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Dear visitor: Summer is here, and you may be thinking about a well-deserved vacation, family get-togethers, BBQs with neighborhood friends. More than likely, making a donation to Catholic Answers is not on your radar right now. But this is exactly the time we most need your help. The “summer slowdown” in donations is upon us, but the work of spreading the gospel and explaining and defending the Faith never takes a break. Your gift today will change lives and save souls for Christ this summer! The reward is eternal. Thank you and God bless.

Cracow (Krakow)

Prince-Bishopric and University located in what is now Poland

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Cracow (Pol. Krakow), THE PRINCE—BISHOPRIC OF (Cracoviensis); comprises the western portion of Galicia in Austria, and borders on the Diocese of Kielce in Russian Poland, Breslau in Prussia, Tar-now in Galicia, and Zips in Hungary.

It has long been disputed at what time the Diocese of Cracow was created. There is no doubt that it was already in existence in the year 1000; for at that time Poppo, its bishop, was made a suffragan to Radzym (the Latin St. Gaudentius) the first Archbishop of Gnesen (Thietmar Chronicon, IV, in P.L., CXXXIX, 1226). Father Augustine Arndt, S.J. (Zeitschrift fur kath. Theologie, XIV, 45-47, Innsbruck, 1890) adduces some reasons in support of the opinion that the Diocese of Cracow was founded by the Polish King Mieceslaw I as early as 984, and that Poppo, who had been tutor of Duke Henry of Bavaria until 983, became its first bishop; but most authorities agree that it was not created until 1000 or shortly before. There are extant five lists of the bishops of Cracow. The oldest was compiled about 1266 (Mon. Germ. Hist.: Script., XIX, 608), the second, shortly before 1347 (Mon. hist. Polon. III, 801); the others are of a later date. During the invasion of the Bohemians in 1039, and the succeeding period of anarchy, all ecclesiastical documents were lost, and the names and dates of the bishops of Cracow up to Bishop Aaron (1046-1059) are very unreliable. Prochorus and Proculphus, who are mentioned in the lists as predecessors of Poppo, are entirely legendary. Three of the bishops of Cracow are publicly venerated: St. Stanislaus Szczepanowski (1072-1079), who suffered martyrdom at the hands of King Boleslaw, canonized in 1253, patron of Poland and of the Dioceses of Cracow and Posen; Blessed Vincent Kadlubek (1208-1218), the earliest Polish historian of Poland, resigned his see and entered the Cistercian monastery of Jedrzejow in 1218, died March 8, 1223, beatified in 1764; John Prandotha (1242-1266), who drove the heretical Flagellants from his diocese, and was venerated until the seventeenth century, when his veneration ceased, owing to a misinterpretation of the Bull “De cultu servorum Dei” issued by Pope Urban VIII, July 5, 1634. Other renowned bishops were: Matthi us (1143-1165) a historian; Zbigniew Olesnicki (1423-1455), a great statesman and fearless opponent of the Hussites, created cardinal in 1439; and George Radziwill (1591-1600), founder of seminaries and hospitals.

