Sensitivity to transcendent values and detachment proper to the sacrum, by individuals and whole social groups, best expresses their religiosity. In the Polish society this religiosity was Christian for over a thousand years, but it also contains many elements of ancient Slavic culture. Throughout subsequent epochs the Christian understanding of God, forms of worship, sacraments, structures of the church and saints, as well as norms of life, pervaded the culture of inhabitants of the Polish Crown, and subsequently of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and of the Second Polish Republic. Christianity, in constant touch with the culture of Slavs living in the area between the Oder and the Dnieper and between the Baltic Sea and the Carpathians, enriched it with something new that became a principle of growth without destroying what was precious and proper. It is difficult to characterize the whole religiosity of the Polish society in a short outline. We shall limit our description to: 1) presenting the most general and basic values and religious ideas; and 2) showing how they were felt and expressed by poets and writers, that is how they were recorded in Polish literature. Artists are capable of depicting in the most accurate way the soul of the nation, of which religiosity constitutes its fundamental part.




God as Goodness


The principal idea which, in a sense, revolutionalized life in our culture, was the revelation of God as Personal Love, shed in human souls, in the world and universe, in society, and penetrating our entire being. In Christianity, this meant that there were no separate "gods of culture," especially gods who would fight with God, such as Utnapishthim, Agni, or Prometheus. God himself is "culture," in the sense that He fulfills man in an absolute and infinite way, that is, that persons find their personal fulfillment in God. Slavic religion did not put love in the first place, but it was not cruel in the way presented by German scholars. Perun -- god of thunder -- incarnated himself into Świętowit, Rujewit with his "swallows of love," Porowit -- god of force; Porenut -- god of goodness, and Jarowit (Jaryła) -- god of life (see -- A. Gieysztor). At the base of these ideas and images, just as in the majority of religions, lay, however, some apprehended goodness of the gods in regard to men. Slavs saw this goodness not only in the beyond, but also here on earth. It was a "historical" concept of God, conceived as "the Lord of human fate and destiny". This understanding manifests itself already in the name "god" (in Polish bóg; bagha) which means granting good fate, happiness, the good. This is reflected in the concrete divine names: Radogost, Dadżbór, Spor, Rod, Dola, and others. Something of the divine fate is contained also in signs of "gratious and great works" in people, probaly represented in statues (the so called stone pies -- baby), representing divine gifts in man. In any case, the concept of Divinity itself manifests the Polish trust, perhaps all too idealistic and emotional, that God in history will enable us overcome all evil and attain the good.

Moreover, between Christianity and the religion of the central Slavic tribes an inner harmony was achieved relatively easily due to a rather similar dualism according to while the God of Goodness created spirits and man, which Satan created matter and the world of things (A. Gieysztor). That is why human existence is directed by the good God, and evil destiny, anti-history is steered by the "black god," the "bleak god". In the world of the good reigns order, on which man should rely as on the Divine Love, and thus is created the highest culture, that of the Human Spirit. In the world of the evil chaos and hatred dominate; this is anti-culture and anti-religion. In the middle of humanity there grows a divine tree of life, love, hope, rightness, clemency and dreams bearing seeds of infinity and immortality. Because of human sins the visible world will be terminated by fire and a "great deluge".

In human history in the last resort the God of goodness, mercy, clemency, forgiveness, and the common way to heaven wins. Polish nature -- to this day -- includes forbearance for misdemeanors grounded in something related to love, among others lenience towards sins contra sextum. However, J. Dowiat is not right in claiming that the Slavic gods did not at all sanction morality.

On the other hand, the cult of the God of Goodness expressed itself easily and quickly through cult of Jesus Christ, Son of God, or Bożyc. Bożyc realizes the ideal of humanity in the Father, cares about everything, is the image of God in history, and took human destiny upon himself, both its sadness and its joy; he agreed to suffer for us and comes to us, among others, in the form of an infant and enters also in the world of every child. Christ -- Bożyc -- is love both human and divine, a sacrificial love, suffering and redeeming evil. Moreover, various signs of love appear through angels and people, especially those most common and simple. That is why spiritual Polish culture has been dominated, in spite of everything, by seeing and perceiving the world as intrinsically determined by love, great and tender, and by ideas which derive therefrom. Such a vision persists to this day, even if in the last decades it has begun to be on the defensive, faced with degeneration of the Polish spirit, with the "bleak god," preached by bad people and proclaimed by intemperate hatred.


