Statute of Kalisz

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Statute of Kalisz frontispiece, by Arthur Szyk (1927)

The General Charter of Jewish Liberties known as the Statute of Kalisz, and the Kalisz Privilege, granted Jews in the Middle Ages special protection and positive discrimination in Poland when they were being persecuted in Western Europe. These rights included exclusive jurisdiction over Jewish matters to Jewish courts, and established a separate tribunal for other criminal matters involving Christians and Jews designed to favour Jewish people. It led to the formation of a Jewish 'state within a state', which attracted Jewish immigrants from across Europe to Poland, which became the center of the world's Jewish community for centuries.

The statute was issued by the Duke of Greater Poland Bolesław the Pious on September 8, 1264 in Kalisz. It was then ratified by subsequent Polish Kings: Casimir III in 1334, Casimir IV in 1453, and Sigismund I in 1539. Jews in Poland were freemen rather than serfs, and so further enjoyed the country's religious toleration codified by the Warsaw Confederation of 1573. The Polish aristocracy developed a unique social contract with Jews, who operated as arendators running businesses such as mills and breweries, and certain bureaucratic tasks to the exclusion of non-Jews, especially tax collection. After Poland expanded into Eastern Orthodox Ukraine, the introduction of the system was a partial cause of the Cossacks' anti-Semitic and anti-Catholic Khmelnytsky Uprising of 1648.

Bolesław the Pious from the Piast dynasty, who issued the Statute of Kalisz


Following are abridged and translated excerpts from the 36 clauses of the Statute of Kalisz:[1]

1. ...Should a Jew be taken to court, not just only a Christian must testify against him, but also a Jew, in order for the case to be considered valid.

2. ... If any Christian shall sue a Jew, asserting that he has pawned securities with him, and the Jew denies it, then if the Christian refuses to accept the simple word of the Jew, the Jew by taking oath must be free of the Christian.

10. ... As punishment for killing a Jew, a suitable punishment and confiscation of property is necessary.

11. ... For striking a Jew, the usual punishment in the country shall apply.

13. ... Jews shall not pay for the transport of their dead.

14. Christian destroying cemetery except normal penalty will lose assets.

17. ...Any Jew may freely and securely walk or ride without any let or hindrance in our realm. They shall pay customary tolls just as other Christians do, and nothing else.

22. ... If any of the Christians rashly and presumptuously jeers at their synagogues, such a Christian shall be required to pay and must pay to our palatine their guardian two talents of pepper as punishment.

30. ... No Christian may summon any Jew into the ecclesiastical court in any way whatsoever, or for whatever property or summons he be summoned, nor shall the Jew make answer before the judge in the ecclesiastical court, but the Jew shall appear before his palatine appointed for that term, and furthermore the aforesaid palatine, along with our governor for that term, shall be required to defend and protect that Jew, and prohibit his responding to the summons of the ecclesiastical court. No Christian is to accuse a Jew of blood libel.

36. ... Jews are allowed to purchase any items, as well as to touch bread and other food.

Accusations of forgery[edit]

Some Polish researchers, such as Romuald Hube, having analyzed source documents and claimed that both the original and its authenticated copies could not be found and that the text was a 15th-century forgery done for political purposes.[2][3][4][5]

20th-century edition[edit]

In the 1920s, Polish-Jewish artist and activist Arthur Szyk (1894–1951) illuminated the Statute of Kalisz in a cycle of 45 watercolor and gouache miniature paintings.[6] In addition to the original Latin, Szyk translated the text of the Statute into Polish, Hebrew, Yiddish, Italian, German, English, and Spanish.[7] In 1929, Szyk's Statute miniatures were exhibited throughout Poland, namely in Łódź, Warsaw, Kraków, and Kalisz.[8] With support from the Polish government, selections of the Statute miniatures were exhibited in Geneva in 1931,[9] once again in Poland as part of a 14-city tour in 1932,[10] in London in 1933,[11] in Toronto in 1940,[12] and in New York in 1941 and then, without government patronage, in New York in 1944, 1952, and 1974–75.[13] In 1932, the Statute of Kalisz was published by Éditions de la Table Rode de Paris as a collector's luxury limited edition of 500.[14] Szyk's original miniatures are now in the holdings of the Jewish Museum (New York).[15]

See also[edit]


  • Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski, Jews in Poland. A Documentary History, Hippocrene Books, Inc., 1998, ISBN 0-7818-0604-6.
  1. ^ The Statute of Kalish of Bolesław the Pious for Jews in 1264
  2. ^ Bylina, Stanisław (2000-01-01). Kościół, kultura, społeczeństwo: studia z dziejów średniowiecza i czasów nowożytnych (in Polish). Semper. ISBN 9788386951789. Page 340: "uznany przez badaczy za falsyfikat" = deemed by researches as false....
  3. ^ Alexander, Manfred; Kämpfer, Frank; Kappeler, Andreas (1991-01-01). Kleine Völker in der Geschichte Osteuropas: Festschrift für Günther Stökl zum 75. Geburtstag (in German). Franz Steiner Verlag. ISBN 9783515054737.
  4. ^ Polsce, Uniwersytet Jagielloński Międzywydziałowy Zakład Historii i Kultury Żydów w (1991-01-01). Żydzi w dawnej Rzeczypospolitej: materiały z konferencji "Autonomia Żydów w Rzeczypospolitej Szlacheckiej" : Międzywydziałowy Zakład Historii i Kultury Żydów w Polsce Uniwersytet Jagielloński 22–26 IX 1986 (in Polish). Wyd. Ossolińskich. ISBN 9788304037977.
  5. ^ Wajs, Hubert (2008-01-01). Pomniki praw człowieka w historii. Tom 1 (in Polish). Biuro Rzecznika Praw Obywatelskich. ISBN 9788392704911. Page 57 : "W 1453 r. król (...) zatwierdził przywilej dla Żydów, opierając się na rzekomym przywileju króla Kazimierza Wielkiego, w istocie sfałszowanym" = In 1453 r. king confirmed the Jewish privilege based on an alleged privilege by king Casimir the Great which was in essence a falsification
  6. ^ Ansell, Joseph P. "Art against Prejudice: Arthur Szyk's Statute of Kalisz." The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 14 (1989): 47–63. doi:10.2307/1504027.
  7. ^ United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "The Art and Politics of Arthur Szyk" Archived 2008-12-28 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Ansell, Joseph P. Arthur Szyk: Artist, Jew, Pole. Portland: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization, 2004. 62.
  9. ^ Ansell 71.
  10. ^ Ansell 74.
  11. ^ Ansell 77.
  12. ^ Ansell 118.
  13. ^ Ansell 121, 126, 234, 237.
  14. ^ Ansell 59–60.
  15. ^ Widmann, Katja and Johannes Zechner. Arthur Szyk – Drawing Against National Socialism and Terror. Berlin: Deutsches Historisches Museum, 2008.