Ignacy Krasicki

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His Excellency

Ignacy Krasicki
Archbishop of Gniezno
Primate of Poland
Ignacy Krasicki 111.PNG
Portrait by Per Krafft the Elder, ca 1768
Archdiocese Gniezno
In office1796–1801
Predecessor Michał Jerzy Poniatowski
Successor Ignacy Raczyński
Personal details
Born(1735-02-03)3 February 1735
Dubiecko, Sanok Land
Died14 March 1801(1801-03-14) (aged 66),
Nationality Polish
Denomination Roman Catholicism
OccupationWriter, Primate of Poland
Coat of arms POL COA Rogala.svg

Ignacy Błażej Franciszek Krasicki (3 February 1735 14 March 1801), from 1766 Prince-Bishop of Warmia (in German, Ermland) and from 1795 Archbishop of Gniezno (thus, Primate of Poland), was Poland's leading Enlightenment poet [1] ("the Prince of Poets"), a critic of the clergy, [1] Poland's La Fontaine, author of the first Polish novel, playwright, journalist, encyclopedist, and translator from French and Greek.

Warmia diocese

Warmia is a historical region in northern Poland.

<i>Fables and Parables</i> book by Ignacy Krasicki

Fables and Parables, by Ignacy Krasicki (1735–1801), is a work in a long international tradition of fable-writing that reaches back to antiquity. They have been described as being, "[l]ike LaFontaine's [fables],... amongst the best ever written, while in colour they are distinctly original, because Polish." They are, according to Czesław Miłosz, "the most durable among Krasicki's poems."

Greek language Language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.


His most notable literary works were his Fables and Parables (1779), Satires (1779), and poetic letters and religious lyrics, in which the artistry of his poetic language reached its summit. [1]


Krasicki family coat-of-arms--Rogala POL COA Rogala.svg
Krasicki family coat-of-arms Rogala

Krasicki was born in Dubiecko, on southern Poland's San River, into a family bearing the title of count of the Holy Roman Empire. He was related to the most illustrious families in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and spent his childhood surrounded with the love and solicitude of his own family.

Dubiecko Village in Subcarpathian Voivodeship, Poland

Dubiecko is a village in Przemyśl County, Subcarpathian Voivodeship, in southeastern Poland. It is the seat of the gmina called Gmina Dubiecko. It lies approximately 28 kilometres (17 mi) west of Przemyśl and 36 km (22 mi) southeast of the regional capital Rzeszów.

<i lang="de" title="German language text">Graf</i> historical title of the German nobility

Graf (male) or Gräfin (female) is a historical title of the German nobility, usually translated as "count". Considered to be intermediate among noble ranks, the title is often treated as equivalent to the British title of "earl".

Holy Roman Empire Complex of territories in Europe from 962 to 1806

The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also included the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia and Kingdom of Italy, plus numerous other territories, and soon after the Kingdom of Burgundy was added. Its size gradually diminished over time, particularly from 1648 onward, and by the time of its dissolution, it largely contained only German-speaking territories, plus the Kingdom of Bohemia which was bordered by the German lands on three sides.

He attended a Jesuit school in Lwów, then studied at a Warsaw Catholic seminary (1751–54). In 1759 he took holy orders and continued his education in Rome (1759–61). Two of his brothers also entered the priesthood.

Lviv City of regional significance in Lviv Oblast, Ukraine

Lviv is the largest city in western Ukraine and the seventh-largest city in the country overall, with a population of 724,713 as of January 2019. Lviv is one of the main cultural centres of Ukraine.

Warsaw Capital of Poland

Warsaw is the capital and largest city of Poland. The metropolis stands on the Vistula River in east-central Poland and its population is officially estimated at 1.78 million residents within a greater metropolitan area of 3.1 million residents, which makes Warsaw the 8th most-populous capital city in the European Union. The city limits cover 516.9 square kilometres (199.6 sq mi), while the metropolitan area covers 6,100.43 square kilometres (2,355.39 sq mi). Warsaw is an alpha global city, a major international tourist destination, and a significant cultural, political and economic hub. Its historical Old Town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Seminary, school of theology, theological seminary, and divinity school are educational institutions for educating students in scripture, theology, generally to prepare them for ordination to serve as clergy, in academics, or in Christian ministry. The English word is taken from the Latin seminarium, translated as seed-bed, an image taken from the Council of Trent document Cum adolescentium aetas which called for the first modern seminaries. In the West, the term now refers to Catholic educational institutes and has widened to include other Christian denominations and American Jewish institutions.

Returning to Poland, Krasicki became secretary to the Primate of Poland and developed a friendship with future King Stanisław August Poniatowski. When Poniatowski was elected king (1764), Krasicki became his chaplain. He participated in the King's famous "Thursday dinners" and co-founded the Monitor , the preeminent Polish Enlightenment periodical, sponsored by the King.

