Historical story

Why did Bolesław the Brave not become a saint?

The adoption of Christianity allowed medieval rulers to enter the political system of Western Europe, and often also gain prestige associated with coronation. But it was not only political reasons that led pagan princes to reject the faith of their ancestors - according to tradition, the ruler to whom the country owed Christianity could count on becoming a saint. Why, then, the Church does not honor Saint Bolesław the Brave or Mieszko I?

King Stefan became the patron saint of Hungary and Prince Wenceslaus of the Czech Republic. In Rus, the church raised Vladimir the Great to the altars. During the time of Bolesław the Brave, there was also Saint Olaf II Haraldsson, responsible for the Christianization of Norway. Even Emperor Henry II, with whom the first Polish king waged long wars, was canonized one hundred years after his death.

One gets the impression that every prince or king responsible for Christianization was becoming a saint, and if not him, then his son or father. Everyone except Poland - because in our country there were only saints from that period.

Even Emperor Henry II, longtime enemy of Bolesław, was raised to the altars.

Was it about the bed issues?

According to Jerzy Rajman, the author of the first chapters of the book "History of the Church in Poland", the explanation may be hidden in the dubious decency of Bolesław the Brave. Although the first Polish king and creator of native church structures founded the hermitage of Five Brothers, bought the body of Saint Adalbert and nailed adulterers behind the scrotum to the bridges (according to Gallus Anonymus), he was not necessarily a role model himself.

The Church did not like the fact that he sent the first two wives home, and that the fourth - Ode - was humiliated in a way inconsistent with the dignity of a Christian ruler . Namely, in 1018 he abducted the Ruthenian princess Przedsława from Kiev, shamelessly forgetting about his wedding wife.

Mnich Mojżesz Węgrzyn, captured during the same military expedition, wrote that she enslaved people to sin Brave also a Polish woman: Once she even made me put him on her body and kiss him and hug him.

Brave's legendary entry into Kiev. Was it the revelations during this expedition that thwarted his chances of being canonized?

Okay, so Bolesław fought not only with the sword and not only on the battlefields, but also in the bedroom. But is this a reason to immediately deprive him of the aura of holiness? Other rulers were not much more moral, and history knows, for example, the case of the Frankish Queen of Baltlda, who was supposed to be responsible for the murder of nine bishops and was still elevated to the altars.

Or rather about politics?

If not morality, then maybe politics? It would seem reasonable for Bolesław to canonize his father, Mieszko. At that time, the process of beatification and canonization as we know it today did not yet exist. It was mainly local church hierarchs that decided about the elevation to the altars.

Meanwhile, everything indicates that Bolesław was not on the best terms with them. Indeed, he must have got under their skin if, according to Gallus Anonymus, Archbishop Radzim-Gaudenty cast a curse on the entire Polish territory.

The causes of the conflict are lost in the mists of history, but it can be safely assumed that many years of wars alienated the German clergy or the clergy brought up in German culture to Bolesław. Also Mieszko II, son of Bolesław the Brave, did not have it easy. If he wanted to raise his father to the altars, the pagan reaction and expulsion from the country effectively prevented him from doing so.

He himself had many enemies in Germany. Rychez's wife ran away from him and complained about the barbaric customs of the Slavs and the unbearable haughtiness of her husband. In turn, a Saxon historian spoke of him as a false Christian, murderer and tyrant.

Bolesław the Brave became a king, but not a saint anymore. Could it be all bad "piar" to blame?

Could the matter really boil down to… bad "Piar"? There are many indications of this. Especially that after many years this PR has not improved at all. Perhaps Mieszko I or Bolesław the Brave would still get their chance to abbreviate "St." before the name, but unfortunately their distant descendant, Bolesław the Bold, fell into the church even more. And the patron of Poland, instead of one of the kings or princes, was "persecuted" by the ruler, the bishop. Later it was not appropriate to confuse this tradition ...


The article is based mainly on the book History of the Church in Poland, edited by Andrzej Wienck, Park Edukacja 2008.