Bolesław I Chrobry
|Bolesław I Chrobry|
|King of Poland|
Portrait by Jan Matejko.
|Reign||Duke: 992 – 18 April 1025
King: 18 April – 17 June 1025
|Coronation||18 April 1025
Gniezno Cathedral, Poland.
|Died||17 June 1025 (aged 58)|
|Place of death||Kraków?|
|Buried||Cathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, Poznań|
|Successor||Mieszko II Lambert|
|Wives||Hunilda (?), daughter of Rikdag
Judith of Hungary
Emnilda of Lusatia
Oda of Meissen
A daughter, Princess of Pomerania
A daughter, nun
Regelinda, Margravine of Meissen
Mieszko II Lambert
A daughter, Grand Princess of Kiev
|Father||Mieszko I of Poland|
|Mother||Dobrawa of Bohemia|
Bolesław I Chrobry (Bolesław I "the Valiant" or the Brave) (Czech: Boleslav Chrabrý) ( Polish (help·info); 967 – 17 June 1025), in the past also known as Bolesław I the Great (Wielki), was a Duke of Poland from 992–1025 and the first King of Poland from 18 April 1025 until his death. He also ruled as Boleslav IV, Duke of Bohemia from 1002 to 1003.
Bolesław I was a remarkable politician, strategist, and statesman. He turned Poland into a country that was not only comparable to older western monarchies, but also elevated it into the European elite. Bolesław conducted successful military campaigns in the west, south and east. He consolidated the Polish lands and conquered territories outside of modern borders of Poland such as Slovakia, Moravia, Red Ruthenia, Meissen and Lusatia as well as Bohemia. He was a powerful mediator in Central European affairs.
Bolesław was an ally of Holy Roman Emperor Otto III who may have crowned him rex. Following the death of Otto III in 1002, he carried out a series of successful wars against the Holy Roman Empire and Otto III's cousin and heir Henry II, ending with the Peace of Bautzen in 1018. In the summer of 1018, in one of his most famous expeditions, Bolesław captured Kiev, where, according to legend, he notched his sword when hitting Kiev's Golden Gate. Later a sword called Szczerbiec ("Notched Sword") would become the ceremonial sword used at the coronation of Poland's kings.
Bolesław also managed to establish a Polish church structure with a Metropolitan See at Gniezno, independent of the German Archbishopric of Magdeburg, which had tried to lay claim to Polish areas. During the famous Congress of Gniezno he officially freed himself of tribute to the Holy Roman Empire and finally, at the peak of his reign, he had himself crowned as King, the first Polish ruler to do so.
He was an able administrator; he established the so-called "Prince's law" and built many forts, churches, monasteries and bridges. Bolesław established the first Polish monetary system, of a grzywna divided into 240 denarii, and minted his own coinage. He is widely considered one of the most capable and accomplished of the Piast rulers.
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Bolesław I was born in 967, in Poznań as the first child of Mieszko I, Duke of Poland and his wife, the Bohemian princess Dobrawa. At age six he may have been sent to the Imperial court in Germany as a hostage, according to the agreements of the Imperial Diet of Quedlinburg (although some historians now dispute this detail). Another theory holds that Bolesław spent some time during the 980s at the court of his maternal uncle, Duke Boleslav II the Pious of Bohemia.
In 984 and at the instigation of his father, the eighteen-year-old Bolesław married the daughter of Rikdag, Margrave of Meissen, probably named Hunilda or Oda. It is believed that following the wedding he became the ruler of Lesser Poland with his capital at Kraków. The death of Margrave Rikdag in 985 left the marriage devoid of any political value, and shortly thereafter the union was dissolved and Hunilda repudiated.
At the end of 985, probably at the instigation of Boleslav II the Pious, Bolesław married an unknown Hungarian princess with whom he had a son, Bezprym. Older literature identified the princess as Judith, daughter of Géza, Grand Duke of Hungary. Though opinions vary about the identity of Bolesław's second wife, a number of researchers still support the hypothesis of her being the daughter of Géza. However, this union also proved short-lived, probably because of the deterioration in political relations between Poland and Hungary, and around 987 the union was dissolved.
