Vršovci

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Memorial of Vršovci in Vraclav, Czechia

The Vršovci (Vrshovici) were a noble Czech (Bohemian) family and clan, probable or legendary ancestors of some bearers of the Oksza and the Rawicz coat of arms (noble families in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth also in Russian Empire and Ukraine).

History[edit]

In Bohemia[edit]

First noted in the power struggles of the 10th–12th centuries in Bohemia. The Vršovci were the third most powerful political force in newly Christianized Czechia (Bohemia), after the reigning Přemyslidi and the contending Slavníki. They were active in Bohemian conflicts with Poland, Hungary and the Kings and Electors of the Holy Roman Empire, and also in the intermittent internal conflicts common for feudally fragmented regimes of that time. The Vršovci possessed such towns as Zatec and Litomerice. They had consanguinity with the Přemyslidi and often cooperated with them. Some historians supposed that, unlike their opponents, the other two leading families of Czechia, the Vršovci could have retained some pagan beliefs in the 10th century[citation needed].

The etymology of the clan name is still a subject of dispute. One version claims its origin to be Czech "fishnet" i.e. "Vrša", while another opinion would have it derived from "Vrsvs" ("Ursus"), Latin for "bear".

The Vršovci, Přemyslids and Slavníki took part in cruel power struggles that occurred in Bohemia on the turn of the first millennium. Vršovci and Přemyslids led by Boleslav II the Pious, fought with the rival princely clan of Slavniki. On September 28, 995 they stormed Libice nad Cidlinou in Central Bohemia and conquered the Slavníki. Among the victims were four or five brothers of future catholic saint Adalbert (Czech: Svatý Vojtěch, Polish: święty Wojciech), then bishop of Prague. According to the legends the saint was very impulsive. He damned the murderers[citation needed](Vršovci). However, as some legend says the saint know how to moderate "the horse of his anger" in order to not "deviate from a bright way of the eternal life" so he escaped from Bohemia to Hungary and Poland, also legend says that he predicted the prosecution of Vršovci.

In 1003, when the Vršovci tried to dethrone Boleslav III the Red. When the expatriated duke returned to Bohemia possibly with the support of Duke Bolesław I the Brave of Poland, he ordered a massacre of the Vršovci at Vyšehrad. According to Thietmar of Merseburg, Boleslav slashed to death his son-in-law (Vršoviec) with his own sword during Lent.

In 1108 the Vršovci came into disfavour again, and were massacred by hostile Přemyslids—namely Svatopluk. Many nobles were executed on Petřin Hill.

Possible further shelter or interrelations[edit]

Later history of the family is unclear, there are two or more versions:

  1. According to "Encyklopedyja Powszechna" vol. 6 article "Czechy" (published by Samuel Orgelbrand in Warszawa, 1861) whole family was perfidiously executed in 1109.
  2. The same source suggests that it could happened that two of them escaped to Kingdom of Poland and acted from here even in 1100. Similarly, the not "better", of two versions by Kasper Niesiecki (considering origin of Rawicz bearers) says that some of them were amiably received in 1108 by the King Bolesław III Wrymouth of Poland, who granted them lands in Rawa Voivodship, however Jan Długosz supports it.

If the second is true, it could be that some of Vršovci (because phonetically similar surnames were spotted among szlachta of two Polish coat of arms), in the midst of nobility referred to as Oksza[citation needed] and Rawicz bearers (however the same Kasper Niesiecki states that the "better" version of origin of Rawicz bearers is pagan Polish), probably participated in the Battle of Grunwald. In the historical records among 50 Polish "banners" (regiments) is one (the 26th) under the Rawicz coat of arms led by Christian of Ostrów, castellan of Kraków, also a war councillor and one of the seven chief members of King Władysław II Jagiełło of Poland's general headquarters.

Polish Rawicz (Ursin) Coat of Arms
Polish Oksza Coat of Arms

Derslaw of Wlostow, of the arms Oksza, served as a scout and on the field of battle, and Peter of Wlostow, also of the arms Oksza, one of the knights selected by the Poles to initiate the battle. In addition, one of the Rawicz bearers, Christian of Goworzici, is marked for his military valour in the Battle of Koronowo, shortly after that of Grunwald. Oksza knights also participated at Koronowo, specifically Dobko Oksza and Jan Rey of Naglowic.

For the most famous Oksza bearer see: Mikołaj Rej z Nagłowic. In 1994–97, Mikołaj Rej's descendant and namesake, Nicholas Andrew Rey (1938–2009), served as American Ambassador to Poland.

References[edit]

Litoměřice as seen from the Radobýl Hill
  • Thietmar of Merseburg. Chronicon;
  • Cosmas of Prague. Chronica Boëmorum ("Chronicle of Bohemians");
  • Jan Długosz. Annales seu cronici incliti regni Poloniae;
  • Simon Okolski. Orbis Polonus. Kraków, 1641. V.2. 70–72 and 335–342;
  • Simon Okolski. Orbis Polonus. Kraków, 1642. V.2. 581–602;
  • Kasper Niesiecki. Herbarz, VIII, 97–99;
  • Bartosz Paprocki. Biblioteka Polska. Herby rycerstwa polskiego; Kraków, 1584 (II ed. Kraków, 1858) 562–565;
  • Josef Teige. Blätter aus der altböhmischen Genealogie. Slavnikiden /Die Vrsovcen /Die Herren von Lichtenburg. Damböck, 2005. ISBN 3-900589-45-3.
  • Emilian von Zernicki-Szeliga. Die Polnischen-Stammwappen, Hamburg 1900, 58–59.
  • Kopal, Petr. Neznámý známý rod. Pokus o genealogii Vršovců. Sborník archivních prací 2001/1, 3–84.