Polish History


John I Albert

When a sejm met to elect the next king of Poland, possible candidates were Casimir IV Jagiellon’s son, Sigismund, and John I Albert, as well as Janusz II of the Piasty dynasty. Zbigniew Oleśnicki opposed John I Albert at first. John I Albert was able to get support from his mother and the majority of Poland’s elite and the representatives of its cities. On August 27, 1492, John I Albert was elected king of Poland in Piotrków. In 1493, a sejm met in Piotrków to confirm the privileges that the nobility previously possessed. On December 5, 1492, John I Albert made an alliance with his brother Władysław to counterbalance the threat of the Ottoman Empire and the Tatars.

In April and May of 1494, four of the brothers of the Jagiellon dynasty —Władysław, Jan Olbracht, Zygmunt, and Fryderyk — met in Levoča in Slovakia. The purpose of the meeting was probably to strengthen the position of Władysław in Hungary, since he was threatened by the Habsburgs. They may have also met to coordinate a plan of defense against the Ottoman Empire. On May 5, 1494, John I Albert renewed a secret treaty with Władysław that guaranteed his brothers help against their subjects if they rebelled. In June 1495, a three-year peace was made between Poland and Hungary. In 1496, a similar treaty was made between Hungary and Poland.

In 1494, the dukedom of Zatorskie was purchased from a duke by the name of Janusz. In 1513, it was incorpated into Poland. In 1495, the lands of Płock and Wizneńsk were incorporated by Poland after duke Janusz II of Mazovia died.

In 1496, the sejm at Piotrków required only nobility to have the ability to become bishops and canons. It also only allowed five spots to be open in chapter houses for doctors of theology, law, and medicine who were not part of the nobility. Maximum prices were set for articles sold in cities that were favorable to the nobility. The nobility was also exempted from paying tariffs and allowed to ship its products on rivers freely. The sejm also renewed the law that allowed one peasant to leave his village each year.

In November 1496, Jan Olbracht and Alexander met in Parczew. An agreement was probably made for Poland to attack ports in the Black Sea. In 1496, the sejm in Piotrków agreed for a general mobilization and for new taxes that John I Albert pleaded for. In 1497, Poland went on a campaign to the Black Sea. Jan von Tiefen, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights, went with hundreds of knights. In August 1497, Polish forces entered Moldavia. Legates of Moldavia’s hospodar declared their country was a client of the Ottoman Empire. On May 1, 1498, Yahyapaşazade Malkoçoğlu Balı Bey attacked part of Ruthenia that was part of Poland. In July 1498, the Tartars attacked Volhynia. On July 13, 1498, a preliminary alliance was struck in Kraków between Poland and Hungary against the Ottoman Empire. The hospodar of Moldavia, Stefan, was forced to end his alliance with the Ottoman Empire. On April 15, 1499, a formal alliance was ratified between Poland and Hungary. On July 12, 1499, hospodar Stefan ratified a treaty with Poland that made Moldavia dependent on Poland.

After the Crimean Tartars defeated Lithuanian forces at Vyshnivets on August 23, 1494, plans were made between Poland and Lithuania counterpose the Crimean Tartars. In 1499, the Act of Horodło was confirmed in Lithuania. Lithuania was to ally with Poland against the Ottoman Empire, Moldavia, the Crimean Khanate, and Moscow. On July 14, 1500, Hungary, Poland, and France forged an alliance against the Ottoman Empire and Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I. In 1502, Władysław II married the cousin of Louis XII, Anne of Foix-Candale, to strengthen the alliance.

On January 11, 1501, an alliance was made between Poland and the khan of the Tatars in the Volga region, Shaik Achmat, in Piotrków. Its aim was to neutralize the khan of the Crimean Tartars. On July 19, 1501, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire made a truce with Poland after Władysław entered the war against the Ottoman Empire.

After Ivan III attacked Mceńsk, Łuczyny, and Rohaczew, Ivan III demanded many things from Lithuania. He wanted to be recognized as the ruler of all of Ruthenia and that an Orthodox church be built in Vilnius. It led Lithuania to draw closer to Poland. On May 6, 1499, in Kraków, and on July 24, 1499, in Vilnius, an alliance was made between Poland and Lithuania. Monarchs in both countries were to be picked with the input of both sides.

In the spring of 1500, the voivode of Moscow, Jakub Zacharycz, attacked Severia and began a war with Lithuania. Another army of Moscow went on a campaign in the direction of Smoleńsk. Konstanty Iwanowicz Ostrogski led Lithuanian forces against it. On August 28, 1501, Wolter von Plettenberg defeated enemy forces at Izborsk. On March 28, 1503, a truce was made for six years with Lithuania that took 1/3 of its Ruthenian lands.

After the Grand Master Jan von Tiefen died, Friedrich the Saxon was elected in 1498. He attempted to disregard the Peace of Toruń that required him to pledge an oath of loyalty to Poland. He received the support of Maximilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor. In February 1501 and March 1501, attempts were made to get the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights to pledge loyalty to Poland at the sejm in Piotrków, but they failed. In May 1501, John I Albert went to Toruń to force him to pledge loyalty, but on June 17, 1501, John I Albert died.

