Polish history (up to 1138)
Jan Matejko, The ushering in of Christianity, 1889
History of Poland (until 1138) – in the period up to 1138, a centralized state ruled by the Piast dynasty, called Poland since the turn of the 10th and 11th centuries, was established in the lands between the Oder and Bug rivers.
The organization of the state of the first Piasts (Lestek, Siemomysl) began around the second quarter of the 10th century in the Greater Lake District through the construction of large castles, including Giecz, Poznan, Ostrow Lednicki after 860; the first castle in Gniezno was built in 940-941.
In 966 its first historical ruler, Mieszko, was baptized. Both he and his successors waged wars with the Holy Roman Empire, Bohemia and Kievan Rus, as well as with the Western Slavs settled between the Oder and Elbe rivers. The state reached its greatest territorial extent under Boleslaw the Brave, who occupied Pomerania, Milsko, Lusatia, Moravia, the Czerwieńskie Grody, Slovakia and, temporarily, Bohemia. The early establishment of the Gniezno ecclesiastical metropolis (around the year 1000; for comparison, the bishopric in Prague gained the status of an archdiocese in 1344), as a result of the efforts of Boleslaw the Brave with the support of Emperor Otto III, was crucial for the survival of the early medieval Piast monarchy, as well as for the unification of the kingdom after the period of the division.
Later, the country was shaken several times by internal disputes, which twice – under Mieszko II and Casimir the Restorer – led to the breakdown of state institutions. Internal disputes included the introduction of feudalism and Christianity, leading to a popular uprising in 1037. The described period ended with the reign of Boleslaw the Wrymouth. This ruler reassumed sovereignty over Pomerania, and then, in view of the failure of his Hungarian policy, decided to become an imperial fief. Before his death, he issued a succession law, which marked the beginning of the period of divisional dismemberment in Poland.
Table of contents
1 Prehistory of the Polish lands
1.1 Slavs on the lands of present-day Poland
2 Political history
2.1 The beginning of the Piast state in Greater Poland (until ca. 960) 2.2 The reign of Mieszko I (ca. 960-992) 2.3 The reign of Boleslaw the Brave (992-1025) 2.4 The first reign of Mieszko II Lambert (1025-1031) 2.5 The period of Bezprym’s rule and the renewed rule of Mieszko II (1031-1034) 2.6 The first reign of Casimir the Restorer and the crisis of the state (1034-1039) 2. 7 Second reign of Casimir the Restorer (1039-1058) 2.8 Reign of Boleslaw the Shy (Bold) (1058-1079) 2.9 Reign of Ladislaus Herman (1079-1102) 2.10 Joint reign of Boleslaw the Wrymouth and Zbigniew (1102-1107) 2.11 Independent reign of Boleslaw the Wrymouth (1107-1138)
3 Culture and society
3.1 The development of the Church and the Christianization of the Polish lands
4 See also 5 Notes 6 Footnotes 7 Bibliography 8 External links
Prehistory of the Polish lands[edit | edit code].
Separate article: Prehistory of the Polish lands.
Slavs in the lands of present-day Poland[edit | edit code].
Separate article: Theory of autochthonous origin of the Slavs.
Separate article: Polish tribes.
Axe-like fines from the Kostkowice settlement, 9th – mid 10th century.
See the Latin-language Wikiresources for the original text of the Bavarian Geographer with a list of Slavic tribes
According to the best-sourced hypothesis regarding the origins of Slavic ethnicity and culture, it is likely that in the second half of the sixth or at the latest in the early seventh century, Slavic tribes spread west and north of the upper Vistula line, which had previously been the northwestern limit of their range[a]. The relatively late interest of the Slavs in migrating in this direction was most likely due to the fact that their original southern direction of expansion, leading into the Danube zone and the Byzantine Empire, was no longer attractive to them due to the arrival in Europe of the nomadic Avars, who in the mid-6th century. subjugated the Slavs living along the northern bank of the Danube (on the territory of present-day Romania), forcing the Slavs from then on to participate in their plunder expeditions against Byzantium and largely preventing them from acting independently. The period of Avar domination in the Danube zone (in the years around 558-626) is therefore probably the period when the Slavs undertook their expansion into the northwest, including the lands of present-day Poland. Confirmation of this date of Slavic expansion into the lands of present-day western Poland can be found in three historical accounts:
Procopius of Caesarea, writing in the middle of the sixth century A.D., describing the Herulians’ migration from Pannonia to the country of the Varnae (on the middle Elbe) in 512, states that they passed through all the tribes of the Slavs and then through a considerable area of empty country
Gregory of Tours’ History of the Franks describes the Avars’ expedition against the Franks in the year 566 (which passed through the lands of southern Poland, as confirmed by isolated Avar finds) and mentions that the Avars, when they finally reached the lands inhabited by the Franks, were starved, which is interpreted as evidence that their expedition must have passed through desolate lands
Theophylact Simocatta describes the capture of the Slavs at the walls of Constantinople in 592, who testified that they came from the North Ocean (Baltic Sea?), from where their journey took them more than a year.
These three accounts are most often interpreted today by historians as evidence that in 566 the Slavs had not yet inhabited the western part of present-day Poland, while in 591 their settlement had already reached Pomerania. Such an interpretation does not contradict the pronouncement of archaeological sources.
In the areas between the Oder and Bug rivers, the Slavs probably formed dozens of small tribal organisms. The existence of most of them is presumed based on archaeological research. Only a dozen were mentioned in early medieval historical sources: in the so-called Bavarian Geograph (mid-9th century) and in a document of the Bishopric of Prague issued in 1086 (reproducing the state of the borders of 973/974). According to these sources, the Pyrzyczans, Wolinians, Slezanians, Dziadoszyce, Opolanie, Golęszyce, Wiślanie, Lędzianie, Trzebowianie and Bobrzanie were likely to have their headquarters in the Polish lands. The seats of most of the listed tribes are located only hypothetically, and likewise their Latinized names are translated into Polish in various forms. The location of the Silesian tribes, also mentioned in the later chronicle of the Bishop of Merseburg Thietmar, is relatively certain. On the other hand, the most doubtful is the determination of the seats or even the existence of tribes such as the Lędzianie, Goplanie and Bobrzanie.
