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Published in A Journal from the Radical Reformation. A Testimony to Biblical Unitarianism, Vol. 4, No. 3, pp. 22-57, 1994.

Marian Hillar


La société paļenne a vécu sous le régime
d'une substantielle tolérance religieuse
jusqu'au moment oł elle s'est trouvée
en face du christianisme.

Robert Joly


Un Anglais comme homme libre, va au Ciel par le chemin qui lui plaīt.



The Reformation, established in Poland relatively late, ca 1550, inspired the most advanced legislature in Europe of its time as regards to freedom of conscience and equality of religious denominations. However, it did not last for long since it was met with the fierce and ruthless Counter Reformation organized by the Catholic Church that succeeded in destroying the Protestant churches and eliminating religious freedoms. Just as Spain distinguished itself for expelling Jews and Moslems in 1492, so Poland has the dubious distinction for expelling some of its best sons and daughters, a group known under various names as the Polish Brethren, Antitrinitarians, Arians, Unitarians, or abroad as Socinians. This was justified to support King John Casimir's religious vow to the Holy Virgin to avenge the denial of the Divine Trinity by "heretics", an act deemed most blasphemous according to Catholic ideology.

The doctrines of the Polish Brethren represented a humanistic reaction to a medieval theology based on submission to the Church's totalitarian authority. Though they retained the scripture as something supra rationem, they analyzed it rationally and believed that nothing should be accepted contra rationem. Their social and political thought underwent a significant evolutionary process from the very utopian trend condemning participation in war and holding public and judicial office to a moderate and realistic stand based on mutual love, support of the secular power of the state, active participation in social and political life, and defense of social equality. They spoke out against the enserfment of peasants, a recurring issue in Poland not solved until the XXth century. They were the first to postulate the complete separation of church and state, an idea never before discussed in Christian societies. Their spirit of absolute religious freedom expressed in their practice and writings, "determined, more or less immediately, all the subsequent revolutions in favor of religious liberty." Their rationality set the trend for the philosophical ideas of the Enlightenment and determined future development of all modern intellectual endeavors. After expulsion they were forced into oblivion for three centuries, forgotten in a country that continued to be dominated by the Catholic Church.

Arrival of the Reformation to Poland

The first major innovative movement brought to Poland was Hussitism introduced by Hieronymus of Prague (1378-1416). At the instigation of the bishops, King Wladyslaw Jagiello issued the edict of Wielun in 1424 which declared Hussitism treason against the state and condemned to death every heretic caught. The secular and religious lords organized a private war in 1439 and massacred a Hussite nobleman, Melstinus, and his followers. Bishop of Poznan, Andreas Bninski, arranged an auto-da-fé in the town of Zbonszyn burning five Hussite ministers.

The first attempt at reform by the burghers in Gdansk in 1526 was bloodily suppressed by King Zygmunt August I (1508-1548); another by the Anabaptists failed due to an edict issued by the King on September 27, 1535, expelling them from Poland. The Senate urged the King to issue the edict because the Anabaptist doctrines "undermine the obedience of serfs to their masters." They were labelled a "godless sect" and "monsters."

The situation in Poland became ripe in the 1540s for reform. In contrast to the situation in Germany, the Reformation in Poland was an affair of the gentry, and as in France, it coincided with the opposition of the feudal lords to the centralization of the monarchy. Strong feelings prevailed among the gentry against the moral degeneracy of the clergy and hypocrisy of the Church. The Sejms of 1501 and 1505 attempted to curtail ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the nobility by preventing the loss of civil rights and property, which followed whenever a nobleman was excommunicated by the ecclesiastical court. Nobility studying abroad brought religious news from the West and introduced many theological and social issues that needed to be discussed publicly. The most educated gentry saw in the Reformation a weapon against the accumulation of extreme wealth and estates by the clergy, against their totalitarian power, against the domination of a foreign sovereign, the Pope, over the country, and on the theological level, against the distorted interpretation of the scripture.

