also, religious life developed to a high degree among the people, as a result of the severe afflictions caused by the wars and invasions of the Tatars (1241, 1260, 1287). The horrors of the time acted as a powerful stimulant upon the general piety, which revealed itself in religious endowments and privileges conferred upon the clergy. In the next period (from the beginning of the fourteenth to the end of the fifteenth century) churches and convents were especially numerous. The clergy added to its popularity by striving for the union of the Polish principalities into a great kingdom. Archbishop Pelka, for instance, in 1257 ordered that the people should learn the Lord's Prayer in Polish, and the synod under Archbishop Swinka (1285) forbade the granting of benefices to foreigners or the appointment as teacher of any person who was not master of the national tongue. The consolidation of Poland having been effected under Lokietek (1306-33), the clergy were dissatisfied with him because he would not exempt them from taxation. This grievance gave rise to a quarrel between the clergy and Lokietek's successor, Casimir the Great (1333-79). Casimir's life was far from faultless, and Bodzanta, Bishop of Cracow, after admonishing him without effect, placed him under excommunication. The cathedral vicar, Martin Baryczka, notified Casimir of this censure, and the king had him drowned in the Vistula (1349). Casimir sought to make amends for the murder by lavish alms giving, pious bequests, and privileges granted to the clergy. At Cracow he founded, under the patronage of the bishop, a more advanced school or university the first in Northern Europe (1364) which was approved by Pope Urban V. He also brought order into ecclesiastical affairs in Little Russia by establishing the archiepiscopal See of Halicz, in 1367, with Chelm, Turow, Przemysl and Wlodzimiesz for its suffragans. The Archbishopric of Halicz was afterwards transferred to Lemberg. The archbishops of Gnesen became the foremost princes of the realm, and the clergy were hereafter relieved of all taxes. This displeased the nobility, who, moreover, had to pay the tithes to the clergy, with the alternative of exclusion from the Church.
Under Louis of Hungary (1370-82) the clergy received new privileges, but in the same reign the bishops of Poland began to be nominated by the State: the kings, having established the bishoprics, believed that they had the right of patronage. Beginning with the reign of Jagiello (1386-1434), the Church of Poland worked in a new field, spreading religion among the neighbouring heathen peoples. The Lithuanians accepted Christianity, and Jagiello caused many churches to be built. But the morals of the clergy were declining. The Church of Poland took part, it is true, in the Synod of Constance, at which Hus was burnt, but had not the strength to oppose effectively the reactionary tendency of the nobility, which sought to use heresy as a counterpoise to the influence of the Church. That influence, attaining its maximum when the Cardinal Bishop of Cracow, Zbigniew Olesnicki, wielded political power at Court, roused the emulation of the secular lords. With the appearance of Hus in Bohemia there arose in Poland an anti-church party composed of Hussites. The ecclesiastical synods issued severe decrees against these heretics, whom Jagiello, in 1424, also adjudged guilty of high treason. The Inquisition became active against them.
It was clerical influence, too, that led King Wladislaw III (1434-44) to take the field against the Turks in defence of Christendom. During the reign of his brother, Casimir the Jagellon (1446-92), the Church of Poland produced a number of saintly men, and was so highly esteemed, even in Bohemia, that it was the general wish there that the Pole Dlugosz should be made their archbishop. Nevertheless, the temporal power sought to free itself from the domination of the spiritual. The nobility insisted more and more on the taxation of the clergy. With the death of Cardinal Olesnicki the political power of the Church in Poland was at an end. During the succeeding periods the Reformation made ominous progress. It found a soil prepared for it by the moral decline of the clergy and the indifference of the bishops. In 1520 a Dominican named Samuel rose against the Roman Church at Posen; in 1530 Latatski, Bishop of Posen, appointed a Lutheran preacher; in 1540 John Laski, a priest of Gnesen, renounced the Catholic faith and openly married, as did many others; under Modrzewski efforts were made to establish an independent state church. King Sigismund I the Old (1506-48), a zealous Catholic, was opposed to a reformation of that nature; he issued rigorous edicts against the preaching of the new doctrines and the introduction of heretical writings (1523, 1526). The populace remained indifferent to the Reformation, only the nobility took part in it. The clergy adopted precautionary measures: the primate put all sectarians under the ban of the Church, and it was decided to establish an ecclesiastical court of inquisition. Catholic congresses were also assembled. But all these means were ineffectual to check the Reformation, winch was, in fact, favoured by some of the bishops.
In 1552, at the Diet of Piotrkow, it was proposed to summon a Polish national synod both for Catholics and for heretics, and in 1555 a resolution was adopted, by which heretics were not to be prosecuted on account of their belief until the holding of this synod. The Protestant preachers returned to Poland and the sectarians formed a union against Catholicism. Religious war first broke out in all its violence under Sigismund Augustus (1548-72), who did not defend Catholicism with the same conviction and firmness as his father. His vacillating conduct inspired the heretics with courage. In 1550 demands were made for the abolition of celibacy, celebration of Mass in the vernacular, and communion under both forms. Bishops were deprived of the right to sit in judgment on heresy. Monks were expelled; churches were seized. The confusion in the land grew steadily worse. The heretics, themselves of the most varied creeds, quarrelled with one another. Alarmed by the progress of the Reformation in Poland, Rome sent Luigi Lippomano thither as nuncio. At this time too, the first Jesuits came to Poland. The papal legate, Commendone, carried out the reform of the Catholic Church, and in this way deprived the Reformers of their pretext. He was also able to secure from the king two decrees (1564): one against non-Catholic aliens, the other against native Poles who sought in any way to injure the Catholic Church.