Mother of God


It is difficult to say whether it is a peculiar Polish mysticism, or Polish longing for another world, or also the cult of Perperuna (Dodola), Perun’s female companion, or still something else that caused an immediate development of cult of the Mother of God (Bishop J. Wojtkowski). In this vivid cult Divine Love married in a visible and real manner human love, also in its interhuman and social form. The mother of God was worshipped from the beginning -- maybe since Dąbrówka? -- and without interruption. Jan Długosz called her Regina mundi et nostra, that is, the Queen of the world and of the Polish society, or simply the Queen of Poland. Through the Virgin Mary Christian love gained a lyrical, domestic, ecclesiastical, and social dimension. She easily evoked in Poles the attitude of service to others, to the Fatherland, to Family and Home. Some mystical "Marian rainbow" has been stretched across Poland, finding its reflection not only in cult, but in the ambiance of the home, literature, art (for instance in the amber objects of devotion from the Xth century), in the tones of social life, in the "warming" of community, and in the first distinct traits of general Polish mysticism. The Marian motive, in the beginning was praised in songs and sculptured or painted in a very simple way; in the course of time its expression reached summits of subtle spiritual culture (Konrad Górski).


The Absolute Value of Life


The Christianization in Poland followed a conviction common in our culture that religion cannot be a matter of decrees, legislature, science, political conjuncture or mythology, but is an absolute reality, for it comes directly from God and is God’s gift. Religion is the reality above all realities. By the same token, it is life, and God is God of life, Source of life, Guardian of life, Savior from death, Carrier of life. Also images of Perun, Mokosza, Swaróg, and Rod prepared the way for the living Christian God, the Giver of life. The mystery of God is the mystery of life; the mystery of life is the mystery of God. That is why the personal God has in himself life in the proper meaning of the word; it is He who gives life to man and to other creatures. It is He who has the fullness of life and absolute power over it, who preserves and dispenses life, who creates the economy of life on earth. Hence religion and culture are certain forms of life, of its duration, growth, protection and preservation from death.

Therefore, from the very beginning of Christianity in Poland, Poles did not raise their swords for or against religion and culture, did not kill in defense of the ancient religion or for the propagation of the new. The reason for the death of the five "martyr brothers" was a robbery. And thus every death inflicted for reasons other than defense of life, especially spiritual and eternal life, will henceforth mean a radical negation of God and culture. For this reason the lives of hostages, slaves and enemies were spared, amnesty was broadly applied even to criminals, and masochistic whippers ( in the XIIIth century) were assailed. This is why there was no need to proclaim treuga Dei (interdiction of armed encounters from Saturday evening to Monday morning). No recluses (ascetics walling themselves up alive) were accepted. The death penalty for the nobility was abolished (in the XVIth century) on favor of banishment. And too severe religious orders, threatening health and life, were eliminated, etc.

Culture and religion are life, and whatever destroys life is anti-culture and anti-religion. Temporal life may be sacrificed only for eternal life. Even temporal life is inviolable and not subject to human decrees, unless they are protective of life; it should be subjugated to no one’s manipulation or will. Hence Polish thought defends human life, especially the life of the weakest, from its very beginning. It has a great understanding of nature as an expression of divine life in the world, created by the Lord of Life. The mystery of the living and vivifying God encompasses the culture and religion of the nation, even if today, under alien influences, respect for life, especially of the unborn, is drastically diminished. This threatens the collapse of one of the pillars of the Polish national identity. Killing the unborn evidently is a crime not only against God, but against the nation, for it aims at extermination of the nation and submitting it to slavery under the mighty enemies of Poland.