The King, Zygmunt August II (1548-1572), was initially vividly interested in reforming the Church and in religious movements. He sent messengers to the West in order to collect books for his library on various forms of religion. With his advisor, Francesco Lismanini (an Italian brought up in Poland, confessor of Queen Bona Sforza), they read Calvin's Institutes. In the years 1555-1556 together with John Laski and Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski, prominent Polish reformers, he considered calling a national synod in order to establish uniform national church.

Intellectual trends and prominent personalities from abroad shaped the Polish Reformation. German influence dominated in Greater Poland where it introduced Lutheranism. This influence was strengthened by events in Prussia where Albert Hohenzollern embraced Lutheranism in 1525 forming a secular state on the ruins of the Teutonic dominion. Königsberg became the center for diffusion of Lutheran doctrines. The Italian influence brought to Poland literature of Humanism and the Renaissance creating an intellectual environment from which the ideas of Reformation could grow. Several Italians participated in the development of Antitrinitarianism at its very early stage - Francesco Stancaro, Giorgio Blandrata, Gianpaolo Alciati, Valentino Gentile, Bernardino Ochino. However, other Italians coming from the center of the Catholic Church structure, such as Nuncios A. Lippomani and F. Commendone, fought fiercely for the cause of Rome. The third influence was that of the Bohemian Brethren who after being severely persecuted and expelled by King Ferdinand emigrated, to Poland. The French influence was mediated through Pierre Statorius, who after studying at Lausanne with Théodore Bčze, was nominated first rector of the Calvinist college at Cracow in 1551. He introduced books published in Paris, Lyons, and Geneva. Switzerland influenced Poland primarily through Polish young noblemen who studied in Geneva, Zürich, and Basel.

The most important factor in the introduction of Church reform was the formation of a society, initially secret, of Catholic scholars in Cracow whose purpose was to study theological subjects. One of the leaders of this group was Francesco Lismanini, noted above, who openly embraced Protestantism during his stay in Geneva, and Zürich. Their aim was to reform the Church without affecting its orthodoxy. Members of this society recommended reading and discussing the Gospels and attacked the Church's tenets that did not have scriptural justification, such as the mystery of the Trinity, one of the antitrinitarian doctrines of Michael Servetus, and the idolatry and worship of saints. Under the reign of the tolerant King Zygmunt August II, specific denominations evolved: Calvinist with its first synod in Slomniki in 1554, prevailing among the nobility; Lutheran, predominating among burghers in the towns of Royal Prussia which was granted full freedom in 1557-1558 by the King; Bohemian Brethren who arrived in Poland in 1548 with their views on social issues too advanced for the times. They were the remnants of the Hussite branch of Taborites who ca 1456 organized their own separate congregations.

Once the Reformation took root in Poland the Church hierarchy unleashed a strong campaign excommunicating many clergy and noblemen, condemning them to death and confiscating their property for heresy. Encyclicals from the Pope ordered the extirpation of heresy. The first martyr of the Counter Reformation was a priest, Nicholaus, rector of Kurow, who was starved to death in prison. The intentions of the Church were often thwarted by the refusal of a magistrate to carry out the decrees of the ecclesiastical tribunals. But many murders were committed clandestinely in convents. The laws in Poland allowed for absolute jurisdiction of ecclesiastical courts over the inhabitants.

The nobility, horrified by the attempts of the clergy, openly questioned the extent of the bishops' authority at the Sejm of 1550. The Sejm decided that "no one but the monarch had the right to judge citizens [i.e., nobility], and to condemn them to any penalty whatsoever." During the elections to the Sejm in 1552, the nobility demanded abolishing the ecclesiastical jurisdiction altogether. Consequently the King issued a decree stating that the clergy would retain the right to issue condemnation of and judge heresy, but had no power to inflict civil or criminal penalties. Further, that the clergy could decide only matters of religion and that such decisions would have no consequence on civil or political life. Angered by this decision, the bishops, members of the Senate, left the hall. This thus established de jure freedom of conscience in Poland. Moreover the Sejm of 1556 enacted a law guaranteeing everyone the right to worship in one's house as one wished. These laws were reconfirmed subsequently in 1563 and in 1565.

