Piotr Skarga

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Piotr Skarga
Jesuit
Piotr Skarga 1.PNG
Anonymous 18th-century representation
Born (1536-02-02)February 2, 1536
Grójec, Kingdom of Poland
Died September 27, 1612(1612-09-27) (aged 76)
Kraków, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Other names Piotr Powęski

Piotr Skarga (less often, Piotr Powęski[nb 1]; 2 February 1536 – 27 September 1612) was a Polish Jesuit, preacher, hagiographer, polemicist, and leading figure of the Counter-Reformation in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Due to his oratorical gifts, he was called "the Polish Bossuet".[2]

Skarga is remembered by Poles as a vigorous early advocate of reforms to the Polish-Lithuanian polity, and as a critic of the Commonwealth's governing classes. He advocated strengthening the monarch's power at the expense of parliament (the Sejm) and of the nobility (the szlachta). He was also a prolific writer, and his Żywoty świętych (Lives of the Saints) was for several centuries one of the most popular books in the Polish language.

Life[edit]

He was born on 2 February 1536, north of Grójec, in the small folwark manor of Powęszczyzna (also known as Skargowzczyzna or Skargowo).[3] His family are often described as lesser landless szlachta (gentry, or nobility), but recent ancestors had likely been peasants, later townsfolk, who had become minor nobility.[1] He was reared at the family estate, early losing his parents: his mother died when he was eight years old; his father, Michał Skarga, four years later. Thereafter he was supported by his brothers, one of whom, Stanisław Skarga, was already a priest.[4] Piotr started his education at a parochial school in Grójec, before moving to Kraków, where in 1552 he enrolled at the Kraków Academy.[4] His teachers included the priests Marcin Glicjusz and Jan Leopolida.[5] He finished his studies in 1555.[5]

For two years he served as rector of the collegiate school at St. John's Church in Warsaw.[6] From October 1557 he tutored Jan Tęczyński, of the noble house of Tęczyński, with whom he visited Vienna, where he likely became closely acquainted with the Society of Jesus.[6][7] Returning to Poland, from 1562 he served as a parson in Rohatyn,[8] and around 1564 he took holy orders.[7] That year he became a canon, and the following year he also served as chancellor of the Lwów chapter.[8] From 1566 to 1567 he was chaplain to Jan Krzysztof Tarnowski, afterward returning to the chapter and taking the position of the chapter's preacher.[9] In 1568 he departed for Rome, in 1569 arriving and joining the Society of Jesus.[10] In 1571 he returned to Poland,[11] where he preached successively at Pułtusk, Lwów, Jarosław, Warsaw (where he delivered a sermon before the Sejm) and Płock, where he visited the court of Queen Anna Jagiellon, who would become one of his patrons.[12] He preached against non-Catholic denominations, and helped secure funds and privileges for the Society.[13]

Plaque in Kraków, commemorating Skarga

In 1573 he was rector of the Wilno Jesuit College, precursor to the Wilno Academy (Vilnius University).[14] In 1577 he became a professor at the Kraków Academy.[15] That year he also finished a major work, Lives of the Saints (Żywoty świętych), published two years later.[16] In 1579 he became the first rector of the Wilno (Vilnius) Academy.[17]

In 1576 he published Pro Sacratissima Eucharistia contra haeresim Zwinglianam, ad Andream Volanum (For the Most Sacred Eucharist, against the Zwinglian Heresy, to Andrzej Wolan)[18] In 1582 he published Siedem filarów, na których stoi katolicka nauka o Przenajświętszym Sakramencie Ołtarza (The Seven Pillars on Which Stands Catholic Doctrine on the Most Sacred Sacrament of the Altar).[18] Both these works formed part of Skarga's dialogue with the Calvinist author Andrzej Wolan.[18]

In 1584 Skarga was transferred to the new Jesuit College at Kraków.[19] Around that time, he founded the Polish version of Mount of Piety: Bank Pobożny (the Pious Bank).[20] In 1588 the newly elected King Sigismund III Vasa established the new position of court preacher, and Skarga became the first priest to hold it.[21] Skarga became a valued adviser to the King, and Sigismund became so fond of him that when the priest considered retiring, Sigismund rejected this, requesting that he remain at the court for as long as possible.[22]

As part of his Counter-Reformation policies, Skarga was also a major proponent of the Union of Brest.[23] His influence on the King, whom he supported (or encouraged) to act against religious tolerance and to strengthen royal power, was one of the factors that have been cited as causes of the civil war, the Zebrzydowski Rebellion, of 1606; some critics referred to Skarga as "the primary troublemaker of the country" (in the Latin, "pracecipuus turbator Regnii").[24]

In 1611 he delivered his last sermon before the Sejm and published his final work, an ideological testament, Wzywanie do jednej zbawiennej wiary (A Call for One Redeeming Faith).[25] He would remain Sigismund's court preacher until April 1612, four months before his death.[26] Skarga died 27 September 1612 and was buried in the Saints Peter and Paul Church in Kraków.[26]

Writer[edit]

In addition to being a popular and well-known preacher, Skarga was the author of numerous theological texts and polemics, and it is as a writer that his fame has endured through the centuries.[27]

His two most important works are The Lives of the Saints (Żywoty świętych, 1579) and Sejm Sermons (Kazania Sejmowe, 1597).[28] The former, a hagiography, won him fame in his lifetime, while the Sermons gained recognition only in subsequent centuries, during the Partitions of Poland.[28] Tazbir describes the Lives as Skarga's chief work and as a major attack on the religious tolerance promoted by the Warsaw Confederation.[28] The book was immensely popular, the first edition selling out by 1583.[29] The second edition was published in 1585, and by the mid-17th century twelve editions had been printed, making it one of the most popular books published in Poland and Lithuania in that era (it was rivaled by the Kronika Polska — the Polish Chronicles – of Marcin Bielski).[29] It would be Skarga's most popular work and would continue to rank highly with Polish readers until the 18th and 19th centuries, when it would be eclipsed by his Sermons.[30]

