Poland was a conglomeration of many different nationalities and religions even before The Union of Lublin, when the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth upraised in virtue of the international agreement, and before the Warsaw Confederation, which granted the religious freedom to all citizens. Beside the most numerous population of Poles and Lithuanians, the country was inhabited by Russians, Armenians, Jews, Germans, Tatars and also arriving Scotts, Italians, Dutch and French people, who often was fleeing from the Counter-Reformation. Such a large number of national minorities was associated with the diversity of religions – from Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Orthodoxians, through Jews and Islamists, to Anabaptists, Mennonites and Arians.
In this time Raków was in its heyday. The town was settled down on 27th March 1567 and founded by Jan Sienieński – the Voivode of Podole, the Castellan of Żarnów and Calvinist. Thanks to promised the religious freedom and 20 years of taxes freedom, people of different faiths, which were craftsmans, doctors, chemists, burghers and nobilities including Arians (families Lubienieccy, Morsztynowie, Otwinowscy or Wiszowaci), had started to arrive in Raków. It's estimated that the entire population of the city was about 2,000 people, what was more than Kielce's population of that time. Raków was the center of the craftsmanship, but first of all it became the capital of the Polish Brethren (which was also named Arians, Antitrinitarians and later Socinians).
Nontrinitarianism, which is recognized as the most radical fraction of the Polish Reformation, separated from the Calvinist ecclesia maior to form the ecclesia minor as a consequence of theological disputes about the Trinity doctrine. The partition took place on 18th August 1562 during the synod in Pińczów. Calvinists named this minority pejoratively "Arians" from Arius, the Christian presbyter,a theorist and a poet. He was condemned for his views about the nature of the Godhead in Christianity, which emphasized the Father's divinity over the Son, at the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. Arians soon named themselves "Christians" or "Brethren". Moreover, they were called "Antitrinitarians" – because of the rejection of the Trinity doctrine; "Anabaptists" and "divers" – because some of them, under the influence of Anabaptists from Morawy, had been baptizing adults by the immersion in a pond; "Socinians" – from an Italian religious reformer's surname Faustus Socinus (it. Fausto Sozzini, pl. Faust Socyn), who had been participating significantly in creating and unifying the Polish Brethren's religious doctrine. In Zenon Gołaszewski's opinion the role of Faustus Socinus wasn't so important and due to the emphasis other figures were underestimated as for example: Jan Crell, Piotr Moskorzowski or members of nobility houses such as Lubienieccy, Gosławscy, Morsztynowie, Potoccy, Przypkowscy.
Arian Ministers from all over Poland, as well as Lithuania, Transylvania, France and England started to arrive in Rakow. The initial organizational chaos was overcame by the Cracowian chemist Szymon Ronemberg, who reorganized the Arian congregation and ordained the interchangeable minister institution with a term of office, which was an example for other Arian communities. Only then Polish Brethren started to achieve the stabilisation in the doctrine and organizational cases, it was also through annual synods – 30 of 44 synods took place in Rakow:
- in 1572,
- in 1574 (social radical Marcin Czechowic as the most important participant),
- in 1580 (the religious rapprochement to Judaism was condemned; Faustus Socinus appeared publicly for the first time)
- in 1598,
- in 1601 and 1602 (the Arian congregation was unified against the resistance of Marcin Czechowic and few other minsters; social and dogmatic rules of Polish Brethren were elaborated)
- in 1603 (it was about recruiting teachers to the main Arian school in Rakow),
- in 1604 (2 synods mostly about the liturgy),
- in 1606,
- in 1607 (it was about the resurrection issue),
- in 1608,
- in 1610 (it rebuked too radical Arian congregation in Gdańsk),
- in 1611 (it was about the potential union with Calvinists),
- in 1612 (it was about new publishers, especially Miśnianin Volkel),
- in 1613 (Jan Crell was affiliated to the congregation),
- in 1614 (it was about appointing of ministers),
- in 1615 (it was about the Arian propaganda in Germany),
- in 1617 (it was about the Arian situation in Gdańsk, Lithuania and Wołyń),
- in 1618 (the most numerous),
- in 1619 (it was about the Volkel's work),
- in 1620 (it was about W. Smalc's and Adam Gosławski's works),
- in 1621 (it was about Racovian school's rectors),
- in 1622 (it was about announcing the Volkel's work),
- in 1624 (it was about the union with Lutherans and Calvinists),
- in 1625 (it was about publishing Volkel's book),
- in 1626 (it was about importing Joachima Stegmann to Poland),
- in 1627 (it was about the union with Dutch Remonstrants),
- in 1630 (it was about Stegmann's Maths work),
- in 1631 (it was about the union with Remonstrants),
- in 1633 (it was about the Arian persecution in Gdańsk),
- in 1634 (it was about different school issues),
- in 1635 (it was about publishing Crell's books),
- in 1636 (it was about publishing Krzysztof Ostorodt's work) and
- in 1637 (it was about the fruitful Marcin Ruar activity).