After the death of heirless King Zygmunt August II in 1572, the Polish throne became a target of machinations of foreign powers and the Catholic Church. The papal Nuncio Francesco Commendone was especially active in intrigue to install a Catholic candidate on the throne. At the Sejm of Convocation, the so-called Warsaw Confederation that met in Warsaw on January 6, 1573, the nobility, aware of the religious wars in Germany, were anxious to safeguard the guarantees of internal peace and equality of religious confessions based on the Treaty of Augsburg of 1555. They enacted the pax dissidentium on January 28, 1573, which contained the term dissidentes designating all groups, including Catholics, that differ in religion. Thus Protestants in Poland now gained not only freedom but also complete legal equality with the Catholic Church. However, even here a special stipulation guaranteed the nobles authority over their subjects in religious matters as well. Thus Catholics preserved their domination over the serfs and could prevent the spread of reform.

These Statutes were vehemently opposed by Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius, and all bishops except Franciszek Krasinski of Cracow, but they were approved by majority vote of both chambers of the Sejm and became fundamental law in Poland, the most liberal in Europe. But this law was censured and opposed vigorously by Rome. It was a product of Protestant philosophical thought and the Polish Catholic Church has never recognized it. Prince Henri de Valois was elected the next King, but only after taking an oath in the Cathedral of Notre Dame on September 10, 1573, which included the support of religious liberty. The Prince had to retake the oath at his coronation. The Warsaw Statutes of 1573 were reaffirmed every time a king swore to respect these so-called Henrician Articles and again by the senators and deputies to the Sejm in 1607, 1609, and in 1632.

The Development and Establishment of Antitrinitarianism

At the roots of Polish Antitrinitarianism are the theological ideas transplanted from Italy and social ideas borrowed initially from the Anabaptists and Moravian Brethren. Discussions at the meetings of the secret society of Catholic scholars in Cracow since 1546 included the works of Michael Servetus. In 1551 Leo Sozzini visited Poland and propagated similar doctrines. About the middle of the XVIth century a variety of Antitrinitarian sects emerged. They called themselves Christians or Brethren, hence Polish Brethren, also Minor Reformed Church. Their opponents labelled them after the old heresies as Sabellians, Samosatinians, Ebionites, Unitarians, and finally Arians. They were also known abroad as Socinians, after the Italian Faustus Socinus (Fausto Sozzini, nephew of Leo Sozzini) who at the end of the XVIth century became a prominent figure in the Raków congregation for systematizing the doctrines of the Polish Brethren.

Peter of Goniadz, (Peter Gonesius, Piotr Giezek z Goniadza), a Calvinist minister, is credited as being the founder of the group. He, like many Poles of his time studied abroad. In Wittemberg he abandoned Catholicism; in Switzerland and in Padua he was introduced by his professor Matteo Gribaldi to the writings of Michael Servetus and embraced the Italian Antitrinitarian doctrines, eventually himself becoming a professor of logic at Padua University. Upon returning to Poland he initially joined the Helvetian Church. At the Helvetian synod in Secemin, on January 24, 1556, he delivered a speech about his theological beliefs: a critique of the Athanasian credo and rejection of the Trinity as a human invention. At another Calvinist synod at Brest on December 15, 1558, he presented his complete doctrine including his treatise against the baptism of infants. This synod silenced him in order to avoid a schism, threatening him with excommunication. Peter, however, refused to obey, found many followers (e.g. John Kiszka, Hetman of Lithuania) and established an Antitrinitarian church with its own printing office, becoming a minister at Wegrów (in the Carpathian foothil). His social doctrines were borrowed from the Anabaptists whom he visited in Moravia. They were characterized by a pacifist attitude, belief in communal property and refusal to use arms or hold civil office.

