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1113

How Mieszko took Dąbrówka as his wife

Historical context

The beginnings of Polish statehood in the mid-tenth century are linked to the conversion of Duke Mieszko I to Christianity. This took place via the intermediary of Bohemia. Mieszko first married Dobrawa (Dąbrówka), daughter of the Bohemian duke Bolesław I Srogi (Boleslaus I the Cruel) – an event dated to 965. A year later, the duke and his entourage were baptised, starting the Christianization of Poland. Mieszko’s marriage to Dąbrówka and his baptism, establishing Christianity as the ruling religion, were fundamental to the subsequent development of the state, making it part of the circle of Europe’s Christian monarchies.

These events were described in contemporary annals and later chronicles. The circumstances of Mieszko’s baptism were related by an anonymous chronicler known as Gallus Anonimus, active at the court of Bolesław Krzywousty(Bolesław III Wrymouth). We do not know his name or his country of origin. He is believed to have come from the south of France, although more recent research suggests that he may have hailed from northern Italy. He was probably a Benedictine monk. His Polish Chronicle, composed in Latin ca 1113 (its narrative stops at this date), describes the history of Poland since its mythical beginnings until the chronicler’s times. The author’s intent was to relate the deeds of Polish dukes, predecessors of Bolesław Krzywousty, and of Bolesław himself. It was doubtless a work intended to praise the ruler and his family, and to justify his title to the Polish throne. Gallus’s Chronicle is the first work of such breadth to have been written in Poland and treating of its history, hence despite its Latin and the author’s foreign origins it is considered the first work of Polish national literature. It remains a seminal and unrivalled source for the study of the early Piast period.

Document text

 At Mesco ducatum adeptus, ingenium animi coepit et vires corporis exercere, ac nationes per circuitum bello saepius atemptare. Adhuc tum in tanto gentilitatis errore involvebatur, quod sua consuetudine septem uxoribus abutebatur. Postremo unam christianissimam de Bohemia Dobravcam nomine in matrimonium requisivit. At illa ni pravam consuetudinem illam dimittat, seseque fieri christianum promittat, sibi nubere recusavit. Eo ergo collaudante, se usum illius paganismi dimissurum et fidei christianae sacramenta suscepturum, illa domina cum magno secularis et ecclesiasticae religionis apparatu Poloniam introivit, necdum tamen thoro sese maritali foederavit, donec ille paulatim consuetudinem christianitatis et religionem ecclesiastici oridinis diligenter contemplans, errori gentilium abnegavit seque gremio matris ecclesiae counivit.
 
Chronica et Annales Aevi Salici, red. G.H. Pertz, Hanower 1851, t. 9, s. 427–428.

Mieszko objąwszy księstwo zaczął dawać dowody zdolności umysłu i sił cielesnych oraz częściej napastować ludy [sąsiednie] dookoła. Dotychczas jednak w takich pogrążony był błędach pogaństwa, że wedle swego zwyczaju siedmiu żon zażywał. W końcu zażądał w małżeństwo jednej bardzo dobrej chrześcijanki z Czech, imieniem Dąbrówka. Lecz ona odmówiła poślubienia go, jeśli nie zarzuci owego zdrożnego obyczaju i nie przyrzeknie zostać chrześcijaninem. Gdy zaś on [na to] przystał, że porzuci ów zwyczaj pogański i przyjmie sakramenta wiary chrześcijańskiej, pani owa przybyła do Polski z wielkim orszakiem [dostojników] świeckich i duchownych, ale nie pierwej podzieliła z nim łoże małżeńskie, aż powoli a pilnie zaznajamiając się z obyczajem chrześcijańskim i prawami kościelnymi, wyrzekł się błędów pogaństwa i przeszedł na łono matki – Kościoła.

 

Kronika polska, Anonim tzw. Gall, oprac. M. Plezia, Wrocław 2008, s.17.

Having taken over the dukedom, Mieszko began to display mental skill and physical power, and increasingly to attack [neighbouring] peoples. However, he was so mired in the errors of his pagan ways that, as was his custom, he enjoyed seven wives. Finally, he demanded a very good Christian woman from Bohemia, one Dąbrówka, in marriage. But she refused to marry him unless he abandoned his immoral ways and promised to become a Christian. When he agreed to abandon the said pagan ways and to receive the sacraments of Christianity, the lady came to Poland with a large retinue of secular and religious [dignitaries], but did not share his marriage bed until he, slowly but diligently assimilating Christian customs and church law, renounced the errors of heathendom and came to the bosom of Mother Church.

 
Translated © by Jerzy Giebułtowski

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