The Jesuits, introduced into Poland in 1564 by Hosius, Bishop of Ermland, opened their schools in many places, successfully conducted debates with the heretics, and energetically contended against heresy both from the pulpit and in writing. Under their influence the families of the magnates began to return to the Catholic Church. In 1571 the year when the Conference of Warsaw secured freedom of belief for the dissidents the Jesuit houses in Poland were organized into a separate province. The heretics still continued to cause disturbances, but fortune deserted them. After the short reign of Henry of Valois (1574-75) Stephen Báthori succeeded to the throne (1576-86). The latter openly supported the Jesuits in their endeavours, and under his protection they founded a very large number of new schools. The next king, also, Sigismund III Vasa (1588-1632), gave no support to the dissidents; on the contrary, he confirmed the rights of the Catholic Church (1588) and, as a good Catholic, so influenced many of his magnates by his pious life that they returned to the religion of their fathers. The reconciliation of the Ruthenian Church was effected in 1595; and the Armenians, who were domiciled here and there in Poland, also united with the Catholic Church. Wiadislaw IV (1632-48) introduced into Poland the Piarists, who established numerous schools. In his dealings with the mutually hostile sects this king pursued a policy of duplicity, by which a horrible war was brought upon a later generation. At this time there were in Poland 750 convents, representing 20 male and 15 female orders. He was succeeded on the throne by John Casimir (1648-68), who had previously been a Jesuit (1643) and then a Cardinal (1645). To the general distress of this reign the dissidents contributed not a little. For this reason, the Socinians (1658), the Arians (1661), and other sects were driven out of Poland. In return the king received from the pope the title Rex Orthodoxus. Bowed down by his misfortunes, he resigned the crown and took up his residence in Paris, where he lived until 1672 as titular Abbot of St. Germain. Under his successors upon the Polish throne, Michael Wisniowiecki (1669-72) and John III Sobieski, the solicitude of the people for the Faith and their efforts to repress heresy steadily increased.
When, after the death of John Sobieski, Frederick II, Elector of Saxony, assumed the Government (1697-1733), he affirmed in his coronation oath that he would not confer any high offices on the dissidents, although toleration was assured them. This king had abandoned Protestantism and become a Catholic; although a lukewarm Catholic, and leading a reprehensible life, he nevertheless restricted the liberties of the heretics (1716), and they were removed from public office (1743). At the same time violent disputes were carried on with the clergy over appointments to bishoprics, ecclesiastical courts, payment of taxes, etc. The endless wars during the reign of this king led to the oppression of the clergy, impoverishment and deterioration of the churches, and, among the nobility, to demoralization and lack of sympathy for the common people in their distress. The priests in their sermons defended the peasants against the tyranny of the nobility and finally succeeded in obtaining a legal decision (1764) which made noblemen liable to the death penalty for killing a peasant. Frederick Augustus III (1733-63) confirmed the decrees issued during the lifetime of his father against the dissidents, but beyond this he was wholly unconcerned about church and state.
The next ruler, Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski (1764-95), was a man of culture and actively promoted popular education, but the evil conditions had grown beyond his control. During his reign the bonds of matrimony, the very basis of all society, became so loosened, and the number of divorces reached such an alarming total, that Benedict XIV was compelled to address the Polish bishops in three Bulls (1741, 1743, 1748) in reference to this evil. In addition to this the neighbouring states began to interfere in behalf of the non-Catholics in Poland, demanding that they should be given the same rights as Catholics (1766); this, however, was denied. Thereupon the dissidents formed a confederation at Radom (1767), and the Diet was compelled to grant them all the rights enjoyed by Catholics except the right to the Crown. Independently of this, the right to convoke synods was granted them; mixed courts, generally with a majority of non-Catholic members, were appointed to decide questions involving religion. In mixed marriages the sons were to follow the religion of the father, the daughters that of the mother. Unrestricted permission was also granted the dissidents to build places of worship. Meanwhile Rome reminded the Poles that, as knights in the service of Christ, it was their duty to break a lance for Catholicism. In defense of the Faith the Confederation of Bar was formed (1768-72), but it only added to the confusion and misfortune of the country. Coming from France to Poland, freemasonry spread especially in the higher circles of society, where French literature had done its work of corruption. Atheism was preached openly and acknowledged. New palaces arose while the churches fell into decay; the Theatines left the country (1785); at this time too the Society of Jesus was suppressed (1773), and its possessions converted to the use of popular education; a commission on education was created. With the consent of Pius VI, several church holydays were abolished, the number of those retained being only seventeen, besides Sundays. Further attacks on the property of the bishops, and especially of the richly endowed orders, followed.