Alexander I Jagiellon

On October 3, 1501, Alexander I Jagiellon was elected at Piotrków. A document was declared on the day he was elected to reestablish a union between Poland and Lithuania. On October 23, 1501, Alexander I Jagiellon signed the document in Mielnik. Under the document’s terms, Poland and Lithuania were united under one monarch who was elected by Poles. Lithuania’s sejm was given the privilege to accept the new monarch.

On October 25, 1501, Alexander I Jagiellon promulgated the Privilege of Mielnik. It made members of the king’s council be tried by the senate’s court. It allowed the members of the king’s council to decide the most important matters and not the sejm. It also allowed the king’s subjects to relinquish their loyalty to him if he acted against the resolutions of the king’s council.

In 1505, the sejm in Radom detailed the powers that the king and sejm would have. The statute of nihil novi nisi commune consensu (“nothing new without the common consent”) was made that stipulated that only matters passed by the sejm could be confirmed with the agreement of the king, senate, and nobility’s legates. The statute took away power from the king and balanced it with the nobility.

Alexander Jagiellon brought elements of Western European culture to Lithuania. He urbanized Lithuania by giving Magdeburg law to Bielsk Podlaski, Brest, Lutsk, Drohiczyn, Polotsk, Minsk, Mielnik, and Volodymyr-Volynskyi. He built Vilnius up with fortifications and churches, such as the churches of Saint Bernardine and Saint Anne. New parishes were established with preachers from Poland. On August 19, 1506, Alexander Jagiellon died. He was buried in Vilnius’ cathedral.

Sigismund I the Old

On September 13, 1506, Sigismund I the Old was elected to be the Grand Duke of Lithuania. On December 8, 1506, Sigismund I the Old was elected in Piotrków by Poland’s magnates. On February 8, 1512, Sigismund I the Old married Barbara Zápolya when she was seventeen-years old. After Barbara Zápolya died in 1515, Sigismund I the Old married Bona Sforza in 1518. She was the niece of Holy Roman emperor Maximilian I. Bona Sforza brought celery, cauliflower, and leeks to Poland from Italy. In the beginning of Sigismund the Old’s reign, the sejm passed laws that increased the power of the king in the monetary system. The sejm also increased tariffs. Kraków’s mint produced more silver half grosze to increase the amount of grosze in circulation to increase trade.

Lithuania came into conflict with the Grand Duchy of Moscow after it claimed all Ruthenian lands as its own homeland. In the spring and autumn of 1507, castle-towns on Lithuania’s borderlands were attacked by Vasili III of Russia and defended successfully by Lithuania. Orsha and Minsk were attacked and defended by Polish forces led by Mikołaj Firlej and Lithuanian forces led by Konstanty Ostrogski. The Ruthenian forces retreated and a peace settlement was agreed upon. In 1509, Mikołaj Kamieniecki defended an attack by Wallachia. He ended up retrieving Pokucie and ended up defeating the assailing forces that ended up retreating. In February 1514, the Habsburgs made an alliance with the Grand Duchy of Moscow. They encouraged it to fight and destabilize Poland. The two actors conspired to partition Poland.

The Tatars threatened Poland. In 1512, Mikołaj Kamieniecki and Konstanty Ostrogski defeated the Tatars in a battle at Vyshnivets. Smoleńsk, Połock, and Witebsk were besieged. In the summer of 1513, Ostrogski was able to stop the sieges of the cities.

In 1514, when Smoleńsk was besieged for the second time by the Grand Duchy of Moscow, it was captured after about ten weeks of fighting. On September 8, 1514, Konstanty and Janusz Świerczowski defeated an army twice as large as theirs in a battle at Orsha. Maximilian I, Vladislaus II of Hungary, and Zygmunt met at Pressburg and Vienna in July 1515. Maximiliam I offered to help in peace negotiations with the Grand Duchy of Moscow. Vladislaus II of Hungary and Zygmunt the Old offered to mediate in peace talks with Maximilian I’s enemies. They hoped to form an alliance of several countries against the Ottoman Empire. Maximilian I also resigned from supporting the Teutonic Knights and Sigismund the Old resigned from being the patron of the Teutonic Knights. The meeting in Vienna also produced marriage agreements. Sigismund the Old’s youngest daughter, Elizabeth, was to marry Friedrich II. Maximilian I’s grandchildren, Ferdinand and Maria, were to marry with Vladislaus II of Hungary’s children, Ludwig and Anna.

In 1514, a general uprising of peasants occurred in protest of the crusade against the Ottoman Empire. It was defeated. In 1517, Sigismund the Old built a chapel next to Wawel’s cathedral. It is named after him. In 1520, Sigismund the Old had a bell poured that was added to Wawel in 1521. It is known as the Sigismund Bell. It was used to greet kings and for religious holidays.