Christianity teaches, in accord with the Old Testament, that "for immortality God created man; He rendered him in image of His own eternity" (Wis 2, 23). After Christianity pervaded the Polish lands the idea of immortality began to radiate even more as a basic motor of temporal life. Polans, Vistulans, Lędzians, Mazovians, Slęzans, Redrussians, Kiovian Polans knew this already before Velos (Vołos), Trzygłów and Trojan -- three forms of the god of heaven, earth, and the nether world. But the idea of individual, familial, and clan immortality increased in popularity through contact with Christianity (Aleksander Brückner). Christianity made this truth clear, binding it on the one hand with teachings about Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell, and on the other with morality that leads to these "domains." Hence temporal life gains a superhistorical perspective. There is, however, no predestination, as in St. Augustine’s writings or in Islam. Nor is there total death eternal life is no abstraction. Eternal life becomes like daylight, enlightening history and destiny, as well as a source of morality, courage, and a dauntless sense of action directed toward glory. Over the Kingdom of Poland stretches the Eternal Kingdom. The road to this other kingdom leads through the Polish land and through living in the Polish way in the presence of Poles. At the same time, eternity constitutes the highest motive for music, architecture, literature, art, mores, and the artistic construction of social life. The countenance of eternity is reflected in Polish events, on the Polish territory, in Poles. Temporal Polish identity transforms into "eternal" Polishness.




Faith in Man


Christianity and the Polish national character was marked by an unusual faith in man. In Western culture quite a few orientations were doubtful about man or questioned his value, seeing him as some sort of evil, a total departure from God, a product of uncertainty and "mistrust". This image was and remains connected with doubting God as Creator and Savior. The Polish culture and Christianity, in contrast, focused all created reality in man, as if "absolutizing" him and perceiving in him the highest, "infinite" value and future. Reality equals man; the human person equals the essence of created reality.

In Poland there was a similar reevaluation of all human communities. Besides, the whole society, together with its social, political and economic life, has been closely related to universal morality (Florian Konieczny), even if our neighbors considered it a naive Polish utopia. It is true that in the beginning there existed among Polish tribes, as everywhere in the world, clan revenge, slave trade (trading in natives and captives), the buying and unrestricted dismissal of wives, trading in children, burning wives and servants together with a deceased czestnik (the old Slavic word for dignitaries), no rights for women to own or inherit estates, and according to some sources human sacrifices, as was certainly the case among the Prussians (J. Dowiat). But in spite of these phenomena, there glowed a faith in man and in the human community that burst forth at the moment of contact with Christianity. F. Konieczny formulated a theory of four "civilizational moments" decisive for the formation of a proper stable civilization: indissolubility of monogamic marriage, abolition of slavery through recognition of everyone’s personal dignity, liquidation of private justice (or the law of revenge), and liberating religion upon its dependence upon the state. It is in this direction that Poland evolved and still evolves. Christianity strove to elevate the role of women in social life, to abolish slavery, and to treat captives with clemency and aliens with mercy. It did away with private justice, returned to the mores of local communities (opole), and fought from the beginning for the separation of the political and religious power -- and in consequence, for the subjugation of the political power to universal ethical laws. As early as 1197 there began the practice of contracting marriages in the church before the priest, rather than in private homes; monogamic marriage was prescribed even for princes, and marriages were recognized as indissoluble. In the XIIth century women were endowed with the right to inherit and own estates, as well as with public protection. Increasingly, captives and slaves were liberated and endowed with land (W. Sawicki, Bolesław Kumor, M. Jagusz).

Bodies of the deceased were no long burned, and by the same token the practice of burning living servants or henchmen was dropped; asceticism, obedience, self-control, and justice were taught; severe punishment for ecclesiastical and public crimes was introduced; robbery of homesteads was eliminated, the populace was educated in the spirit of high dignity as Christians and citizens; charitable activity was developed; the custom of participation in Mass on Sundays and feast days came into practice; and people were taught respect for man in his individual and social dimension (Jerzy Kłoczowski). Riots after the death of Mieszko II (died in 1034) had rather the character of anarchy and a decentralized political struggles; the murder of St. Stanislas from Szczepanowo must be attributed to the theocratic ambitions of the king as well as to the mental illness he inherited from his mother, Rycheza, like his brother, Ladislaus Herman. As a matter of fact, in the course of its Christianization Poland became more and more itself. Compulsion, tyranny, oppression, persecution of the weak and the poor disappeared. There was no native cruelty, regicide, rapacity, plundering. Later, there was no killing of tyrants, even such as Suvorov, Novosilcov, Paskiewicz, Muraviov, and others. Thus, faith in man coincided with faith in a logic and sense of social life. There was always one crucial matter at stake: the human person is the sense of state, society, religion, and culture. This conviction was accompanied by the faith that humanity shall prevail.





