Wawrzyniec Grzymała Goślicki

Last updated

Wawrzyniec Grzymała Goślicki (Latin : Laurentius Grimaldius Goslicius; between 1530 and 1540 31 October 1607) was a Polish nobleman, Bishop of Poznań (1601–1607), political thinker and philosopher best known for his book De optimo senatore (1568).

Poland Republic in Central Europe

Poland, officially the Republic of Poland, is a country located in Central Europe. It is divided into 16 administrative subdivisions, covering an area of 312,696 square kilometres (120,733 sq mi), and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With a population of approximately 38.5 million people, Poland is the sixth most populous member state of the European Union. Poland's capital and largest metropolis is Warsaw. Other major cities include Kraków, Łódź, Wrocław, Poznań, Gdańsk, and Szczecin.

<i>De optimo senatore</i> book by Wawrzyniec Grzymała Goślicki

De optimo senatore was a book by Wawrzyniec Grzymała Goślicki published in Venice in 1568, republished in Basel (1593), and then translated into English and published in 1598 and in 1607.


Tombstone (fragment) of the bishop Wawrzyniec Goslicki in the Poznan cathedral Tombstone of the bishop Wawrzyniec Goslicki in the Poznan cathedral.jpg
Tombstone (fragment) of the bishop Wawrzyniec Goślicki in the Poznań cathedral
Grzymala coat-of-arms Herb Grzymala.jpg
Grzymała coat-of-arms


Born near Płock, after studying at Kraków's Jagiellonian University and at Padua and Bologna, [1] he entered the Roman Catholic Church. In 1569 he also joined the Polish royal chancery and as a secretary served two kings, Sigismund II Augustus and Stefan Batory, and was successively appointed bishop of Kamieniec Podolski (1586), Chełm (1590), Przemyśl (1591), and Poznań (1601). [1] [2] Goślicki was a man of affairs, highly esteemed by contemporaries, and frequently engaged in active politics. He was also a staunch advocate of religious tolerance in Poland. It was due to his influence and to a letter that he wrote to the Pope against the Jesuits that they were prevented from establishing schools at Kraków during his reign. He was the only prelate who, in 1587, acceded to the Warsaw Confederation.

Płock Place in Masovian Voivodeship, Poland

Płock is a city on the Vistula river in central Poland. It is located in the Masovian Voivodeship, having previously been the capital of the Płock Voivodeship (1975–1998). According to the data provided by GUS on 31 December 2018 there were 120,000 inhabitants in the city. Its full ceremonial name, according to the preamble to the City Statute, is Stołeczne Książęce Miasto Płock. It is used in ceremonial documents as well as for preserving an old tradition.

Kraków City in Lesser Poland, Poland

Kraków, also spelled Cracow or Krakow in English, is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków was the official capital of Poland until 1596 and has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, economic, cultural and artistic life. Cited as one of Europe's most beautiful cities, its Old Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Jagiellonian University Polish higher education institution

The Jagiellonian University is a research university in Kraków, Poland.

Goślicki's Latin book De optimo senatore (published during his stay in Italy in Venice, 1568 [2] ) and dedicated to King Zygmunt August, subsequently appeared in four English translations: as The Counsellor ( considered inaccurate) in 1598, A commonwealth of good counsaile in 1607, The Accomplished Senator... Done into English... By Mr. Oldisworth in 1733, and most recently as The Accomplished Senator in K. Thompson's translation in 1992. The book proved immensely important in Britain among forces opposed to the Tudor monarchy; it was widely quoted and cited in opposition pamphlets and leaflets during the period leading up to the British Civil Wars of the 1640s. [3]

In this book Goślicki shows the ideal statesman who is well versed in the humanities as well as in economy, politics, and law. He argued that law is above the ruler, who must respect it, and that it is illegitimate to rule over a people against its will. He equated godliness with reason, and reason with law. [1] Many of the book's ideas comprised the foundations of Polish Nobles' Democracy (1505–1795) and were based on 14th-century writings by Stanisław of Skarbimierz. The book was not translated into Polish for 400 years. [1]

Stanisław of Skarbimierz was, from 1400, rector of the University of Krakow. He was the author of Sermones sapientiales, comprising 113 sermons.