The issue of the Trinity was subsequently hotly debated at the synods and soon several opinions about the meaning of the Trinity appeared. Several foreigners made contributions to the discussion. An Italian physician Giorgio Blandrata (1515-1588) became a superintendent of the Helvetian Churches in Poland. In 1563 he was forced to move to Transylvania as a physician of the prince, John Sigismundus Zapolya. After the prince's death he returned to Poland as physician to King Stefan Batory. One of the most prominent promoters of Antitrinitarianism was Italian Francesco Stancaro (1501-1574), first professor of Hebrew in Poland, who arrived in Poland in 1558 and launched a discussion against Calvinists claiming that their doctrine represented Christ as an inferior God. He proposed to solve the theological problem by assuming that the expiatory mediating work of Christ took place according to His human nature. Pierre Statorius, a Frenchman who arrived to Poland in 1559, became a naturalized citizen and assumed the name of Stoinski. He was the author of the first Polish grammar. Nobleman Olesnicki in Pinchów converted a Roman Catholic parish into a Protestant one and the group published its Antitrinitarian confession in 1560 and in 1561.

After Blandrata left for Transylvania, Gregorius Pauli (born in Poland but of Italian descent, d. 1591) became the leader of the movement. He rejected the Nicean creed, reduced Jesus to a human being and claimed that death does not separate the body from the soul, thus both will have common resurrection. The Antitrinitarian doctrines assigned to Christianity a human not divine origin thus threatening Catholic, Helvetian and Bohemian Churches. Calvinist synods at Pinchów (1561) and at Cracow (1562) admonished the Antitrinitarian reformers and rejected the doctrines of Blandrata, Lismanini, and Stancaro.

Both sides appealed to Italian minister and former general of the Capuchin Order (sel-exiled in Zürich), Bernardino Ochino (1487-1563), for mediation. Ochino, however, did not take side and in a dialogue on the Trinity included in his book, Trenta Dialoghi, gave explanation of the Trinity based on the Augustinian interpretation. The Trinity remained for him a mystery but it was a necessary consequence of autodispiegamiento di Dio, or bonum diffusivum sui. To the second problem which was stirred by Stancaro's inquiry into the nature of Christ's atonement - human or divine, Ochino answered that there was no need for atonement since God does not become angry. Such a reaction of God would be incompatible with his impassibility and love. If the death of Jesus had any expiatory character, it was only because God consented to consider it as an act of expiation. But this was not the integral part of the salvation plan. And Christ came not in order to change God, but in order to change us. Such a theory found its final place in the Catechism of Raków published in 1605.

Catholics as well as Protestants were indignant at the influence of the Antitrinitarians and the agitation they caused. When King Zygmunt August II considered expelling them, Cardinal Hosius convinced him that this would amount to approval of the other sects. The King resolved the problem by issuing a decree in 1563 expelling all non-Catholic foreigners. The decree expressly excepted the Bohemian Brethren and since all other foreign groups were already well settled and naturalized, only the Italians were affected by this decree.

During the Calvinist synod at Piotrków in 1564, a final separation of the Antitrinitarians took place. Pauli presided over the congregation in Raków until his death in 1591. The Antitrinitarian synod at Wegrów on December 25, 1565, united 45 ministers who rejected the baptism of infants and agreed on the principal tenets of the faith formulated in the first catechism of 1574, Catechesis et confessio fidei coetus per Poloniam congregati in nomine Jesu Christi. The Antitrinitarian Church was spread over several congregations established under the protection of various noblemen. The main center that gained recognition was established by Nicholas Sienienski on his estate in Raków. Initially the group did not have any uniform religious system. At the Antitrinitarian synod at Skrzynna in 1567, several divisions were visible but all parties adopted a resolution maintaining an external union based on a unitarian doctrine. According to Stanislas Kot, the theological leader of the group who initially set the theological and social doctrines was a Dominican Greek monk, Jacob Palaeologus, who escaped from a convent in Rome and found refuge in Cracow. During the years 1571-1574 we find him in Kolozsvar (modern Cluj) in Transylvania. He accepted and propagated the theological unitarian doctrine but rejected the original utopian social ideas of Peter of Goniadz and Gregorius Pauli. He was eventually captured in Moravia in 1582 by order of the Hapsburgs and brought to Rome to be burned at the stake by the Catholic Inquisition in 1585. His manuscripts are kept in the Vatican library but are not available for study. His ideas are known from a collection of excerpts entitled: Contra Calvinum pro Serveto. He was opposed by a faction of Antitrinitarians who advocated the divinity of Jesus Christ. Among the opposition was Giorgio Blandrata who actually brought Italian Faustus Socinus to Transylvania from Basel in 1579.

