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Apr 14 The Founding of Poland

Conservative thinkers often refer to 'the estate of marriage' - as providing a stabilising influence on society. Today we remember how the Polish State was formed in 966 after Miesko I married Doubraka of Bohemia. This gives us chance to investigate the sociological effect of marriage, and how in the early Christian Community, a monogamous tradition inherited from Judaism protected women in an ancient culture.


The marriage was the result of an alliance between Boleslav the Cruel, Duke of Bohemia, and cemented a Polish-Bohemian alliance, which continued even after Doubravka's death. There is some debate about the influence of Doubraka, but the 12th-century chronicler Gallus Anonymus says that she had arrived in Poland surrounded by secular and religious dignitaries and only agreed to marry Mieszko providing that he was baptized. The Polish ruler accepted, and Doubravka began to establish churches including the Holy Trinity and St. Wit Churches in Gniezno and the Church of the Virgin Mary in Poznań.

The Slavic tribes who settled in the territory of modern Poland had migrated to the region in the 6th century AD are known as Lechite tribes. They were polytheistic pagans and worshipped a pantheon of numerous deities, such as Perun, god of lightning. There is limited archaeological evidence but historians believe that a common Slavic mythology exists between all Slavic branches. The bulk of the population converted to Christianity in the course of the next few centuries. With the Polish rulers accepting Western Christianity and the religious authority of the Roman Church, this had a unifying effect and led to less tribal wars and a common national identity. In the year 1000, Boleslaw the Brave, continuing the policy of his father, held a that created the dioceses of Kraków, Kołobrzeg, and Wrocław. However, the transition from polytheism was not a smooth and instantaneous process and there was a significant reaction in the 1030s. However Poland began to form into a recognizable unitary and territorial entity around the middle of the 10th century under the Piast dynasty.

The conversion of Pagan rulers through the influence of women had become a common dynamic underpinning the spread of the Church. In England, when St Augustine and his companions arrived from Rome, they received permission by the King of Kent, Æthelberht, to reside in his kingdom and were given a place to live in his principle city, Canterbury. Ætherlberht’s willingness to accept this group of monks was due to the fact that his wife was a Christian from the royal house in Paris, who worshipped – along with a priest, Bishop Liudhard – at a small Roman-built church outside the city walls. Ætherlberht himself converted to Christianity a few years later, and this led to numerous other conversions as well. An old Roman church was restored by the monks, and became the first true Cathedral at Canterbury. Ætherlberht’s daughter married Edwin, the king of Northumbria, and moved north, and took with her a monk, who, two years later, succeeded in converting the king, his entourage, and other members of the community. This lead to the Council of Whitby (see pod of Mar 20)

Married women were involved in the spread of early Christianity. Jesus used the image of marriage and the family to teach the basics about the Kingdom of God. He inaugurated his ministry by blessing the wedding feast at Cana. In the Sermon on the Mount, he set forth a new commandment concerning marriage, teaching that lustful looking constitutes adultery. Superseding the Mosaic Law allowing divorce, gave marriage more security for Women. Amidst the widespread patriarchal views of Greco-Roman and Jewish society, Christianity espoused a more egalitarian attitude. Jesus and then St Paul, advocated for the equality of God's children, and supporting a woman's ability to make her own choices in her relationship with God. Overall, this egalitarianism attracted women to Christianity in droves, and their substantial membership, meant that married women were key protagonists in the Pauline Communities that were established around the Mediterranean. In the year 251, right at the time of the persecution of Roman emperor Decius, we have a register of the church at Rome, with over 1,500 widows [and needy persons] on the roster of the church at Rome; women who are being taken care of by the church. The church becomes, in a lot of ways, a new kind of social welfare agency in the Roman Empire.


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