The Sermons are a political treatise composed in the guise of sermons.[31] They went almost unnoticed by contemporaries.[32] In the Sermons, Skarga discusses what he sees as the problems of the ailing Commonwealth: lack of love for the Fatherland, internal quarrels, tolerance of "heretics", the relative powerlessness of the king, problematic laws (a critique of the Golden Freedoms) and immorality.[31] Another noteworthy aspect of the book is its focus on the desperate situation of the serfs (the peasants).[33]

Significance, remembrance and historiography[edit]

Skarga's Sermon, by Jan Matejko, 1862, oil on canvas, 224 × 397 cm., Royal Castle, Warsaw. Piotr Skarga (standing at right) preaches. King Sigismund III Vasa is seated in the first row, left of center.

Janusz Tazbir, writing in his 1978 biography of Skarga, noted that "there already is an extensive literature on Skarga".[34] He attributed this to Skarga's being the most famous figure in the Polish Counter-Reformation, which gained him his initial fame; and later to his rediscovered reform proposals which, while controversial in his times, gained renown during the Partitions of Poland and have been well regarded since.[34][35] His popularity as the "patriotic seer" who predicted the Partitions reached a zenith in the second half of the 19th century, when some historians such as Ignacy Chrzanowski went so far as to discuss the "cult of Skarga."[36] Tazbir notes that Skarga's writings are valued primarily for their advocacy of political and socioeconomic reforms, rather than for their theological content.[34] From the Polish Enlightenment, his works, penned not in Latin but in Polish, were also increasingly valued for their stylistic aspects and for the contributions they made to the development of the written Polish language and of Polish literature.[37] Skarga has been positively viewed not only by historians but by such luminaries of Polish culture as poet Adam Mickiewicz and painter Jan Matejko; the former called Skarga's Lives a "most poetic Polish masterpiece", and the latter created a well-known painting, Kazanie Skargi (Skarga's Sermon).[38] Over the centuries, Skarga became a character in a number of artistic works, including a novel by Józef Ignacy Kraszewski, though he was never the main character of any work larger than a poem.[39]

In 1936, on the 400th anniversary of Skarga's birth, with the endorsement of Polish President Ignacy Mościcki and the Polish government,[40] the Polish writer Zofia Kossak-Szczucka proposed that Skarga be beatified.[41] Subsequently and much later, Skarga's cause for beatification was inaugurated on 12 June 2013.[42] In 2012, on the 400th anniversary of his death, the Polish Sejm declared that year to be the "Year of the Reverend Piotr Skarga".[42]

Selected writings[edit]

  • Pro Sacratissima Eucharistia contra haeresim Zwinglianam, ad Andream Volanum (For the Most Sacred Eucharist, against the Zwinglian Heresy, 1576)
  • Lives of the Saints (Żywoty świętych, 1579, 8 editions in his lifetime).
  • Siedem filarów, na których stoi katolicka nauka o Przenajświętszym Sakramencie Ołtarza (The Seven Pillars on Which Stands Catholic Doctrine on the Most Sacred Sacrament of the Altar, 1582)
  • Sejm Sermons (Kazania sejmowe, 1597, published posthumously).
  • Soldiers' Devotions (Żołnierskie nabożeństwo, 1606).
  • Wzywanie do jednej zbawiennej wiary (A Call for One Redeeming Faith, 1611)

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ His surname Skarga (in Polish, the word means "accusation" or "complaint") has been misinterpreted by some as having been inspired by his career as a reformer and social critic. Tazbir points out that this is an erroneous interpretation, as the surname Skarga was borne by at least one prior generation of his ancestors: his grandfather had used the surname Powęski, but his parents used the surname Skarga.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 14–17. 
  2. ^ Martin Patrick Harney (1962). The Jesuits in History: The Society of Jesus through Four Centuries. Loyola University Press. p. 141. 
  3. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 18–19. 
  4. ^ a b Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 19. 
  5. ^ a b Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 21. 
  6. ^ a b Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 22. 
  7. ^ a b Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 23. 
  8. ^ a b Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 24–25. 
  9. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 26. 
  10. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 28–31. 
  11. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 39. 
  12. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 42–43. 
  13. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 42–45. 
  14. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 44. 
  15. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 37. 
  16. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 99. 
  17. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 45. 
  18. ^ a b c Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 51–52. 
  19. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 52. 
  20. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 205. 
  21. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 122–123. 
  22. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 124. 
  23. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 128–129. 
  24. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 243. 
  25. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 268. 
  26. ^ a b Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 269. 
  27. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 270. 
  28. ^ a b c Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 97. 
  29. ^ a b Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 100–101. 
  30. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 296–297. 
  31. ^ a b Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 132–133. 
  32. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 134. 
  33. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 192–193. 
  34. ^ a b c Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 5–6. 
  35. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 310–311. 
  36. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 302–303. 
  37. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 295. 
  38. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 299–300. 
  39. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". pp. 307–310. 
  40. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 304. 
  41. ^ Tazbir, Janusz (1978). Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (in Polish). Warszawa: Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna". p. 309. 
  42. ^ a b "Rusza proces beatyfikacyjny ks. Skargi" (in Polish). wiara.pl. 2007. Retrieved 12 June 2013. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Janusz Tazbir, Piotr Skarga, Szermierz kontrreformacji (Piotr Skarga: Champion of the [Polish] Counter-Reformation), Warsaw, Państwowe Wydawnictwo "Wiedza Powszechna", 1978.

External links[edit]