Antitrinitarianism was developed eventually into a uniform religious system - the Antitrinitarian Church, by Faustus Socinus (1539-1604) who arrived in Poland in 1580 and established his influence during the Antitrinitarian synods of 1584 and 1588. He removed the differences among the various groups and codified the doctrines. He did not develop the final catechism, which was written by Valentinus Smalcius (1572-1622) and Hieronymus Moskorzowski (d. 1625) in 1605. For about twenty years Socinus was not admitted to the ecclesiastic community by the Polish Brethren as they did not agree with some of his tenets, e.g., he rejected the practice of baptism by immersion which was introduced by the Anabaptists, he overemphasized the role of Christ as the Son of God, and his social views were too radical. Finally in 1600 he was asked to come to Raków where he attained a position of high authority and provided the printing press with a stream of manuscripts. Since works were disseminated throughout the Western World, the Polish Brethren became known in the West as Socinians. Samuel Przypkowski wrote his biography. Polish Antitrinitarianism reached its mature state in the beginning of the XVIIth century under the leadership of Jan Crell, Jonasz Szlichtyng, Samuel Przypkowski, Martin Ruarus, Andreas Wiszowaty, grandson of Socinus, Valentinus Smalcius, Johannes Völkel, Hieronymus Moskorzowski, et al.

In the Socinian theological system, revelation was accepted since human reason alone is deemed insufficient to work out salvation. Jesus was on earth a mortal man by the power of the Holy Ghost, and on that account He was the only begotten Son. He became God by His martyrdom and resurrection and as such He is to be worshipped. The Holy Ghost is a gift of God bestowed on the faithful. Christ was not the Logos by which all things were created but was the founder of a new religion, and by redeeming mankind He became the creator of a new world. However, He did not atone for the sins of mankind. He only showed the manner in which divine mercy was to be obtained. The social doctrines of Socinus, the doctrines of social passivity, were eventually rejected by the Antitrinitarian synods of 1596, 1597, 1598, and changed to active participation in society. They strongly defended social equality. Jan Ludwik Wolzogen (1599-1661), an Austrian baron who settled with the Polish Brethren in Gdansk, wrote about serfdom: "I doubt, however, whether one may be a Christian and such a master as the Poles who hold serfs, not only because they load their serfs with excessive labor and do not set them free every seven years as God commanded, but also because they allow them no appeal from their masters, nor any refuge or right to complain of grievances."

The most brilliant period for the Polish Brethren was between 1585 and 1638 with the center at Raków which won the honorable name of the Sarmatian Athens. They founded a world-renowned school in 1602. Its rector until 1621, Jan Crell, codified the ethical system of the Brethren. Their famous printing press filled Europe with treatises written in Polish, Latin, Dutch, and German. They were well praised and read by people like John Locke, John Stuart Mill, and Isaac Newton. They represented a small number but held high ethical values. The Polish Brethren lasted in Poland for about 100 years from the time when Peter of Goniadz delivered his credo at the Calvinist synod in Secemin on January 22, 1556, to the death of Samuel Przypkowski in 1670. But they made an outstanding contribution to Polish literature and had the most advanced and pioneering ideas in social, political, and religious fields. They left about 500 treatises largely unexplored and still waiting to be examined. They were inspired by a sincere application of original Christianity to personal, social and political relations. Their ideology was characterized from the beginning by: 1. propagating freedom of religious thought; 2. the principle of applying reason to the interpretation of the scriptures, the revelation, and theological matters in general; 3. absolute tolerance of all creeds; 4. the struggle for social equality among people. At their first synod, the Polish Brethren settled the matter of freedom of conscience: "Everyone has the right not to do things which he feels to be contrary to the word of God. Moreover, all may write according to their conscience, if they do not offend anybody by it." Protestant and Catholic reaction termed freedom of conscience and tolerance propagated by the Socinians as "that Socinian dogma, the most dangerous of the dogmas of the Socinian sect."