The Polish Family and Home


To the Christian concept of the Church, family, and home corresponded, since the XIIth century, the idea of the sanctity of the family and home: reverence for parents and the elderly, catechesis for children and those who were not converted, common prayer, individual prayers (mostly the Our Father, and later the Hail Mary), litanies, penances, fasting, asceticism with pedagogical traits, familial participation in masses (at least outside chapels, if the chapels were occupied by the families of the town, castle, or local magnates), and since the XIVth century godzinki – the singing at home of religious hymns based on the liturgical hours. As already mentioned, marriage ceased to be a secular institution and became a sacrament before the priest and the Church. The glory and respect for women, their significance and role, increased rapidly especially in family life. In the families of princes this played a role in sociopolitical life. In any case, the real Polish home began and a home culture developed: familial mores became more noble, family traditions were idealized, the cultural level of patterns of family behavior rose, the "architecture" of the familial being was perfected. Relations between families gained in dignity, putting an end to quarrels, robberies and armed assaults. In terms of Christianity familial unity began to be founded in baptism and confirmation, in tonsure (postrzyżyny) and the sacrament of marriage, in the Gospel and Eucharist, and in science and art in wealthier families. Already in the XIIIth century the family was understood broadly in religious terms and more and more humanistically (Konrad Górski, Wacław Schenk). Poland became a land of families and spiritual homes. The original habit of neglecting children was transformed through seeing in them the image of the Infant Jesus, so that in the XVIIth century parents addressed their own children as "Your Love" (wasza miłość). Similarly, every family member was seen as an expression of human and divine love. Thus, the home culture was focused above all on love, the source and goal of the family.


The Mystique of Opole


Christianity, coming from the sunny city-states of the Mediterranean basin, melded in Poland with the idea of opole, neighborhood, settlement, human site related to the ground (field -- pole). In any case, whereas in neighboring countries most frequently separate houses were built in villages, in the Kingdom of Poland they were built in long rows, often in compounds, one near another, constituting closed settlements among swamps, little islands, or forests. Nature was imaged as the soil breeding man, rather than mountains, deserts, steppe, or sea. In the mythology of origins there are elements of this image: beekeepers, farmers, foresters, hunters operating in waters and forests, home craftsmen, men integrated into the "natural environment". But the natural and material images were only background for images of groups of close relatives constituting small communities. Thus, opole constituted a dramatic, liturgical, cultural, labor-related, and political category. It largely influenced social concepts and shaped the spiritual form of the nation as a set of such local communities. Most characteristic was the opening to the other as someone who is equal and free -- a theater for cohabiting in the visible social scene. Some authors consider this individualism. But even if there was an element of individualism in this social system, it occurred in small and well defined communities. There was no great contrast between villages, cities, great institutions, or even cloisters. Everything was covered with the palette of colors of this peculiar landscape: minor scale emotions, longing, the maternal character of the soil, a closeness of things and a world, and realism in religion.

At the base of social categories was the people, transformed in the course of time into "nation," with its mystique of opole or local neighborhood. Social stratification, classes, the pride of magnates, even of the hierarchy of the church, and pseudo-intellectualism were considered a "betrayal" of the people, of the original human equality and unity, or just tomfoolery. Christianity and the Polish identity in the country were, and remain, most stable, real and "warm," even as they are hidden under misery and a certain mistrust towards the "fashionable world". Of course, the country had externally different appearances in the times of Piasts, the Jagiellonian dynasty, Romanticism, the "Groups of the Polish People," the modernist period at the beginning of this century, the 2nd Republic of Poland, and under the German occupation and Marxism. But Poland’s basic profile remained the same: the Polish peasantry is the cradle of the Polish people.

Some authors (for instance, Brückner) said that Poles were religiously weak, because they did not fight in the name of religion. But that is a misunderstanding. From the model of opole, Poles took over a religiosity of depth, silence, peace, co-understanding, a mystique of the soil, a sense of the eternal identity of man. The center of the world is the native community of the people and the native field (pole). In the country the church, Polish culture and fatherland were present, even if in a different form than in literature. That is why on the anniversary of the Union of Horodel (1861 -- celebrated on October 10), amidst the frightening canons of Chruszczow, in the forefront of the procession of Poles goes a peasant in a russet overcoat, carrying a cross.