In 2008 Przemyslaw Urbańczyk noted that the relative homogeneity of material culture in the Polish lands and the lack of distinct cult centers does not allow the separation of ethno-political units (tribes) in the area. He believes that there were no stable and long-lasting (ahistorical) ethno-territorial groups (tribes). Instead, from the middle of the ninth century, i.e., from the time when defensive settlements began to be erected, there began to be chieftainship organizations usually encompassing a single town and its agricultural district. Power in these organizations was exercised by a representative of the local economic elite of the chief (in Polish knadz / prince) on the basis of voluntary social acceptance (no coercive apparatus) and under the control of a rally. Chieftaincy organizations were unstable, as chieftains unable to secure the support of the community through skillful redistribution of production surpluses were removed and replaced by local or external competitors (see Popiel’s and Piast’s post-breeding feasts and Siemowit’s subsequent assumption of power). The transition from a chieftaincy organization to an early state involved the chieftain’s creation of a coercive apparatus, or squad[b].
Separate articles: Prague Culture and Sukov-Dziedzice Culture.
Political history[edit | edit code].
Beginning of the Piast state in Greater Poland (until about 960)[edit | edit code].
The beginning of the chieftaincy organization that led to the formation of the Polish state is probably connected with the castle of Giecz, erected in the years around 865-869, which, according to Zofia Hilczer-Kurnatowska, was the ancestral nest of the Piasts[footnote needed]. It was one of the oldest (next to Moraczew) economic and political centers of the archaeological Gniezno land (Gniezno Uplands), the approximate boundaries of which were defined in the west and south by the Warta River’s knee, in the east by the Gopło and Noteć gutter, and in the north by the Vlna riverbed. In this area, human settlement was very diluted (no so-called settlement cluster), marked by a small number of distant pre-Piast strongholds. The existence of some ethnopolitical group (tribe) here is not certain. The cult center on Mount Lech in Gniezno, functioning in this period, may have been the keystone of a loose religious association of the surrounding population, which, however, was unlikely to translate into political territorial organization.
The name “Polans” comes from the late and rambling information of Nestor[footnote needed]. According to Przemyslaw Urbańczyk, the names Poland and Polanie did not appear until around 1000 in connection with the implementation of Boleslaw Chrobry’s state program. The construction of the Polish state was a private initiative of individual dynasts of the Piast dynasty, not a venture of some tribe. The Piasts proceeded to expand rapidly in the 1020s and 30s, subjugating neighboring chiefdom organizations on the upper and middle Obra and west of the middle Warta. This period marks a marked change in the density and location of fortified settlements, which were established in large numbers primarily in the center of Greater Poland (Grzybowo near Września, Ostrów Lednicki, probably Moraczewo). This process further intensified in the 940s, when the Gniezno stronghold was built (c. 940), and the strongholds in Giecz, Ląd and Poznań were rebuilt. The conquest of new lands and further territorial development of the state was facilitated by the lack of strong neighbors and natural barriers separating the Poles from the Germans, Czechs and direct Scandinavian influence[c]. Hand in hand with the spatial development of the state must have been the development of its organizational structures, according to some researchers, modeled on the Moravian and German states.
The lack of written sources does not allow to describe the beginnings of the state in more detail. Only the 12th-century account by Gallus Anonymus contains scant mention of the tribe’s ruling dynasty[d]. It is thought to have originated from a poor Piast ratoon whose son Siemowit overthrew Prince Popiel and seized power, giving rise to a new ruling family. Its name may derive from “piast”, meaning the highest court dignitary (the then equivalent in the Frankish state was majordom, and in Russia “kormilec”, a feeder). Siemovit was to be followed by Lestek and Siemomysl. This account is basically limited to the names of the rulers only, and its veracity has been questioned many times, especially in older historiography. Instead, most historians today accept that the named rulers really existed. Siemowit is said to have reigned in the second half of the ninth century (c. 870-900), his son Lestek in the early tenth century (c. 900-930), while Siemomysl was said to have reigned from c. 930 to c. 960. It was probably during Lestek’s reign that the so-called Piast revolution began, involving the erection of a new type of powerful early Piast strongholds (the first in Grzybów 915-922). There is a hypothesis that the reinforcements in Greater Poland were related to the collapse of the Great Moravian State. From Lestek may also come the name Licikaviki (Lścikowica / Lestkowice) appearing in the 10th century chronicle of Widukind of Korbea. At the time attributed to Siemomysl’s rule, the state occupied, in addition to the indigenous land of Gniezno, the Kujawy region, the Sieradz-łęczycka land, and perhaps Mazovia and Gdansk Pomerania. These territories were inherited by another, and the first fully historical Piast dynasty – Mieszko I.
Reign of Mieszko I (c. 960-992)[edit | edit code].
Separate article: Early Piast monarchy.
The strongholds under the reign of Mieszko I
The presumed extent of Mieszko I’s state – Civitas Schinesghe and the lands annexed by this ruler.
Mieszko took power probably in the late 50s of the 10th century. In the first years he fought battles with neighboring tribes, trying to expand the territory of his state. The early 960s is believed to have been the time when he captured East and Central Pomerania. Around 970, Mieszko I captured the lands on the Notec River and built a stronghold in Santok. The prince’s interest then focused primarily on the areas along the Oder River, where he soon subjugated some of the Swabian tribes. Then he came into conflict with the Wielets and the German outlaw and adventurer Wichman, who commanded them. The Wielets defeated Mieszko twice, and in one of the battles around 963 his brother, whose name is unknown, was killed. The defeats in battles with the Oder tribes coincided with Mieszko’s first political contacts with Germany and Bohemia – two strong neighbors belonging to the Christian culture circle.