The book was influential abroad, exporting the ideas of Poland's Golden Freedom and democratic system. It was a political and social classic, widely read and long popular in England after its 1598 translation; [4] read by Elizabeth I of England, it was also known by Shakespeare, who used his depiction of an incompetent senator as a model for Polonius in Hamlet. [1] Its ideas might be seen in the turmoil that gripped England around the times of Glorious Revolution. [1] Goślicki's ideas were perhaps suggestive for future national constitutions. Goślicki never wrote that "all men are created equal," but did say, "Sometimes a people, justly provoked and irritated, by the Tyranny and Usurpations of their Kings, take upon themselves the undoubted Right of vindicating their own liberties." The book was allegedly read by Robert Bellarmine, Algernon Sydney and Thomas Jefferson (who had it in his library [5] ), but there is no evidence of a direct link with Jefferson's Declaration of Independence. [1]

Elizabeth I of England Queen regnant of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until 24 March 1603

Elizabeth I was Queen of England and Ireland from 17 November 1558 until her death on 24 March 1603. Sometimes called the Virgin Queen, Gloriana or Good Queen Bess, Elizabeth was the last of the five monarchs of the House of Tudor.

Polonius character in Hamlet

Polonius is a character in William Shakespeare's Hamlet. He is chief counsellor of the king, and the father of Laertes and Ophelia. Generally regarded as wrong in every judgment he makes over the course of the play, Polonius is described by William Hazlitt as a "sincere" father, but also "a busy-body, [who] is accordingly officious, garrulous, and impertinent". In Act II Hamlet refers to Polonius as a "tedious old fool" and taunts him as a latter day "Jeptha".

<i>Hamlet</i> tragedy by William Shakespeare

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, often shortened to Hamlet, is a tragedy written by William Shakespeare sometime between 1599 and 1602. Set in Denmark, the play depicts Prince Hamlet and his revenge against his uncle, Claudius, who has murdered Hamlet's father in order to seize his throne and marry Hamlet's mother.

Goślicki argued that distinguished senators were more useful to a state than the king or the common people:

For the king, being alone, cannot see everything and it often happens that either he yields to desires or his emotions disturb his ability of discretion. Also an ignorant crowd without a thought and head (as a proverb says) cannot by any means possess such prudence, while the senate, composed of men distinguished by virtue, prudence, and glory of accomplished deeds is capable from its middle position, as if from an observation point, of caring for the common weal of the state, perceiving those matters which are beneficial, and freeing it from disturbances, rebellions, and dangers. [2]

He was an influence in the framing the Polish Constitution of 3 May 1791, which historian Norman Davies calls "the first constitution of its kind in Europe". [6]

Norman Davies 20th and 21st-century British historian

Ivor Norman Richard Davies is a British-Polish historian noted for his publications on the history of Europe, Poland and the United Kingdom. He is a historian with special interest in Central and Eastern Europe. He is UNESCO Professor at the Jagiellonian University, professor emeritus at University College London, a visiting professor at the Collège d'Europe, and an honorary fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford. He was granted Polish citizenship in 2014.

See also

The title page to Goslicki's The Counsellor from 1598 Counsellor, Goslicki.jpg
The title page to Goślicki's The Counsellor from 1598

Related Research Articles

Commonwealth is a traditional English term for a political community founded for the common good. Historically it has sometimes been synonymous with "republic". The noun "commonwealth", meaning "public welfare general good or advantage", dates from the 15th century. Originally a phrase it comes from the old meaning of "wealth", which is "well-being", and is itself a loose translation of the Latin res publica (republic). The term literally meant "common well-being". In the 17th century, the definition of "commonwealth" expanded from its original sense of "public welfare" or "commonweal" to mean "a state in which the supreme power is vested in the people; a republic or democratic state".

Polish Golden Age

The Polish Golden Age refers to the Renaissance period in Poland which lasted from the late 15th century to the death of Sigismund II Augustus, the last member of the Jagiellonian dynasty, in 1572. Some historians claim that the Golden Age continued until the mid-17th century, when in 1648 the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was ravaged by the Khmelnytsky Uprising, and the Swedish invasion. During its Golden Age, the Commonwealth became one of the largest kingdoms of Europe, stretching from modern-day Estonia, to Moldavia and Bohemia.

Jan Kochanowski Polish poet

Jan Kochanowski was a Polish Renaissance poet who established poetic patterns that would become integral to the Polish literary language.

Hugo Kołłątaj historian and philosopher

Hugo Stumberg Kołłątaj, alt. Kołłątay, was a prominent Polish constitutional reformer and educationalist, and one of the most prominent figures of the Polish Enlightenment.

Wincenty Kadłubek Polish bishop

Blessed Wincenty Kadłubek was a Polish Roman Catholic prelate and professed Cistercian who served as the Bishop of Kraków from 1208 until his resignation in 1218. He was also a noted historian and prolific writer. His episcopal mission was to reform the diocesan priests to ensure their holiness and sought to invigorate the faithful and cultivate greater participation in ecclesial affairs on their part.

Philip Mazzei American diplomat

Filippo Mazzei was an Italian physician. A close friend of Thomas Jefferson, Mazzei acted as an agent to purchase arms for Virginia during the American Revolutionary War.