Opole spread shaping Polish culture in-depth: first directly; later, since the time of the Jagiellonian dynasty, indirectly, especially through clergy until it became impossible for plebeians to take high offices even in the Church; and last but not least, through the hidden and subconscious noble mystique of the Polish soul. This mystique of opole intensified the development of Christianity and the overall culture of the nation, being both wise, balanced, without pseudo-intellectual buffoonery or purely verbal disputes, and entirely native. This "primordial" nation, began its existence and lived for long without laws constituted for its life. Similarly, peasants were Christian and Polish in every part of the partitioned Poland, even if the upper classes constantly escaped into gnosis, freemasonry, utopias, ideologies, and even sometimes open treason. Christianity in Poland and national culture grew and still grows from opole.




Clergy United with the Nation


For the opole structure of life of it became very characteristic that Christianity united more closely with the people, first in the country, and since the XIXth century also with workers and townspeople. Christianity has been accepted by the people as an essential help in maintaining their identity and dignity as active subjects. The consciousness of the country quickly began to express itself through its more outstanding individuals. After generations of missionaries from the West and the South, from Ireland and Scotland, from Franco-Gallia, Italy, Moravia, Bohemia, and others there appeared vocations among the peasants, whose longing for the vast world attracted them to the total service of religious and native ideals. At first bishops were newcomers who were better educated, but soon this dignity was bestowed on people from the peasantry provided they received proper education. From the beginning priests in the Polish church were in great majority from the country, which throughout ages was a kind of "micro-Poland". Hence, it is no wonder that the unusually liberal pre-humanist, Gregory from Sanok (1477), archbishop of Lvov, was a peasant, as was the greatest man of letters of the Renaissance times, Klemens Janicki (1516-1543), author of the "Lives of the Polish Kings" (Żywoty królów polskich -- 1563). The Poland of the Piasts was almost entirely "country Poland," and its basic culture creating element were peasant priests. They introduced spontaneous and uneducated peasant culture into the forum of the great Poland and transmitted to villages the great ideas of the world.

In the late Jagiellonian epoch peasants were no longer allowed to become bishops, but they filled monasteries and all the parishes. In them Christianity found support, together with culture, literature, art, historical consciousness, economy and local politics. Priest, coming mostly from villages, helped to cultivate the soil, to shape village structures, and to teach crafts; they supported family and social development and education at all levels. Even if sometimes despised, they were always mediators between the world of the noble and wealthy and the world of peasants. They were also present on the courts of the powerful, in the army as chaplains, in mass levies as well as in mercenary troops, in infantry from Wybraniec, among the hussars, in delegations of deputies, in religious missions, in insurrections, among the exiled, in concentration camps (as St. Maximillian Kolbe), in social movements (Fr. Piotr Ściegienny, Fr. Stanisław Stojałowski, Fr. Piotr Wawrzyniak), in partisan squads, in the Polish troops in Soviet Russia (Franciszek Kubsz, chaplain of the Ist Army), in trade union movements (Jerzy Popiełuszko), etc. Many fought in arms, many raised Poland from the ruins through vitalizing institutions, and many others performed only simple pastoral work. But almost all expressed the spirit of the Polish peasantry and served it with the highest ideals. Catholic priests often were imitated by the clergy of other denominations, such as the first representatives of the Polish National Church. In any case, in Poland there sprang up -- although not without problems in details -- an indissoluble universal unity between the lower Catholic clergy and the country, Polish culture, and the fatherland. The lower clergy did not constitute a class in the strict sense of the word, but was rather an emanation of the Polish peasantry, expressing the spirit of the country, living in its context, weeping and rejoicing with it, serving it, and, last but not least, learning from it. This group drew -- and continues to draw -- upon the cultural riches of its area. This culture is never technically and materially the highest, but always has much "common wisdom" and always remains native. Hence, in a new way, the Church and the country are important carriers of the national culture in Poland. In the country and in the Church, in the Polish people and the people of God, great Polish minds seek new inspiration.


