Wednesday Wedding

There are many places in Gdansk related to the history of Sweden. These so-called Swedish traces in our city today attract tourists from Scandinavia (especially from the families or relatives associated with these places.)

One such place in Gdansk is undoubtedly the popular St. Mary’s Church. But I do not want to write about it again.  What I want to do now, is write about an incident that took place in an overseas country. The incident had an impact on the creation of an interesting epitaph (and a chapel too) in the said church.

And this is how the story goes:

Since he remembered, Johan Nilsson Gyllenstierna (av Ludholmen) had nearly always been in love with Sigrid Brahe (seems with reciprocity).

But… (there always is a BUT in every story)… Sigrid was “promised” to Erik Bielke.

And it is very much possible, that everything would have happened according to the family scenario, if not for… Princess Anne Vasa.

Sigrid was one of the ladies-in-waiting at Anne’s court and at the same time she was one of her favorite ones too. Johann Nilsson on the other hand – was one of the Swedish nobles, who opted for Sigismund III Vasa.

Apart from her beloved Princess, Sigrid, had no one to confide her illicit love to a beautiful cavalier (for this was how the contemporary described Johan Nilsson). Anna remembered her own romantic episode (almost since her childhood she was in love with Gustav Brahe), so who better than she could understand the despair of the girl.

And there was something more… There were rumors about Erik Bielke’s shameful disease. It was believed that he had caught the disease during his trip to Poland. That was more than enough for the girl. She simply fled to Stegeborg, her Lady’s castle.

Soon, Johann came to the castle too… Anne, moved with compassion, trusting in the strength of her authority (after all, she was the king’s sister), arranged a hasty wedding of the couple.

It was Wednesday, 19th March 1595, and the witnesses were Princess Anne and Lindorm Bonde – the envoy to Sigismund III.

Instantly there rose an uproar in the kingdom. In the premises of the three mighty families: Gyllenstierna, Brahe and Bielke there were even rumors about war among the families. However, nothing could be done, because the marriage had been legally concluded. And that, in the presence of the royal sister and royal envoy.

And here – a little digression – what luck, that Sweden was not familiar with the Polish squabbling and lawlessness from a bit earlier times. Because otherwise Sigrid would have inevitably ended as Halszka Ostrogska did.

Going back to the Wednesday Wedding (the only Wednesday Wedding in Swedish history) …

The case has become so famous that it was discussed in the Parliament. Anna was chided by her uncle Charles Duke of Södermanland (regent at that time). It is said that he would have chided her for anything, because he simply disliked her …

The Parliament resolved that national problem in such a way that the Gyllenstierna family was ordered to pay compensation to the Bielke family, and also a so called supplementary for the poor. In total, about 3 thousand thalers. Also it was enacted that the young couple should remain away from the so-called great world for at least 6 months in the year, so as not to annoy the humiliated family of the former fiancé.

During their stay in Kalmar – their son was born, whom they named Sigismund in honor of the Polish king.

Soon, the supporters of King Sigismund III had to leave Sweden because Charles – who yet was only a regent – he made a formal coup and seized power in the country. It was easier for him, as in contrast to the ultra catholic Sigismund – he was a Protestant. Sweden at that time was also Protestant, and the conduct of Sigismund was far from the tolerance of his Polish ancestry on the distaff side.

Johan Nilsson Gyllenstierna settled with his family in Gdansk. In 1608 he became a widower, and died in 1617.

The “fruit” of the famous  Wednesday Wedding – Sigismund – founded the chapel, from which I started my tale…

The chapel is located in the St. Mary’s Church – on the north side of the entrance, near the Shoemakers’ Gate. It is called the chapel of St. Reinhold or very often the Guldenstern Chapel. Above the entrance to it there can be seen a very interesting family epitaph.

The founder, as I said was Zygmunt – or rather, Sigismund Gyllenstierna.

So why Guldenstern?

Those who are unfamiliar with the Swedish language agree that it is extremely difficult to pronounce his name! How much joy do I bring to my Swedish groups everytime I’m trying to say it correctly 😉

Gdansk citizens as well as the Polish courtiers, with whom Johan had contacts had the same problems with the correct pronunciation. Therefore the surname had to be changed… His son was already known as Guldenstern. And as such, is known as the founder of the chapel.

Very important is the message of the founder, that not only members of the family can find the rest in the chapel. It was said that also those who had lost their Swedish homeland… But it is a topic for a separate story.

And what about Sigismund? He received excellent education in Torun’s Academic Gymnasium (which was one of the three such schools in the Polish Kingdom with an extremely high level of teaching).

Later he studied at the Universities of Leiden, Strasbourg and Rostock. After returning home he became one of the courtiers of King Sigismund III and even became a royal bed keeper…

In 1633 his nobility was approved by the coronation Diet of Wladyslaw IV.

In 1635, at the king’s command he and Gerhard Denhoff became directors of the Commission of His Royal Highenss’ Fleet.

His wife was Anna von Zehmen (Czema), daughter of Chelmno Castellan  – Fabian Czema.