The Counter Reformation and its Impact on Antitrinitarianism

The first measures taken by the King, the ecclesiastical synods, and the Sejm in order to prevent the spread of the Reformation had little effect since the nobility acquired many liberties that allowed them initially to circumscribe ecclesiastical jurisdiction. However, the aggressive attitude of the Church required more legal guarantees (the laws of 1552, 1556, 1573) to safeguard the liberties of the nobility, and to prevent imminent atrocities.

The synod convened in Piotrków in 1552 ordered all Roman Catholics to submit to a test of orthodoxy of their faith designed by Stanislaus Hosius, then Bishop of Warmia. Pope Paul IV sent his Nuncio Aloysius Lippomani who suggested the most sanguinary methods to eradicate heresy, arguing that violence was justified and recommended seizure of the leaders and their execution.

Stanislaus Hosius (1504-1579), cardinal since 1561, was the single individual who contributed most to the defeat of the Reformation. Hosius proposed exile of all priests embracing Reformation ideas and expulsion of all Protestant ministers, Polish and foreign. He held a special grudge against the Antitrinitarians and the Bohemian Brethren whom he considered the most dangerous.

Hosius conceived of the idea of bringing in the Jesuits. At his request the first group arrived in 1564 and was settled and endowed in Braunsberg. Slowly the Order was spread to all Poland, endowed with churches, hospitals and schools. Its goal was to restore Papal supremacy regardless of Polish national interests, individual human rights, and moral principles. He, with other Jesuits, argued that the Warsaw Statutes of 1573, were a "criminal conspiracy against God" and should be abolished by the King. He openly recommended to King Henri de Valois to retract his oath maintaining that an oath given to "heretics" may be broken even without an absolution. He even commissioned the King's confessor, William Ruzeus to explain to the King his "duty" to break the oath. Papal Nuncio Gratiani, advised the King to crush religious and political liberties, offer offices only to Catholics and to engage in a war with Muscovy to keep the nation from religious discussions and intellectual pursuits.

Beginning with the reign of Stefan Batory (1575-1586), the clergy and Jesuits launched a continuous and methodical campaign against Protestants and the law of the pax dissidentium that lasted until the complete success of the Counter Reformation in the middle of the XVIIth century. Several methods were used by Jesuits to achieve their goals.

The most primitive was to use brutal physical force. The Jesuits and Hosius openly instigated mobs, school pupils and university students to organize pogroms, attacks, desecrations of burial grounds, and murder against Protestants. King Batory, influenced by Jesuits, was involved in one case of expulsion of the rector of the Socinian school at Chmielnik, Christian Francken. He also imprisoned Alexis Radecki, a Socinian printer.

Jesuits strived to gain control over education. They achieved it by the end of the reign of King Zygmunt August III (1587-1632). They used schools as a training ground for their puppets who were then promoted to political and civil offices, to the Sejm and to the courts. By control of education Jesuits were able to indoctrinate youth with hatred towards Protestants. The students who organized the pogroms defended themselves on the ground that it was their duty to destroy the Protestants just as the clergy had taught them.

Jesuits destroyed the concepts of law and individual rights replacing them by prejudice and corruption. The King allowed himself and the country to be controlled by Jesuits with total disregard for national interests. He achieved more by corruption than by open persecution. Abolishment of the laws was instituted methodically, step by step. It began with the Sejm of 1588 which allowed action to be brought by the Catholic Church for recovery of its former property thus abrogating the law of 1556 granting the nobles freedom of worship.

