Peregrination of a Jesuit Sermon: Piotr Skargha’s Mounting for Battle before the Livonian Campaign of 1601
Intellectual Geography / Monday 5 September, 2011
Piotr Skarga, court preacher of the Polish king Zygmunt III Waza, was one of the most influential Polish Jesuits. He was an organiser of colleges, the first dean of the academy in Vilna, and one of the main architects of the confessional union of Brest, which resulted in the founding of the Greek Catholic Church. Not to be overlooked are his writings, including three sermonic collections, widely used by the Polish clergy up to the nineteenth century, and The Lives of the Saints, read in Polish homes for the following three hundred years.
In 1601 in Vilna, Skarga delivered a sermon in front of king Zygmunt and his army, which was setting off for a campaign in Livonia. The talk, later entitled ‘Mounting for battle’ (‘Wsiadane na wojnę kazanie’), was tendentiously transcribed and translated into German in the city of Toruń, and then sent to Szczecin in the Duchy of Pomerania, where it was commented upon by a Lutheran minister Daniel Cramer. Cramer’s commentary and the transcript itself, depicting the Polish monarch’s preacher as a bloodthirsty and war-loving enemy of religious dissidents, were published in Leipzig. The reply, in the form of the original work armed with a textual inventory designed to defend Skarga as an author and, especially, to save the good name of the king, who borrowed a considerable sum for his campaign from the Pomeranian duke Barnim XII, appeared in Cracow and was followed by another response to Cramer’s pamphlet, written in German by Fryderyk Bartsch and containing another version of Skarga’s sermon. Bartsch’s book, officially acknowledged by the Jesuit Order, was printed in Brunsberga with a dedication to Barnim. The journey of Skarga’s sermon around East-Central Europe, its transformations, and its political as well as confessional context will be the subject of my paper.