In 1636 in Torun, he was one of the leaders of funeral services for Princess Anna Vasa, a person who greatly contributed to his birth…

And nine years later at the Torun Town Hall, during the Colloquium Charitativum he chaired the Lutherans of the Polish Kingdom.

To the guides in the Malbork Castle he is known for his failed defense against the Swedes in 1656; and to the Gdansk guides – he is known for holding the castellany since October of that year. We meet him again during the 1660 peace negotiations – when he demanded the return of his property in Sweden…

He died six years later and was buried in the chapel, which he founded…

The times passed, the fame of the family faded away. What remains? The epitaph in the church with a golden star and a memory of Sweden’s only Wednesday Wedding and romantic mediation of Princess Anna Vasa …


Published in: on 08/04/2011 at 22:12  Leave a Comment  
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The Canon and his foundation

No one has “read” the altar from Skolity!

At these words I set my ears. Because how could it be possible that there was no attempt at all to read, understand and explain this ingenious piece of art work!

But first – a few words about the person of the founder.

Johann Hannovius (better known as HANNOW) was the nephew of Johann Dantiscus (so he was son of his sister – Anne de domo von Hoefen).

He was born in Gdansk (Danzig) –  as most of the canons of Warmia.

The education of the young bourgeois was financed by his mighty uncle. This was the same situation, as we know from the biography of Doctor Copernicus. And this was nothing new; after all, the family had kind of duty to care for children. Such records can be found in wills. Copernicus also held the care of his widowed cousin of Gdansk and her offspring.

After graduation in Chelmno, Johann was sent to Krakow for further studies. The books of the Cracow University show him in 1541. In the kingdom’s capital, he was cared for by Stanislaus Hosius. And he probably worked in the royal chancellery.

He took over his Frombork canonry in February 1546 and settled at the Cathedral Hill. There was a custom of permanent residence of the canons at the Warmia Chapter, so Johann settled in Frombork. As all canons – he also received stalls and the altar of his predecessor, and the right to purchase the mansion and grange (allodium), bringing a nice income.

He died in Frombork in 1575 and was buried there. Somehow it had never occurred to me to find his tombstone…

It was not the only Hannow in the Holy Warmia (Holy Ermland). Besides him, there was also his brother Casper. He had a Ph.D. in both laws, after graduation both University of Cracow and later in Rome. His education was also financed by his uncle. Since 1545 he was canon of Warmia, and dean of the collegiate chapter in Dobre Miasto. In 1547 he became canon in Wloclawek. He was a friend of Bishop Martin Kromer.

By the way, thanks to a little record written by Kromer – till today we call a certain Anonymous – Gallus Anonymous. And thanks to the discovery of the chronicle by the scholar Bishop (the so called Heilsberg Manuscript) we can read it till today…

And as for the name of Hannow – it is worth remembering Michael Christopher Hannow – living in Gdansk in the years 1695-1773. He held a professorship in Gdansk Academic Gymnasium. At the same time he was librarian and has begun work on the “Catalogus universalis alphabeticus Bibliothecae Gedanensis Senatus”. He was also among those who in 1743 created in Gdansk the Societas Physicae Experimentalis (since 1753 called Die Naturforschende Gesellschaf).

Moreover – Michael Hannow ran in Gdansk regular meteorological observations in the years 1739 – 1752 where he used a “thermometer which was a combination of Florentine and Fahrenheit thermometers”.

But let’s go back to the Hannows in Frombork… Besides the two already mentioned above, there also resided Simon and Valentine.

And what does it all have to do with the altar from Skolity?

A few words about the village itself – Skolity (German Schlitt) is a village in the municipality of Warmia-Mazury Voivodeship.

Next “dry piece of information” says that the village was located by Bishop Herman of Prague in 1348. And – at the local rectory Napoleon spent the night of 4/5 February 1807, (as if it was most important.)
Just a few words about the church… That it was built in 1709 and enlarged in 1907. The mention of the altar – that is preserved and can be seen in the north transept. For now, however, it is in the Museum in Frombork, and pleases the eyes of visitors!

And a little more about the church from the immortal Wikipedia:

“The village has a historic parish church dedicated to Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s a long building with one aisle. It has a pseudo-Gothic choir and transept (1907). The aisle was built after the fire of 1708 on the site of two earlier buildings. The new church was consecrated in 1709. The tower at the bottom was built in a “pole construction”, and is timbered. The ceiling inside the church has polychromes (1753-1763), probably painted by Ferdinand Guillerepsa of Dobre Miasto. The high altar was built in the baroque style (1684), with a painting of the Adoration of Madonna and Child by a group of saints. They were probably painted by George Piper from Lidzbark Warminski. In the church
there is also a historic Renaissance triptych from 1557, founded by John Hannow, a canon of Warmia. Near the village there is Lake Skolity. It is located in basin of the river Pasłęka. It covers an area about 40 ha; average depth of the lake is 3.6 m. The banks are overgrown with trees, mostly alder. “

And that’s all… And below: Skolity shown on the map:

Skolity on the map of Poland

According to tradition, in 1557 Johannes Hannovius founded the triptych for the church in Skolity.

