This article surveys the complex issue of the Christianisation of Žemaitija, seeking to illustrate with the aid of Church court sources (supplications to Rome from the end of the 15th century and appeals to the provincial court of appeal in Gniezno), the foundation of churches and altars which took on extra vigour from 1500 onwards until the chaos and destruction caused by the Reformation movements slowed the process of Catholic parish endowment for some time, as the limited amount of boyar disposable income was diverted elsewhere to Protestant foundations. Despite the admittedly restricted network of parish churches, and it is logical to assume that churches were built where the greater concentration of inhabitants lived, it is worth examining the emergence of Catholic practices (piety) – supplications to Rome, the cult of Corpus Christi, indulgences, the popularity of indulgenced fairs, participation in various levels of Church court activity (in Medininkai, Gniezno and Rome), parish fraternities, prevalence of Christian names, the foundation of churches, chapels and altars (with an associated rise in the level of liturgical sophistication demanded by founders, and an increase in the number of Masses being celebrated, and therefore open to attendance, in parish churches). Indeed, by the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, when all of these factors can be seen, Catholicism was sufficiently rooted in Žemaitijan society at large that any threat to its development could arise only from internal discontentment (in other words, so-called reform movements) rather than any old (pagan) practices.
By the late fifteenth century, more notably after 1477, appeal cases from Catholics in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania began to appear before the Consistory Court in Gniezno in increasing numbers. These cases involved quite a wide social group, and dealt with a broad range of issues (not just matrimonial disputes or the hiring out of parish churches between priests). Appellants came before the judges from across the Grand Duchy. This article covers cases from 1524 to 1539. Even when court material gives few details of cases, it can help solve issues of parish church and chantry foundations and patronage. The most striking feature of the records between 1524 and 1538 is the predominance of cases from Žemaitija, a diocese which previously featured only in disputes involving the bishop. This confirms the deepening of Catholic practice across the diocese of Medininkai (Žemaitija) as reflected in particular in the increasingly predominant use of Christian forenames from the last quarter of the fifteenth century. Most interesting perhaps for those studying the rise of Protestantism in Lithuania will be the occurrence of one Fr Andriejus Mažvydas, parish priest of Alsėdžiai, among the appellant litigants of 1536. This information about a very probable kinsman (uncle, cousin, brother?) of Martynas Mažvydas offers new insights into the Lutheran’s family background and geography.
Journal:Acta Historica Universitatis Klaipedensis
Volume 33 (2016): Verbum movet, exemplum trahit. The Emerging Christian Community in the Eastern Baltic = Verbum movet, exemplum trahit. Krikščioniškosios bendruomenės tapsmas Rytų Baltijos regione, pp. 147–186
A mansionary (from the Latin mansio, ‘a dwelling’) was a member of a community of four to ten secular priests governed by a provost and required to reside by and serve a chantry chapel, similar to a cathedral canon or beneficed chantry priest. Every day they would sing the Hours of Our Lady and offer two Masses, one in honour of Our Lady or the Holy Trinity, and the other for the dead kin of the chantry founder. The chapels they served were attached to a cathedral or a parish church. Those established by the monarch often had pastoral duties, sometimes involving a school or hospice. In Lithuania, they appear from the late 15th century at the cathedrals of Vilnius, Varniai and Lutsk (in Janów Podlaski), and represented a considerable financial investment to establish and maintain. After the Council of Trent, they become even rarer, and concentrate more on pastoral and other educational duties. The paper discusses what a mansionary priest was, and how many of them served in the Diocese of Vilnius and other sees within the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Why was it deemed meet and fit to establish a mansionariate in Lithuania at the turn of the 15th and 16th centuries, and how were such foundations affected by local Reform movements?
This article surveys evidence of Lithuanian social and religious life during the long fifteenth century as revealed by consistory court records from the sees of Płock, Gniezno, Lutsk and Cracow. The dynamics of church court evidence coincide with those of other aspects of Catholic life in the Grand Duchy. Building churches, chantry chapels, funding mansionary priests, selecting particular Masses to be celebrated by your chantry priest (Salve sancta Parens, the Five Wounds of Christ, the Seven Joys of Our Lady), going on pilgrimage, taking part in a procession, venerating the Blessed Sacrament, sending supplications to Rome to obtain permission to own a portable altar or choose a confessor all become much more common in the later decades of the fifteenth century. Cases before the consistory courts in Płock, Gniezno, Vilnius and Lutsk involve a wide social group and deal with a broad range of issues (not just matrimonial disputes or the hiring out of benefices between priests). What we do not find is any obsession with paganism, no use of pagan as an insult, no account of ‘pagan’ practices (or even folk customs, which later become tarred with an ideological brush). Lithuanian dioceses are clearly integrated into the Polish metropolitan sees (Gniezno and also to a lesser degree, Lwów).
Journal:Acta Historica Universitatis Klaipedensis
Volume 27 (2013): Krikščioniškosios tradicijos raiška viduramžių – naujausiųjų laikų kasdienybės kultūroje: europietiški ir lietuviški puslapiai = The Development of Christian Tradition in Every-day Culture in the Late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period …, pp. 36–60
Bishop Martin III (Johannis) of Medininkai is the first Žemaitijan ordinary of whose activities we know more than merely a few facts. Unfortunately most of what is written about him is false: he did not have a surname (Lintfari is a scribal error for Lituani); he did not hold canonries in Liège, Louvain or Poznań, let alone ‘work’ in Flanders or Poland. This article reviews diverse known sources for Martin’s life and career and provides new information from the Gniezno Consistory Court record and other manuscripts which reveals how his career formed in the Roman Curia before he returned to Lithuania as bishop of Medininkai and reflects his concerns for the affairs of Church and State. An appendix provides five new sources from manuscripts in Cracow and Gniezno along with a new edition of Martin’s will from the earliest surviving copy.