“When we speak of Baptism, we do not mean only the treasures of Christian initiation adopted by the first historical ruler of Poland, but also the event that was decisive for the creation of the nation and for the formation of its Christian identity. In this sense, the date of the Baptism of Poland is a crucial date. Poland as a nation then starts from its own historical prehistory and begins to exist historically.” John Paul II „Memory and Identity”
The baptism of Mieszko I and his entire court took place on April 14, 966. Without this act, Poland would certainly not exist, it would be absolutely impossible to maintain it. I believe that not to be baptized is to leave a political gap into which everything can enter – said historian Prof. Jacek Banaszkiewicz.
Mieszko I accepted Christianity with all the baggage of matters that followed baptism, i.e. he accepted Christianity and at the same time adopted the only model of state organization that was effective in the 10th century. In this way, the prince ensured Poland an equal place among the countries of Christian Europe. When Mieszko I was baptized in 966, the Church appeared as an institution that legitimized secular power and became a part of it itself.
Sculptures of Mieszko I and Dobrawa in the Museum of the First Piasts in Ostrów Lednicki. Photo PAP / M. Zakrzewski/
The Ostrów Lednicki Island – according to many historians
– is the place where Mieszko I was baptized. One of the largest collections of
monuments from the beginnings of Christianity comes from here, with the oldest
reliquary in Poland – a fragment of the Cross of Christ.It
is possible that the reliquary is a memento from the baptism of Mieszko I.
Baptism was the starting point for the history of Poland and its Christian heritage.Baptism by Prince Mieszko I in 966 was a breakthrough event.Poland has permanently entered the family of European countries that make up Christianitas, a community based on humanism born out of the contemplation of God.The immediate motive for baptism by the then ruler was his marriage to the Czech princess Dobrawa, an extraordinary woman who devoted the rest of her life to the evangelization of her subjects.She was assisted by Bishop Jordan, who came from Prague, who founded the first missionary bishopric in Poznań in Poland.
Only 34 years later, in the year 1000, the Congress of Gniezno took place, having the character of a pilgrimage to the tomb of the martyr Wojciech Adalbert, with the participation of Emperor Otto III, the papal legate and the Polish ruler Bolesław. The result of the congress was the establishment of the first metropolis in Poland, guaranteeing the autonomy of the young Church and its direct dependence on Rome. This fidelity to Rome, without any turmoil or deviations, has characterized the Church in Poland for over a thousand years.
It is worth recalling that the baptism of Poland, rooted in the faith of the undivided Church, in the following centuries resulted in the spirit of ecumenical freedom and tolerance – which is a characteristic feature of Polish Christianity. Contrary to other areas of Europe, there were no wars between religions here, but their creative coexistence. Thanks to this evangelical impulse and openness, Polish culture has been created throughout history by Christians – Latin, Orthodox, Greek Catholics and Protestants – with a significant share of Jews and Muslims. In the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (consisting of Poland and Lithuania) it was not the ruler who decided what faith or views the subjects should have, but they themselves, and the role of the ruler was to protect their rights.
In times of oppression, when Poland was wiped off the map of Europe, and during the communist enslavement – the Church was a homeland, a place where Poles found a space of freedom and strength to fight for independence. Thanks to this, Polish culture has become so deeply penetrated by the Christian ethos that today it seems to be much more resistant to contemporary secularization trends than many other European nations.
The celebrations of the millennium of Poland’s baptism in 1966, preceded by a 9-year novena, were of great importance in communist Poland. For Primate Stefan Wyszyński, they were an opportunity to renew the faith of Poles and strengthen national identity. Numerous religious ceremonies with the participation of thousands of people inevitably became an opportunity to confront the communist authorities, from which the Church emerged victorious, and the Poles felt more free. To the main celebration of the Millennium of the Baptism of Poland, celebrated on May 3, 1966 in Częstochowa, Primate Wyszyński invited Paul VI. The Pope, wishing to come to the sanctuary of the Black Madonna at Jasna Góra, even ordered that a special gift be prepared for this sanctuary – the Golden Rose, and the Vatican Mint minted a special medal with the image of the Madonna of Częstochowa on this occasion. But the communist authorities did not agree to his arrival. During the celebrations attended by half a million believers, the absent pope resembled his portrait and an empty throne on which a bunch of white and yellow roses was laid.
The holiday was and is and will be an occasion to reflect on the responsibility for the future of the Polish nation.This holiday is celebrated in Poland only for the third time, therefore it is not yet widely accepted by Polish society.The WORD Foundation kindly asked that the authorities of communes, cities and counties would like to celebrate this holiday by displaying flags on public buildings and by encouraging their subordinate units to do so.This will not only emphasize the importance of this holiday in our homeland and in exile, but also in the difficult time of the coronavirus pandemic, will not allow us to forget about our Christian roots.Let’s remember what we forgot this year … Let’s decorate our own family houses AND POLISH HOUSES in white and red!