Another method of exterminating Protestants was open impunity of all aggression against them. To the Jesuits every act of persecution and depravity committed against a Protestant was proof of piety. In 1611 a young Italian named Franco, who proclaimed that the Catholic Eucharist was nothing but idolatry, was condemned to death in Wilno and hastily executed in the courtyard of the castle. In Bielsk which belonged to the Queen Constantia, Archduchess of Austria, John Tyszkiewicz, a Socinian was executed on November 16, 1611, by her order for refusing to swear in the name of the Trinity. These examples clearly illustrate the power exerted by the clergy and breakdown of the moral sensitivities of Poles.

Through skillful manipulation and intrigue, Jesuits were able to convince a few Greek Orthodox bishops to enter into union with the Catholic Church at the end of XVIth century. It initiated a ruthless and bloody persecution of members of the Greek Orthodox Church in the eastern territories of the Commonwealth.

In 1617 Bishop Piasecki of Cracow published the first Index librorum prohibitorum. The clergy established by the royal decree of 1621 a censure on publication of books, libraries, booksellers etc. All books published by Protestant printing houses without any regard to their contents were burned.

Institutions in the country became subservient to the persecution and interests of the clergy, Rome and Jesuits. When in 1641 students attacked a Protestant minister and King Wladyslaw IV (1632-1648) asked the Bishop to punish the perpetrators, the Bishop answered: "How can I punish the students, when it is my vocation to extirpate heresy by every means: the Pope has sent me solemn thanks that heresy was ejected from Wilno during my rule."

The final defeat of church reform took place during the reign of King John Casimir (1648-1668). The country was ravaged by Cossacks and their leader, Chmielnicki, called for help to the Tsar of Muscovy in 1654. The Swedish King, Carolus Gustavus, invaded Poland in 1655, partially provoked by the Polish King himself. During these tumultuous times, the Catholic clergy organized a campaign accusing Protestants of having brought on the disaster by their impious religious doctrines. They were an easy target since the Swedes were Protestants, and some of the Bohemian Brethren who escaped to Poland from persecutions in Moravia and Bohemia did seek refuge under the Swedish king. A wave of bloody persecution ensued and forced many Protestants to flee the country, leaving their churches and property. The treaty of Oliwa in 1660 theoretically restored religious rights to all though only on paper; the morals in the country were already totally destroyed by the efforts of the Jesuits; laws ceased to function. In 1663 a notion was introduced by deputies from Mazovia to abolish officially the Statutes of Warsaw of 1573, and in 1668 a law was introduced that prescribed the death penalty for a baptized Catholic who would convert to Protestantism. That was the end of the Reformation and freedom of thought and conscience in Poland.

Jesuits especially furiously attacked the Polish Brethren. Piotr Skarga called upon the King to exterminate them. They were accused falsely of siding with foreign powers against Poland, e.g., in 1595 for inciting the Turkish Sultan to conquer Poland. They were blamed as blasphemous for bringing the wrath of God upon the country in the form of a "deluge" (a term used by Poles to describe Swedish invasion in 1655).

The true reasons for the calamities affecting Poland in the XVIIth century were explained by Stanislaus Kazimierz Kozuchowski, a deputy to the Sejm since 1653, in his treatise, Veritas quatuor causis demonstrata calamitatem Regni Poloniae (1661). Among them he listed excessive mistrust of the reigning monarch, preoccupation of the gentry with their own private interests, appointment of inappropriate people to government offices, and excessive openness of political life. We might add also that Poland was pushed into expansive territorial wars in the east by the Pope and Jesuits who hoped to conquer Russia for Roman Catholicism. Even Catholics themselves admitted corruption produced by Jesuits, their machinations, manipulation of the kings, and disregard for the national interests as the sole reason for troubles in the XVIIth century. Hieronymus Moskorzowski answered the calumnies in a patriotic refutation to Jesuits Oratio qua continetur brevis calumniarum depulsio ....: "You cannot weaken our devotion to the Republic. Whatever we are, we shall not deem that we are driven out by our Lord the King, or by our dearly beloved native land, but only hunted and driven away by you [i.e,. Jesuits]."

