11 Polish Documents Added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme
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Eleven unique Polish documents have been added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World list, including one of the oldest preserved Polish legal acts – the 12th-century Rocznik Świętokrzyski Dawny (The Ancient Świętokrzyski Annual), as well as the Union of Crevo Act from 1385.
It was the second edition of the Polish National Register of UNESCO’s Memory of the World, after it was inaugurated in 2014. The ceremony of giving the certificates – confirming each items’ place on the list – took place at the beginning of November 2016 in the Presidential Palace in Warsaw.
Deputy Minister of Culture and National Heritage Magdalena Gawin underlined that the UNESCO programme’s Memory of the World title does not suggest that Europe and the world should have some kind of single common memory. She said that:
It would be a dangerous fiction. It’s not UNESCO’s ambition to create one model of memory. UNESCO’s big challenge is to create a resource of common values for Europeans and people from all over the world and to make it stronger. Among those values should be tolerance, respect for religion and for other people, and equality.
Chairman of the Polish Committee of the UNESCO programme and general manager of the State Archives Wojciech Woźniak said that the documents honoured in the UNESCO programme are owned by our community, are part of the public good, and belong to everyone. He underlined that:
They are not owned by the director of the archives, library, or the museum, but are the property of all society. They should constantly serve as a source of knowledge about the events and ideas which shaped Polish statehood.
The president of the Polish National Committee for UNESCO and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee Professor Jacek Purchla said:
Those objects are priceless testimony to the shaping and development of Polish statehood, the Polish nation, and Polish culture.
The Secretary of State from the President’s Office Wojciech Kolarski read a letter from President of the Republic of Poland Andrzej Duda addressed to the participants of the ceremony. The president wrote that:
The UNESCO Memory of the World List familiarises and underlines the meaning of documents which show some of the most important events, people and civilisation changes in the history of our homeland (...). It must be also underlined that this documental heritage strengthens the cultural integrity of our nation and local communities in Poland. It restores or preserves the memory of the events, experiences, and achievements that built Polish identity in all its richness and diversity.
After giving the certificates in the so-called Flag Room (Sala Chorągwiana) and the Main Hall of the Presidential Palace, an exhibition entitled Poland’s Memory (Pamięć Polski) presenting the historical treasures distinguished by the UNESCO programme was opened for visitors on 6th November 2016.
Rocznik Świętokrzyski Dawny (the Ancient Świętokrzyski Annual) from 1120 or 1122, one of the most valuable documents concerning the history of the state, was added to the UNESCO list. It contains information about events from the first two centuries of Polish statehood (from 948 to 1119), including the marriage of Mieszko I and Dąbrówka, and the Baptism of Poland. Interestingly, the records up to the year 1000 were shifted one year by mistake. That way, the information about the Baptism of Mieszko I was accidentally recorded as an event from 967, not 966. The document is kept in the National Library.
Zbilut’s document, published in 1153, is the founding document of a Cistercian monastery in Łekno. It was published by a wealthy Polish knight, Zbilut, from Paningrodz, and is the oldest legal act made in Poland. The two preserved copies are kept in the State Archive in Poznań and in the Archdiocese Archives in Gniezno.
The Union in Krevo Act was enacted by King Władysław Jagiełło on 14th August 1385 and is kept in the collections of Krakow Cathedral Chapter Archives. The document started the Christianisation of Lithuania and its close ties with Poland, which led to the signing of the Union of Lublin in 1569 to create the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
The Foundation Act of the Prussian League is dated 14th March 1440 and is kept in the collections of State Archive in Toruń. The document confirms the union of towns and the Prussian knights against the Teutonic Order. An attempt to dissolve this union was one of the main reasons behind the Thirteen Years' War (1454-1466) that led to Poland taking over Pomerania with Gdańsk, Toruń, and Elbląg.
Another piece of written heritage appreciated by the UNESCO programme was a 15th-century missal of the Teutonic Order kept in Mariacka Library in Gdańsk. It’s used for the liturgical reasons by St. Mary’s Church in Gdańsk. The manuscript is kept by PAN Library in Gdańsk.
Łaski’s Statute from 1506 is the first printed file of the laws of the Polish Crown dating back to the times of King Kazimierz the Great. The publication was ordered by the King Alexander Jagiellon and the initiator of the undertaking was Crown Chancellor Jan Łaski, later Archbishop of Gniezno and the primate of Poland. The document owes its name to him. It is kept in the collections of the Central Archive of Historical Records in Warsaw.
The next document added to Memory of the World was the work On Improving the Republic (O poprawie Rzeczypospolitej) by Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski – the first Latin edition of a masterpiece that promoted multi-faceted reforms in Poland. The thinker proposed changes in the areas of politics, laws, education, and relations with the Catholic Church. The copy from 1551 kept in the Jagiellonian Library in Kraków has a hand-written dedication by the author to King Sigismund II Augustus.
Descriptions and Views of the Polish Kingdom’s Ancient Heritage (Opisy i widoki zabytków starożytności w Królestwie Polskim) by Kazimierz Stronczyński, written in 1844-1855, is richly illustrated, thanks to him cataloguing the Polish Kingdom's heritage in the mid-19th-century. It’s composed of five volumes of text and seven albums containing over 400 watercolours and gouaches authored by famous artists. It is kept in the collections of the University of Warsaw's Library.
The political will of Prince Adam Jerzy Czartoryski, enacted on 14th July 1861, is one of the most important documents concerning the role of Polish emigration to France, especially of Prince Czartoryski and people associated with him. The document is kept by the Princes Czartoryski Foundation in Kraków.
polish ancient documents
memory of the world
ministry of culture and national heritage
The Process for Morskie Oko (Proces o Morskie Oko) was also added to Memory of the World. It’s a file of documents from Count Władysław Zamoyski of Zakopane, who struggled to save the most picturesque place in the Tatra Mountains – lake Morskie Oko and its surroundings – by keeping it inside the borders of Polish Galicia. The work is kept in the Library of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Kórnik.
The Warsaw Scientific Society’s Archive documents the activities of the biggest organisation in the Russian Partition aiming to develop scientific research and publish the results in Polish. The organisation worked from 1907. In the work, there are unique materials presenting Polish scientists’ output up to World War II. The edition is in the collections of the Polish Academy of Sciences Archives in Warsaw.
UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme was developed in 1992. Its aim is to guarantee long-term protection for the world’s documental heritage. The International Memory of the World List was launched in 1997 and today contains 350 entries on documents differing in content and time and place of origin, as well as the media on which they are preserved. The 14 documents on this list represent Polish heritage.
In addition to the international list which is a part of the UNESCO programme, there are also registers collecting items with special value for culture or Polish history or other cultures as well, if the objects are in the collections of Polish institutions.
The Polish National Register of Memory of the World was inaugurated in 2014 with 14 items added to the list, including the Constitution of 3rd May 1791, the Golden Code from Gniezno (Złoty Kodeks Gnieźnieński), Gall Annonim’s Chronicle from the 12th century, the Kraków Location Act from 1257, the Świętokrzyskie sermon (Kazania Świętokrzyskie) from the second half of the 13th century, and the manuscript of Pan Tadeusz by Adam Mickiewicz.
Sources: PAP, written by md, translated by BR.