It was probably at this time that Mieszko decided to start paying tribute to the German king from lands up to the Warta River. This tribute was presumably for the territory of the Lubushan tribe. Soon, in 965, the Polanian prince married the Bohemian princess Dobrava, and a year later he was baptized and began the process of Christianizing his country. This step was probably aimed at breaking the Bohemian-Villesian alliance and gaining a new ally in the battles in Polabia and Pomerania. Older historiography stressed that one of Mieszko’s main goals may have been to ward off the threat of forced Christianization, similar to that carried out by the German margraves among the Swabian tribes. Some of the more recent works, however, cast doubt on whether the German threat even existed and was perceived during the period described. Christianization turned out to be a progressive activity (although at certain periods the process encountered strong resistance from the local population) and brought the Polanian country into the circle of so-called Western civilization. As a result, Latin culture began to flow into Poland, writing developed and a clerical state was created, initially fully subordinate to the ruler (the so-called state church). The first Polish bishop named Jordan was ordained in 968. He was probably a missionary bishop reporting directly to the Holy See, although there are still suggestions in historiography that he may have been a suffragan of the German metropolis of Mainz.
Having gained a new ally, Mieszko continued fighting in Pomerania, this time with greater success. In 967 he was victorious in a battle with the Wolinians, thus subjugating the Oder estuary. In the following years, the prince probably waged further battles in the north, which may have led to a dispute with the Lusatian margrave Hodon. The latter attacked Mieszko in 972, despite the fact that the Polanian prince had faithfully paid tribute to the emperor. The decisive battle took place at Cedynia, and the winner of the clash unexpectedly turned out to be Mieszko. After this skirmish, the Polish ruler was summoned together with Hodon before the emperor for a convention in Kwedlinburg in 973. The emperor’s judgment is unknown, but it was probably not favorable to Mieszko[e]. This, among other things, explains the Polanian prince’s joining the German opposition after the death of Otto I in the same year. Mieszko supported a pretender to the throne, Henry the Quarrelsome, fighting against Emperor Otto II, who had been crowned while his father was still alive. A similar stance was taken by an ally of the Polans, Bohemian Prince Boleslav II the Pious. Henry the Quarryman lost the battle, and the emperor carried out a reprisal against Bohemia, forcing the country’s prince to yield in 978. In 979 Otto II was also to invade the Polanian lands, but the expedition probably ended in defeat. Presumably a year later,[f] Mieszko entered into a second marriage, this time to Oda, daughter of the Margrave of the Northern March Dytryk. This union weakened Polish-Czech ties, foreshadowing an imminent change in alliances. As late as 983, Mieszko and Boleslaw jointly joined in another rebellion against the new German ruler Otto III. Mieszko, however, quickly abandoned Henry the Quarrelsome and reconciled with the emperor. He then participated in an expedition against the Swabian Slavs and perhaps the Bohemians themselves. The fighting did not stop in the following years – in 990 there was a Polish-Czech war, in which the Wielets sided with the Czechs and the Germans supported Mieszko. As a result of the conflict, Mieszko probably took over Silesia and Malopolska.
During his relatively long reign, Mieszko also captured the Sandomierz land (probably in the 1770s) and may have homaged Mazovia (if his father had not already done so). He also undertook cooperation with the Swedes against the Danes[footnote needed]. It is possible that the prince also managed to subjugate the Czerwieńskie Grody for a few years, later taken over by Kievan Rus.
Mieszko died in 992, dividing his patrimony among his sons – presumably both those from his second marriage and Boleslaw, who came from his union with Dobrava. The territory of the state at the end of Mieszko’s reign is known thanks to a document preserved in rege, placing Poland under the protection of the apostolic capital (the so-called Dagome Iudex). The purpose of the ruler’s issuance of this writ is not clear – perhaps it was the beginning of an effort to establish a separate ecclesiastical organization in the Polanian state, or was intended to secure the rights of sons from a second marriage to the throne (Boleslaw was not named among the issuers).
Reign of Boleslaw the Brave (992-1025)[edit | edit code].
The state of Boleslaw the Brave
Separate article: Etymology of the name Poland.
The supreme power was assumed by the eldest of the brothers, Boleslaw the Brave. Initially, he cooperated with German King Otto III and even aided his expedition against the Swabian Slavs in 995. It wasn’t until Otto III left for Italy to claim the imperial crown that the Polish prince decided to exile Oda and his sons, and consequently assume full power in the state. This led to a temporary cooling in Polish-German relations, which, however, lasted only a few years. The rapprochement came about again as a result of further problems in the Polabian region. The Emperor, fighting the Slavs and threatened by civil war with the Saxons, needed a strong ally, which Bolesław Chrobry could become. The restoration of good relations was also due to the project pushed by Otto III to create a universalist Christian empire, which was to include Poland (Sclavinia) on equal terms.
This project helped strengthen Poland’s position. The reason for this was the martyrdom of Bishop Adalbert, who died during the mission of Christianization among the Prussians in 997. His imminent canonization allowed Chrobry to begin efforts to establish an independent ecclesiastical organization in Poland. With the Emperor’s support, the Roman synods of 998-999 considered the matter and ordained St. Adalbert’s brother, Radzim Gaudente, as Archbishop of St. Adalbert. The following year Otto III came with a pilgrimage to the martyr’s tomb in Gniezno. At the so-called Congress of Gniezno, gifts were exchanged and the emperor symbolically placed a diadem on Bolesław’s head. An independent Polish ecclesiastical organization was also established with an archbishopric in Gniezno and three suffragans: in Krakow, Wroclaw and Kolobrzeg. Outside the archdiocese remained the bishopric of Poznan Unger, who was to remain independent for life, as a bishop directly subordinate to the apostolic capital. Although Boleslaw was not (contrary to the claim of the later chronicler Gallus Anonymus) crowned king,[g] he was granted the royal investiture of bishop. It is also possible that the emperor’s presentation of a copy of St. Maurice’s spear to him was a symbol of Poland’s release from tributarian dependence. Around 1000, the Piast state was also given its own name, invented[by whom?] at the time, Poland (Latin: Polonia / Polania).
