Historical story

Poznań's silver years. Everyday life in the 17th century

The beginning of the year 1601 was spoiled by the plague that had been plaguing the city for several months and was just slowly dying out, but no one took it as bad for the new century omen, because somehow we had already got used to the recurring pestilence. Anyway, there was no cause for concern, one must agree with the historian's opinion that for Wielkopolska and Poznań "the times of Sigismund III [1587–1632] are the peak of prosperity, especially in terms of economic and demographic success.

Life in the city for five more decades was to continue in a well-established rhythm, determined by the bugle call played every hour from the town hall tower and the bells calling to church services. After the strike of ten in the morning, city gates and gates were closed , and the commander of the guard, called a hutman, patrolled the streets with his men, locking vagrants and all suspicious types to the tower, and "chased the drunkards around the taverns with the game and the hot drink."

From eleven o'clock in the morning to five o'clock in the morning the city was patrolled by night watchmen equipped with lanterns, taking care above all that someone did not start a fire.

Work began at dawn, as Józef Łukaszewicz wrote, before "the reign of Jan Kazimierz, and to a lesser extent later, the inhabitants of Poznań were very hardworking." As for ages the Poznań craftsman got up at dawn and worked several hours in his workshop until late at night . It was better for the merchants who only sat in their exchange offices until the afternoon.

"Wedding nudes" only during the day

A tired apprentice usually forced his foreman to have a "free Monday" when he could earn money on the side, arrange various errands, and probably drink a beer from Poznań with his friends. Additional work and what attractions had to be provided by four Poznań fairs, especially the largest, Świętojański, traditionally gathering the entire nobility of Wielkopolska, which, as Samuel from Skrzypny Twardowski wrote:

(...) he celebrates all his festivities here, For fancy gifts, sitting down and wearing outfits. (...) Wedding nudes here,

Funerals here and different treats to contracts.

Who, then, has a nasty lady at home, He will chase her there, heal her there and write to whom ".

The "wedding acts" of the Poznań residents themselves could be so grand and sumptuous that the magistrate who guarded public virtues felt forced to issue special orders.

The "wedding acts" of the Poznań residents themselves could be so grand and sumptuous that the magistrate who guarded public virtues felt forced to issue special orders . One of them was laudum of January 4, 1621, strictly ordering to hold weddings during the day and not to drag them to the night, which was also supposed to apply to the aftermath, during which the host of his guests would not supper, but should take the dinner party .

Celebrate the holy day!

There were rest (but also God's glory was proclaimed) on Sundays and numerous church holidays. So that every Poznań citizen could celebrate in a dignified manner, on Saturdays from St. Bartholomew (August 24) until Easter, a fair called "wolnica", because butchers from outside the city protecting the interests of its own merchants, sold their products at a lower than usual price.

After Christmas, from the Three Kings, the Jesuit students and those from Lubrański “dressed up as the three kings and walked with nativity plays around the houses, entertaining the inhabitants with singing and orations. At the same time the parish priests of several parishes in Poznań, surrounded by a numerous cavalcade composed of church, organists and students, visited their parishioners with a Christmas carol which the fun cantion songs would start and end with. ”

The text is an excerpt from the four-volume publication by Przemysław Matusik "Historia Poznania", which has just been published by the Posnania City Publishing House.

Of course, a big attraction was the public performances staged during the carnival, often on the market square, by students of the Jesuit college, but sometimes also by their competitors from the Lubranscianum . In turn, during the Holy Week, Jesuit students staged the mysteries of the Passion. The severe mortifications of Lent were ended on Easter Sunday by the sumptuous Resurrection liturgy, followed by no less sumptuous receptions in bourgeois homes.

On the second feast, they were forced to go until noon, and in the afternoon they went to the church of Saint John of Jerusalem for an indulgence called Emmaus. Some attended the service or took walks, and " urban youth ran to nearby taverns to dance or played around the hills ". The next day, the men were given dyngus by women.

The Poznań triumph

Corpus Christi had a very impressive dimension. On the holiday itself, the people of Poznań went to the Tum (cathedral) procession, on the following Sunday a city procession took place from the parish church through Klasztorna street to Wodna street, and then around the market square, and the Corpus Christi octave ended with a processional passage from the parish church to the Carmelite church of this invocation. On the other hand at Pentecost, apart from the religious celebration, the city shooting brotherhood, existing in Poznań at least since the 15th century, also organized hen shooting.

There were also occasional holidays, such as ingress of subsequent bishops (quickly leaving for Warsaw, and permanently residing there since the 1660s) and the assumption of office by new starosts general, and sometimes also ceremonial funerals of old ones. But not only that.

photo:Frans Hohenberg and Georg Braun / public domain Poznań in the first half XVII century.

On Sunday, July 3, 1611, the Poznań Triumph took place. For the joyful victory of the King of His Love [Zygmunt III] after taking Smolensk [June 14], to quote the title of a poem by Jan Krajewski devoted to this event. In the Poznań castle, four Hussar banners and one foot soldier were on guard, above the entrance to the parish church, where a solemn mass was celebrated, an occasional painting was hung , others decorated the town hall, in front of which the main part of the ceremony took place. They presented the storming of Smolensk and the fire of the city, as well as, as Krajewski wrote:

Black eagle far from its crown,

from white to half almost redeemed.

Two infantry banners took part in the triumphant march around the square, to the accompaniment of music played at the town hall and many hours of cannonade of all kinds of weapons, followed by two men dressed as Negroes in swarms , then fourteen dressed in white clothes and playing Moscow prisoners of war, behind whom a severed head was carried on a copy (!!!). The ceremony ended in the evening with spectacular fireworks, invariably pleasing to the people of Poznań in the past and today.

Massacre of the Confederates

Perhaps the celebration would be less eager if it were known what consequences this would eventually bring to the city. The army, returning from the Moscow expedition without pay, established a confederation in the then-custom and began to collect its royal property on its own.

As early as in 1612, Poznań paid a kind of tribute to the Confederates, and at the beginning of the next year more came who, having established their headquarters in Chwaliszewo, committed various abuses, and imposed further contributions on the city.

Zygmunt III Waza near Smolensk

Impatient with the delay in their payment, the Confederates broke into the town hall on Easter Wednesday, April 3, around 9 p.m. The councilors were saved by a solid table, which they barricaded themselves in the council hall and which even the gunfire shots did not break. The enraged Confederates rushed to the market square, slashing with sabers and shooting, which, however, angered the Poznań masses so much that they organized a regular hunt for them, as a result of which five attackers were killed.

They were mercifully buried by the Bernardines, because the remaining Poznań clergy did not want to take part in the funeral of those excommunicated for plundering church property and other crimes of infamis. Even the Seym and the king were absorbed by the trials in this matter, eventually the inhabitants of Poznań were freed from guilt, but they had to pay contributions and compensation to the families of the killed Confederates.

For several months, Poznań also had to keep 300 mercenary German soldiers, who, apart from the 200 volunteers from the masses under arms, stood guard over it. In the end, the final benefit should be the fitting of the walls and gates neglected during peace, including the insertion of new wrought iron bars in the latter.


The text is an excerpt from the four-volume publication by Przemysław Matusik "Historia Poznania", which has just been published by the Posnania City Publishing House.