At least, this is what the official information says. And what is the true story?
J.S. puts forward the thesis that the altar could actually have been funded for the temple of Frombork. This would point to the character of Virgin Mary and St. Andrew.

The Frombork Cathedral has two names: St. Andrew (this name was brought from the former church in Braniewo), and Virgin Mary – already tradition in Frombork.

Well, then comes the joy of reading the entire triptych…

A couple of comments arose in front of the altar. The answers to many questions are all too visible in the main image. Enough is to say that we spent two days in front of the altar, vividly debating. We – means me and my two colleagues (we always go to Frombork together). Simplifying (very much simplifying) – we have seven sacraments and the Church as Foundation** of the World (interesting is that it has such a strong chain) and there are ten Doctors of the Church…

(who are: St. Ambrose,  St. Augustine, St. Jerome, St. Gregory The Great, St.St. Gregory Nazianzus, St. John Chrysostom, St. Athanasius, the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Bonaventure, Basil the Great)

And well, here we have a flop…

During translation of this text from my Polish blog it occurred to me – that some of these Doctors were promoted only in the years 1567-1588. So how could this apply to the foundation of the altar? Who are those  ten figures with crosses, since the Four Doctors are listed on the Foundation of the World?

Now – I have received help from a theological expert:

She wrote that, those ten – are the popes… And they function rather as an idea than people.

** I interpreted this wrog – as Faith is foundation of the Church (world at that time).

Unfortunately my theological knowledge is – to put it delicately – more than mean. 😉

Well then, there is a lot of work ahead of me….

In the meantime let us enter into the more stable ground. The time of the foundation of the altar is interesting.

It was the time of the Council of Trent and times right after the Schmalkaldic wars. It was because of those wars – that the conciliar deliberations were postponed.

Also in the milieu of the canon there were still controversies concerning the cases of apostasy within the Chapter itself. A set of correspondence between the canon and his uncle-bishop is preserved. It concerns Alexander Scultetus (who finally became a Lutheran, quit canonry and married).

Besides – not so far was the court of Duke Albert of Prussia. And there – one of his most trusted courtiers was Georg von Kunheim. His son (Georg the Younger)  married Magaretha Luther (she was Martin Luther’s daughter). The famous Albertina University worked in Königsberg.

And in this context – the Holy Warmia seemed to be a small island of Catholicism on the great ocean of Protestantism.

There are many details in the altar’s main picture, ordering to set ears to the history and History, and even ordinary gossip (still we need to remember that the Big History consists of small histories…).

Above all – careful reading of the correspondence between Hannow and Dantiscus is demanded…

I’ll have quite a time 😉

In this whole entanglement in the four corners of the main painting – there is a full of expression image of Martin Luther thundering form the tower (!) of a collapsing Church. Although in my opinion those are: Martin Luther, Huldrych Zwingli, John Calvin i Philipp Melanchthon.

“… yet in the 1556 in Prussia it was not fully realized that the split in the Church is imminent. It was one year after the Treaty of Augsburg (1555). The discussion started over the declaration.  Stanislaw Hosius the Bishop of Warmia and president of the Prussian States argued that the said confession is wrong.

Two Lutherans answered: both governors – one of Malbork county:  Achacy Cema and the second from Pomerania county – Fabian Cema. Both argued that his wrong confession within the last 30 years did settle well in Royal Prussia, and can not be removed in three months as the Catholic bishops demanded. There was still a long way to obtain the religious privileges, but the Prussian states felt emboldened by events in both the Polish Crown and the German Reich, which were introduced in the year 1555. It was the year of the Augsburg religious peace between Protestants and Catholics recognizing the principle of “cuius region, eius religio”.

Now, the great Prussian cities (Gdańsk, Toruń, Elbląg) took double efforts to gain religious privileges. December 30, 1556, Chancellor Jan Ocieski responded to the envoys of those cities – in confidence – that the king can not take any “heretic” privilege, because of the pope, the emperor and other Catholic princes, but since the Reformation has become a fact – he is ready to “look at it and practices of its adherents through his fingers”.

The biggest obstacle for the followers of the Reformation teachings was the bishop of Warmia who was Cardinal Stanislaus Hosius. He fought unsuccessful battles for the conversion of Elbląg citizens (Elbląg lay in the Diocese of Warmia), sometimes calling them “Elbląg goats” and their spiritual leaders he called the “Ministri Satanae”. His position was unfortunate, because even in the Chapter – the canons of Warmia (in perhaps exaggerated opinion of Duke. Albert of Prussia) were to be followers of Luther. This letter of 1554 was found  in the  one of the collections by professor Janusz Małłek.

(this is a bierf translation I did of a fragment of an article on a Baptist site. It was written by prof. Małłek – and it concerned Protestantism in the Pomerania. Unfortunately the whole is only in Polish). It shows what turbulent times Hannovius lived in, and what were his worries.

The continuation of the story appears to be a puzzle, especially in the context of the naive expression of the founder’s eyes …