Originally the Diocese of Cracow seems to have comprised the towns and districts of Sandomir, Cracow, and Lublin, and the castellanies of Sieradz, Spicimir, Rozpoza, Lenczyc, and Wolborg; but its area underwent various changes. From the year 1443 to 1795 the Bishops of Cracow were at the same time sovereign dukes of Severia, a territory situated between Silesia and Cracow. Before the first partition of Poland in 1772 the Diocese of Cracow comprised the whole of Little Poland, Sieradz, a large portion of Silesia, and part of the present Diocese of Zips (Seepusium). In 1772 it lost its territory south of the Vistula (Dieecesis Cisvistulana), which in 1783 constituted the new Diocese of Tarnow. In 1790 the new Diocese of Lublin and in 1805 the new Diocese of Kielce were severed from its remaining territory. Pope Pius VII made Cracow an exempt diocese in 1815 and restored to it a portion of the Diocese of Kielce in 1817, which portion, however, was returned to Kielce in 1846, so that then the Diocese of Cracow was confined to the city Cracow and two deaneries south of the Vistula. From 1851 to 1879 the diocese was ruled by administrators. Under Albin Dunajewski, who became bishop in 1879, it was somewhat enlarged towards the south, in 1880 and again in 1886. In 1889 it was made a prince-bishopric, and a year later Prince-Bishop Dunajewski was raised to the cardinal-ate. John Puzyna de Koziel was made Prince-Bishop of Cracow in 1895, and Anatole Nowak auxiliary bishop in 1900. The diocese numbers 197 parishes, 181 vicariates, 457 diocesan and 223 regular priests, 850,000 Catholics, 4000 Protestants, and 60,000 Jews. The Emperor of Austria has the privilege of appointing the prince-bishop, after consulting with the bishops of Galicia. The cathedral chapter includes 3 prelates (dean, scholasticus, and custos) and 6 canons. The most important educational institution in the diocese is the Cracow University (Uniwersitet Jagiellonski), founded by Casimir the Great in 1364 and approved by Pope Urban V the same year. The diocese has also an ecclesiastical seminary, various colleges, and minor institutions of learning. The cathedral of Cracow is one of the most venerable structures in Europe. Here lie buried most of the Polish kings, the two national heroes, Kosciusko and Poniatowski, the greatest Polish poet, Mickiewicz, and many other noble sons of Poland; here also are preserved the relics of St. Stanislaus (see above). It is of Gothic architecture, originally built probably by Mieceslaw I about 966, where now stands the church of St. Michael and where St. Stanislaus suffered martyrdom; rebuilt on its present site by Ladislaus Herman, King of Poland (1083-1102); restored by Nanker Oksza, Bishop of Cracow (1320-132); rebuilt in the eighteenth century in barocco style; and renovated from 1886-1901. It contains the beautiful chapel of Sigmund, the best specimen of the Renaissance style in Eastern Europe, built by Bartolommeo da Firenze in the sixteenth century and renovated in 1894. The Church of St. Mary, a Gothic structure built 1226-1397 and restored in the fourteenth century, has on its high altar a large Gothic wood-carving representing the death of the Blessed Virgin, the masterpiece of Veit Stoss.

The chief charitable institution is the Archconfraternity of Mercy, founded by the Jesuit Peter Skargo (d. 1618), which distributes alms to the poor and is the owner of a mont-de-piete. There are also: another mont-de-piete, an asylum for old men and women, three orphan asylums, an insane asylum, various hospitals and workhouses. All these establishments are subject to the diocesan authorities. The Catholic press is represented by two dailies, two weeklies edited by priests, three monthlies published by religious, and two monthly magazines of high literary standard. They are all in Polish.

The following religious orders and congregations of men are engaged in parish, educational, or charitable work: Augustinians, Brothers of Mercy, Camaldolese, Canons Regular of the Lateran, Canons Regular of the Holy Sepulchre, Carmelites, Discalced Carmelites (2 houses), Capuchins, Cistercians (Abbey of Mogila), Conventual Franciscans, Observant Franciscans (here called Bernardines (3 houses), Reformed Franciscans (3 houses), Dominicans, Hermits of St. Paul, Jesuits (2 houses), Lazarists (3 houses), Piarists, Resurrectionists. The religious orders and congregations of women are represented by the following: Augustinians, Benedictines, Bernardines, Canonesses of the Holy Ghost de Saxia, Discalced Carmelites, Clarisses, Daughters of Divine Love, Dominicans, Franciscans, Premonstratensians, Resurrectionists, Salesians, Servite Tertiaries, Ursulines, Sisters of St. Albert, Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, Sisters of St. Felix, Sisters of the Holy Family, Sisters of the Mother of Mercy, Sisters of Nazareth, Sisters of the Presentation, Vincentian Sisters, Servants of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.


THE UNIVERSITY OF CRACOW.—The first documentary evidence regarding the scheme that King Casimir the Great conceived of establishing a university dates from 1362. Urban V favored the plan, and King Casimir issued the charter of the university, May 12, 1364. It was modeled after the schools of Padua and Bologna, consequently the faculty of law and the study of Roman law held the first place. The pope gave his approval, September 1, 1364, but excluded theology. Casimir’s school, however, was refounded during the reign of Jagiello and Hedwig of the house of Anjou. The consent of Boniface IX was given, February 11, 1397, and King Jagiello signed the charter, July 26, 1400. The university now included all four faculties and was, therefore, patterned on that of Paris. The first chancellor was Bishop Peter Wysz of Cracow, who also gave the opening lecture. The first professors were Bohemians, Germans, and Poles, most of whom had been trained at Prague. In the first year the number of matriculated students was 205; in the course of the fifteenth century it rose to 500.