By 989, and perhaps as early as 987, Bolesław married Emnilda, daughter of Dobromir, most likely a Slavic prince of Lusatia. Other historians have argued that Emnilda was a Moravian princess, or a daughter of the last independent prince of the Vistulans, before their incorporation into the Polish state. Through this marriage he had a daughter Regelinda, a son, the future king Mieszko II, another daughter, and a son, Otton. At this time Bolesław's rule in Lesser Poland may have been at Bohemian conferment. Presuming that it was, he added this province to Poland only after the death of Duke Boleslav II the Pious in 999. However assuming that Mieszko I took control of Lesser Poland in 990 (which is likely), then Bolesław I was bestowed the rule in Lesser Poland by his father but without its territory being included in the Polish realm. Bolesław does not appear in the surviving summary of the Dagome Iudex document, and as such it may be supposed that Lesser Poland was already known as Bolesław's inheritance, while his two surviving half-brothers Mieszko and Lambert, sons of Mieszko I by his second wife Oda, were to divide the rest of the realm between themselves. Another theory explains Bolesław's absence from the document through an old Slavic custom whereby children received their inheritance as soon as they reached the age of majority. Thus Bolesław might have received Kraków as his part of his father's legacy before the writing of the Dagome iudex.
The circumstances in which Bolesław took control of the country following the passing of his father, Mieszko, anticipated what would later become a prevalent practice among the Piast dynasty. It consisted of struggle for control, usually a military one, among the offspring of nearly every deceased monarch of the Piast dynasty. Bolesław was no different, and shortly after the death of Mieszko I (25 May 992), he banished his stepmother Oda and his two half-brothers, as they were competitors to the throne. The exact circumstances of Bolesław's ascension to the Ducal throne are unknown, but it is known that by June, he was the unquestioned ruler of Poland – as Emperor Otto III asked for his military aid in the summer of 992. Immediately after gaining the full control over Poland, Bolesław also quelled the opposition of powerful families by blinding two of their leaders, the magnates Odylen and Przybywoj. As cruel a sentence as this was, it proved most effective as it resulted in such obedience of his subjects that from that point on there was no mention of any challenge to his position whatsoever.
Extent of his domains
Bolesław inherited from his father a realm that was close in dimensions to modern-day Poland. It centered on the core of Polanian country, the later Greater Poland (Wielkopolska). Greater Poland encompassed the valley of river Warta, stretched to the north to the Noteć river and to the south it encompassed Kalisz. Outside of this core the nascent Poland included the surrounding areas subdued by Bolesław's father, Mieszko I which included: parts of Pomerania to the north, including Kołobrzeg in the west and Gdańsk in the east, Mazovia with its capital at Płock to the east and Silesia to the south-west. It is disputed whether Lesser Poland, centered around Kraków, was incorporated into the Polish realm by Mieszko I before 992 or whether it was added by Bolesław in 999. Either way by the year 1000 Bolesław was the lord of a domain larger than contemporary England, Denmark, León or Burgundy.
Duke of Poland
First years (992–1000)
It appears, from the lack of any record of international activity, that Bolesław spent the first years as ruler more concerned about gaining the throne and remaining on it than trying to increase the size of his dominion. It is during this period of consolidation of power that he allied himself with Otto III, the Emperor of Germany, and in 995 he aided the Holy Roman Emperor in his expedition against the Lusatians.
Endeavoring to extend his influence to the territory of the Prussians, Bolesław encouraged Christianizing missions in the Prussian lands. Most famous of those was the mission of Vojtěch from the Bohemian princely Slavník clan, former bishop of Prague. Known as Adalbert of Prague upon the death of Adalbert of Magdeburg in 981, Adalbert's mission took place in 997 and ended in the missionary's martyrdom at the hands of the pagan Prussians. This took place in April 997 on the Baltic Sea coast in the vicinity of Truso (a medieval emporia near modern city of Elbląg). The remains of the missionary were held for ransom by the Prussians and Bohemian Přemyslid rulers refused to pay for Adalbert's body. Consequently it was purchased by Duke Bolesław, according to one story, in exchange for its weight in gold, and buried in Gniezno. In 999 Bishop Adalbert was canonized as Saint Adalbert by Pope Sylvester II. He was later made the patron saint of Bohemia, Poland, Hungary, and Prussia. Canonization of Adalbert/Vojtěch increased the prestige of the Polish church in Europe and the prestige of Polish state on the international arena.