At the first Diet, after the coronation of King Stanislaus Augustus (1764), the Polish Church was represented by two archbishops and fifteen bishops. The external splendour of the Catholic Church in Poland had reached its zenith. But the political disturbances and wars, the repeated passage of armies, continued for perhaps a year without interruption, the conflict with the dissidents, were extremely disastrous to the Church. After the three partitions (1773, 1793, 1795), the Government of Russia strove to extirpate, not only Polish nationality, but also the Catholic Church. After the insurrection of 1831, the Uniats were forced into apostasy; convents were suppressed, churches closed. Even harsher measures were adopted after 1863: by a cabinet order of 1864, the property of the Church was confiscated, the convents still in existence suppressed; in 1867 the clergy were placed under the authority of a commission at St. Petersburg, without any regard to the wishes of the Apostolic See. The liturgical books and devotions of the schismatics were forcibly introduced into the churches of the Uniats. Peasants who tried to prevent the schismatical popes from entering the churches were simply shot down; the christening of children as Catholics and the solemnization of matrimony in Catholic churches were forbidden. Not until after the war with Japan was an edict of toleration proclaimed in Russia, making it permissible for schismatics to be reconciled with Rome. The Prussian Government treated the Catholic Poles no better than did the Russian. The Catholic clergy in Prussian Poland was subordinated to the temporal power. The election of bishops, prelates, and superiors of religious societies, in view of the extensive right of veto, was made to depend upon the decision of an administrative council, which receives the oath of allegiance from the clergy and gives them instructions for the celebration of German national anniversaries. In civil and criminal proceedings, too, the clergy is subject to the civil authorities. The ecclesiastical courts have jurisdiction only in matters of a purely religious character; but they have not the right to order temporary or permanent divorce in the case of mixed marriages. The properties of the Catholic clergy as such were confiscated; for the support of the clergy a part of the income of the confiscated estates and the interest on capital, which belongs to ecclesiastical corporations, but had been lent to private individuals, was set aside. In addition to this the Government granted the clergy permission to accept payment at a fixed rate for the performance of services attached to their office. In Galicia (Austrian Poland) the patent of toleration of Joseph II, granted in 1781, admitted Protestants, Calvinists and schismatics to official positions, secured for them freedom of religious belief, and even the permission, where there were about 100 Protestant families in a community, to build churches, etc. (but without steeples and bells, and with entrances at the side). Although Catholicism was recognized as the dominant religion, the Church was nevertheless subject to the control of the State. Without the placet of the State papal Bulls and pastoral letters were invalid. The Government assumed the supervision and conduct of seminaries for the training of priests, and prescribed the character and method of instruction in theology. In 1782 the convents of the contemplative orders were suppressed, and their property converted to the fund for religious purposes. At present, however, the Church is free from state restrictions in the Polish provinces; and as a result Catholicism is here making progress.
The Augustinian Hermits were introduced into Poland in the second half of the thirteenth century, and at one time had more than thirty-five convents there. At present there remains but one Augustinian convent in all the territory that was Poland: that at the Church of St. Catherine, Cracow. A convent for nuns of the same order, connected with the same church since the seventeenth century, now serves for the training and education of girls.
The Basilians (see RULE OF SAINT BASIL), persecuted by the Greek Iconoclasts, migrated in large numbers to the Slavic countries and founded convents and schools. In Poland, particularly, they rendered great services in the most varied fields of ecclesiastical activity. From them sprang excellent bishops, archbishops metropolitan, and their order was known as "the order of prelates". From them, too, teachers in the schools, seminaries, and universities were recruited. Many of them became famous in science as well as by their virtuous and self-sacrificing life. The common people held this order in high esteem and gladly frequented the devotions in their convents. The Basilians devoted themselves to the schools with a zeal that shrank from no sacrifice, especially after the reform of 1743. Every convent had its elementary school, but they also founded more advanced schools, particularly for students of divinity. Their schools were attended for the most part by the children of the wealthy. In the middle of the eighteenth century it had as many as two hundred convents in the Polish dominions. After the fall of Poland these convents were suppressed in Russia; only eleven of them survived in Galicia. The Basilian nuns were established in Eastern Poland. They were suppressed at the same time as the Basilian monks. At present only two convents are in existence in Galicia.
