Nicolaus Copernicus

Nicolaus Copernicus is currently a fashionable topic … Especially that this May his remains will be buried in Frombork. After nearly 5 years of investigation – there is a very big probability that the remains found in the Frombork Cathedral – are the ones of the famous astronomer.

The first version of this text was written on the St. Valentine’s Day. I felt deeply disgusted by the press announcements about Dr. Nicolaus and his supposed love affair with his distant cousin and cook – Anne Schilling.

So – please read this as an opening explanation and warning:

In the Valentine’s Day context it is a great abuse (and very much distasteful) – to call Gdansk a city  of the Love Affair of … Nicolaus Copernicus and Anne Schilling.

It is better to carefully read the story of loves and love in the city on the Motława River! So as no to depart from the historical truth, and so that the knowledge of the city is not build if only … rumors.

It would be best to go through the archives – to find the historical truth (which is not at all so obvious) but it would be enough to read some biographical books (but not the most recent ones… being more sensational than true).

Who wants to learn about Cupid in Gdansk, can read the life story of Maurice Ferber, who later in his life became the Bishop of Warmia… and therefore Copernicus’ boss. But before this he was a hero of a real love scandal of his times. I mean the affair with Anna Pilemann. It was a real scandal!

And for those who enjoy love stories I strongly recommend “listening” to the stories told by the epitaphs in Gdansk’s St. Mary’s Church.

For years now I have been developing a “Love Gossip Tour” around Gdansk…  as well as around the former East Prussia. And I assure – there are a lot more spicy stories to hear 😉

* * *

The rest of the article was rewritten and amended after the re-burial.

But back to Dr. Nicholas … Now – suddenly he became fashionable … And especially his private life. As if it was something new! A lot has been written about him. The list of better or worse books (including foreign ones), is quite long.

Let me remind everyone, that on 22nd May – this year (2010) Copernicus was re-buried in Frombork. After 2005 when his remains were found in Frombork Cathedral and after years of research and debate (whether it is him or not) … finally the re-burial was decided…

As I feared, as usually, unfortunately, this ceremony too remained mostly local. Just like the lost race for the tourists – right after the excavation in the cathedral. And yet the findings were at least interesting.

It was a pity therefore that the whole ceremony was not at full blast.

There has been a lot of time to blaze abroad about this exceptional opportunity to participate in the reburial of SUCH a famous person.

Once again – Frombork – from being at the world’s end (as Copernicus wrote about it) did not became the world’s center. At least for a day or two… Maybe then it would have become popular place to stay during summer. It lost its “five minutes” to become famous.

Maybe the so-called infrastructure is not the best yet. Maybe the local authorities cannot handle so much.

But then – Frombork has a splendid location.

It is a charming town on the Vistula Lagoon with a good transport connection – with not only local busses but also boats from Frombork to Krynica. And Frombork has quite a tasty food in its restaurants. Not to mention the delicious cakes and coffee served in the so-called Water Tower…

And it has more… It has this “something”… A unique atmosphere.

In the Museum there is a very interesting – though small department of the history of medicine. It also has the famous “three-cows-on-the gable”…

And it has … a sensational Last Judgment painting!!!

And… it all has just reminded me of the Copernicus Trail.

I have been working on it for several years now, and I call it a Subjective Copernicus Trail. Or – Copernicus Trail by Kasia

Of course, the trail begins far from Frombork – in Torun. It was there that our hero was born as the son of a merchant. Being in Torun it is necessary to see the Saint Johns’ Church, as he was baptized here.

But Torun is a unique city in general. Not only because of Copernicus.

There actually one can really touch gothic…

Going back to the trail – it leads then to Warmia Region – tracing the locations of the “abandoned fields” (it took me some time to develop this route – it is very interesting, and in summer – beautiful).

Also the towns en route are a MUST. The towns connected with the Administrator of the Chapter lands.