Stanisław August Poniatowski King of Poland

Stanisław II Augustus, who reigned as King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania from 1764 to 1795, was the last monarch of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. He remains a controversial figure in Polish history. Recognized as a great patron of the arts and sciences and an initiator and firm supporter of progressive reforms, he is also remembered as the King of the Commonwealth whose election was marred by Russian intervention. He is criticized primarily for his failure to stand against the partitions, and thus to prevent the destruction of the Polish state.

The Monitor was one of the first newspapers in Poland, printed from 1765 to 1785, during the Polish Enlightenment. It was founded in March 1765 by Ignacy Krasicki and Franciszek Bohomolec, with active support from King Stanisław August Poniatowski. It came out weekly, later semi-weekly. Its title was a tribute to the "small" Monitor published by Prince Adam Kazimierz Czartoryski.

Castle of the bishops of Warmia at Lidzbark Warminski Zamek w Lidzbarku Warminskim.jpg
Castle of the bishops of Warmia at Lidzbark Warmiński

In 1766 Krasicki, after having served that year as coadjutor to Prince-Bishop of Warmia Adam Stanisław Grabowski, was himself elevated to Prince-Bishop of Warmia and ex officio membership in the Senate of the Commonwealth. This office gave him a high standing in the social hierarchy and a sense of independence. It did not, however, prove a quiet haven. The Warmia cathedral chapter welcomed its superior coolly, fearing changes. At the same time, there were growing provocations and pressures from Prussia, preparatory to seizure of Warmia in the First Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Krasicki protested publicly against external intervention.

Coadjutor bishop position

A coadjutor bishop is a bishop in the Catholic, Anglican, and (historically) Eastern Orthodox churches whose main role is to assist the diocesan bishop in the administration of the diocese. The coadjutor is a bishop himself, although he is also appointed as vicar general. The coadjutor bishop is, however, given authority beyond that ordinarily given to the vicar general, making him co-head of the diocese in all but ceremonial precedence. In modern times, the coadjutor automatically succeeds the diocesan bishop upon the latter's retirement, removal, or death.

Adam Stanisław Grabowski Roman Catholic bishop

Adam Stanisław Grabowski, of the Zbiświcz coat-of-arms, was Bishop of Chełmno 1736–39, Bishop of Kujawy 1739–41, Prince-Bishop of Warmia 1741–66.

According to both Anglican and Catholic canon law, a cathedral chapter is a college of clerics (chapter) formed to advise a bishop and, in the case of a vacancy of the episcopal see in some countries, to govern the diocese during the vacancy. These chapters are made up of canons and other officers, while in the Church of England chapters now includes a number of lay appointees; in the Roman Catholic Church their creation is the purview of the pope. They can be "numbered", in which case they are provided with a fixed "prebend", or "unnumbered", in which case the bishop indicates the number of canons according to the rents. In some Church of England cathedrals there are two such bodies, the lesser and greater chapters, which have different functions. The smaller body usually consists of the residentiary members and is included in the larger one.

In 1772, as a result of the First Partition, instigated by Prussia's King Frederick II ("the Great"), Krasicki became a Prussian subject. He did not, however, pay homage to Warmia's new master.

He now made frequent visits to Berlin, Potsdam and Sanssouci at the bidding of Frederick, with whom he cultivated an acquaintance. This created a difficult situation for the poet-bishop who, while a friend of the Polish king, maintained close relations with the Prussian king. These realities could not but influence the nature and direction of Krasicki's subsequent literary productions, perhaps nowhere more so than in the Fables and Parables (1779).

Summer palace of the bishops of Warmia at Smolajny Smolajny-palac-2007.jpg
Summer palace of the bishops of Warmia at Smolajny

Soon after the First Partition, Krasicki officiated at the 1773 opening of Berlin's St. Hedwig's Cathedral, which Frederick had built for Catholic immigrants to Brandenburg and Berlin. In 1786 Krasicki was called to the Prussian Academy of Sciences. His residences in the castle of the bishops of Warmia at Lidzbark Warmiński (in German, Heilsberg) and in the summer palace of the bishops of Warmia at Smolajny became centers of artistic patronage for all sectors of partitioned Poland. [1]

After Frederick the Great's death, Krasicki continued relations with Frederick's successor.

In 1795, six years before his death, Krasicki was elevated to Archbishop of Gniezno (thus, to Primate of Poland).

Krasicki was honored by Poland's King Stanisław August Poniatowski with the Order of the White Eagle and the Order of Saint Stanisław, as well as with a special 1780 medal featuring the Latin device, "Dignum laude virum Musa vetat mori" ("The Muse will not let perish a man deserving of glory"); [2] and by Prussia's King Frederick the Great, with the Order of the Red Eagle.