In the beginning Polish Brethren were really absorbed by evangelical ideas – they preached radical social slogans like the abolition of all class division and the equality of all people irrespective of their origin; forgiving and giving up in disputes in the name of Christian values and the love of neighbours instead of the court institution; denying the private property, and even selling and distributing your own possessions, to create a utopian commune, which in the evangelical spirit would have a community of goods. All these ideas were unusual, controversial and shocking at this time. However, the social radicalism wasn't endorsed by all the Brethren,it wasńt also practically applicable, so the original slogans were softened. During the first 15 years of Arian congregation's functioning, the existing economic relations were accepted and the possession of private properties, preserving social divisions, were allowed. This case involved the issue of taking over and holding offices and performing duties related to the authorities and profits, which they initially opposed, but the material conditions and fears about the lack of influence on the decisions concerning the gentry of different faiths forced the Brethren to change their views.The bans regarding everyday life were also eased, which forbade, among others, dressing up in expensive and stylish clothes. Due to the growing number of riots caused by religious differences, Christians also induced to recognize the justice system as an important social institution, thanks to which everyone could claim to be right according to his or her rights.
Christians resisted taking up military service the most and they rejected decisively the invading wars, which symbolized the wooden swords worn by them. Over time, weapons and self-defense were allowed. Because of the threat from Tatars and Turks, in the end even the participation in preventive battles was allowed - previously only defensive forms were recognized. However, working in military professions was still found as a sin, although life necessities forced some of the Brethren to take up the work of professional soldiers. The feeling of dislike or hatred towards the aggressor was also a sin. On one point, the Polish Brethren were unrelenting - they didn't allow the death penalty, because for them it was in the conflict with the basic law of the love of one's neighbor. Taking somebody's life, even the worst criminal's, would deprive him of a chance to improve and repair his mistakes and consequently the redemption and the eternal life. Jan Crell in his own book "About the freedom of conscience" covers the problem of tolerance, demanding the complete freedom for every religious cult, all liberties and the development opportunities , the equality before the law for every social group and condemning the pressure of professing a particular faith. In this treatise, the author also considers the attitude of the State and the Church, pointing out that the Church, together with religious matters, should not enter the scope of the action of the state power.
Christians regarded moral values, reflected in pious and wise life, as the highest good. Man was not seen as an evil and degraded creature, which only the grace of God could save. Worshiping God wasn't enough for resurrection (which was not understood as the resurrection of bodies), it was necessary to act and do everything in the accordance with natural ethics to receive salvation. However, an ignorance or an error in religion could not be a reason for condemnation. The punishment for sins was not hell - which was rejected as incompatible with the love and mercy of God, only annihilation, not resurrection.
Polish Brethren didn't accept all the traditional Christian doctrines (such as the Holy Trinity, Christ's eternity, Redemption, Transubstantiation, original sin or Mary as the "Mother of God"), approving the Protestant principle of Sola Scriptura (Latin: by Scripture alone), according to which the Bible is a self-sufficient source of the Christian truth, and the interpretation criterion was a human reason. There appeared a thought that "revelation" is not necessary to recognize the basic religious truths, because the mind can get to know them by itself. All superstitions were also rejected. This philosophizing and rationalization of the Polish Brethren thoughts had its source in the writings and views of among others, Jan Crell. Andrzej Wiszowaty in his publication "The rational religious" argues that the priority of the judgement in theological and religious disputes has its reason. An identical position was expressed by John Locke, who was a leading English philosopher. His work was based on the Polish Brothers works. Pierre Bayle - one of the precursors of the French Enlightenment and the author of the "Historical and Critical Dictionary", Voltaire and probably also Baruch Spinoza, John Milton, Thomas Hobbes, Anthony Asham and Isaac Newton drew on their works. Thus, the thoughts of the Polish Brethren laid the foundations for shaping a rationalist worldview, a naturalistic concept of morality and secular humanist thought, and they became an inspiration for European intellectual thought.