Congress of Gniezno and alliance with the Holy Roman Empire (1000–1002)
By the year 1000, Bolesław had consolidated his position as Duke (Dux) of Poland. Not only did he not meet any internal opposition, but he furthermore had gained the respect of Holy Roman Emperor Otto III (980–1002). Consequently in the year 1000, Otto III visited Poland under the pretext of a pilgrimage to the grave of his friend, the recently canonized Bishop Adalbert (Vojtěch). In addition to the religious motivation, Otto III's voyage also carried a strong political agenda: he had intentions to renew the Holy Roman Empire based on a federal concept he called "Renovatio Imperii Romanorum". Within the federal framework, Polish and Hungarian duchies were to be upgraded to eastern federati of the empire.
The Emperor needed to assess Poland's strength and establish its status within the Holy Roman Empire. The ensuing Congress of Gniezno, where Bolesław entertained his distinguished guest, is one of the most famous episodes of medieval Polish history. During the time the emperor spent in Poland, Bolesław did not hide the wealth of his country, in fact he showed off its affluence at every step as he tried to dazzle the emperor. Among other gifts the Polish ruler presented to Otto III were 300 armored knights, while the Emperor responded with a gift of a copy of the lance of Saint Maurice. Evidently Otto III was impressed with what he saw and decided that Poland should be treated as a kingdom on par with Germany and Italy, not merely as a tributary duchy like Bohemia. Since Otto III had intentions to renew the Empire it was towards this end that the Emperor placed his Imperial crown on Bolesław's brow and invested him with the titles frater et cooperator Imperii ("Brother and Partner of the Empire") and populi Romani amicus et socius. He also raised Bolesław to the dignity of patricius or "elder of the Roman nation". This episode has long been a subject of debate among historians. Some historians see this as an act of favor between an Emperor and his vassal, others as a gesture of friendship between equals. Could placing of the Imperial crown on Bolesław's head mean that the Emperor crowned the Polish Duke? Most modern historians agree that it could not. Though it was undoubtedly a sign of Otto's respect for the Polish ruler, it could not truly mean Bolesław was King as only the Pope had the authority to invest a prince with the crown and elevate his realm to a status of a kingdom. According to one source afterwards Bolesław traveled with the Emperor to Aix-la-Chapelle where Otto III had the tomb of Charlemagne opened. From there Otto III is reputed to have removed the Imperial throne itself and presented it to the Polish Duke.
Other political talks took place as well. Otto III decided that Poland will no longer be required to pay tribute to the Empire. Gniezno was confirmed as an Archbishopric and a Metropolitan See for the Polish area. Three new Bishoprics were created and confirmed with papal consent. They were placed at Kraków, Wrocław and Kolobrzeg. The Poznań missionary Bishopric was confirmed as subject directly to the Vatican. Bolesław and his heirs gained the right of investiture of bishops. The future marriage of Bolesław's son Mieszko to Richeza (Polish: Rycheza), niece of Otto III, was also probably agreed upon at this point.
The untimely death of Otto III at age 22 in 1002 upset the ambitious renovatio plans, which were never fully implemented. Henry II, Otto III's less idealistic successor, and an opponent of Otto's policies, reversed the course of Imperial policy towards the east.