The Spirit of Church Unity


We know well that no religious union can originate without a proper, high, and universal culture. Christianity too remained united only where it was supported by one and the same Roman culture or a culture affiliated to the Roman; where other cultures were involved sooner or later it split. Eastern churches and German protestantism provide perfect examples. Polish culture, in spite of its distinct specific traits, has proven to be high and universal enough to create -- in the past and now -- good foundations for efforts of unification of the separated factions of Christianity. Here we refer especially to the Orthodox churches, for Protestantism is too distant. But uniquely in Poland there was a long lasting interProtestant union under direction of Feliks Krzyżak from Szczebrzeszyn, ratified by the Seym of Piotrków in 1555, as well as the accord of Sandomierz in 1570 between the Polish Brethren, Lutherans, Calvinists, and Stancarists. The climate of Polish culture favored also a process of unification of other denominational groups.

For essential reasons, the union between the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches could be more successful. It is characteristic that when in 1054 the church was split into Western and Eastern, into Catholicism and Orthodoxy neither the Polish clergy nor the Polish kings -- Kazimierz Odnowiciel, Bolesław Śmiały, Władysław Herman, Bolesław Krzywousty, up to Kazimierz Jagiellończyk -- nor the Ruthenian successors of St. Włodzimierz the Great (1015) wanted to accept this fact. Thus, contacts between Poland and the Ruthenians were in no way disturbed it the ecclesiastical level. It was not accepted that the holy church could have split. Daniel of Halicz (1264) could easily surrender the diocese of Uhrsk and Chełm without any problems and obtain the crown from the Pope in 1254. Poles did not fight with the Orthodox, sending missions only to non-Christians, mostly in the Baltic countries. In the unifying council of Lyon in 1274 Poles did not participate due to the regional disintegration of the country, but they supported the union at home.

The problem increased at the moment of the unification of Poland and Lithuania. Of course, a kingdom prefers to have one religion if it is not surviving only by a policy of divide et impera. But the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was composed of Catholics and Orthodox. So, Vitold and Jagiełło worked towards an ecclesiastical union of the East (Kiev) with Rome, and achieved some results. Kievian metropolitans Cyprian (1406) and Gregory Cambałak (1420) united their church with the church of Rome, which influenced the situation of the church in Poland. Slavs wanted one church, above all because of fear of Moscow. In 1437 a Kievian metropolitan, Isidore the Greek, applied for access to the universal union of Florence. In Poland King Władysław Warneńczyk, pleased at the union of Florence promulgated in Buda (Hungary) on March 22, 1443, made equal the Ruthenian and Latin clergy. From the ecclesiastical side the union was supported by cardinal Zbigniew Oleśnicki (1423-1455), a friend of Isidore. Nevertheless, Moscow imprisoned Isidore and created a second metropolitan see on their territory. The union revived under Kievian metropolite Gregory in 1458 and lasted 80 years. It was cancelled only by a deserter from the union, Metropolitan Jonas (1523), a friend of Moscow, but appointed to this post by king Zygmunt Stary.

Support for the union was declared by Ivan IV, the Terrible (1547-1584). The Holy See trusted him and admonished Poland for its skepticism in this matter. But it soon turned out that it was only a political maneuver of the czar, directed against Poland.

In 1577 an initiative of unification was undertaken by the Orthodox Bishops in the Polish and Lithuanian territories, working to raise the level of life in the Orthodox church. From the Catholic side the idea was taken up particularly by the Jesuits (Stanisław Warszewicki, Piotr Skarga, Stanisław Sokołowski), as well as by other men of letters writing about social and political matters: Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski, Stanisław Orzechowski, Card. Stanisław Hozjusz, and Jan Zamoyski. From the Orthodox side Prince Konstanty W. Ostrogski, appointed by the Polish king protector of the Orthodox, was initially hesitant, and then opposed the union. Finally, the union was passed between the 6 and 10 of October, 1596. It consisted, as a matter of fact, only in acknowledging the power of Pope by those who hitherto were Orthodox. But this time Latin Polish Christians did not rise to the occasion in social and political matters: Uniate Bishops were not given seats in the senate, no contact were made with prominent representatives of Orthodoxy, the Orthodox people -- according, unfortunately, to the spirit of the time -- were not addressed. In consequence, the Union started to disintegrate into disuniates, reuniates, neouniates, and the Catholic Ukrainian church. Nevertheless, in its religious dimension the Union persisted and exists to this day. Even if Poles did not appreciate the Uniates because of fear of Russification, only non-Polish authorities persecuted them, sometimes shedding blood. Polish culture showed much openness for differences of rites, mores, languages, symbols, and ways of life.