Christians strongly emphasized human dignity, and for them equality didn't only refer to equating states and gentle handling of subjects and peasants. Women and their roles in society were treated more realistically and rationally. This was a consequence of the doctrinal rejection of the immaculate Mary ideal as the "Mother of God." Women in the Arian congregation often preached sermons and moral teachings. What's more, one of the basic principles of the Polish Brethren was a marriage partnership - none could dominate. Many of Christians works have been dedicated to women, such as "The matters and stories of significant women in almost all scriptures gathered in their short memory" and "All the virtuous and impious women of the Old and New Testament and the Christian heroes. In Cases and Stories... "by Erazmus Otwinowski from Leśnik. These books undrlined the role of women and emphasized their equality with men. Thus, the position of women in the Arian communities was incomparably better and stronger than Catholics or other Protestants.
Another manifestation of respect for otherness are the regulations of the Racovian Academy established at synod in 1602, in which there was a record about freedom of religion and related rituals of students staying and attending there. Not only Christians could attend the school and there was no emphasis on changing faith or accepting the religious practices of the Polish Brethren.
It is estimated that for nearly thirty years of its activity, the academy could have had around 1000 students. The university was created similarly to the schools in Pińczów and Lubartów - it had 5 classes, and the young people were divided into proper students and clerical students, who were candidates for the priesthood. The Academy was very a good and progressive high school (not giving degrees), which was intended to prepare for life and the civic activity. Its level was so high that students came not only from other Polish cities, but also from the Czech lands, Germany, Transylvania and Alsace.
The Racovian Academy taught languages: Latin, Greek, Polish, French, Italian and German, rhetoric, ethics and logic, mathematics and geometry, science with elements of medicine, history, science about the state, law and theology, reading and explaining Old and New Testament – what is important - in Polish language.
There were also physical, philosophical and theological exercises that were combined with disputes. The process of education was watched by the so-called "scholarchs" of Polish origin as well as theologians and Arian activists from abroad including: Jakub Sienieński, Hieronim Moskorzowski, Walenty Smalc, Piotr Stoiński, Andrzej and Stanisław the older Lubieniecki, Krzysztof Morsztyn, Adam Gosławski, Andrzej Wojdowski, the Silesians Salomon Paludius and a poet Szymon Pistorius from Opole, a scholar nobleman from Wielkopolska Jonasz Szlichtyng, the grandson of Statorius - Jan Stoiński, Italian Giovanni Battista Cetis, German Jan Völkel and Walenty Smalc. The first rector of the Racovian Academy was the Westphalian Krzysztof Brockajus (1602), then this function was performed by Paweł Krokier from Lublin (1610-1616), thereafter by Germans Jan Crell (1616-1621), Marcin Ruar (1621-1622) and Joachim Stegmann (1622-1630), when the university reached its heyday. The last rector was Joachim's brother - Wawrzyniec Stegmann (1634-1638), who after the judgment by the Arians had to flee from Raków under the pseudonym Tribander.There were several famous graduates from the Racovian Academy : the astronomer, historian and writer Stanisław Lubieniecki Junior, the Chamberlain of Kiev and the Chancellor of Russia Jerzy Niemirycz, a writer and a poet Samuel Przypkowski,a pastor and a theologian Krzysztof Szlichtyng or a poet, a theologian and a philosopher Andrzej Wiszowaty.
During the classes, teaching materials and modern textbooks were used. They were often of Racovian professors' authorship: Jan Licinius wrote books for learning Latin, German and Polish languages, Walenty Smalc was the author of the catechism, Jan Crell created the "Prima ethices elementa" ("The first elements of ethics"), Swiss Mathurin Cordier from Lausanne wrote a textbook for studying everyday Latin and moral principles, while Joachim Stegmann, as the first in Poland introduced logarithms and decimal fractions into the curriculum and he was the author of the Mathematics and Geometry textbook. These and the subsequent publishing titles were expanding the third public library in Poland, just after Krakow and Gdańsk, which was founded in 1628 by Daniel Lehocki.