The Benedictines began their activity in Poland during the period of the reorganization of Cluny. They were the first missionaries of Poland; whence they came it is impossible to determine, no historical records of the earliest Benedictines in Poland having come down to us. The first historically authenticated houses of the order date from the reign of Boleslaw I Chrobry (eleventh century). This ruler, desiring to free the Church in Poland from German influence, introduced Benedictines from Italy. The order soon exercised an incalculable influence upon the education of the Poles, as well as strengthening the position taken by the Polish Church within its own organization. With the twelfth century, however, their beneficent influence began to decline. Their manifold activities ceased in the schools, and became confined to the immediate interests of the convents themselves. Among the causes of their decay were the enormous material wealth of the order, the consequent excesses of the lay abbots, and the discord between abbots and subordinates within the order. A contributing cause was the arbitrary exemption of abbeys from the supervision of the abbots-general of Tyniez. Five of the largest abbeys became absolutely independent of one another, both in finance and in internal organization. Prosperity brought tepidity and relaxation of monastic discipline. The Benedictines allowed themselves to be outstripped in the social work of the Church by the other religious orders that had been introduced into Poland. Several attempts at reform, undertaken at the beginning of the eighteenth century, did not achieve the desired result. The Partition of Poland undermined the existence of the Polish Benedictines. First the possessions of the abbots were confiscated and then the convents suppressed. The Benedictine nuns had convents in Poland in the Middle Ages. Their rules were strict: they were permitted to eat only two meals a day; the entire day was spent in prayer, meditation, spiritual reading, and hearing two Masses, the Divine Office, and work. They made beautiful church vestments and also occupied themselves with the copying of books. Strict discipline prevailed in the congregation.
The Bernardines, made famous by St. John Capistran (1386-1456), the pupil of St. Bernardine of Siena, were much sought everywhere. Convents were gladly built for them in Poland, where they were introduced by John Casimir and Sbigniew Olesnizki. This order, the largest in Poland with members of Polish descent, rendered distinguished service to the fatherland. When the Franciscans established themselves in Poland about the year 1232, and later also, the Order of Tertiaries began to gain more and more members here. The Tertiary Sisters, members of the laity, formed themselves into religious organizations for prayer and good works. From these societies there arose in Poland in the year 1514 an order of women, the so-called Bernardine Nuns.
The Brothers of Mercy were introduced into Poland in the seventeenth century. Many of them died in the odour of sanctity. Whereas in other countries the care of the sick in general was entrusted to the religious, in Poland they devoted themselves to the care of the insane.
The Camaldolese came to Poland in the year 1605 from the congregation of Monte Corona near Perugia. They were dependent on the mother-house; not until after the partition of Poland did this dependence cease. Of the five convents established in Poland only the hermitage at Bielany, near Cracow, is still in existence.
The Capuchins. As early as 1596 King Sigismund had memorialized the Apostolic See to introduce this order into Poland, but permission to introduce it there was first granted to King John Sobieski. In 1681 some Capuchins came to Warsaw and Cracow. Gradually the number of foreigners in the convents grew smaller; the novices were mostly Poles, so that the Apostolic See, in 1738, transferred the supervision of the Polish Capuchins to the Bohemian provincials. When the order had as many as 9 convents, 129 fathers, 31 novices, and 73 brothers, Benedict XIV established a separate Polish province. The Capuchins in Poland, as elsewhere, won for themselves high esteem and exerted a wholesome influence upon the awakening of the religious sentiment among the people. In Galicia there are at present nine Capuchin convents. In Russian Poland all their convents but one have been suppressed.
The Carmelites (Calced) in Poland date from the latter part of the fourteenth century. Here, as elsewhere, some of their convents observed the milder rule of Eugene IV, while others observed the more severe rule of John Soreth. Before the partition there were 58 Carmelite convents and 9 residences in Poland. After the partition those in the Polish provinces of Prussia were all suppressed; this happened in Russia also, some being suppressed in 1832, the rest somewhat later. Under Austrian rule Joseph II retained only six convents, which formed the Galician province of the order. There were also in Poland Calced Carmelite Nuns.
The Carmelites (Discalced) who, at the pope's request, went as missionaries to Persia, passed through Poland on their way. The Poles then for the first time saw members of this order, and it at once found general favour. In the next year it was introduced and in time became widespread. Several convents of the Discalced Carmelite nuns are still in existence.
The Carthusians. The time of their first settlement in Poland is unknown. It is probable that the first superiors were foreigners, possibly also the majority of the monks. Natives, however, were also received into their convents, and in this way they were gradually Polonized. They observed the general rule of the order, and devoted themselves to prayer and manual labor, especially to the copying of manuscripts.
The Cistercians, the most important offshoot of the Benedictines, were introduced into Poland about the year 1140, when the order had been sanctioned only about twenty years. From the very beginning they proved themselves a contemplative order, devoted to manual labor, rendering great service to agriculture by clearing forests, bringing the land under cultivation, and encouraging the various industries. For this reason the order received the hearty support of bishops and magnates. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries it spread through Poland with extraordinary rapidity, and was richly endowed with landed property. The Cistercians having come to Poland from Germany, France, and Italy, their convents as late as the sixteenth century preserved the individualities corresponding to the various nationality of their first inmates respectively. The Germans even introduced German colonists into their convent villages. Sigismund I was the first to forbid this seclusion by the decrees of 1511 and 1538. To the final Polonization of the Cistercian convents Lutheranism was a contributing cause; for many German monks, infected by the teachings of Luther, left the convents, while the rest cared little for the rules of the order or for propriety. The places vacated by Germans were filled by Poles. The reform of the order, accomplished in the year 1580, purified and elevated the fraternal spirit of the Polish Cistercians. In the course of the eighteenth century they had to endure severe reverses of fortune; indeed, they lived in poverty and need, and at the time of the partition of Poland the Polish province of the order numbered 20 convents with more than 500 male or female inmates. At present there remain only two Cistercian convents in Galicia, while under Prussian and Russian rule they have all been suppressed.