Good relations broke down after the unexpected death of the young emperor in 1002. Boleslaw took advantage of internal struggles in the Reich and occupied an important region of the Oder foreland: Meissen, Milsko and Lusatia. When Henry the Holy finally took power in Germany, he accepted the conquests of the Brave, handing them over to him on a fief basis. He only gave Meissen to Margrave Guncelin, who was allied with the Polish prince. Relations were normalized, but the organization of an unsuccessful attempt on Boleslaw’s life brought back the risk of conflict. The war did not occur, and the Polish prince proceeded to intervene in Bohemia, where Prince Vladivoj died in 1003. The Brave placed the previously exiled Boleslav the Red on the throne. Probably at the request of the Bohemian opposition in the same year, he once again meddled in Bohemian affairs – he blinded Boleslav the Red, and then took the throne in Prague himself. The sudden rise in the position of the Polish ruler worried Henry II, especially when Boleslaw the Brave refused to pay the fief tribute from Bohemia.
Coronation of the first king of Poland, Jan Matejko
In 1003, the Brave started a war himself, attacking Meissen. Henry responded with an armed expedition the following year. The first offensive was unsuccessful, but by the autumn the Reichsburg ruler attacked Bohemia and overthrew Boleslav’s rule in that country. Moravia and Slovakia[h] remained with Poland. Henry then conquered Milsko, and in 1005 he reached as far as Poznan with his troops. A peace treaty was then concluded, under which Boleslaw probably relinquished Milsko and Lusatia. Henry soon terminated the truce, as a result of which Boleslaw the Brave invaded the lands of the Archbishopric of Magdeburg in 1007. He then recaptured Budziszyn without much trouble. Henry’s counteroffensive didn’t get underway until 1010, but had no effect beyond local destruction in Silesia.
In 1012 a truce was concluded for five years. Boleslaw broke its provisions and invaded Lusatia again, but nevertheless an agreement was reached in 1013. The Polish ruler paid tribute to Henry, in return probably receiving Milsko and Lusatia as fiefs, as well as armed assistance in an expedition to Ruthenia. This expedition set out soon after relations with Germany were normalized, but its results are not known. In 1015 war broke out again between the Emperor and Boleslaw the Brave. The Polish ruler refused to support Henry’s expedition to Italy, and attempted to conspire against him with the Bohemian prince. This led to an imperial intervention in Poland, which, however, failed. Henry II attacked Boleslav once more in 1017 – again without success (defense of Niemcza). On January 30, 1018, peace was finally concluded at Bautzen. The final winner of the conflict was Boleslaw, who arguably retained Milsko and Lusatia, no longer as a fief, but his property.
Shortly after the peace of Bautzen, Boleslaw again invaded Ruthenia, this time to defend the rights of Prince Swietopek to the throne. As a result of the invasion, he plundered Kiev, carrying off numerous spoils. In 1024 Henry II died, and Boleslaw used the changes in Germany to his advantage and was crowned king on April 18, 1025. It is possible that this coronation was carried out by the Archbishop of Gniezno on royal orders, without permission from the apostolic capital. This is indicated by the lack of a surviving papal bull authorizing the coronation, as well as numerous accusations by German chroniclers and yearbook writers. A few months later, Boleslaw died. He left his sons a state enlarged by Milsko, Lusatia, Moravia, Slovakia and the Czerwieńskie Grody. He lost Western Pomerania, important for trade, which had become independent during the struggle with Germany.
During his reign, Poland also gained a strong political position – it became a major European state with an independent ecclesiastical province, elevated to an equal position with other Christian kingdoms thanks to his coronation. On the other hand, the aggressive policies of Poland’s first king left a legacy of external conflicts, as well as being a source of burdens imposed on the country’s population, leading to the depletion of its economic resources. The destructive processes thus initiated soon shook the early Piast monarchy.
First reign of Mieszko II Lambert (1025-1031)[edit | edit code].
Princess Matilda presents a liturgical book to Mieszko II
Mieszko II took over from his father, after which he probably banished his two brothers from the country. Then, still in 1025, he crowned himself king of Poland. This may again have been an illegitimate coronation. Mieszko II sought to continue the expansionist policies of Boleslaw the Brave. He joined the German opposition centered around the Swabian prince Ernest II and in 1028 made a devastating invasion of Saxony, starting a war with Germany. Emperor Conrad II responded a year later with a retaliatory expedition against Milsko and Lusatia, but it was unsuccessful.
Probably at the same time, Duke Udalryk (Oldrzych) of Bohemia occupied Moravia[i] and Slovakia[j]. Perhaps Mieszko once again invaded Saxony in 1030. If this attack even occurred, it was already the last offensive action of the Polish king. In the same year, the Ruthenian prince Yaroslav the Wise occupied Belz, and with the complicity of Mieszko’s brothers Otto and Bezprym the German-Ruthenian coalition was assembled. The joint concentric offensive led to the collapse of royal power in Poland. First Lusatia and Milsko fell from the state, followed by the Czerwieńskie Grody. Mieszko II fled the country, and Bezprym seized power in Poland.
The period of Bezprym’s rule and Mieszko II’s reign (1031-1034)[edit | edit code].
Bezprym probably seized power thanks to an armed detachment obtained from Prince Yaroslav (direct intervention of Yaroslav’s troops in the central provinces of the country to install the new prince on the throne, however, is not confirmed by the source). He may have used anti-church and anti-state slogans, which allowed him to gain supporters among a society forced to make high payments to the administration, army and Church. Some historians assume that he may have even spearheaded a popular uprising,[k] which, according to some concepts, may in turn have been the reason for his omission by Polish chroniclers. After seizing power, Bezprym returned the Polish coronation insignia to Conrad II, thereby renouncing the royal crown and recognizing the primacy of the emperor. He then embarked on a period of brutal rule, probably aimed primarily at that part of the elite that still supported the deposed king. After several months, Bezprym was assassinated, probably at the initiative of both his brothers.