Lutheranism had an influence within Poland and in Prussia during Sigismund I the Old’s reign. Intellectuals and Germans were usually the ones to whom Lutheranism appealed. In January 1524, the bishop of Warmia, Maurycy Ferber, published a letter that accused Martin Luther of several things: promoting a rebellion in society; espousing a false doctrine; giving lectures in bars and saloons; undermining the basis of Roman Catholicism. Bishop Ferber said Roman Catholics threatened to punish anyone who followed Luther. He also told Roman Catholics to fight against Lutheranism. Bishop Polentz, the substitute regent for Prussia, retorted by saying the Protestant Reformation should spread. He also attacked the Vatican. Martin Luther came to Prussia and wrote against Bishop Ferber. Bishop Polentz’s followers in Warmia ended up robbing expensive items in churches and monasteries after he told them to enact Lutheranism. Lutheranism ended up being defeated in Warmia. Lutheran preachers were expelled. Ferber continued to fight Lutheranism by going to the Senate and proposing the annexation of the western part of Prussia. He also said that if Albert, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Knights and duke of Prussia, would protest, all of Prussia should be taken. During the winter of 1524 and 1525, the sejm in Piotrków stated that no peace or truce should be made with the Teutonic Knights in Prussia. Instead, the Teutonic Knights should be removed from Prussia.

Gdańsk was influenced by Lutheranism from 1518. Lutheran preachers came to Gdańsk and tried to amplify discontent that was in Gdańsk already. In January 1525, a revolt occurred. The ones who rebelled were influenced by Lutheranism. They robbed churches of silver, gold, crosses, and cups. Another revolt in Sambia followed. Albert ended up converting to Lutheranism, dissolving the Teutonic Knights, and sending envoys to Poland who said that he would pay homage to Poland as its vassal as a secular duke of Prussia.

Lutheranism also influenced Elbląg, Mazovia, Toruń, and Warsaw. In Warsaw, social disturbances occurred. In Mazovia, duke Janusz III gave into the demands of craftsmen and freed the leaders of the tumult in prison. In 1530, Walter von Cronberg, the new Grand Master of the Teutonic Order, gave Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, all of Prussia as a fief. Duke Albert, the previous Grand Master, was called to the court of the Holy Roman Empire. When he did not appear, he was banished. On April 10, 1525, Albert of Prussia committed the Prussian Homage by kneeling in front of Sigismund I the Old in Kraków and recognizing Poland’s dominion over Prussia. After the Prussian Homage, the council in Gdańsk was imprisoned in Kraków. In 1526, Sigismund the Old lead an army of 3,000 to Gdańsk. Gdańsk opened its gate to them without any resistance. Lutheran preachers were expelled and the leaders of the rebellion were killed. The king was given more power over Gdańsk and more taxes were called from Gdańsk. Roman Catholicism was restored, but Lutheranism reappeared afterwards. Sigismund the Old ended up making an inquisition in Poland after Lutheranism spread more.

In 1537, a rokosz occurred in Lwów. Sigismund I the Old called for it to fight against Moldavia. It was also to tell the nobility what its laws and obligations were in relation to the king. Mikołaj Taszycki was the leader of the rebellion. It turned into a demonstration by opponents against Sigismund I the Old’s politics. It is called the Chicken War, since all chickens were eaten around Lwów. Sigismund I the Old ended up dissolving the general mobilization.

Sigismund I the Old intervened in Hungary between two men who claimed to be the king of Hungary. They were Jan Zápolya and Ferdinand of Austria. In 1538, Sigismund I the Old helped to make an agreement in Nagyvárad that recognized the two as kings in Hungary. Jan Zápolya was to rule Hungary and Transylvania until his death. Afterward, Ferdinand of Austria would rule after Jan Zápolya would die. After the agreement was made, Jan Zápolya married Sigismund I the Old’s daughter, Isabella Jagiellon, on February 23, 1539. In 1540, Isabella Jagiellon gave birth to Jan Zygmunt. Jan Zápolya died a few days later. Hungary and all of its other territories were to be under Ferdinand of Austria’s power. Isabella Jagiellon refused to let the Habsburgs take over Hungary. Hungary’s nobility elected Jan Sigismund as their king. Ferdinand of Austria sent an army to lay siege to Buda. Isabella Jagiellon asked for help from the Suleiman the Magnificent in the Ottoman Empire. Suleiman the Magnificent sent troops to remove Germans from Buda and were successful. Ferdinand of Austria ended up retaining western Hungary. Jan Sigismund received the territories east from the Cisa River along with Transylvania. On April 1, 1548, Sigismund I the Old died at Wawel.

Sigismund II Augustus

In 1522, Lithuania’s sejm in Vilnius recognized Sigismund II Augustus as the inheritor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Sigismund II Augustus promised to confirm Lithuania’s codified law in return for being recognized. He was also guaranteed to succeed his father, Sigismund I the Old. In 1529, Lithuania’s codified law was recognized with the passage of the First Lithuanian Statute. It was written in Ruthenian. It had 244 articles that guaranteed public, private, procedural, and penal law. After it was confirmed, Sigismund II Augustus was recognized as the Grand Duke of Lithuania. It was against the terms of 1522, since Sigismund I the Old was still living. In December 1529, Sigismund August was unanimously picked at the sejm in Piotrków. He was ten-years old. In February 1530, Sigismund August was coronated by Jan Łaski at Wawel’s cathedral. Both Sigismund the Old and Sigismund II August were kings simultaneously.