The Dominicans were introduced into Poland by the Bishop of Cracow, Iwo Odrowasch (1223). The had no great successes to record until the fourteenth century, in the reign of Casimir the Great, when they gained a firm footing in Little Russia and to some extent also in Lithuania. As an order intended to combat heresy, however, they were of no great importance in Poland, for the reason that most of them were Germans who did not understand the Polish character. As a result their missionary work was not very successful. The sixteenth century, the period of the Reformation, was unfavourable to the further development of the Dominican houses, and later, when the counter-Reformation began, not Dominican but Jesuit houses were founded expressly to combat the Reformation. Not until the seventeenth century were any new Dominican convents founded. The Polish province of the order, in the year 1730, had 43 convents for men and 10 for women; the Russian province, 69 and 3, the province of Lithuania numbered 38 convents and 4 so-called residences. But one Dominican convent now remains, at Cracow.
The Felician nuns are an offshoot of the women's Society of St. Vincent de Paul, which is so highly esteemed today for its charitable work. In Warsaw there was formed in 1855 a purely Polish congregation, under the patronage of St. Felix and the rule of St. Francis. (See FELICIAN SISTERS, O.S.F.)
The Franciscans have left comparatively few traces of their activity in the Polish countries. The time of their introduction into Poland is uncertain; the year is probably 1231. Certain it is that the Franciscans were in Cracow in 1237. Kindly received, they soon obtained recognition from the Polish people, for most of them were Poles by birth. Conformably with the rule of their order, they developed great activity in the missionary field among the Lithuanians and Ruthenians. Thanks to their labours the subsequent organization of the Catholic Church in Lithuania and Little Russia was made possible. In 1832 twenty-nine Franciscan convents were suppressed in Lithuania; in 1864, all those in Congress Poland with the single exception of the convent at Kaliach.
The Jesuits were introduced into Poland by Cardinal Hosius, in 1564, to combat heresy. After their arrival, Poland, where 32 Protestant sects had been committing all sorts of excesses, witnessed a return to Catholicism. To root out heresy public debates were arranged, which opened the eyes of many of the heretics. The Jesuits began their labours in Lithuania, at Vilna, which was most seriously threatened by the heretical teachings. In a short time Jesuit communities arose throughout the land. Because of their extraordinary successes in the missionary field, schools were founded for them by every zealous bishop. The example of the bishops was followed by the kings and the magnates. After the suppression of the Society, its possessions were devoted to the support of public education. Of the Jesuit priests some retained their positions at the former Jesuit schools, the rest obtained employment in families of the higher nobility in the capacity of chaplains, secretaries or tutors. They were also employed in cathedral churches and in the parishes. In Poland, as everywhere, the Jesuits fought heresy with its own weapons with sermons, disputations, education of the youth. The answered the polemical pamphlets of the dissidents wit polemical pamphlets; they appeared in public with systematic courses of excellently prepared sermons of a politico-dogmatic character. They also furnished distinguished confessors. They attracted many by means of devotions conducted with great pomp and by the organization of religious brotherhoods. For the pupils in their schools they introduced the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin. They distinguished themselves particularly as preachers in the parochial missions. But they were also not unmindful of the sick, the prisoners and the soldiers. The position of military chaplain was for the most part filled by a Jesuit. There was no field of church-activity or of science in which the Jesuits did not labour successfully for the benefit of mankind. At present the Jesuit Order does not exist in any of the Polish lands except Galicia, where it forms a separate province of the order, attached to the German Assistance. Part also of the Jesuits, expelled from White Russia, came to Galicia in 1820. When, as a result of the Revolution of 1848, they were banished thence also, they went to Silesia and the Grand duchy of Posen, whence a part of them, in 1852, returned to their former homes, when the order was rehabilitated throughout the Austrian dominions. When again, in 1862, the Jesuits were banished from Prussia, some went to Galicia, others undertook missions to Germany, Denmark, and America. Since 1852 there has been a continuous development of the province of the Society in Galicia; at the beginning of 1906 it numbered 473 members, among them 215 priests, 119 clerics, and 139 brothers.
The Priests of the Mission (Lazarists) were introduced into Poland by the wife of King John Casimir, Maria Ludwika Gonzaga, who had personally known and highly esteemed their founder, St. Vincent de Paul, in France. At her request he sent members of his congregation to Poland in 1651. Their introduction was at first resented by the Jesuits, whose confessors at the royal court were replaced by members of the new order. Queen Maria Ludwika wished the Priests of the Mission employed not only for the instruction of the common people in the villages and parishes, but particularly for the organization and supervision of the diocesan seminaries and for the spiritual improvement of the priesthood in the country. Devout Polish magnates were anxious to have them upon their estates. There is scarcely a spot anywhere in Poland where the Lazarists have not conducted a mission. For this reason their services in the care of souls are truly extraordinary. During the first twenty-seven years the Priests of the Mission came from France and native Poles entering the congregation had to go to France for probation and training, an arrangement which continued until the founding of a seminary at Warsaw. After the partition the convents suffered many hardships: under Russian rule the congregation was disbanded in 1842 and 1864, the Lazarist houses in Galicia were suppressed by Joseph II, and the same fate overtook the Priests of the Mission in Prussia at the beginning of the Kulturkampf in 1876.