Mieszko, meanwhile, after fleeing to Bohemia, was imprisoned by Prince Udalryk and supposedly castrated. This was supposed to be a punishment for Boleslav the Brave’s blinding of Bohemian prince Boleslav III the Red. Udalryk freed Mieszko only after Bezprym’s death, but the prince did not manage to regain full power. Threatened by imperial intervention, he agreed at Merseburg in 1032 to divide the state between three contenders for the throne: himself, Otto Boleslawovic and Dytryk,[l] who was the son of one of Boleslaw the Brave’s brothers. Mieszko probably received Lesser Poland and Mazovia, Otto Silesia, while Dytryk received Greater Poland. Another proposal for the division assumes that Mieszko received the capital Wielkopolska, while Otto and Dytryk took over the remaining districts. In addition, the former king relinquished the crown and his title. It was only after Otto’s death in 1033 that Mieszko took over his district, and then exiled Dytryk and reunited the Piast state. He died a year later in a weakened and territorially truncated country.
The first reign of Casimir the Restorer and the crisis of the state (1034-1039)[edit | edit code].
Casimir the Restorer according to Jan Matejko
The territory of the Mieclaw state
The only heir to the throne was Prince Casimir, which prevented further dynastic struggles. He took power in a very unfavorable situation, when the state was disorganized and Mazovia became completely independent under the rule of the former viceroy Mieclav[m]. Little is known about Casimir’s first reign. From Gallus Anonymus’ account, it appears that Casimir was unable to control Mazovian separatism. Perhaps Mieclaw’s example prompted other magnates to revolt as well. Around 1037[n] there were magnate uprisings and a popular uprising as a result of which the prince was forced to leave the country.
For the first time, the Polish state was deprived of a reigning monarch, which made it an easy target for neighbors. The situation was exploited by Duke Bretislaus I of Bohemia, who in 1038 invaded Lesser Poland, probably ransacked Cracow, occupied the main towns of Greater Poland and destroyed Gniezno Cathedral, taking both the rich furnishings and the relics of Saint Adalbert and the Five Brothers Martyrs. The invasion and the popular uprising of 1037 led to the collapse of the church administration. Military and administrative structures also disintegrated, but it is unclear to what extent anarchy occurred and to what extent the formation of a system of magnanimous rule. The collapse of the system of supreme power also presumably led to the independence of East Pomerania, although the region may have already gained independence during the previous crisis associated with Bezprym’s reign.
Also unexplained is what connection the aforementioned popular uprising may have had with the crisis of Casimir’s rule. Anti-Christian and anti-feudal disturbances in Poland are mentioned independently by German, Bohemian and Ruthenian sources, as well as Gall Anonim’s Chronicle of Poland. Due to considerable discrepancies in the dating of the events, it is not possible to determine indisputably when exactly they occurred. Traditionally, historiography has linked the popular uprising to the collapse of Casimir’s reign (years 1034-1038)[o] or the invasion of Bretislav (after 1038), which could, by destroying the main centers of the new faith, arouse anti-Christian sentiment in society[p]. Recently, there has also been considerable support for the aforementioned concept, transferring the religious disturbances to the period of Bezprym’s reign (1031). On the other hand, the hypothesis that the first disturbances occurred earlier, already during the reign of Boleslaw the Brave (1022), has not gained wider support.
Casimir left the country and fled to Hungary, where he was probably imprisoned by King Stephen. Only after his death did he go to Germany. He took advantage of Emperor Conrad II[q]’s preparations for war with Bretislav and, with his military support, returned to Poland in 1039.
Second reign of Casimir the Restorer (1039-1058)[edit | edit code].
Poland during the reign of Casimir I the Restorer
Casimir returned to Poland with an armed escort of 500 German knights, crushed a popular uprising, rebuilt the state and restored the Christian religion in the country. He is believed to have received the support of the magnates, who understood the necessity of a central authority. Due to the destruction wrought by Bretislav in Greater Poland, Casimir probably moved his headquarters to Krakow. This initiated the primacy of Cracow, which was considered the capital of the state[r] from the time of Casimir.
The prince then proceeded to fight with the Duke of Bohemia to regain Silesia, lost as a result of invasions in 1038. At first he acted with imperial support, then on his own. He invaded Silesia four times, until the territory was finally granted to him in 1054 in exchange for a tribute of 500 silver and 30 gold fines paid annually to the ruler of Bohemia. At the same time as fighting in Bohemia, Casimir waged a campaign to regain Mazovia. Probably in 1047[s] with the support of the Ruthenian prince Jaroslav the Wise, he defeated Mieclav and reattached the rebellious province to Poland. The prince also tried to subjugate Pomerania, but these actions probably did not lead to the restoration of Polish sovereignty over the area[t].
The prince also contributed to the restoration of the church organization. He probably took advantage of the fact that his uncle Herman was archbishop of Cologne. The Brauweiler monastery, a family foundation of Ezzon and Matilda, Richeza’s parents, may also have been a source of priestly cadres. It is likely that Aron, later bishop of Cracow equipped by the pope with an additional pallium – a symbol of archiepiscopal powers – arrived in Poland together with the prince. He began the work of reconstructing the permanent ecclesiastical organization after the disorders of the 1930s. His efforts were undoubtedly hampered by the particularly thorny situation in Silesia. Presumably, Pope Leo IX reestablished a bishopric here in the early 1850s, but subordinated it to the metropolis in Magdeburg rather than Gniezno. The foundation of the Benedictine abbey at Tyniec, by tradition dated to 1044, is also linked to Casimir.
