This article gives a general survey of the development of a need among Lithuanian Catholics at the end of the fifteenth century for access to religious literature and especially Scripture in the vernacular (for sake of convenience, in Ruthenian translation). The work of Francis Skorina is examined in this context as a distant forerunner of Chylinski’s first published translation of the Bible into Lithuanian. The development of vernacular translations of parts of Holy Writ into Anglo-Saxon, Anglo- Norman and English are presented in very broad outline, culminating in the Roman Catholic and Anglican versions of the English Bible in the late sixteenth century and 1610. A reminder is given that merely having a text in the vernacular does not mean that such a text is available to all and understood by all.
This article examines the development of charitable activity in the city of Vilnius and elsewhere in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania before the middle of the sixteenth century by studying the foundation of almshouses to care for the poor and destitute and foster the memory and salvation of pious benefactors. Almshouse foundations developed from increasing forms of practical piety within the GDL from the late fifteenth century, following earlier west European and Polish models. The first, dedicated to traditional patrons of such institutions, St Job and St Mary Magdalene, was founded by a Vilnius canon and medical doctor, Martin of Duszniki with the support of the monarch, Sigismund the Old, and his counsellors between 1518 and 1522. The almshouse swiftly became an established part of the city’s sacral topography. The fashion was adopted by Eastern Orthodox parishes in Vilnius too, and later spread to other confessional groups. Twelve charters are published for the first time in an appendix.
This article views the act of Union issued at Mielnik in 1501 in the longue durée of Lithuano-Polish relations from 1385/86. It stresses the need to treat the dynastic aims of Jogaila and his son Casimir seriously, regarding the thrones of Lithuania and Poland within the context of developments in family law and inheritance in the Grand Duchy and the Kingdom in the fifteenth century. Textual echoes are noted between a ‘union’ agreement outlined ca. 1453 and the Mielnik document.
This article uses published and unpublished material to examine the entry of Casimir Jagiellończyk into various towns in Poland and Lithuania. Royal entry ceremonial demonstrated the social contract between the lord and his subjects: his legitimate and accepted position as dominus naturalis, his respect for his subjects’ liberties, and in return his subjects’ loyalty to their prince and acceptance of his legitimacy. There is a general format to entrees royales throughout Europe. The ceremonial has recognised overtones of religious ceremonial and the selection of dates for making a solemn entry was also connected with religious festivities. Lithuanian and Polish models are similar, as we would expect. Vilnius became a deliberate re-creation of Cracow with much centring on the Stanisław cult in the castle church-cathedral. However, Lithuania was not blocked out by Poland in this state theatre. Ceremonial under Casimir illustrates the diversity and unity of his realms. There is a colour for all participants – usually red with gold embroidery, sometimes green or indeed brown or black. However, just as Princess Jadwiga’s golden carriage with the shields of Poland and Lithuania represented both the Kingdom and the Grand Duchy, so the style of clothing of her Polish, Lithuanian and Tatar retinue was distinctive and noticeably varied. Even the breed of horses ridden by members of an entry retinue could differ – but not in an uncontrolled way. Despite the fact that Lithuanian and Polish practice does not follow the French model exactly, it is part of a general European political culture.
Mediaeval scholars attempted to fit received data and information from empirical observation into a pre-ordained model of the universe. Astrology was, and in many cases still is, a form of applied astronomy held by its adherents to be verifiable by events, that is, history. Drawing connections between celestial coincidences and events known to have happened under such circumstances in the past seemed to offer a possibility for predicting types of occurrence which might take place given a similar stellar conjunction in the future. In their turn some historians, especially those with university connections, subsequently seem to have used astrological records annotated with details of actual events as a source of information for their own work and were able to present, where relevant (in their view), a star-told causation of events. The importance of astrology at royal courts in England, France and Italy has been a subject of special study for a considerable time but the largest centre for astrological study in the fifteenth-century was the University of Cracow. The use of astrology at Jagiellonian courts in the fifteenth century is examined here with reference to the use of such data by court historians such as Jan Długosz and Bernard Wapowski.
This article examines relationships between Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania at the turn of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It stresses the robust policies of Catholic and Orthodox prelates and nobles towards one another and especially towards the Unionist Ruthenians, who sought to maintain their liturgical and hierarchical identity while recognising the primacy of the bishop of Rome. By contrast in personal situations Catholics and Orthodox were willing to cooperate on practical matters (usually concerning family property or community business). In Vilnius victories over national enemies (Tatar or Muscovite) were celebrated in monumental architecture by both communities. Evidence from consistory courts in Lutsk and Gniezno, and ecclesiastical emoluments in the Diocese of Vilnius reveal cooperation between both communities at a family and parish level could exist.