The Paulites came to Poland from Hungary in 1382, sixteen in number. Undoubtedly these Hungarian monks were not unacquainted with the Polish nationality, for they were chosen from the Slovaks and Poles, who were at that time well represented in the convents of Hungary. The first convent was that of Czentochowa on the Klarenberg (Clarus Mons, Jasna Góra), and the picture of the Blessed Virgin there, said to be the work of the Evangelist St. Luke, at once became famous because of numerous miracles, so that Czentochowa surpassed all other places of pilgrimage to Poland. As a result, the convent became very wealthy. In 1430 it was attacked by the Hussites. In the part of Poland which fell to Austria after the first partition the Paulite convents were suppressed in 1783 by the Emperor Joseph. Only the Galician convents, which at the last partition came under the dominion of Austria, survived. In other parts of Poland one convent after another went out of existence, and since 1892 the Paulite Order has had only two convents: Czentochowa and Cracow. The Paulites in Poland devoted themselves for the most part to parochial work. Parishes were connected with all their convents, and in these parishes all the pastoral work was done by members of the order.
The Piarists. In 1642 the first thirteen Piarists came from Rome to Warsaw at the request of King Ladislaus IV. The Poles readily entered this order, and it soon spread through the whole country. The first monks were Bohemians, Moravians, and Germans by birth. The schools founded by them were organized in accordance with the constitutions of St. Joseph Calasanctius. In the first hundred years the schools of the Piarists, so far as excellence is concerned, were in no way different from the others. Not until the reform of Konarski was there an improvement in the instruction and training. This monk, during a journey through Italy, France, and Germany, studied the foreign educational systems and undertook the reform of the Piarist schools on a basis more in conformity with the requirements of the time. He carried out the reform not only by the living word in the schools, but by writing educational treatises. The method of instruction as systematized by him stimulated every faculty of the mind, it made demands on the reason rather than on the memory, it led the pupil to a consideration of the main points and to clearness of expression. A further aim of his schools was the education of the pupil's heart, in order that as men they might be useful members of society and be qualified to bring up others to a religious life. This reform of the Piarist schools had its successes in other schools as well, for the Jesuits adopted the new method of instruction, and other schools did the same. The beneficial efficacy of this school-reform at once became apparent in the general advance of culture. The Piarist convents were suppressed in Galicia after the partition of Poland, and in Russian Poland in 1864. Only one Polish convent of this congregation, that of Cracow, is still in existence.
The order of the Reformed Franciscans was introduced into Poland at the time of the beatification of St. Peter of Alcántara (1622 under Gregory XV). The first members of this new order were recruited from the Bernardines and Franciscans; they were at first persecuted and even banished. But when the news of their piety reached the Court, King Sigismund III himself made an appeal to the pope for permission to introduce the order into Poland. The Holy Father did not refuse him, and the Bishop of Cracow had hardly issued the decree of their admission (29 May, 1622), when foundations of Reformati were at once begun, the number rising to fifty-seven. The Reformati in Poland lived entirely on alms; they gave themselves up exclusively to religious exercises. Their convents were suppressed at various times: in Austria, partly between 1796 and 1809; in Congress Poland in 1834 and 1864, lastly in Russian Poland in 1875.
The Templars are supposed to have been introduced into Poland as early as 1155, but this date is not absolutely certain. However, the account of a Templar foundation at Gnesen before 1229 is reliable. When the order was suppressed throughout Europe, in 1312, all their possessions in Poland were transferred to the Knights of St. John.
The Theatines were in Poland from 1696 to 1785; their place of residence was Warsaw. They had as pupils at their lectures the sons of the wealthiest families, but their instruction was inadequate, and ignored the Polish tongue. There was no fixed curriculum, no advanced method of instruction, no system of classes, arranged according to the degree of progress of the pupils. The main subjects of instruction were the Latin, Italian, and French languages, with architecture, painting, and music. There were no class rooms, the teacher giving instruction in his own dwelling to one or more pupils in his own specialty. The subjects taught followed one another in accordance with no uniform plan, but in accordance with the wishes and choice of the teacher or pupil. When tired of teaching, the teachers not infrequently went visiting with their pupils to some acquaintance or relative. Not until later did they begin to pay any regard to the principles of pedagogy relative to joint instruction by classes. Failing in energy and in the ability to adapt themselves to the demands of their time, they were compelled to leave Poland in the year 1785.