Occupation of Meissen, Lusatia, Bautzen and the intervention in Bohemia (1002–1003)
The excellent relations Poland and Holy Roman Empire enjoyed during the Reign of Otto III quickly deteriorated following his death. Bolesław supported Eckard I, Margrave of Meissen, for the German throne. When Eckard was assassinated in April, Bolesław lent his support to Henry IV, Duke of Bavaria, and helped him ascend to the German throne as Henry II. Bolesław took advantage of internal strife following the Emperor's death and occupied important areas to the west of the Oder: Margraviate of Meissen and March of Lusatia, including strongholds Budziszyn and Strzala. Bolesław claimed a hereditary right to Meissen as a relative of its former ruler Margrave Rikdag (only through marriage; he was the former husband of his daughter). Henry II accepted Bolesław's gains and allowed the Polish Duke to keep Lusatia as a fief. The one exception was Meissen, which Bolesław was not allowed to keep. Though at this point Polish–German relations were normalized, soon thereafter Henry II organized a failed assassination attempt on Bolesław's life and relations between the two countries were severed.
In the same year (1003) Bolesław became entangled in Bohemian affairs when Duke Vladivoj died. Bolesław helped a pretender, Boleslav III the Red, to gain the throne. Boleslav III, however, undermined his position by ordering a massacre of the leading nobles, the Vršovci, at Vyšehrad. The nobles who survived the massacre secretly sent messengers to Bolesław and entreated him to come to their aid. The Polish Duke willingly agreed, and invited Boleslav III to visit him at his castle in Kraków. There, Boleslav III was trapped, blinded and imprisoned, probably dying in captivity some thirty years later. Bolesław I, claiming the Bohemian Ducal throne for himself, invaded Bohemia in 1003 and took Prague without any serious opposition, ruling as Boleslav IV for a little over a year. It is also likely that Polish forces took control of Moravia and Upper Hungary (present day Slovakia) in 1003 as well. The proper conquest date of the Hungarian territories is 1003 or 1015 and this area stayed a part of Poland until 1018.
Polish-German War (1002–1018)
As mentioned above, Bolesław had taken control of the marches of Lusatia, Sorbian Meissen, and the cities of Budziszyn (Bautzen) and Meissen in 1002, and refused to pay the tribute to the Empire from the conquered territories.
Henry II, allied with the Lutici, answered with an offensive a year later. Though the first attack was not successful, already in the autumn of 1004 the German forces deposed Bolesław from the Bohemian throne. Bolesław did manage to keep Moravia and Slovakia, however, over which he exercised control until 1018. During the next part of the offensive Henry II retook Meissen and in 1005 his army advanced as far into Poland as the city of Poznań where a peace treaty was signed. According to the peace treaty Bolesław lost Lusatia and Meissen and likely gave up his claim to the Bohemian throne. Also in 1005, a pagan rebellion in Pomerania overturned Boleslaw's rule and resulted in the destruction of the just implemented local bishopric.
In 1007 Henry denounced the Peace of Poznań, which caused Bolesław's attack on the Archbishopric of Magdeburg as well as the re-occupation of marches of Lusatia and Meissen including the city of Bautzen. The German counter-offensive began three years later, in 1010. It was of no significant consequence, beyond some pillaging in Silesia. In 1012 a five-year peace was signed.
Bolesław broke the peace however, and once again invaded Lusatia. Bolesław's forces pillaged and burned the city of Lubusz (Lebus). In 1013 a peace accord was signed at Merseburg. As part of the treaty Bolesław paid homage to Henry II for the March of Lusatia and Sorbian Meissen as fiefs. A marriage of Bolesław's son Mieszko with Richeza of Lotharingia, daughter of the Count Palatine Ezzo of Lotharingia and granddaughter of Emperor Otto II was also performed.
In 1014 Bolesław sent his son Mieszko to Bohemia in order to form an alliance with duke Oldrich against Emperor Henry. Bolesław also refused to aid the Emperor militarily in his Italian expedition. This led to imperial intervention in Poland and so in 1015 a war erupted once again. The war started out well for the Emperor as he was able to defeat the Polish forces at Ciani. Once the imperial forces crossed the river Oder, Bolesław sent a detachment of Moravian knights in a diversionary attack against the Eastern March of the empire. Soon thereafter the imperial army retreated from Poland without any permanent gains. Following this Bolesław's forces took the initiative. The Margrave of Meissen, Gero II, was defeated and killed during a clash with the Polish forces late in 1015.