Raków was the chief object of hostility of the Jesuits and there were several attempts to destroy it. It was finally destroyed in 1638. Bishop Zadzik organized a campaign against the school in Raków under the pretext that two pupils of the school threw stones at a wooden cross, thus committing a sacrilege and an offense against God. At the same time absurd political accusations were published in a pamphlet Tormentum Throno Trinitatem Deturbans. The Sejm argued that the Socinians, non-Christians since they denied the Trinity, should be excluded from protection of the pax dissidentium Statutes of 1573. It is interesting to note that other non-Christians, Jews and Moslems were included. Still, the Senate ordered on May 1, 1638, without inquiry, to abolish the church and destroy the school and the printing press at Raków. Moreover, it prohibited the school from being restored under penalty of death and ordered banishment of its professors. Kazimir Sienienski, the Catholic son of the aged founder of Raków accused his own father! In 1648 the Sejm attempted to introduce a law excluding from the pax dissidentium those who did not acknowledge the Trinity. The attempt did not pass but the deputy Niemierycz, a Socinian, was not allowed to sign the acts of the Sejm.

On April 1, 1656, in the cathedral of Lwów, the bigoted King John Casimir, distressed by the wars, solemnly committed his kingdom and himself to the special protection of the Holy Virgin, vowing in exchange to protect her from the insults of the "heretics," to the Holy Trinity and divinity of the Son of God, and to remove the grievances of the lower classes. The King repeated the vow under pressure from the Jesuits a second time at the camp near Warsaw on June 15, 1656, promising this time to expel the Arians from Poland. The King did nothing for the lower classes, but was most successful in exterminating the scapegoats among the Protestants - the Socinians.

The King proceeded after the victories to fulfill his vow. At his request and in order to express in deeds his gratitude to God, the Sejm on July 20, 1658, expelled the Socinians from Poland. The liberum veto exercised by the Socinian deputy, a privilege already in effect since 1652, was conveniently disregarded in this case. The Sejm also enacted a law prohibiting profession or propagation of Socinianism in the Polish dominion, and everyone who did so was to be punished immediately by death. But the Sejm granted a period of grace of three years to Socinians who retained their beliefs to allow them to sell their property and emigrate. Security was promised to them during this time but the exercise of religion was forbidden and they could not hold office. On March 22, 1659, the term was reduced to two years declaring that all the Socinians who did not embrace Roman Catholicism by June 10, 1660, must leave the country under penalty of death. They were not allowed to join any other confession except Roman Catholicism. This enactment was based entirely and explicitly to satisfy the King's religious vow of glorifying the Holy Virgin. The reason for the expulsion cited by the Sejm was because the sect did not recognize the preexistence of Jesus Christ (quoniam ... nominata secta [Ariana vel Anabaptistica] ... dilatari capit quae filio Dei praeeternitatem adimit ...). As stated earlier the Jews and Moslems were not affected. The law against "heretics" enacted by Wladyslaw Jagiello in 1424 against the Hussites was cited as the basis the decree, even though it was nullified by the law of 1573. However, the Hussites accepted the dogma of the Trinity, the Socinians denied it.

The Antitrinitarians after their expulsion from Poland in 1660 scattered to Hungary, Prussia, Germany, Holland, England and even to America. Settlers in Holland compiled their works in Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum published between 1666-1692. They were "discovered" by Alexander Brückner in his work titled The Polish Dissidents, which he published in Berlin in 1905. In 1919 a Society for the Study of the History of the Reformation in Poland was organized. The pioneering work on the Polish Brethren was the already noted study by Stanislas Kot (see footnote No. 5). Zbigniew Ogonowski continued the studies by publishing monographs and editing the translation of excerpts from the literature of the Polish Brethren and related publications (see footnote No. 4). The English translation of selected theological works of the Bibliotheca Fratrum Polonorum by George Huntston Williams appeared in 1980 in the series of Harvard Theological Studies as The Polish Brethren, vol. 1-2.


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