So… Driving along the Copernican route Gdańsk should not be forgotten. Doctor Nicolaus visited the town at least twice. Once in 1504 – the occasion was his cousin’s wedding (Kordula von Allen married Reinhold Feldstedt, a Gdansk wealthy merchant). And the second time was a six months’ visit in 1526.

After Reinhold’s death Copernicus was one of the three protectors of the widow and children. Other caregivers were Arendt Schilling and Michael Loitz. Arendt is the alleged husband of Anna. And Anna Schilling (supposed to have been Copernicus’ mistress) was the daughter of Nicolaus’ cousin. And who was Michael Loitz? He was a representative of the well-known family of Szczecin-Gdansk bankers. About Michael we should think, while driving to or from Nowy Dwor Gdanski (an hour’s drive from Gdansk to the east). And it was he, who was riding with his son Johann to Frombork at the news about the sickness of Doctor Nicolaus. All so that Johann could take over his canonry… But this is another story….

Going further along the Copernicus Trail – we also need to visit Malbork. Indeed, he was here few times. One can see an appropriate plaque on one of the castle walls…

It is in Malbork, in May 1528 that a Prussian Diet (Royal Prussia Seym – Council) was held. At the Diet Doctor Nicholas gave the speech “About minting.” He also reformed the Bread Rate.

We also must necessary visit Elblag! Here, walking the so called Church Path one can consider whether Nicolaus has ever walked this way?

He walked for sure! During his numerous visits to the town. We must remember that Elblag  is not far from Frombork, and at Copernicus’ times it was a very rich  town. And therefore it was a very important town too. It is enough to remember that Queen Elisabeth I of England established the branch of the Eastland Company there!!! There are many English names in the history of Elbląg (Elbing).

Unfortunately, our trail does not include Königsberg (today Kaliningrad). Nicholas stayed there too, at the invitation of Prince Albert Hohenzollern. Königsberg is not on the trail map, because after the last war there is nothing left of the known and historical Königsberg.

Deliberately I did not mention Copernicus’ observations of the sky, mainly because this is well-known, and is not the purpose of this article. It is enough to say, that he was definitely not detached from reality, and not only a “researcher of sky” – as we were made believe during years of  boring school lessons. Doctor Copernicus however was an active and excellent administrator. And also a talented strategist. This can be traced – while reading about the preparations of Olsztyn’s defense against the Teutons…. He was also an energetic land governor. The evidence of this can be traced in the documents. For example – once fishermen from the Teutonic territory were arrested for fishing on Pasłęka, the then border river. It was a typical preventive detention and it was ordered by the administrator of the chapter – Dr. Nicolaus. It was fully justified – because it took place in times of war. He twice held the post of the Chancellor of the Chapter.

He was also a consultant for Bernard Wapowski (Polish nobleman and a genius cartographer), when he worked on the map of the Polish Kingdom and Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Consultation related to the topography of Prussia. Copernicus developed a map of the western part of the Vistula Lagoon.

But above all he was a doctor. Although today his prescriptions might be shocking. Well, for example, where to get powdered unicorn horn (I know, I know it could be a narwhal …). Or who would care for collecting frogs’ dung…

Visiting Frombork, a place at the end of the world (as Dr. Nicholas wrote in his letters to friends), we must necessarily climb the so-called Radziejowski Tower. Look around then – and far into the Holy Warmia.

How often must have Copernicus traveled to locate abandoned land. We sometimes drive through a place – a village or small town, which for us is just a point on the map. We do not even realize that it was located by Copernicus.

So much for Nicholas – without the unhealthy sensation.

So… till the next season – to again set off on the Subjective Copernicus Trail…

5 Comments

  1. Hi! I could have sworn I�ve been to this weblog just before but soon after searching by means of many of the article I recognized it is new to me. Anyways, I�m undoubtedly pleased I discovered it and I�ll be book-marking and checking back again regularly!

    • I am glad you dropped in 🙂 and thanks for your kind words;)
      I will be soon translating more from my Polish blog – so I will be pleased if you visit from time to time:)

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