Later that year, Bolesław's son Mieszko was sent to plunder Meissen. His attempt at conquering the city however, failed. In 1017 Bolesław defeated Margrave Henry V of Bavaria. In 1017 with Czech and Wendish support Henry II once again invaded Poland, however, once again to very little effect. He did besiege cities of Głogów and Niemcza, but was unable to take them. Taking advantage of Czech troops' involvement, Bolesław ordered his son to invade Bohemia, where Mieszko met very little resistance. On 30 January 1018, the Peace of Bautzen (which made Bolesław a clear winner), was signed. The Polish ruler was able to keep the contested marches of Lusatia and Sorbian Meissen not as fiefs, but as part of Polish territory, and also received military aid in his expedition against Kievan Rus. Also, Bolesław (then a widower) reinforced his dynastic bonds with the German nobility through his marriage with Oda, daughter of Margrave Eckard I of Meissen. The wedding took place four days later, on 3 February in the castle of Cziczani (also Sciciani, at the site of either modern Groß-Seitschen or Zützen).
Intervention in the Kievan Succession (1015–1019)
Bolesław organized his first expedition against his eastern neighbor in 1015, but the decisive engagements were to take place in 1018 after the peace of Budziszyn was already signed. At the request of his son-in-law Sviatopolk I of Kiev, the Polish duke invaded Kievan Rus' with an army of between 2,000–5,000 Polish warriors, in addition to Thietmar's reported 1,000 Pechenegs, 300 German knights, and 500 Hungarian mercenaries. After collecting his forces during June, Boleslaw led his troops to the border in July and on 23 July at the banks of the Bug River, near Wielen, he defeated the forces of Yaroslav the Wise prince of Kiev, in what became known as the Battle at Bug river. All primary sources agree that the Polish prince was victorious in battle. Yaroslav retreated north to Novgorod, rather than to Kiev. The victory opened the road to Kiev, already under harassment from Boleslaw's Pecheneg allies. The city, which suffered from fires caused by the Pecheneg siege, surrendered upon seeing the main Polish force on 14 August. The entering army, led by Bolesław, was ceremonially welcomed by the local archbishop and the family of Vladimir I of Kiev. Bolesław may have deployed his troops in the capital of Rus for no more than six months (see Kiev Expedition of 1018) but had to recall them eventually due to popular uprising against the Poles. According to popular legend Bolesław notched his sword (Szczerbiec) hitting the Golden Gate of Kiev. During this campaign Poland re-annexed the Red Strongholds, later called Red Ruthenia, lost by Bolesław's father in 981.
Coronation and Death (1025)
After Henry's death in 1024, Bolesław took advantage of the interregnum in Germany and crowned himself king in 1025, thus raising Poland to the rank of a kingdom before its neighbor Bohemia. He was the first Polish king (rex), his predecessors having been considered dukes (dux) by the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy. Bolesław died not long after the coronation, due most likely to an illness.
The whereabouts of Boleslaw's burial are uncertain. It is believed that recently discovered remains of a double tomb in Poznań cathedral may be the burial places of the first two Polish Rulers: Boleslaw I and his father Mieszko. Bolesław's son, Mieszko II, crowned himself king immediately after his father died in Poznań.
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At the time of his death Bolesław left Poland larger than the land he had inherited: he had added to his domains the long-contested marches of Lusatia and Sorbian Meissen as well as Red Ruthenia and possibly Lesser Poland. Militarily, at the time, Poland was unquestionably a considerable power as Bolesław was able to fight successful campaigns against both Holy Roman Empire and the Kievan Rus. On the other hand it must be highlighted that his long-term involvement in the war against Germany allowed Western Pomerania to gain independence from the Polish aegis. Another negative side of Bolesław's drawn out military campaigns was a damaging influence on the economy of his kingdom. With the passing of each year, Bolesław needed ever-increasing amounts to finance his wars, especially when fought on two fronts; in Germany and Kiev. Unceasing war had placed ever-increasing fiscal obligations on his subjects, which in turn caused negative sentiment, sentiment that increased throughout his reign, and that would erupt into popular revolt soon after his death.