Sigismund II Augustus attempted to protect his southeastern borders. It led to a war with Moldavia after diplomacy failed. In 1531, hetman Jan Tarnowski defeated the hospodar of Moldavia, Peter IV Rareș, at Obertyn. The victory was one of Poland’s greatest military triumphs.

On May 6, 1543, Sigismund II August married Elizabeth Habsburg in Wawel’s cathedral. Elizabeth Habsburg was later coronated as the new queen. On October 6, 1544, Sigismund I the Old made Sigismund II August the Grand Duke of Lithuania. Sigismund I the Old allowed himself to be the highest duke in Lithuania. On October 22, 1544, Sigismund II August went with his wife to Vilnius to officially become the Grand Duke of Lithuania. On June 15, 1545, Elizabeth Habsburg died from epilepsy. In the Holy Roman Empire’s parliament, it was suspected Bona Sforza poisoned her, since she disliked the Habsburgs. In July 1547, Sigismund II August married Barbara Radziwiłł in a cathedral in a castle in Vilnius. On December 7, 1550, Barbara Radziwiłł was coronated at Wawel’s cathedral.

Ivan IV the Terrible threatened the Duchy of Livonia. The duchy’s emissaries were sent to Poland to get help. They were rebuked the first time, but the second time they were successful. On August 31, 1559, a treaty was signed in Vilnius that gave Sigismund II August part of the Duchy of Livonia in return for military help. Ivan V the Terrible attacked and had success. On November 28, 1561, Gothard Kettler, the Master of the Livonian Brothers of the Sword that ruled the Duchy of Livonia, and archbishop Wilhelm surrendered control of their kingdom to Poland and Lithuania. It was a great success for Sigismund II August.

During the Great Northern War from 1563 to 1570, Poland allied with Denmark against Sweden. Denmark and Poland won the war. The terms of the peace deal stated that Estonia had to be given to the Holy Roman Emperor by Sweden. The Holy Roman Emperor was to give Estonia to Denmark as a fief. Sweden never obliged itself to this term. Free trade was implemented in the Baltic Sea. Poland did not sign the treaty. It protested it.

Plans were made in 1551 in the sejm to standardize law in Poland and Lithuania. In 1564, Sigismund II August issued a privilege at the sejm in Bielsk that would list the terms of the union between Poland and Lithuania. The privilege also stated how Poland and Lithuania would be tied closer to one another. In 1566, the Second Lithuanian Statute was promulgated in the old Ruthenian language. In 1568, it was translated into Polish. In 1576, it was translated into Latin. The new statute made Polish and Roman law more important in the union. The Grand Duke of Lithuania had his power decreased. He was not allowed to make laws, taxes, and declare war without the sejm in Lithuania. Property laws were also strengthened. Voivodeships were also made in Lithuania that were based on Poland voivodeships.

On January 10, 1569, a sejm met in Lublin that was composed of Polish and Lithuanian deputies and senators. Lithuanians protested against joint debates on the union with Poles. Several weeks of arguing ensued. They did not want to surrender power to Poland. Sigismund II August called for a joint session between Poles and Lithuanians, but the Lithuanians left Lublin on March 1, 1569. Only a few deputies and senators stayed. On March 5, 1569, Sigismund II August incorporated the Podlaskie Voivodeship and part of Wołyń after they expressed interested in incorporation. The majority of Lithuanian senators and deputies returned to Lublin. On July 1, 1569, the Union of Lublin was confirmed after debate. The new name for the union was the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. According to the union’s terms, a monarch was to be chosen by Poles and Lithuanians in Poland. The monarch would then be crowned in Kraków. The position and title of the Grand Duke of Lithuania was allowed. He was not allowed to be coronated in Vilnius. The right of the Lithuanians to succeed in Lithuania was ended. Poles and Lithuanians were obligated to debate in the sejm and decide foreign policy. One monetary system and one tariff system were made. Poles were allowed to buy land in Lithuania. Poland and Lithuania were allowed to keep separate armies, ministries, and central offices. Lithuania was obligated to have the same system of ministries and central offices that Poland had.

Other lands were incorporated after Lithuania was incorporated into Poland. In 1564, the duchy of Oświęcim-Zatorski was incorporated into the Voivodeship of Kraków. It was called the district of Silesia. It had its own sejm in Zator. Prussia was incorporated next by bringing its deputies into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s sejm. After Gdańsk resisted incorporation, its mayors were imprisoned. A new commission was made to deal with Gdańsk’s incorporation. It made new statutes that limited Gdańsk’s privileges and made the king more power in matters related to the Baltic Sea. In 1570, the sejm passed these reforms. Gdańsk asked to be pardoned for its offense. It passed the statutes but never enacted them.

Jakub Uchański, a primate, called a congress of Catholic senators from Greater Poland to Łowicz before Sigismund II August died. They agreed that Poland’s primate should have the highest rank among senators once Sigismund II August died and that there should be an interregnum. Uchański proposed to Mikołaj Radziwiłł Sierotka that if Sigismund II August should die that a congress of senators should be held. Piotr Zborowski of Rytwian, the voivode of Sandomierz proposed that all members of the nobility would elect a new king. The castellan of Lublin, Stanisław Słupecki, the castellan of Wojnicz, and a district head by the name of Jan Tęczyński wanted to limit the power of poor nobility to vote for a new king. They wanted the poor nobility to only send representatives to vote. On July 15, 1565, a confederation was called in Krasnymstaw to make public order. Kraków’s nobility made its own confederation.