Casimir died in 1058, bequeathing to his sons a state with reconstituted power structures and a much broader territorial scope than in 1034. It consisted of Greater Poland, Kuyavia, Lesser Poland, Mazovia and Silesia. Outside the borders remained the southeastern part of Silesia, as well as Pomerania, Milsko, Lusatia and the Czerwieńskie Grody.
Reign of Boleslav the Shy (Bold) (1058-1079)[edit | edit code].
Bolesław II Szczodry according to Jan Matejko
After Casimir’s death, his eldest son, Boleslaw, assumed supreme power. The two brothers of the new prince probably also received their districts: Ladislaus Herman Mazovia, and Mieszko Kujawy with Kruszwica. Boleslaw continued his father’s cautious policy in the first years of his reign, but by around 1060 he had already begun fighting with his southern neighbor. The first invasion of Bohemia ended in defeat, and the dispute was settled by the marriage of the duke’s sister Sviatoslav to Vratislav II. Relations deteriorated again as a result of the dynastic conflict in Hungary. After the death of the Polish-bound King Bela, fighting ensued between the imperial and Bohemian-backed Solomon and his cousin brothers Geisa and Ladislaus.
Boleslaw initially chose not to intervene directly, but the growing conflict with the Bohemians led to the cessation of tribute payments from Silesia and mutual Polish-Czech invasions that lasted for years. The Polish prince ignored attempts by the German ruler Henry IV to resolve the conflict diplomatically, which prompted the emperor to organize an expedition against the Piast state. The campaign ultimately failed to materialize, as a Saxon uprising broke out in the Reich in 1073. In this situation, Boleslaw could afford more freedom in his relations with his neighbors. He installed Geis I on the Hungarian throne, and organized two expeditions into Ruthenia in defense of Prince Izyaslav. This ruler regained the throne thanks to Polish intervention in 1069, but was exiled four years later. Boleslaw refused to help again, but changed his mind, probably yielding to the pope’s request, and in 1076 he once again placed Izyaslav on the throne, although he treated him rather brutally.
Contacts with the Holy See were not limited to Rus’ affairs. Faced with a dispute over investiture between Henry IV and Gregory VII, the prince of Poland sided with the pope. This enabled him to restore the church organization in 1075-1076 and to be crowned on December 25, 1076.
The state of the Polish church in 1075 is known thanks to a surviving letter from Gregory VII addressed to the Polish prince. Bishops were said to be few in number and without permanent seats. The mission to remedy the situation was entrusted to papal legates, who probably convened a special synod in late 1075/1076, perhaps with the participation of the Saxon bishops. The new division assumed the existence of the metropolis of Gniezno with four suffragans: those of Kraków, Wrocław, Poznań and Płock. Bogumił was ordained archbishop.
The king’s strong position was threatened by a conflict with the bishop of Cracow, Stanislaw of Szczepanow. The dispute probably went deeper than the clergyman’s personal insubordination, although due to the scarcity of source accounts it is not possible to reconstruct it. It is possible that during Boleslav’s expedition to Ruthenia, there was social disorder in the knights’ estates in the country. As a result, some of the Polish king’s warriors deserted, returned to Poland and began suppressing rebellions. Repression affected not only the population of the knights’ estates, but also the king’s cooperating free subjects. The brutal actions of the knights, as well as the desertion from the war expedition itself, were expected to prompt the ruler to react violently. In the face of the inflamed conflict, the magnanimous opposition was probably activated, whose representative or even leader was to be Stanislaw of Szczepanow.
He probably sided with the knights and perhaps even threatened the king with a curse. In response, Boleslaw was to condemn him for treason by cutting off his members. According to later tradition, contained in the chronicle of Wincenty Kadlubek, there was no formal execution, but a murder carried out personally by the ruler. This version of events, though unlikely, is not ruled out by today’s historians. After Stanislav’s death, a rebellion of the magnates probably broke out, which forced Boleslav to flee the country and go to Hungary[u]. The involvement of the duke’s brother, Ladislaus Herman, in the rebellion is unclear. In older historiography, his figure was often linked directly to the opposition. Today it is rather assumed that he took power only after Boleslaw was deposed, at the instigation of the elite, which may have included the later voivode Sieciech[v].
When Boleslaw went to Hungary, he probably planned to obtain military assistance from King Ladislaus, whose brother and predecessor he himself had placed on the Hungarian throne. However, he failed to convince Ladislaus to intervene, and soon died under unclear circumstances.
Reign of Ladislaus Herman (1079-1102)[edit | edit code].
Ladislaus I Herman
Wladyslaw Herman decided to take over the state probably only after Boleslaw’s death, that is, in 1081 or 1082. From the beginning he pursued a cautious policy, taking care to maintain good relations with Bohemia and Hungary. He also renounced the crown and joined the imperial camp. From the moment he took the throne he had a weak position in the state, and real power belonged to his palatine Sieciech of the Toporian family. It was probably he who decided to poison Boleslaw the Bold’s son, Mieszko, and send to a male monastery Władysław Herman’s first son, Zbigniew, who, according to Gallus Anonymus’ account, was said to have come from an illegitimate bed. He gained support with his expeditions to Gdansk Pomerania in 1090, which were to allow the territory to be annexed to the Piast state. However, the war ended in failure, which undermined the palatine’s position. His enemies fled to Bohemia, where they gained the support of Bretislav II and then freed Prince Zbigniew. At the same time (around 1092), the Polish ruler stopped paying tribute from Silesia.
Reconstruction of the seal of Ladislaus Herman from a document for Bamberg Cathedral.