Bolesław was a gifted and organized administrator. He was largely responsible for fully implementing the "Prince's Law" throughout the Polish lands. The Prince's Law created a sort of nationalized economy, controlled by the state, whose sole duty it was to finance the prince's spending needs. These needs were considerable, as the Duke was responsible for all manner of building projects. The foundation of the "Prince's Law" lay in a network of fortified towns called grody, but the ruler also commissioned the building of churches, monasteries, roads, bridges etc., in short the development of an infrastructure. The building projects were financed by collecting taxes in money or goods. Also peasants were required to house the monarch or provide the prince with different manner of goods and services which included communications, hunting, military or others. To produce necessary goods Bolesław organized a network of service settlements that specialized each in manufacturing about 30 different goods, such as: barrels, arches, metal wares, spears, as well as settlements responsible for animal husbandry, i.e., swine, horses or cattle. Hundreds of villages were thus specialized and named to reflect their particular job. To this day one may find scores of settlements in Poland with names left over from that era, such as: Szewce, Kuchary or Kobylniki. This system functioned well enough to support Bolesław throughout his 33 year reign.
Increasing both the internal and external strength of the realm was of paramount importance to Bolesław, especially in the face of increasing pressure from the magnates. The magnates demanded a larger share in the administration of the country while Bolesław sought to strengthen the central authority of the ruler. Bolesław's coronation, sometime in 1025, was aimed precisely to reinforce his leading position. In general an overall integration of the country took place during his reign.
Bolesław was able to establish an independent Polish church structure with a Metropolitan See at Gniezno, with papal and imperial sanction. His work laid a foundation for the use of designation "Poland" that was to unite all regions of the realm, as well as for the use of one symbol to represent the supreme authority of the prince. The symbol was a sign of Gniezno's knightly class: the white eagle.
Marriages and Issue
First marriage: 984–985
- A daughter (b. ca. 985 – d. aft. 997), married ca. 996/97 to an undentified Prince of Pomerania.
Second marriage: 986 – 987/89
An unknown Hungarian princess formerly believed to be Judith, daughter of Géza, Grand Duke of Hungary. Around 987, as a consequence of the deterioration in the political relations between Poland and Hungary, she was repudiated.
- Bezprym (b. ca. 986 – d. 1032).
Third marriage: 987/89 – 1013
- A daughter (b. 988 – d. aft 1013), a nun.
- Regelinda (b. 989 – d. 21 March aft. 1014), married by 30 April 1002 to Herman I, Margrave of Meissen.
- Mieszko II Lambert (b. 990 – d. 10/11 May 1034).
- A daughter (b. ca. 991 – d. aft. 14 August 1018), married bef. 15 July 1015 to Sviatopolk I, Grand Prince of Kiev.
- Otto (b. 1000 – d. 1033).
Fourth marriage: 1018–1025
- Matilda (b. aft. 1018 – d. aft. 1036), betrothed (or married) on 18 May 1035 to Otto of Schweinfurt, since 1048 Duke Otto III of Swabia.
|Ancestors of Bolesław I Chrobry|
- Bolesław Chrobry Tournament – speedway event named after the King
- Castle Chrobry in Szprotawa
- History of Poland (966–1385)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Boleslaus I of Poland|
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- Cross, Samuel Hazzard; Sherbowitz-Wetzor, Olgerd, eds. The Russian Primary Chronicle: Laurentian Text, 1953
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- According to one theory, they were probably parents of Zemuzil, Duke of Pomerania.
Bolesław I Chrobry
Piast DynastyBorn: 966 or 967 Died: 17 June 1025
|Duke of the Polans
25 May 992 – 17 June 1025
King of Poland (since 18 April 1025)
Mieszko II Lambert
|Margrave of Saxon Eastern March
|Duke of Bohemia