- Poland, Holy War, and the Piast Monarchy, 1100–1230 by Darius von Güttner-Sporzyński
In his recent monograph, Darius von Güttner-Sporzyński traces the evolution of the concept of holy war and its change into crusading, within the context of the reign of the Piast dynasty in Poland, from 1100, to the settlement of the Teutonic Order within the borders of Poland and Prussia, in 1226.
In the Middle Ages, the demarcation line between holy war and crusading rested on the difference between pacifist Christian theology and the rather more violent nature (and reality) of human existence. The idea of holy war incorporated the understanding that the use of force was not always automatically unacceptable, and what is more, in some cases it was ordained by God. Still, as von Güttner-Sporzyński observes, ‘Before the thirteenth century, the difference between holy war and crusade is often blurred; it is certain, however, that whilst all crusades were holy wars, not all holy wars were crusades’ (p. 1). For von Güttner-Sporzyński, the Christianisation of Pomerania by the Piasts during this period was an important factor in the change of concept.
The book is divided into seven chapters. The first two present the early history of Poland from 996, and the baptism of Mieszko I, to 1102, and the death of Władysław I Herman, in order to set the scene for an examination of the evolution of the concept of holy war in a Polish perspective. These two chapters also describe the introduction of Christianity into Poland, and that religion’s substantial influence on the Piast realm and its culture. Chapter 3 discusses the dissemination of the idea of holy war among Polish elites of the early twelfth century, and examines ‘“the right and just” wars waged by Bolesław III against the Pomeranians’ as examples of holy wars and proto-crusades taking place at the same time. Chapter 4 lists the events of the civil war between Władysław II and his younger half-brothers before the Wendish Crusade and the circumstances of Polish involvement. Chapter 5 investigates the evidence of the involvement of the Poles in the Second Crusade and [End Page 400] their contribution to it of at least one powerful army. Chapter 6 explores Polish participation in Christian holy wars, and describes the autumn 1147 expedition led by Bolesław IV into Prussia, which has not previously been discussed in English-language historiography. Chapter 7 describes the missionary attempts of the Cistercian Order to convert Prussia in view of the fragmentation of the Piast patrimony.
This volume is a valuable study of the Piast dynasty and their holy wars.