The publishing activity of the Polish Brethren began to reach its full potential from about 1600, when the printer Alexy Rodecki from Turobin moved the printer from Kraków to Raków, then handing it over to the son-in-law Sebastian Sternacki. Small dissertations and larger books were published in several languages, not only by the Polish Brether. High-quality paper was delivered from a nearby paper mill, which was also owned by Christians. According to studies by historian of culture, a bibliologist and a bibliographist Alodia Kaweckirj-Gryczowa, during few decades of its existence, the publishing house probably published over 200 publications that spread all over Europe and were translated into other languages. Among these editorial items was the famous "Racovian Catechism", which proclaimed the principle of rationalism and religious tolerance. It was a collective work: Faust Socyn began working on the text, and after his death the work was continued by Piotr Stoiński the younger, Hieronim Moskorzowski and Jan Völkel. The Catechism was originally published in Polish, then Hieronim Moskorzowski translated it into Latin and Walenty Smalc into German.
The Catholic clergy did not like the rich flowering of Chistian's activity in Poland. This was manifested in the growing wave of the Counter-Reformation, and in 1638 the strict sentence of the Sejm (the lower house of the Polish parliament) fell on Rakow, ordering the liquidation of the Academy, the printing house,the paper mill and the congregation - Zygmunt III Waza was already persuaded in 1607 to destroy it.
The Catholic community did not manage to build a church in Raków, or even a chapel. Although the Cracow Bishop Jędrzej Lipski offered several thousand zlotys to Jakub Sienieński for giving the square for the construction of the church, the owner of Rakow did not give his approval. As a consequence, a temple was built in Drogowle, which was and still is about 4 km away from Raków. The Cracow Bishop provided the church with a fund of PLN 6,000, with the aim of ,,spreading the propaganda among Arians and also Catholic Rakowians". A similar task probably got a church in nearby Szumsko, owned by Jerzy Rokicki – who probably also performed the function of a presbytery. He had a dispute with Sienieński about the border dividing his land from the Rakowskich land and he raised a cross with the crucified Christ on the boundary. The crucifix was almost impossible to remove without being accused of the sacrilege.
The first mentioning of the destruction of this cross was found in the memories of the Sandomierz Governor Jerzy Ossoliński, who was a participant in the Opatów regional(dietine) council on January 27, 1638, during which Arians were demanded to be punished. The exact date of this event or its course are unknown. Various versions of the events are coherent that it happened during the walk of seven students of the Racovian Academy probably at the age of 7-8 , being under the care of the two academic teachers: Salomon Paludius and the predicator Andrzej. According to the Arian accounts, students walking nearby began to play with stones and accidentally hit the roadside cross. Before returning to the city they buried the crucifix and promised to keep silence in this matter. On the other hand, Catholic sources say that they did it deliberately - first they threw stones or bows, then they knocked down the cross to trample and beat it with sticks, and chopped the figure of the Christ. As the main culprits and leaders of the incident were indicated Vasyl Babiński and Piotr Falibowski, whose behavior was repeatedly punished at school. According to Catholics,the wife of the owner of Raków - Zofia Sienieńska from Struś family was guilty of pushing the boys for destroying the cross. She was a sister of the mother of Jerzy Ossoliński's half-brother, who was in conflict with him. When Szumsko parish priest heard about the incident, he immediately informed the present Cracow Bishop - Jakub Zadzik, who was known for his active counter-reformation and negative attitude.Sienieński also sent his people with a diplomatic mission to him to appease the matter. The owner of Raków promised the Drogowle parish priest to give free of charge the square for the construction of a Catholic church in Raków, if Catholics give up further actions to the detriment of Racovian Arians. At that time, Babinski and Falibowski were also relegated from the Racovian Academy. Unfortunately, these actions turned out to be ineffective, and Bishop Zadzik initiated a private investigation and at the same time informed the Opatów and Proszowice regional councils about the incident, demanding a severe punishment for the Polish Brethren.Both councils treated Christians gently and refused to introduce the case to the session, but after Jerzy Ossoliński's intervention, it was figured in the postulates for the Opatów council. The destruction of the border cross was used to divert the attention of deputies from complaints about the harm suffered by dissidents. As a result, the parliamentary chamber deputized to the Senate (or Senat - the higher house of the Polish parliament) and the king requested to initiate an investigation and he imposed a penalty. The king in the letter asked Bishop Zadzik for help in carrying out the investigation. He fulfilled the will of the ruler and sent priests to collect testimonies from local residents. In Warsaw, a decree was issued ordering the imprisonment of the Racovian lecturers Paludius and Andrzej. The accused students, in fear of repression, converted to Catholicism, but they didn't testify against their teachers.