Kingdom of Poland (1385–1569) Jagiellon kingdom of Poland, 1385–1569

The Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania joined in a personal union established by the Union of Krewo (1385). The union was transformed into a closer one by the Union of Lublin in 1569, which was shortly followed by the end of the Jagiellon dynasty, which had ruled Poland for two centuries.

Szymon Starowolski was a writer, scholar and historian in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He was probably born near Pruzhany, and died near Kraków. He was a very prolific writer, and left behind over 70 works, mostly in Latin. Some of them survived until its translation into Polish.

Laurentius is a Latin given name and surname that means "From Laurentum", or "Laurelled". The name can also be derived from the Old Greek word Lavrenti meaning "bright one, shining one".

Renaissance in Poland

The Renaissance in Poland lasted from the late 15th to the late 16th century and is widely considered to have been the Golden Age of Polish culture. Ruled by the Jagiellonian dynasty, the Crown of the Kingdom of Poland actively participated in the broad European Renaissance. The multi-national Polish state experienced a period of cultural growth thanks in part to a century without major wars – aside from conflicts in the sparsely populated eastern and southern borderlands. The Reformation spread peacefully throughout the country, while living conditions improved, cities grew, and exports of agricultural products enriched the population, especially the nobility (szlachta) who gained dominance in the new political system of Golden Liberty.

The history of philosophy in Poland parallels the evolution of philosophy in Europe in general.

Andrzej Nowak (historian) Polish historian

Andrzej Nowak is one of the most influential Polish historian and publicist in modern Poland. Professor of Jagiellonian University and Business College - National Louis University in Nowy Sącz, former (1996) visiting professor of East-Central European history at Rice University. Member of Polish Academy of Sciences, where he is the director of Department of Russian and Soviet Studies. Chief editor of socio-cultural magazine (bi-monthly) "Arcana". Member of the Advisory Board of Polskie Radio since 1998.

Laurentius Corvinus German writer

Laurentius Corvinus was a Silesian scholar who lectured as an "extraordinary" professor at the University of Krakow when Nicolaus Copernicus began to study there. He also attracted a reputation as one of the finest Silesian poets of the early Renaissance and as an important agent for cultural and religious change in his adopted home of Breslau.

1573 Polish–Lithuanian royal election

The free election of 1573 was the first ever royal election to be held in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. It gathered approximately 40,000 szlachta voters who elected Henry of Valois king.

History of Poland during the Jagiellonian dynasty

The rule of the Jagiellonian dynasty in Poland between 1386 and 1572 spans the late Middle Ages and early Modern Era in European history. The dynasty was founded by the Lithuanian Grand Duke Jogaila, whose marriage to Queen Jadwiga of Poland formed a Polish–Lithuanian union. The partnership brought vast territories controlled by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into Poland's sphere of influence and proved beneficial for both the Polish and Lithuanian people, who coexisted and cooperated in one of the largest political entities in Europe for the next four centuries.

1587 Polish–Lithuanian royal election

The third free election in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth took place in 1587, after the death of King Stefan Batory. It began on June 30, 1587, when Election Sejm was summoned in the village of Wola near Warsaw, and ended on December 27 of the same year, when King Sigismund III was crowned in Kraków’s Wawel Cathedral.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Daniel H. Cole, "From Renaissance Poland to Poland's Renaissance. The Struggle for Constitutionalism in Poland by Mark Brzezinski," Michigan Law Review, Vol. 97, No. 6, 1999 pp. 2062–2102, says (p 2075) the direct link between Goślicki and Jefferson remains elusive—that is no one has shown Jefferson read Goślicki, although it was so asserted by the Polish ambassador to the U.S. in 1932. JSTOR   1290243
  2. 1 2 3 Wawrzyniec Goślicki, THE ACCOMPLISHED SENATOR Book One Translated by Michael J. Mikoś. Contains short bio.
  3. Poland’s 1997 Constitution in Its Historical Context; Daniel H. Cole, Indiana University School of Law, 22 September 1998 http://indylaw.indiana.edu/instructors/cole/web%20page/polconst.pdf
  4. What Did Shakespeare Know About Poland? Internet Shakespeare Editions
  5. The Constitution of 3 May 1791 by Hon. Carl L. Bucki
  6. Davies, Norman (1996). Europe: A History. Oxford University Press. p. 699. ISBN   0-19-820171-0.

Further reading

Laurentius Grimalius Goslicius (Wawrzyniec Grzymała Goślicki) and His Treatise of the Ideal Senator by Teresa Bałuk-Ulewiczowa - this essay was compiled on the basis of monographic book Teresa Bałuk-Ulewiczowa, Goslicius' Ideal Senator and His Cultural Impact over the Centuries: Shakespearean Reflections. Kraków: Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences and Jagiellonian University, 2009.

Preceded by
Jan Tarnowski
Bishop of Poznań
Succeeded by
Andrzej Opaleński