In 1093, a revolt took place in Silesia at the inspiration of emigrants. The comes there, Magnus, submitted to Zbigniew. At the same time there was a Bohemian invasion. Brzetysław sacked Silesia and captured the Kłodzko region. Ladislaus Herman was forced to start a civil war to restore the unity of the country. First, he resumed paying tribute, thus normalizing relations with the Czechs. Brzetysław II, in return, gave the Kłodzko land as a fief to Wladyslaw’s minor son, Bolesław Krzywousty. The Polish ruler then planned an attack on the rebels with the support of Hungarian troops. However, the Hungarians ultimately not only failed to help the prince, but even made an unsuccessful attempt to kidnap Ladislaus and Sieciech[w]. The Polish knights refused to fight alone, and as a result the prince was forced to settle with the opposition. He recognized Zbigniew’s rights and handed Silesia over to him for administration. Sieciech disagreed with this decision. He enlisted some of the mighty of Silesia and attacked Zbigniew. He then defeated the rebels and imprisoned the prince. Although he was victorious, his position was significantly weakened. The rebellion ended in 1093-1096.
Under the influence of opposition, presumably centered around the powerful Awdaniec family competing with the Toporcians and the Church, in 1097 Ladislaus Herman restored Prince Zbigniew to favor, and then put both sons in command of an army that was to attack Pomerania. The expedition did not take place, as the brothers jointly acted against their father and Sieciech. Threatened, Ladislaus agreed to divide the state – he gave Silesia to Boleslaus, Greater Poland to Zbigniew, while he himself retained Lesser Poland and Mazovia. This situation did not satisfy the brothers, especially since Ladislaus (actually Sieciech) retained the right to appoint town chiefs, while Boleslaus was assigned a guardian to control his actions. As a result, fighting resumed and lasted until 1100 or 1101, when Sieciech was finally deposed. The reign of Ladislaus Herman, who died in 1102, also soon came to an end.
Joint reign of Boleslaw the Wrymouth and Zbigniew (1102-1107)[edit | edit code].
…and his brother Boleslaw
After the death of Ladislaus Herman, two states were created, whose rulers had equal standing: the Greater Poland-Mazovia of Zbigniew and the Lesser Poland-Silesia of Boleslaus. Although Zbigniew was probably formally the supreme ruler[x] due to his seniority,[x] even if he was, Boleslaw did not recognize this fact from the beginning. The brothers pursued an independent foreign policy, and the lack of a clear resolution of the question of supremacy meant that the conflict between them was only a matter of time. Above all, Pomeranian policy remained a contentious issue. Zbigniew manifested peaceful intentions towards his northern neighbor, while Boleslaw organized 5 plundering expeditions against the Pomeranians. The retaliatory raids only affected Zbigniew’s country. In this situation, Zbigniew sought an agreement with Bohemia, intended to give him the opportunity to checkmate his brother. Boleslaw, meanwhile, opted for rapprochement with Russia and Hungary, and then invaded Bohemia with Hungarian King Coloman in 1105. For the first few years, the conflict between the brothers was just limited to assembling coalitions and fighting their rival’s allies. At the same time, around 1106, the brothers concluded a treaty, according to which they were to conduct a common foreign policy and not enter into alliances against each other. This agreement proved to be very unsustainable, although it is not clear which ruler was the first to openly act against his brother. According to the Bohemian Kosmas Chronicle, it was Zbigniew, who had already raised his arms against Boleslav in 1103, unsuccessfully seeking Bohemian support. Gall Anonim, on the other hand, attributed the initiative to Boleslaw, who, as a son from the right bed[y], felt he was the inherent ruler of all of Poland.
In 1106, he succeeded in breaking Zbigniew’s alliance with the Bohemian prince Borzywoi II. He took advantage of this success and attacked his brother, accusing him of clandestine contacts with the Bohemians. Without much trouble, he occupied Greater Poland and then Mazovia. He seized supreme power in the state, and granted only Mazovia as a fief to his brother.
Independent reign of Boleslaw the Wrymouth (1107-1138)[edit | edit code].
Poland during the reign of Boleslaw III the Wry-mouthed
In 1107 Boleslaw organized another plunder expedition to Pomerania, which was not supported by Zbigniew with his army. The Wrymouth used this as an excuse to take his brother’s fief. In the winter of late 1107 and early 1108, with the help of Ruthenians and Hungarians, he defeated Zbigniew and banished him from the country. From then on he was able to pursue a fully independent policy. He decided to work closely with the Hungarians and return to the anti-Cessionist camp. He established contacts with the opposition in the Reich, and made an unsuccessful attempt to install the exiled Duke Borzyv II on the Bohemian throne. At the same time, there was a German-Czech invasion of Hungary. Boleslav’s attack on Bohemia weakened the capabilities of this coalition, allowing King Coloman to make peace with the Germans. Presumably his condition was that the Hungarians abandon their alliance with Poland. As a result, Boleslaw lost an ally, which in 1109 German King Henry V took advantage of, attacking his state in defense of Zbigniew’s rights. The real reason for the invasion was probably the aforementioned attack by Boleslaw on Bohemia, which Henry considered a hostile action against himself. The intervention in Poland ended in failure, with the Germans failing to capture any of the important Polish strongholds despite the use of siege machines. Some 10,000 German troops on the march through Silesia passed Bytom on the Oder, Glogow and Wroclaw in succession, without occupying any of them. Boleslaw avoided issuing a pitched battle, instead aiming to devastate the enemy’s army and morale through strenuous attacks on detached troops, supply services and so on. This method bore fruit and Henry V turned back without even reaching Upper Silesia.
In 1110, the Wrymouth made another unsuccessful intervention in Bohemia. Although he defeated the Bohemian army at the Trutina River, he did not install his pretender Sobieslaw on the throne. He probably did not want to irritate relations with Henry V. In 1111 a truce was concluded, according to which Sobieslaw returned to Bohemia and Zbigniew returned to Poland. Despite promising to accept his brother, Boleslaw had him captured and blinded, as a result of which Zbigniew died. The prince was forced to make penitential pilgrimages to Gniezno and Hungary, but his power was strengthened by eliminating a possible rival.