On April 19, 1638, at a session of the Senate, a sentence was ordered to liquidate the school within four weeks and a fine of PLN 10,000 was punished for the reconstruction of the academy, and its lecturers were sentenced to exile. By virtue of the decree on May 1, 1638, the printing house was also closed - it was converted into an inn, and the school building was turned into a mill. In addition, a document was issued imposing on Sienieński the obligation to bring teachers, who took part in the destruction of the cross, during the six weeks to the court, under the threat of infamy and perpetual banishment for ministers. The results of the execution of the sentence turned out to be disastrous for Raków, although it survived plundering during wars and numerous fires, from then on the locality began to fall.
Already in 1640, on the place of the demolished Arian conglomeration, the Bishop of Cracow began the construction of the parish church significantly dedicated to the Holy Trinity. He also commissioned Tomasz Dolabella to paint an image known as "The Judgment of the Arians", which is located at the Palace of Cracow Bishops in Kielce. However, in 1641, Reformed friars were brought to Raków with the task of converting the Polish Brethren to Catholicism. At that time, the Church dedicated to Saint Anna with the monastery part was built – the monastery part was later dismantled.
The situation of Christians and other non-Catholics residents worsened in Poland, especially after the Swedish Deluge. Because of the reluctance towards King Jan Kazimierz II Waza, which has no connection with his religion, the Polish Protestants and a fraction of the magnates partially supported the invasion of the country. The opposite Protestant Gdańsk was constantly and effectively resisting the forces of the invaders, and the King of Sweden, Charles X Gustaw, tried not to give religious context to the military action. Nevertheless, these events along with the changing religious policy of successive rulers, the Counter-Reformation and the changed attitude of the nobility to the Reformation in 1558 led to the resolution of the Sejm ordering the Polish Brethren conversion to Catholicism or leaving the country within 3 years, under the threat of death penalty. According to the historian of old Polish culture and literature Mirosław Korolka, the decree was the first application in the history of Poland of the concept of collective responsibility. In his judgment, the Sejm omitted the Arian women, many of whom remained in the country with their children. However, in 1662, they were also sentenced to banishment because they were perceived as a potential source of heresy. The Polish Brethren emigrated mostly to the West of Europe - they went to the Netherlands, Duchy of Prussia, Transylvania, Germany and Silesia, and then from there to England or North America.
Rakow lost his splendor and European fame after the exile of the Polish Brethren - intellectual development stopped, crafts and trade collapsed. Vestigs of the former notability remained in the form of entries RACOVIE and Lubienietski (Stanislas) in volume 13 of the French "Encyclopédie" issued in 1751 and two tenement houses in Raków, belonging to the historic bourgeois architecture: around Plac Wolności (the town market named "Freedom square"), where the "Arianka" brasserie is currently located, and the building at Jan Sienieński Street, called "The House of the Mayor" and "The Arian House". Second one, which was revitalized in 2015, now has the form of a museum, where you can see exhibitions connected with the history of the town.
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- Madziara Renata Idee plafonu „Sąd nad arianami" z kieleckiego pałacu biskupów krakowskich, strona www: https://histmag.org/Idee-plafonu-Sad-nad-arianami-z-kieleckiego-palacu-biskupow-krakowskich-7246
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- Tazbir Janusz Zagłada ariańskiej „stolicy" w: „Odrodzenie i reformacja w Polsce" 1961, Tom VI, s. 113-138, strona www: http://rcin.org.pl/Content/36269/WA303_21291_A512-6-1961-OiR_Tazbir.pdf (dostęp 08.12.2017r.)
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