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The target of St Adalbert mission and the place of his martyrdom. A new hypothesis

The target of St Adalbert mission and the place of his martyrdom. A new hypothesis

By Leszek Pawel Slupecki

Medieval Europe Paris 2007, 4th International Congress of Medieval and Modern Archaeology (2007)

Introduction: St Adalbert (better known under his Slavic name Wojciech) is first patron saint of Poland. Contrary to other national patron saints of Central and Northern Europe St Adalbert was not, however, a member of dynasty ruling the country. At that time almost every dynasty in newly converted countries (including Polish Piasts) tried to have own patron saint and a best person was in every case a member of ruling dynasty – very good example here is Norwegian St Olaf. But in Poland the situation developed in a bit different way; it happened partly because of political events but partly because St Adalbert substituted a royal dynasty member as a patron saint.

To explain how it happened is necessary to say some words about political background of St Adalberts martyrdom. After Mieszko I (first Polish ruler recorded in written sources) died in 992 his son Boleslav became to be his successor in the country. Poland, converted in 966, since 968 had own bishop. How the first polish bishopric was organized is under discussion. But for ambitious Boleslav who obviously wanted to be a king just one bishopric was not enough. He needed for himself a royal crown and an archbishopric for the country. He aimed at this in close cooperation with Otto III, very young German King and from 996 Roman Emperor who was his most important ally. From the other hand his main enemy (beside of pagan Lutitians and Pruthenians) was at that time Czech ruler Boleslav II from the dynasty of Premyslids. The fact that both Slavic princes: Polish Boleslav and Czech Boleslavs had the same name was not accidental as Polish Boleslavs mother was from Premyslids dynasty. This Czech ruling dynasty had however problems at home with competing family of Slavikovicy ruling in the town of Libice in eastern Bohemia. About 982 because of efforts to reconcile hostile families Adalbert, son of Slavnik, became to be a bishop of Prague. He was however some years later expelled from his seat and his Czech diocese. Lives of St Adalabert stress that it happened because he was as a priest very serious in religious and moral matters. But it is necessary not to forget that Prague was a capital town of the family very hostile to his own.

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