Relations with Germany and Bohemia were normalized, allowing Boleslaw to begin fighting for Pomerania. Although expeditions to it had been going on since 1102, so far they had only been of a plundering nature. After 1109, Boleslaw began a war aimed at conquering the region. By 1119 he had seized Gdansk Pomerania, and in 1121 he homaged Western Pomerania. He then turned his attention to Hungary, where King Stephen II had died. In 1131, the Polish prince intervened to defend the rights to the throne of Boris, the presumed son of Coloman I. The action ended in failure – Boleslaw’s army was defeated, and then the Czech prince Sobieslaw invaded Silesia, inflicting great destruction. The failed expedition to Hungary drove Boleslaw into political isolation. In 1134 he decided to abandon his Hungarian policy. In addition to a foreign policy crisis, the early 1130s also brought a collapse in church policy, until then conducted with considerable success. In 1124, three new bishoprics were created: Lubuskie, Kruszwica and Włocławek, the latter two of which were soon merged. From 1123 the Christianization campaign in Pomerania also continued, led first by Bernard of Spain and, after his failure, by Otto of Bamberg, who also began preparations for the establishment of a diocesan organization in Pomerania. Due to a possible conflict of interest, the creation of two bishoprics was planned – one subordinate to Magdeburg with its capital in Stettin and one subordinate to Gniezno in Wolin. The filling of the episcopal capitals was hindered by a new schism in the church – the schism of Anaclet II. In the dispute between this anti-pope and Innocent II, supported by King Lotar III of Germany, the Polish prince sided with Anaclet. This led to tragic[according to whom?] consequences when Innocent gained a considerable advantage. In 1131 he handed over the bishopric of Poznan to the Archdiocese of Magdeburg, and in 1133 subordinated all Polish bishoprics to it.
This crisis, as well as failures in foreign policy and political loneliness, prompted Boleslaw to submit to the emperor. On August 15, 1135, he paid him a fief tribute (at a convention in Merseburg) and agreed to pay tribute from Pomerania and Rügen[z][aa]. In the following years, thanks to joining the imperial camp, relations with Bohemia and Rus were also normalized. The Polish ecclesiastical organization also regained its independence (Protective Bull (Latin) Ex comisso nobis a Deo of 1136). This was made possible by the eventual support of Innocent II, as well as the death of the highly influential Archbishop of Magdeburg, Norbert of Xanten.
Boleslaw died in 1138.Under the Law of Succession, he divided the state among his sons, introducing the principle of seniority, according to which power was to be assumed in turn by the eldest representatives of the family. In this way he probably wanted to create clear rules that would avoid succession battles similar to those that Boleslaw had with Zbigniew. If this was the ruler’s plan, it did not have the intended effect. The law of succession led to numerous internal wars and the division of Poland, which lasted until the early 14th century. Some scholars point to other possible reasons for the orderly succession of supreme power – including the growing decentralization aspirations of the mighty[ab] and the desire to secure the rights to the throne of sons from second marriages. There is also a group of historians who deny the significance of this act and point to earlier, mostly implicit divisions of power among more members of the dynasty. These scholars date the beginnings of the divisive split only to the late 12th century[ac]. Sometimes the Succession Act is linked to the quickly suppressed rebellion of Governor Skarbimir in 1117, which may have been a manifestation of the aforementioned aspirations of the magnanimous circles.
Culture and society[edit | edit code].
Church development and Christianization of the Polish lands[edit | edit code].
The influence of Christianity in the Polish lands before 966 is debated by scholars and, due to the lack of clear evidence in documents and archaeology, remains only hypotheses. There are speculations that the Great Moravian State began to influence the lands of Lesser Poland and Silesia, which it may have incorporated around 875.It is possible that with this, Christianity, then developing in Moravia through the activities of saints Cyril and Methodius, reached Polish lands. The “Life” of the latter preserves the news that he urged a Vistula prince to stop persecuting Christians and embrace their faith himself; moreover, according to the account of the life, he was baptized. It is impossible to prejudge the historicity of this event, as well as the alleged founding of several bishoprics of the Slavic rite in southern Poland.
Further attempts at Christianization may also have come from Bohemia in the south. In the middle of the 10th century, with the presumed Bohemian conquest engulfing Silesia and Lesser Poland, a missionary campaign may have begun by the two German bishoprics of Regensburg and Passau, under whose jurisdiction Bohemia and Moravia were then located, respectively. However, there are no clear traces confirming Christianization during this period.
The first certain information about Christianization we have thanks to the mention of the baptism of Prince Mieszko I in 966, which had its consequence in the establishment of the first bishopric in Poland located in Poznan, headed by Bishop Jordan. What status the first Polish bishopric had is unclear. According to an account by Thietmar of Mersemburg, written only decades after these events, it was a suffragan of the newly created Magdeburg province. In spite of this account, which seems to have been a balderdash, Jordan is considered a missionary bishop, directly subordinate to the Pope. The choice of Poznan as the seat of the missionary bishop was probably determined by the foundation of the first Christian temple there.
The clergy that placed the firstfruits of Christianity in the state of Gniezno were predominantly of German origin, although Jordan himself came from the countries of the Romance circle, his successor Unger was a Saxon or Thuringian. The consequence of the Congress of Gniezno in 1000 was the creation of the metropolis of Gniezno – the first ecclesiastical metropolis in Poland subject only to the Pope, headed by St. Adalbert’s brother, Radzim Gaudente. With the establishment of the new metropolis, new bishoprics-suffragans were created subordinate to Gniezno, in Cracow with Bishop Poppon, in Kolobrzeg with Bishop Reinbern, and in Wroclaw with Bishop Jan. The bishopric of Poznan remained outside the metropolis of Gniezno until the death of Bishop Unger. By the 12th century, Christianization had made considerable progress in Poland, and the formal conversion of Western Pomerania in the 1st half of the 12th century, carried out through the efforts of Boleslaw the Wrymouth, enabled the establishment of a bishop’s seat in Wolin and the construction of many churches in the region.