The Trappists, driven out of France as the result of the French Revolution, stopped for a while in White Russia and Volhynia. The Russian Emperor Paul welcomed them within the boundaries of his empire and gave them refuge and support. The first eighteen Trappists came in 1798 and settled in White Russia. However, they did not remain there long, for as early as the beginning of the year 1800 they left their new homes and went to England and America.
The Trinitarians (Ordo Cælestis SS. Trinitatis de Redemptione Captivorum). King John Sobieski, after the deliverance of Vienna (12 September, 1683), sent Bishop Denhof to Rome to Innocent XI with the captured Turkish flag, which the pope caused to be placed in the Lateran on 7 October of the same year. While in Rome, Denhof frequently visited the convent church of the Trinitarians, and this order pleased him so much that he decided to introduce it into Poland. He succeeded in doing this in April, 1685. The Trinitarians were installed at Lemberg, because this city, being near the Turkish frontier, was more favourably situated than Warsaw for the negotiations necessary for the ransom of prisoners. A second convent of the Trinitarians was at Cracow; the third, at Stanislaw, was suppressed by the Austrian government in 1783; the fourth, in Volhynia (Beresczek), in 1832. The eighteen convents in Poland constituted a separate province. In Austria they were suppressed in 1783 by Joseph II, in Russian Poland, in 1832 and 1863. The discalced Trinitarians led a rigorous life; no member of the order was permitted to have any property, and as a result great poverty prevailed among them. In addition to the daily prayer of the Breviary, they had meditations and prayers lasting two hours and a half; they kept silence and fasted on all days of the week except Sunday; furthermore, there were frequent disciplines. The Trinitarians in Poland regarded it as their chief task to ransom prisoners from the Turks and Tatars, for which purpose they devoted, according to the rule of their order, one-third of all they received. They also collected aims for the deliverance of prisoners; ecclesiastical as well as secular lords contributed large sums of money for this purpose. Two years after their arrival in Poland (1688) the Trinitarians ransomed 8 prisoners; 13 in 1690; 43 in 1691; 45 in 1694; 25 in 1695; 43 in 1699; 55 in 1712; 49 in 1723; 70 in 1729; 33 in 1743. Among those ransomed were not only Poles but also members of other nationalities, particularly Hungarians.
The Ursulines entered Poland only in the nineteenth century, but they have rendered great service to the country by training and instructing the girls. Expelled by the Prussian Government, they found a refuge in Austria.
The Vincentian Sisters, or Sisters of Charity, observing the rule of St. Vincent de Paul, came to Poland during his lifetime (1660). Besides nursing the sick, they devoted themselves to the training of orphans and poor girls. They have survived in all the provinces of the former Kingdom of Poland, except Lithuania, where they were suppressed in 1842 and 1864.
At the present time the Polish people are closely bound to the heads of their Church by ties of love and confidence. In Russian Poland it is not probable that any enemy could alienate the Catholic part of the population from the bishops; in Austria the relations between the Polish episcopate and the people under them in no way justify the hopes of the enemies of the Church that exceptional laws of any kind directed against the orders could be passed; in Prussian Poland the Polish archbishop has not yet exhausted all his resources in his struggle for the rights and the freedom of the Church.
There are at present in Poland four ecclesiastical provinces: at Gnesen, Lemberg, Mohileff, and Warsaw. In the year 1000 Poland had five bishoprics; this number increased to thirty-three in 1818. The head of the Catholic Church in Poland was the Archbishop of Gnesen, primate of the kingdom and legatus nalus. In the ecclesiastical hierarchy the following order of precedence was established: after the primate came the Archbishop of Lemberg, then the Bishops of Cracow, Wladislaw (Lesslau), Posen, Vilna, Plock, Ermland, Lutzk, Przemysl, Samland, Kulm, Chelm, Kieff, Kamenets, Livonia, and Smolensk. The Uniats had two archbishops, at Kieff and Polotzk, besides the Bishoprics of Lutzk, Chelm, Lemberg-Kamenets and Przemysl-Pinsk. At present Austrian Poland has a Latin archbishop at Lemberg and the Bishops of Cracow, Tarnow, and Przemysl, with about 4,000,000 laity and about 2,000 priests, besides an archbishop of the Greek Rite at Lemberg and bishops at Przemysl and Stanislawow. In Prussian Poland the Archbishop of Gnesen has under him the suffragan Dioceses of Posen and Kulm, while the Bishops of Breslau and Ermland are immediately subject to the Apostolic See. Russian Poland has the following sees: Warsaw (archbishopric), Plock, Kielce, Lublin, Sandomir, Sejny and Augustowo, and Wladislaw (Lesslau); in the districts of Lithuania and Little Russia, Mohileff (archbishopric), Vilna, Samland, Minsk, and Lutzk-Zhitomir. These thirteen dioceses number about 4,500 priests and over 12,000,000 Catholics. The Polish clergy is working in the forefront in every field, setting a splendid example; it unites Polish patriotism with Catholicism. An infallible sign of its powers of development is undoubtedly seen in the growth of religious literature in the Polish language. This movement clearly shows that the Polish clergy is receiving a thorough education and contributing much to the advancement of culture and religion in Polish society. Every Polish province has at least one periodical of a religious-social character. (See CATHOLIC PERIODICAL LITERATURE: Poland.) The clergy everywhere enjoy an extraordinary esteem and large sections of the people are very religious.