In October 1566, Sigismund II August’s wife, Queen Catherine, left Poland after falling out of favor with her husband. Sigismund II August had affairs with multiple mistresses whom he called his falcons. On July 2, 1572, Sigismund II August died of tuberculosis. He was the last king of the Jagiellonian dynasty.

Great Interregnum

In October 1572, a congress was called to Kaska. The congress declared Jakub Uchański as the interrex. The congress also made a convocational sejm meet in Warsaw for every future interregnum and decide the location, time, and manner of the election of the next king. In 1573, a confederation met in Warsaw. The confederation decided that Poland’s primate would always be the interrex when there was an interregnum. Jan Zamoyski proposed an election by all nobles in which a majority vote would decide the next king, but it was discarded in favor of a unanimous vote. On April 5, 1573, the election was to take place. When the confederation was passed, the majority of Catholic bishops and some Catholic senators refused to sign it.

Maximilian II, the Holy Roman Emperor of the House of Habsburg, had a son, Ernest, who was a candidate to be the next Polish king. The problem with the Habsburgs was that they tried to spread their dynasty in Europe and not keep the lands they ruled in favor of their subjects. They ruled in Germany and Hungary. Poland was the next target for expansion.

On April 3, 1573, over 40,000 members of the nobility and about 60,000 others met in the fields of a village named Kamień to elect a new king. The gathering formulated the Henrician Articles. The Henrician Articles listed the obligations of the king that he or she had to swear upon when coronated. They stated that only free elections could elect kings. The Henrician Articles also obligated the king to declare war and peace with the agreement of the Senate, and required the king to get the sejm to agree to making new taxes and mass mobilizations. If the king would disregard laws and privileges, his subjects could stop declaring loyalty to him.

Henry III of France

On May 11, 1573, primate Jakub Uchański nominated the Grand Duke of Lithuania, Henry III of France, to be king. On May 16, 1573, he was formally nominated. On February 21, 1474, Henry III of France was coronated at Wawel’s cathedral. The Great Interregnum ended. Poland did not have a king for 566 days during the Great Interregnum.

Pacta conventa (“Articles of Agreement”) were written that made an eternal alliance between Poland and France. The two countries were to help each other diplomatically if a war occurred. If it did not happen, military forces or money was to be sent to the other. It also made Poland guard free trade in France’s interest in the Baltic Sea. Poland was to be allowed to have free trade with France, the New World, and Alexandria. Henry was to give Poland 450,000 golden florens each year from his income in France. Henry III of France was to pay off Sigismund II August’s and Poland’s debts. He promised to bring academics from outside Poland to the University of Kraków. Henry III of France had to pay for 100 Poles to study at Sorbonne. The money was to come from his own income. Henry III of France was banned from bringing foreigners into positions of power in Poland. Henry III of France had to confirm all laws and privileges.

When Henry III of France found that his brother died and that he was to inherit the kingdom of France, he secretly left Kraków during the night on June 18, 1574, to June 19, 1574. He left a letter that disparaged Poland and Poles. He was king for 146 days. When he left, chaotic events occurred. In August 1574, Olbracht Łaski conquered Lanckorona. It was given to him by Henry III of France. In October 1574, students and others attacked a Calvinist tabernacle in Kraków on St. John’s Street. They burned its precious goods. Polish Nobility chased the crowd away and saved an Arian tabernacle.


Primate Uchański became interrex again when Henry III of France left. On August 1574, Uchański called a sejm to Warsaw. It decided to send emissaries to Henry III of France. They told him to return to Poland by May 12, 1575. If he refused, a new election would commence. On October 3, 1575, a sejm met in Warsaw that set the final date for the election on November 7, 1575. The majority voted for a Habsburg. Many voted for someone from the Piast dynasty, even though there was none. Many voted for Alfonso of Ferrara. When knights voted, they voted for someone from Poland. On Deember 12, 1575, Uchański nominated the Holy Roman Emperor, Maximilian II, to be king. On December 14, 1575, a revolution occurred by the nobility. Nobles claimed power over the country without respecting senators, the senate, and the law. Mikołaj Sienicki became interrex. Jan Zamoyski became chancellor. Leaders of the nobility called for a congress to meet on January 18, 1576, at Jędrzejów. Andrzej Zborowski led the congress. A decree for the election was written. Stefan Batory was favored to be the next king. On February 8, 1576, Stefan Batory in Megges in Transylvania swore to the Articles of Agreement. The interregnum lasted 618 days. It was the longest interregnum in Polish history.