Upon his death in Berlin in 1801, Krasicki was laid to rest at St. Hedwig's Cathedral, which he had consecrated. In 1829 his remains were transferred to Poland's Gniezno Cathedral.

Czesław Miłosz describes Krasicki:

He was a man of the golden mean, a smiling, skeptical sage [who] prais[ed] moderation and despis[ed] extremes. His was a mentality which returned to Horatian ideals of the Renaissance, to a life of contemplative retirement. This did not interfere with his talents as a courtier: he was a favorite of [Poland's King] Stanisław August [Poniatowski], and after the [F]irst [P]artition [of Poland, in 1772], when his bishopric of Warmia became the property of Prussia, he was a favorite of King Frederick the Great. [H]e was a cosmopolit[e] and owed his imposing literary knowledge to his readings in foreign languages, yet... he was indebted to the mentality of the Polish "Golden Age," and in this respect his admiration for Erasmus of Rotterdam is significant. As a poet, he was [chiefly responsible] for that distillation of the [Polish] language which for a while toned down the chaotic richness of the Baroque. In a way, he returned to the clear and simple language of [Jan] Kochanowski, and his role in Polish poetry may be compared to that of Alexander Pope in English poetry. [H]e conceived of literature as a specific vocation, namely, to intervene as a moralist in human affairs. Since he was not pugnacious by temperament (contrary to one of his masters, Voltaire), his moralizing, rarely distinguishable from sheer play, [does not show] vitriolic accents. [3]


Ignacy Krasicki Ignacy Krasicki by Per Krafft the Elder ca. 1767.png
Ignacy Krasicki
Krasicki's A Collection of Essential Information (vol. I, 1781), Poland's second Polish-language general encyclopedia 01 Zbior Potrzebniejszych Wiadomosci.png
Krasicki's A Collection of Essential Information (vol. I, 1781), Poland's second Polish-language general encyclopedia

Ignacy Krasicki was the leading literary representative of the Polish Enlightenment—a prose writer and poet highly esteemed by his contemporaries, who admired his works for their wit, imagination and fluid style. [4]

Krasicki's literary writings lent splendor to the reign of Poland's King Stanisław August Poniatowski, while not directly advocating the King's political program.

Krasicki, the leading representative of Polish classicism, debuted as a poet with the strophe-hymn, "Święta miłości kochanej ojczyzny" ("O Sacred Love of the Beloved Country"). He was then nearing forty. It was thus a late debut that brought the extraordinary success of this strophe, which Krasicki would incorporate as part of song IX in his mock-heroic poem, Myszeida (Mouseiad, 1775). In "O Sacred Love," Krasicki formulated a universal idea of patriotism, expressed in high style and elevated tone. The strophe would later, for many years, serve as a national anthem and see many translations, including three into French.

The Prince Bishop of Warmia gave excellent Polish form to all the genres of European classicism. He also blazed paths for new genres. Prominent among these was the first modern Polish novel, Mikołaja Doświadczyńskiego przypadki (The Adventures of Nicholas Experience, 1776), a synthesis of all the varieties of the Enlightenment novel: the social-satirical, the adventure (à la Robinson Crusoe ), the Utopian and the didactic.

Tradition has it that Krasicki's mock-heroic poem, Monachomachia (War of the Monks, 1778), was inspired by a conversation with Frederick II at the palace of Sanssouci, where Krasicki was staying in an apartment that had once been used by Voltaire. At the time, the poem's publication caused a public scandal.

The most enduring literary monument of the Polish Enlightenment is Krasicki's fables: Bajki i Przypowieści (Fables and Parables, 1779) and Bajki nowe (New Fables, published posthumously in 1802). The poet also set down his trenchant observations of the world and human nature in Satyry (Satires, 1779).

Other works by Krasicki include the novels, Pan Podstoli (Lord High Steward, published in three parts, 1778, 1784 and posthumously 1803), which would help inspire works by Mickiewicz, and Historia (History, 1779); the epic, Wojna chocimska (The Chocim War, 1780, about the Khotyn War); and numerous others, in homiletics, theology and heraldry.

In 1781–83 Krasicki published a two-volume encyclopedia, Zbiór potrzebniejszych wiadomości (A Collection of Essential Information), the second Polish-language general encyclopedia after Benedykt Chmielowski's Nowe Ateny (The New Athens, 1745–46).

Krasicki wrote Listy o ogrodach (Letters about Gardens) and articles in the Monitor , which he had co-founded, and in his own newspaper, Co Tydzień (Each Week).