One instance, however, must be recorded in which a defection from the true faith has taken place in the bosom of the Polish Church. In Russian Poland the sect of Mariavites, during the years 1905-08 attracted much attention. About 1884 Casimir Przyjemski, a priest, came to Plock, seeking to establish an association of priests in connexion with the Third Order of St. Francis, for mutual edification and the promotion of asceticism. After he had become acquainted with Felicya Kozlowska, a poor seamstress, and a tertiary, he informed her of his plan. On 2 August, 1893, Kozlowska claimed to have had a revelation from God, according to which she was to found an association of priests and pious women under the name of Mariavites, and thus to regenerate the world. The association, which took its name from the words "Hail Mary", gathered a large number of followers. Kozlowska, generally called "mateczka" (little mother), placed herself at the head of both the male and female branches of the association; she was regarded as a saint, and her followers even ascribed miracles to her. The Sacred Congregation of the Inquisition, having decided that the alleged visions of Kozlowska were hallucinations, ordered the society to disband. The Mariavites refused to submit to this decision, and, moreover, continued to preach a body of blasphemous doctrines tending to exalt the personality of Maria Kozlowska. They were, accordingly, placed under excommunication by Rome. In 1906 the number of Mariavite priests amounted to about 50 in some 20 odd parishes, claiming a following of 500,000 souls. By the spring of the following year their numbers had already fallen to 60,000. Public opinion in all parts of Poland almost unanimously condemned the new body, which had been recognized by the Russian Government as a religious sect. It now (1910) numbers among its adherents 40 priests and 22 parishes, with, it is said, 20,000 adherents. The Mariavites have recently adopted an entirely Polish liturgy. The sect appeared in Poland at a time when the country began to revive under the impulse of freedom, and when the hostility between Poles and Russians appeared to be on the point of dying out: a reconciliation of the two nations might possibly prepare the way for a religious union.
Emigration from Poland to the New World did not begin to assume any considerable proportions until the middle of the nineteenth century. The impulse which resulted in this movement may be traced to the unfavourable conditions, not only economic, but also political and religious, which prevailed in Poland. The United States, Brazil, Canada, Uruguay, and Australia have received an accession of population amounting to more than 3,000,000, chiefly from the labouring classes of the population. (See POLES IN THE UNITED STATES.)
In English: VAN NORMAN, Poland, the Knight among Nations (New York, 1908); LODGE, The Extinction of Poland, 1788-97, in Cambr. Mod. Hist., VIII (Cambridge, 1904), 521-52; ASKENAZY, Poland and the Polish Revolution in Cambr. Mod. Hist., X (Cambridge, 1907), 445-74; MONTALEMBERT, The Insurrection of Poland (London, 1863); BRANDES, Poland, A Study of the Land, People and Literature (London, 1903); PARSONS, The Later Religious Martyrdom of Poland in Am. Cath. Q. Rev., XIII (Philadelphia, 1898), 71-96; MCSWINEY, The Cath. Church in Poland under the Russian Government in The Month (London, July, Aug., Sept., 1876), 296, 430; MacCAFFREY, Hist. of the Cath. Church in the Nineteenth Century (Dublin, 1910); BAIN, Slavonic Europe (Cambridge, 1908); SAXTON, Fall of Poland (New York, 1851); FLETCHER, Hist. of Poland (London, 1831).
In Polish: SZYC, Geography of Former Poland (Posen, 1861); LIMANOWSKI, Galicia Portrayed in Words and Drawings (Warsaw, 1891); BULINSKI, Ecclesiastical History of Poland (Cracow, 1873-74); WLADISLAW, Organization of the Church in Poland (Lemberg, 1893); ZALESKI, The Jesuits in Poland (Lemberg, 1900-06); Church Lexicon, XXVI (Warsaw, 1903). In other languages: Hist. religieuse des peuples slaves (Paris, 1853); FORSTER, La Pologne (Paris, 1840); PIERLING, BATHOM AND POISSEVIN, Documents inédits sur les rapports du Saint Siège avec les Slaves (Paris, 1887); CHODZKO, La Pologne histor. monumentale et illustrée (Paris, 1844); IDEM, Hist. populaire de la Pologne; BRANDENBERGER, Polnische Gesch. (Leipzig, 1907); KROMER, Polonia, sive de situ, populis, moribus, et republica regni Polonici (Cracow, 1901); IDEM, Lites ac res gestæ inter Polonos ordinemque cruciferorum (2 vols., Posen, 1890).
APA citation. (1911). Poland. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12181a.htm
MLA citation. "Poland." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12181a.htm>.
Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Gary A. Mros.
Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.
Contact information. The editor of New Advent is Kevin Knight. My email address is webmaster at newadvent.org. Regrettably, I can't reply to every letter, but I greatly appreciate your feedback — especially notifications about typographical errors and inappropriate ads.