In a more Christian way, even if on a much lesser scale, union was achieved with the Armenian Eastern church on the Polish territory. First of all, between Poles and Armenians had there were no obstacles due to some political threat. Armenians obtained their national and ecclesiastical privileges already from Kazimierz the Great in 1356. In 1380 they founded, with the permission of Ludwik the Hungarian, their first diocese in Lvov, and obtained confirmation of their privileges in 1388 under Władysław Jagiełło and in 1443 under Władysław Warneńczyk. Formally the union was signed in the name of Archbishop Gregory II (1415-1440) in 1439, and then strengthened in 1627 under archbishop Mikołaj Torosowicz (1681). In a sense it exists to this day. In any case, the Catholic Church in Poland and the Armenian church always maintained very close and familial relations. Here the nobility of both cultures, Polish and Armenian, played a great role.



"Polonization" of Christianity


Another interesting phenomenon is the far-reaching polonization of Christianity in Poland. The perception was that Christ lived and acted in the whole world, but particularly in Poland; Mary was a Polish woman; the apostles were Poles. We observe an interesting "nostrification" of the biblical history of salvation: in songs, poems, language, in medieval Nativity plays and student performances, in Mass ceremonies and paraliturgical celebrations, and in feasts repeated every year. Aleksander Brückner, Janusz Tazbir, and Mieczysław Brzozowski note this phenomenon particularly in the XVIth and the XVIIth century. The sacred history happens in Poland: the baptism of Christ is in the Vistula, the crucifixion is on Golgotha hill in Cracow. The heavenly world appears through Polish signs. The devil Boruta is like a fallen Polish nobleman; the vows of king Jan Kazimierz from April 1, 1656 were like an election of Our Lady as Queen of Poland together with pacta conventa; Mary and saints wear Polish costumes, Polish saints are particularly revered: F. Jaroszewicz (1771) enumerates as many as 350 saints. Alien saints obtain Polish traits; the ecclesiastical and liturgical calendar is strictly related to the Polish agricultural and geographical calendar (destroyed only by the contemporary reform of the ecclesiastical calendar); all victories over enemies are liturgically celebrated, only Polish vestments were used in the liturgy (P. Brygierski, F. Lekrzycki, Wespazjan Kochowski, and others).

Sarmatism is a separate chapter of the polonization of Christianity. This intensifies a certain Polish Messianism -- reaching as far back as Gallus Anonymus and Wincenty Kadłubek -- consisting supposedly in a message of evangelical goodness among the nations and in giving an example of Christian rebirth, transformation, and sacrifice for humanity (Mikołaj Rej, Stanisław Orzechowski, Piotr Skarga, Jan Jurkowski, Wespazjan Kochowski, J. Dębołęcki, and many others). According to the theology of Israel it is held that God in some spiritual way chose the Polish nation, led it to the Polish land, and installed there the Arck of the Covenant, faith and liberty (Łukasz Opaliński, Jan Białobocki, Jan Sobieski). Christianity in Poland is supposed to have some ad intra mission, including keeping the covenant, guarding the faith of the fathers, maintaining accord and harmony in life, social peace, proper opening to the whole world and its cultures, together with the defense of Christianity in Europe (Jan Ostroróg, Mikołaj Sęp-Szarzyński, Łukasz Opaliński, Jan Andrzej Morsztyn, Zbigniew Morsztyn). The mother of God is to be the Queen of Poland, protecting social amity, proper social service, spiritual liberty, subtle sentiments, and equality before God in the community of lords as brothers (Panowie Bracia) -- (Stanisław Orzechowski, Andrzej Maksymilian Fredro, Jan Białobocki, Łukasz Opaliński, and others). Thus originated the idea that the real Polish culture draws from the content of the Bible, but at the same time makes this Bible present and realizes it on the Polish soil in a concrete way. For this reason Polish culture is full of spirit, and above all free from fanaticism, particularism, narrow-mindedness, and xenophobia.




Bartnik, Czesław S., Formen der polnischen Theologie in Polen, Regensburg, 1986.

---------, Czesław S., Idea polskości, Lublin, 1990.

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