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April 1, 1656

Lwów vows of Jan Kazimierz

Historical context

From the early days, the reign of Jan Kazimierz was plagued by wars that beset the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, starting with a Cossack revolt supported by Tatar forces in 1648, through wars with Muscovy (1654-1667), Sweden (1655-1660), Brandenburg (1656-1657) and Transylvania (1657), to fighting the Cossacks and Tatars in 1667.

 

The Swedish invasion of 1655 proved a truly catastrophic event. Faced with the capture of most of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Ukraine by Russia and its Cossack allies, a significant number of the magnates and nobles in conflict with Jan Kazimierz surrendered to the Swedes almost without a fight. Jan Kazimierz had to flee the country. Yet the severe pillaging visited upon the land by Swedish soldiers and the German mercenaries in their ranks, coupled with their religious otherness (they were Lutherans), quickly sparked resistance from the plebeian masses and the nobility alike. The successful defence of the Jasna Góra monastery, home to a venerated painting of the Madonna (the painting was in Habsburg Silesia during the siege), at the end of 1655 marked a turning point in the war.

 

The royal court used this event for propaganda purposes when Jan Kazimierz returned to Poland in 1655/1656. Lwów (Leopolis), where the Swedes had not penetrated, became the command centre of resistance against the invaders. It was there, in the city cathedral, on 1 April 1656, that Jan Kazimierz made a solemn vow before the altar of Our Lady of Graces, establishing the Holy Mother as Queen of the Polish Crown and promising remissions for the peasants. By doing so, the ruler sanctioned the religious nature of the conflict with Sweden and made concessions to the commoners, exploiting their zeal in the fight against the enemy. The ceremonial mass at the Lwów Cathedral was celebrated by the papal nuncio, Pietro Vidoni, with numerous dignitaries waiting on the king in attendance. Although the social programme enounced in the Lwów vows was never put into action, they have come down in Polish history as an important symbol of national awakening and unity in the face of external danger.

Document text

Wielka Boga Człowieka Matko, Najświętsza Dziewico. Ja, Jan Kazimierz, za zmiłowaniem Syna Twojego, Króla królów, a Pana mojego i Twoim miłosierdziem król, do najświętszych stóp Twoich przypadłszy, Ciebie dziś za Patronkę moją i za Królową państw moich obieram. Tak samego siebie, jak i moje Królestwo polskie, księstwo litewskie, ruskie, pruskie, mazowieckie, żmudzkie, inflanckie, smoleńskie, czernichowskie oraz wojsko obu narodów i wszystkie moje ludy Twojej osobliwej opiece i obronie polecam, Twej pomocy i zlitowania w tym klęsk pełnym i opłakanym Królestwa mojego stanie przeciw nieprzyjaciołom Rzymskiego Kościoła pokornie przyzywam.

A ponieważ nadzwyczajnymi dobrodziejstwami Twymi zniewolony pałam wraz z narodem moim nowym a żarliwym pragnieniem poświęcenia się Twej służbie, przyrzekam przeto, tak moim, jak senatorów i ludów moich imieniem, Tobie i Twojemu Synowi, Panu naszemu Jezusowi Chrystusowi, że po wszystkich ziemiach Królestwa mojego cześć i nabożeństwo ku Tobie rozszerzać będę.

Obiecuję wreszcie i ślubuję, że kiedy za przepotężnym pośrednictwem Twoim i Syna Twego wielkim zmiłowaniem, nad wrogami, a szczególnie nad Szwedem odniosę zwycięstwo, będę się starał u Stolicy Apostolskiej, aby na podziękowanie Tobie i Twemu Synowi dzień ten corocznie uroczyście, i to po wieczne czasy, był święcony oraz dołożę trudu wraz z biskupami Królestwa, aby to, co przyrzekam, przez ludy moje wypełnione zostało.

Skoro zaś z wielką serca mego żałością wyraźnie widzę, że za jęki i ucisk kmieci spadły w tym siedmioleciu na Królestwo moje z rąk Syna Twojego, sprawiedliwego Sędziego, plagi: powietrza, wojny i innych nieszczęść, przyrzekam ponadto i ślubuję, że po nastaniu pokoju wraz ze wszystkimi stanami wszelkich będę używał środków, aby lud Królestwa mego od niesprawiedliwych ciężarów i ucisków wyzwolić.
 
Ty zaś, o najlitościwsza Królowo i Pani, jakoś mnie, senatorów i stany Królestwa mego myślą tych ślubów natchnęła, tak i spraw, abym u Syna Twego łaskę wypełnienia ich uzyskał.
 
 
© 2005-2007 Katolicka Agencja Informacyjna
Great Mother of the God-man, Most Holy Virgin. I, Jan Kazimierz, king by the grace of Thy Son, King of kings and my Lord, and by Your mercy, having fallen to Your Most Holy feet, do choose you on this day as my Patroness and Queen of my countries. I recommend to Your special care and protection both myself and my Kingdom of Poland, Duchy of Lithuania, Ruthenia, Prussia, Masovia, Samogitia, Livonia, Smolensk and Czernichów, and the armies of both nations and all my peoples, I humbly summon Your help and clemency in the defeated and deplorable condition of my Kingdom against the enemies of the Roman Catholic Church.  

And since, bound by the graces you have accorded [me], I burn, along with my nation, with a new and zealous desire to devote myself to Thy service, I therefore vow to Thee and Thy Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, on my own behalf and on behalf of my senators and my peoples, to spread your glory and worship across all the lands of my Kingdom.

Finally, I vow and promise that once I have achieved victory over [my] enemies, particularly over the Swede, through Thy almighty mediation and Thy Son’s great mercy, I shall beseech the Apostolic See to make this day holy by annual celebration for all time to come in gratitude to Thee and to Thy Son, and I shall make all effort, along with the bishops of [my] Kingdom, to have my peoples keep what I have promised.

But since to my heart’s great sorrow I clearly see that the groans and oppression of the peasants have brought plagues of air, war and other misfortunes upon my Kingdom in these seven years by the hand of Thy Son, the Righteous Judge, I furthermore promise and vow that once peace comes, I and all my estates shall use measures to free the people of my Kingdom from unfair burdens and oppressions.

And Thou, most merciful Queen and Lady, as Thou hast inspired in me, my senators and the estates of my Kingdom the idea of these vows, so make me obtain from Your Son the grace of fulfilling them.
 
 
Translated © by Jerzy Giebułtowski
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