Paweł Włodkowic

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House on Kanonicza Street, Kraków, built by Paweł Włodkowic. Now Hotel Copernicus.
Paweł Włodkowic's Dołęga coat of arms

Paweł Włodkowic (Paulus Vladimiri in Latin) (ca. 1370 – 9 October 1435) was a distinguished scholar, jurist and rector of the Kraków Academy who defended Poland and native non-Christian tribes against the Teutonic Knights and the crusading movement in general.


Though it is commonly assumed that "Włodkowic" was a surname, it was in fact a patronymic denoting that he was the son of a certain Włodko or Włodzimierz. He was born in Brudzeń Duży near Dobrzyń nad Wisłą and studied at Prague University, where he took degrees in 1393. He continued studying law at Padova, Italy, in 1404–8.

In 1411 or 1412 he was made a doctor of canon law at the Academy in Kraków, where he also began to lecture. He was influenced by the philosophies of William of Ockham, Matthew of Cracow and Stanisław of Skarbimierz. In 1413 he served as King Jagiełło's emissary at Buda, Hungary, during disputes with the Teutonic Order. In 1414–1415 he became rector and in 1418 prorector of Cracow Academy.

Paweł Włodkowic represented Poland at the 1414 Council of Constance, where he delivered a thesis about the power of the Pope and the Emperor, the Tractatus de potestate papae et imperatoris respectu infidelium (Treatise on the Power of the Pope and the Emperor Respecting Infidels). In it he drew the thesis that pagan and Christian nations could coexist in peace and criticized the Teutonic Order for its wars of conquest of native non-Christian peoples in Prussia and Lithuania. Due to his influence, in 1421 the Pope sent Antonio Zeno to investigate the Teutonic Order and its activities, though this investigation was later suspended on the grounds that it infringed upon the privileges of the Holy Roman Emperor, who wished to conduct his own negotiations between the two parties.

At the Council of Constance, Paweł Włodkowic and all the Polish delegation defended Jan Hus.

In 1420 Paweł Włodkowic represented Poland at a conference between Poland and the Teutonic Order held in Wrocław under the aegis of Sigismund of Luxemburg.

As early as the beginning of the 15th century, along with Stanisław of Skarbimierz, Włodkowic strongly supported the idea of conciliarism and pioneered the notion of peaceful coexistence among nations – a forerunner of modern theories of human rights. Throughout his political, diplomatic and university career, Paweł Włodkowic expressed the view that a world guided by the principles of peace and mutual respect among nations was possible and that pagan nations had a right to peace and to possession of their own lands. For this, he, the king of Poland, and the entire Polish nation were virulently attacked by the Dominican John of Falkenberg (himself later condemned and imprisoned for his intemperance), and his thesis somewhat more judiciously rejected by Dominic of San Gimignano, Ardecino de Porta of Novara, and André Dias de Escobar, Bishop of Ciudad Rodrigo.

After 1424 he retired from public life to Kłodawa, where he died in 1435.


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