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History of the Statute of Kalisz

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History of the Statute of Kalisz issued by Duke Boleslaus the Pious in 1264


 

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History of the Statute of Kalisz
issued by Duke Boleslaus the Pious in 1264
and its illumination by
Artur Szyk in the years 1926 ? 1928




History of the Statute of Kalisz Issued by Duke Boleslaus the Pious in 1264

The life of Jews in the Polish lands over the last millennium was not always peaceful despite the fact that the traditional tolerance of the Polish nation played an important and beautiful part in the Jewish history. While Jewish merchants and craftsmen, often masters in their profession, for instance minters, seal makers, engravers, as well as painters, writers, poets, and doctors were highly appreciated by Polish monarchs, Jews were still treated with mistrust, suspicion, reluctance, or even hatred due to their distinct culture, religion, language, and dress. This is why the privilege called the Statute of Kalisz, granted to Jews in 1264 by the lord of Greater Poland, Boleslaus the Pious (1257 ? 1279), was such a historic event.

Boleslaus the Pious aimed to increase the importance of Jews in order to create a counterbalance for the German minority growing in force. German colonists had been brought to Greater Poland by Boleslaus V the Chaste (1243 ? 1279) after the Tatar invasion and the defeat of Polish forces in the Battle of Legnica in 1241, which decimated the Polish population and left the country in need of people working the fields. The Tatars burned down villages and towns and killed the local population or took thousands of people hostage. German colonists, in turn, were hostile towards Jews, whom they saw as dangerous competition in trade. Jews started to arrive to Poland in throngs in early 12th century, during the reign of Władysław Herman. They came mostly from Germany, Hungary, and Bohemia, fleeing from persecutions they suffered in the period of crusades. They were warmly welcomed in the country by Polish kings and dukes. They had great knowledge of money transactions and, being intermediaries between the East and the West, were well-versed in both domestic and international trade, thanks to which they greatly contributed to the economic revival of the country. Not all Jews living in Old Poland made their living off trade and giving loans. Thanks to the fact that all Jewish boys over the age of three attended cheders ? religious schools, many Jews could write, read, and count, which at the time were quite rare abilities. As a result of good education, a part of the Polish Jewry gained unique social position as the educated Jews were often leaseholders of taxes and estates. Many Jewish people worked as servants in noble and magnate courts, and sometimes even in the royal court. Some were also doctors and pharmacists.

Due to their beneficial influence on the country, Jews enjoyed goodwill and protection from Polish monarchs, including Władysław Herman, Mieszko III the Old, Casimir II the Just, and Boleslaus V the Chaste. The Satute of Kalisz issued by Boleslaus the Pious consisted of 36 articles encompassing four major issues: 1) legislative power over Jews, 2) activities connected to loans and pledges, 3) trade, 4) mutual Christian-Jewish relations.

In accordance with the Statute of Kalisz, which was modelled on similar privileges introduced in Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and Hungary, Jews became subordinate to ducal courts, which excluded them from the jurisdiction of the public courts of local authorities or castellan courts. As servi camerae ? servants of the ducal Treasury ? they were obliged to pay several tributes to the duke. In return, the duke was responsible for guaranteeing safety to the Jewish population, protecting its property, liberties, and religious practices, and granting independence to Jewish communities. Jews were also free to trade, carry out financial transactions, and travel around the country. Causing harm to Jews was subject to punishment similar to this imposed for offences against the ducal Treasury.

Thanks to the Statute of Kalisz, the Jewish population was guaranteed freedom of practising Judaism, organising religious communities according to Judaic rules, full economic freedom and protection of their property and their lives.

There were also a number of provisions concerning loan-related activity. They regulated the rules of credit transactions concluded between the practitioners of both faiths and made rights of Jews in trade activities equal to Christians.

Much information on the person who issued the privilege, Duke Boleslaus the Pious, is provided by Jan Długosz, who describes the ruler of the Duchy of Kalisz during the feudal disintegration of Poland as distinct from other Piast dukes living in the period. Boleslaus accomplished much more than his father, Władysław Odonic, paving the way for his nephew Przemysł II to unite Greater Poland and Pomerania and reviving the Kingdom of Poland. Boleslaus the Pious passed on his tolerance through his daughter Jadwiga, the wife of Władysław the Short, down to Casimir the Great, who inherited great traditions from his grandfather from Greater Poland.
The content of the Statute of Kalisz is treated by Jews as their constitution. The provisions of the Statute of Kalisz were later confirmed by subsequent kings of Poland: Casimir the Great in 1334, Casimir Jagiellon in 1453, and Sigismund the Old in 1539. Other Polish monarchs also accepted the privilege and even extended the rights of Jews, thus regulating the Polish-Jewish relations. Confirmed a number of times and later extended to the entire territory of Poland, the privilege served as a fundamental document regulating the public and legal status of Jews in Poland.



 

Wydawnictwo Graf_ika 2012 r.

format: A4 liczba stron: 268

oprawa: twarda w ekoskórę ze złotymi tłoczeniami

 

 

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