Krasicki translated, into Polish, Plutarch, Ossian , fragments of Dante's Divine Comedy , and works by Anacreon, Boileau, Hesiod and Theocritus. [5] He wrote a 1772 essay "On the Translation of Books" ("O przekładaniu ksiąg") [6] and another, published posthumously in 1803, "On Translating Books" ("O tłumaczeniu ksiąg"). [7]


Krasicki's major works won European fame and were translated into Latin, French, German, Italian, Russian, Czech, Croatian, Slovene, and Hungarian. The broad reception of his works was sustained throughout the 19th century.

Krasicki has been the subject of works by poets of the Polish Enlightenment  Stanisław Trembecki, Franciszek Zabłocki, Wojciech Mier  and in the 20th century, by Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński. He has been the hero of prose works by Wincenty Pol, Adolf Nowaczyński and Henryk Sienkiewicz.

Literary reflection

Scholars have viewed Krasicki's Fables and Satires as adaptive to the culture for which they were written, and as politically charged. [8] The characterizations were not based on reconstructions of individuals from direct observation, but were fictional constructs that reflected society's actual values. Krasicki held that Poles, and humanity generally, were governed by greed, folly, and vice. [8]

Target audience

Evidence for this is found in the preface, "To the Children,", targeted not to children but to villagers, congregations, and the commonalty. The fables were meant to bring attention to major questions of the day, and to advocate for social reforms. [9] Although the New Fables, the sequel to the Fables and Parables, were published posthumously in 1803, the better known Fables and Parables found their audience between 1735 and Krasicki's death in 1801, most of them being published after the First Partition of Poland, of 1772. The fables usually find their meaning in the final line, through the symbology of the tale rather than through a complex presentation of ideology, thereby readily conveying even to the illiterate the moral and the Enlightenment ideal behind it.

Enlightenment contributions

Katarzyna Zechenter argues in The Polish Review that Western historians have generally overlooked Krasicki's works, and that the publisher of Polish Fables overlooked the importance of the "political and social context contributing to [the fable's] origin." [10] However, it is easy to see Krasicki's influence on his contemporaries and on the early 19th century, as in the case of Gabriela Puzynina, a Polish princess, poet, and diarist. In 1846 she started a newspaper for the intelligentsia of Vilnius and Warsaw, and furthered the establishment of Krasicki's Fables in Poland's suppressed political life. In her Diary of the Years 1815–1843, Puzynina focuses on the fable, "Birds in a Cage", as a commentary on the Partitions of Poland.

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Ignacy Krasicki", Encyklopedia Polski (Encyclopedia of Poland), p. 325.
  2. The device is taken from Horace, Carmina, 4, 8, 29. Zbigniew Landowski, Krystyna Woś, Słownik cytatów łacińskich: wyrażenia, sentencje, przysłowia (A Dictionary of Latin Citations: Expressions, Maxims, Proverbs), p. 141.
  3. Czesław Miłosz, The History of Polish Literature, pp. 176–77.
  4. Jan Zygmunt Jakubowski, ed., Literatura polska od średniowiecza do pozytywizmu (Polish Literature from the Middle Ages to Positivism), p. 245.
  5. Edward Balcerzan, ed., Pisarze polscy o sztuce przekładu, 1440–1974: Antologia (Polish Writers on the Art of Translation, 1440–1974: an Anthology), pp. 445–46, note 6.
  6. Ignacy Krasicki, "O przekładaniu ksiąg" ("On the Translation of Books"), Monitor , 1772, no. 1, reprinted in Edward Balcerzan, ed., Pisarze polscy o sztuce przekładu, 1440–1974: Antologia (Polish Writers on the Art of Translation, 1440–1974: an Anthology), pp. 74–75.
  7. Ignacy Krasicki, "O tłumaczeniu ksiąg" ("On Translating Books"), in Dzieła wierszem i prozą (Works in Verse and Prose), 1803, reprinted in Edward Balcerzan, ed., Pisarze polscy o sztuce przekładu, 1440–1974: Antologia (Polish Writers on the Art of Translation, 1440–1974: an Anthology), pp. 75–80.
  8. 1 2 Shaffer, E. S. (2002). Comparative Criticism, Vol24, Fantastic Currencies in Comparative Literature: Gothic to Postmodern. Cambridge University Press. p. 73. ISBN   0521818699.
  9. Kapolka, Gerard T. (1 January 1987). "Krasicki's Fables". The Polish Review. 32 (3): 271–279. JSTOR   25778281.
  10. Zechenter, Katarzyna (1 January 1999). "Review of Polish Fables. Bilingual Edition". The Polish Review. 44 (2): 239–241. JSTOR   25779127.

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Regnal titles
Preceded by
Adam Stanisław Grabowski
Prince-Bishop of Warmia (Ermland)
Succeeded by
Karl von Hohenzollern-Hechingen
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Michał Poniatowski
Primate of Poland
Archbishop of Gniezno

Succeeded by
Ignacy Raczyński