Stephen Báthory

Stephen Báthory was Hungarian. After he was coronated, Protestant Gdańsk rebelled against his rule. He demanded half of Gdańsk’s profits from tariffs and its artillery. In addition, he wanted 300,000 guldens. He had Gdańsk’s deputies arrested. He had Gdańsk’s goods confiscated from all parts of Poland. An army was sent with Jan Winkelbruch von Köln at ist head. Gdańsk’s suburbs were burned. Sopot and Gdynia were also burned. Protestants burned a Catholic abbey in Oliwia. On June 29, 1577, Stefan Batory lost in a battle at the walls of Gdańsk. The war ended when both sides expended too much money and Stephen Báthory pardoned Gdańsk. Gdańsk ended up giving the money Stephen Báthory demanded.

In 1577, Stephen Báthory sent Paweł Uchański to the Pope to declare his loyalty to him. France’s ambassador in Rome protested. On April 11, 1579, Uchański was able to finally pay homage to the Pope for Stefan Batory.

Stephen Báthory was a strong and militaristic king. In 1578, Stephen Báthory enacted into law a new principle that would allow conscription. When Elizabeth I of England sent John Dee and Edward Kelley to Poland, Stephen Báthory made them leave Poland. They were suspected to be spies with nefarious intentions.

Stephen Báthory planned to go to war with Moscow from the beginning of his reign. After his coronation, he sent the castellan of Sanock, Jan Herburt, to Sweden to make an alliance against Moscow. Poland was to get Livonia with Estonia that Sweden possessed. Sweden would get Karelia up to the White Sea with Archangel, Ingria, and Veliky Novgorod. This plan would end contact between Moscow and the West. Stephen Báthory was also able to get khan Mohammed-Girej from Crimea on his side. He would attack from the south, while Sweden would attack from the north.

Ivan IV the Terrible sent letters to Stephen Báthory filled with requests and threats. In the spring of 1579, Stephen Báthory went to Vilnius and sent an instigator, Bazyly Lopaciński, a prosecutor, to Moscow to declare war. He was imprisoned after handing him a letter with the declaration of war. He was released after Stephen Báthory won a few battles in the beginning of the war. Stephen Báthory had 56,000 men in his army. Fliers were written in German about the cruel methods Ivan IV the Terrible used. One of the pictures in a flier was of soldiers hanging people and then shooting them with arrows. Ivan IV the Terrible used methods that Genghis Khan used.

On January 15, 1582, a ten-year truce was signed in Kiwerowa Hórka with Moscow. Lithuania received Połock, Ozerzyszcza, Uświat, and Wieliż. Moscow received Zawołocze and Wielki Łuki. Ivan IV the Terrible was forced to give up his claim to Livonia, but Estonian castles were not included in his renunciation. Ivan IV the Terrible was called the czar of Moscow in the truce, not czar of All of Ruthenia. Poland’s prestige increased after the defeat of Ivan IV the Terrible.

Pope Sixtus V told the ambassador of Henry III of France that he wanted a league with Stephen Báthory as its leader to remove heresy in France, Switzerland, Graubünden, and England. The Pope also offered Stephen Báthory financial help for a war against Moscow and the Ottoman Empire. Stephen Báthory would have to remove Protestantism in Poland to get it. The Pope also promised to give Stephen Báthory 25,000 scudos.

Stephen Báthory accomplished many notable things. He founded Collegium Romanum that was modeled on the Jesuits’ school in Rome. Its aim was to teach soldiers. The school taught theology and humanities. Mostly foreigners from Spain, Portugal, and other countries taught there. James Bosgrave was a Jesuit who taught at the school. In 1582, Stephen Báthory had Poland’s Julian calendar be replaced with the Gregorian calendar. It was done with the cooperation of the Pope. Other countries that adopted the Gregorian calendar were Portugal, Spain, and several kingdoms in Italy. On July 8, 1585, Stephen Báthory contracted Santa Gucci to make a new palace in Łobzów on the spot of a castle that Stephen Báthory built. It became the second most important palace of the king in Kraków.

Samuel Zborowski’s brother, Krzysztof, an agent of the Habsburgs, had a plan to kill Stephen Báthory. Krzysztof took Samuel away from Stefan Batory’s court to France to meet with Henry III of France, who still claimed to be the king of Poland. In December 1582, Stephen Báthory called Andrzej Zborowski to tell him that he knew that his brother went to France. On December 5, 1583, Stephen Báthory issued an order in the sejm to capture Samuel Zborowski. On May 11, 1584, he was captured and killed on May 26, 1584. Legends were made thereafter that Samuel was innocent. On February 22, 1854, his brother, Krzysztof Zborowski, was condemned for confiscating goods. He was removed from the nobility and exiled. Many protested the decision.

On December 12, 1586 Stephen Báthory died in Vilnius. It was suspected that he may have been poisoned. Professors of medicine thought he died from drinking and hunting too much.


The populations of cities increased after Polish villagers and foreigners began to migrate to them. The foreigners who came were Armenians, Germans, Italians, and Jews. Most of the people who moved to cities were Polish villagers. At the beginning of the 15th century, Poland’s population was about 2,000,000. By the end of the 15th century, its population was about 3,800,000. About 645,800 or 16% of Poland’s population lived in 689 towns. 593 of the 689 towns had about 1,000 or less inhabitants. The largest town was Gdańsk with about 30,000 inhabitants. Kraków was second with 15,000 to 18,000 inhabitants. Łwów had about 10,000 inhabitants. Lublin and Poznań both had about 4,000 to 5,000 inhabitants each.

In the 16th century, Poland was about 800,000 km2 with about seven million people. Six languages were spoken in Poland: German, Hebrew, Lithuanian, Polish, Ruthenian, and Tatar. Poland had Catholic churches, Orthodox churches, synagogues, and mosques.


During the 15th century, the number of Jews in Poland increased. By the end of the 15th century, there were about 30,000 Jews in Poland. They usually lived in larger cities, such as Kalisz, Kraków, Lwów, Lublin, and Poznań. They also lived in smaller towns and villages. Most Jews were involved in such economic activities as weaving, tanning, tailoring, and rope making. Some were involved in banking, renting taverns, and renting mills. They were also involved in trade with Turkey, Hungary, and Wallachia.

Many Jews were caught profaning the Eucharist or Body of Jesus Christ in Poland. They bribed or extorted Catholics to give it to them. They also stole it themselves. They stuck needles into it to make it bleed and did other sacrilegious things to it.


Several territorial and administrative changes occurred in the 15th century. In 1471, the county of Kijów was created in Lithuania that had the counties of Vilnius and Trakai. In 1466, Royal Prussia was annexed by Poland. Royal Prussia was divided into the counties of Chełmno, Malbork, and Pomerania. In 1474, the county of Lubelskie was created out of the county of Sandomierz.

Poland’s nobility met at a sejm (“gathering”), sejmik (“gathering”), or regional congress to discuss politics and their interests in the kingdom. From the beginning of the 15th century, a sejm walny or general sejm met each year at Piotrków or Kraków. Members of the king’s council, manorial deputies, members of chapter houses of the Catholic Church, and plenipotentiaries of the king’s cities met at these gatherings.

The representatives of cities tried to get more power in these gatherings. At the end of the 14th century, Kraków’s representatives attempted to link up with other cities’ representatives to become more influential, but they failed. Cities in Greater Poland and Lesser Poland gathered in a confederation to gain more power, but it was ineffectual. Some cities were eventually contacted to consult on fiscal matters. During the second half of the 15th century, cities were eliminated from fiscal matters in the sejm. It led to cities having very little power in the sejm.

Somewhere at the end of the 14th century and beginning of the 15th century, a sejm appeared in Greater Poland and then later on in Lesser Poland. The nobility of each province met at these meetings. They decided matters in relation to law and administration. In 1404 and 1441, they approved of extraordinary taxes. These meetings were at Niepołomice or Nowy Korczyn in Lesser Poland. In Greater Poland, they were at Środa Wielkopolska. In Ruthenia, they were at Sudova Vyshnia or Mościska. In 1454, the Cerekwicki Privilege stated that no new laws or general mobilization could be made without the consent of a sejm.

There was a movement in the 16th century to reform courts, law, and the treasury. The reforms would strengthen the kingdom and limit the power of magnates and clergy. In 1562, the sejm in Piotrków was able to make a landmark decision in the Executive Movement that confiscated the fiefs of magnates who wrongfully had been renting them from the king. The sejm also reformed the way that land would be rented by the king. Only one-fifth of the profits from royal land could be held by those who rented land. The rest of the profits were to go to the kingdom’s treasury. One-fourth of the profits of the royal land would be used to keep a standing army of several thousands. A new treasury was made in Rawa Mazowiecka that was only to be used for the military. The sejm was also to inspect royal land to prevent abuse by its renters. Magnates were also banned from holding more than one post.

On March 3, 1578, the sejm in Warsaw established the Tribunal of the Crown to judge matters relating to people of higher status. It was said that, “Law is such a spider web: a bumblebee can transfix it, but a fly gets caught.” The bumble bee was a member of the higher elevation. The tribunal was also to hear cases on the king’s property, the king’s income, the treasury of the kingdom, cases against officials, criminal matters, and matters related to cities. It was a victory for the reform movement. The judges in the court were to be picked from the nobility in sejms. Eleven were picked from Lesser Poland and sixteen were picked from Greater Poland.


Poland had its own Renaissance. Several writers wrote under the influence of the European Renaissance. Stanisław Orzechowski, a priest, wrote a brochure entitled, Fidelis subditus (“Loyal Subject”) that detailed the mistakes of Bona Sforza. He also wrote, Turcyk (“Turk”) that promoted the idea of all Christians uniting against the Ottoman Empire. Mikołaj Rej wrote Krótka rozprawa (“A Short Treatise”). It was a book of poetry that stated ordinary people should be equal to the nobility. Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski declared in his writing that all people should be equal according to law. In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus wrote, De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (“On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres”). It stated the revolutionary idea that the sun is at the center of the universe.

The Bible was translated into Polish by Catholics and Protestants. In 1561, Jan Leopolita translated the Catholic Bible into Polish. It was published in Kraków. In 1563, a Bible was translated that is named after the Radziwiłłs, since a member of the Radziwiłłs, Mikołaj the Black, patronized it. It was also referred to as the Bible of Brzeska. Brzeska was the town it was published at. In 1570, the Bible was translated and given an introduction by Szymon Budny. He was a radical Arian who denied that Jesus Christ was divine. In 1599, a Jesuit, Jakub Wujek, translated the Bible in 1599. His version of the Bible was beautifully written. It is a treasure of Polish literature.

Marcin Kromer wrote many books. In 1551, Marcin Kromer published O wierze I nauce luterskiej: rozmowa dworzanina z mnichem (“About the Lutheran Faith and Its Teachings: A Courtier’s Conversation with a Monk”). He ended up writing three more volumes. The books were translated into Latin. His writing was intolerant and tough. In 1555, Marcin Kromer wrote a new history of Poland upon the request of Sigismund I the Old. It was called, siue de origine et rebus gestis Polonorum (“On the Origin and Achievements of the Poles”). It was published in Basel and very popular in Western Europe.

Piotr Skarga, the rector of the Jesuits’ school in Vilnius, 1577, wrote O jedności Kościoła Bożego pod jednym pasterzem i o greckim od tejże jedności odstąpieniu (“About the Unity of the Church of God Under One Pastor and Why the Greek Church Left from Christianity’s Unity”) in 1577. In 1579, he wrote Żywotów świętych (“Holy Lives”). Holy Lives was some of the best Polish prose in Polish literature. In 1580, Mikołaj Gomółka published Melodie na Psałterz polski (“Melody on the Polish Psalter”). It was one of the greatest works in Polish and Catholic culture during the Renaissance. In 1601, Rytmy abo wiersza polski (“Rhythms or Polish Verses”) was published by Mikołaj Sępa Szarzyński. In 1590, Sebastian Grabowski published Setnik rymów duchownych (“Centurion of Spiritual Rhymes”). In 1588, Anzelm Gostomski published Gospodarstwo on landowners’ economics. In 1568, Wawrzyniec Goślicki published O najlepszym senatorze (“On the Best Senator”) that influenced Shakespeare, the English Revolution, and the American Revolution. Jakub Kazimierz Haur wrote several books on manors. The most famous were Oekonomika ziemiańska generalna “(General Manorial Economics”) in 1675 and Skład abo skarbiec znakomitych sekretów oekonomiej ziemiańskiej (“Storehouse or Treasure of Excellent Economic Secrets”) in 1689.


The Roman Catholic Church in Poland renewed itself when Protestantism was spreading. In 1565, the Jesuits made their first college or council in the diocese of Hozjusz in Braniew. In 1567, they made another in Protestant Elbląg. More were established in Kalisz, Poznań, Pułtusk, and Vilnius. They were successful in converting Protestants and Calvinists in Poland. Some of the noteworthy magnates and nobles who converted were the children of Mikołaj Radziwiłł the Black, the sons of Jan Łaski the Younger, and Jan Zamoyski.

After the Roman Catholic Counterreformation ended, a papal nuncio by the name of Giovanni Francesco Commendone came back to Poland to reinforce the principles of the Counter Reformation. In 1564, he was able to get Sigismund II August to confirm its principles at a sejm in Parczew. It was aimed at eliminating foreigners from professing Lutheranism in Poland.

In January 1565, the movement for reform was active in a sejm in Piotrków. A group of deputies in the sejm under the direction of Mikołaj Sienicki made a plan to put instigators every year in positions of power. They would be controlled by the nobility and all of them would have the same politics. Senators threatened to remove all of the instigators from power. Protestants were able to get sentences that the Roman Catholic Church’s courts would not enforce in the sejm. It was a great success for the Protestants in Poland.

In 1570, Calvinists, Lutherans, and the Czech Brothers met in Sandomierz at a synod. They tried to unify into one church. Calvanists prepared a statement of belief for the new church, but the Lutherans rejected it. On April 4, 1570, the Agreement of Sandomierz was made. In 1570, Protestants attempted to pass religious toleration in the sejm, but they failed.

After the Jesuits were formed in 1540, they established their first school in Braiew in 1565. By the end of the 16th century, they made eleven schools in Poland. By the middle of the 17th century, there were about forty schools in Warmia and Mazovia. The Jesuits taught German, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Ruthenian, classical literature, dialectics, geography, grammar, history, mathematics, philosophy, physics, rhetoric, and singing. In 1571, the Jesuits made their first seminarium in Poland in the town of Pułtusk. Others were established in Jarosław, Poznań, and Dorpat. In 1579, Stefan Batory made the Jesuits’ school in Vilnius become an academy that taught theology, philosophy, and liberal arts.

The Jesuits’ school in Vilnius added philosophy and mathematics. In 1574, it began teaching theology. On July 7, 1578, Stefan Batory transformed the school into Vilnius University. It was equal to the University of Kraków. On April 1, 1579, he passed an act that would fund the Vilnius University.

Jan Zamoyski

Chancellor Jan Zamoyski planned to build a city and name it after himself. The city was called Zamość. In 1578, he made an agreement with Bernard Morando, an architect and Italian by heritage, to build a palace in Zamość. On April 10, 1580, a privilege was made to make Zamość. In 1583, Zamość had city officials functioning in it. Markets and fairs were also present in it. In 1589, the palace in Zamość was finished. In 1591, a town hall was built. In 1595, the Zamojski Academy was built. It was the third best college in the kingdom.