The university took an active part in the ecclesiastical controversies of the fifteenth century and showed itself a strong supporter of the conciliar doctrine: concilium supra papam (i. e. a council is above the pope). It maintained nevertheless a strictly Catholic position during the Hussite troubles. In the struggle between the Nominalists and Realists it took but little part, Realism having almost. exclusive sway at the school. Still the effect on the university of the active intercourse with the West was, at the time, but slight and transient. King Jagiello died in 1434; in the period following, the university was controlled by its powerful chancellor, Zbigniew Olesnicki, who was also Bishop of Cracow from 1423 to 1455. A circle of learned men who followed the new tendencies gathered around him. Among these scholars was Poland‘s great historian, Dlugozs. At the time of the Council of Basle the university and its chancellor were partisans of the council, and Olesnicki even accepted the cardinalate from Felix V. After the Union of Florence Olesnicki went over to the side of Nicholas V, but the university did not submit to the control of the Church until 1449. The age of Olesnicki was one of great scholars, among whom were: the physician and astronomer, Martin Krol; the decretalist, Johann Elgot; the theologians, Benedict Hesse and Jacobus of Paradyi. St. John Cantius, student and later professor of theology, was distinguished for virtue even more than for learning. He was born at Kenty, 1397; died, 1473; was canonized by Clement XIII, 1767; his feast is observed October 20. Olesnicki showed favor to men who were not Poles, suppressed the Hussite tendencies with a firm hand, and was very generous to the university. He died in 1455.

The causes which finally brought the university into line with the new tendencies were various. Poland was then the great power of Eastern Europe, the court of Casimir of the Jagellon dynasty was a brilliant one, and Cracow was a very rich city. It was, therefore, not surprising that many famous men were drawn to this center. From 1470 to 1496 Callimachus was preceptor in the royal household. Attracted by the fame of Callimachus, Conrad Celtes, the celebrated Humanist, made his appearance at Cracow before the end of the century. Printing also soon had its representatives here; towards the close of the fifteenth century Haller established his press in Cracow and began his patronage of art and letters. In this way the number of those who followed the new humanistic tendencies of the West continually increased, but unfortunately there was also an increase in profligacy. In 1492, John I Albert, the pupil and friend of Callimachus, ascended the throne of Poland; he did not, however, fulfill the expectations excited by him. Callimachus died in 1496; as time went on the seed which he and Celtes had sown produced its fruit, as is shown in Rhagius Sommerfeld, also called Aesticampianus, and in Heinrich Bebel. Thus, at the opening of the sixteenth century, the classic writers were more and more read, at first outside of the lecture-rooms of the university, in the students’ halls. In 1520 the study of Greek was introduced into the university, the professors being Constanzo Claretti, Wenzel of Hirschberg, and Libanus. Hebrew was also taught in spite of the opposition to the “Judaizers“, and the notorious Italian, Francesco Stancari, arrived at Cracow in 1546.

DECLINE OF THE UNIVERSITY.—In the midst of this progress signs of decay were visible, though the decline did not originate in the university itself. The national policy of Poland, the founding of the universities of Wittenberg and Frankfort-on-the-Oder, and a strong anti-German tendency, caused the University of Cracow to lose its original cosmopolitan character and to become rather a national Polish university; thus a gradual decline ensued. Nevertheless it maintained during this period a remarkably high standing. Such scholars as Martin Krol, Martin Bylica, and finally Adalbert Brudzewski made the school famous as a seat of astronomical studies while the name of Nicholas Copernicus, the pupil of Brudzewski, sheds upon it undying lustre. Elementary studies were taught, consequently students of from fourteen to sixteen years of age entered from Hungary, Moravia, Silesia, Prussia, and the provinces of the Polish crown. At first the students lived in private houses, but gradually halls were established in which “commons” were provided, and a clerical dress was worn. The expenses of these halls were covered by the fees which the students paid for board, matriculation, room rent, and fuel. The rector of the university was chosen by a committee of doctors and masters. Up to 1419 a rector was chosen for the whole year, but from this date until 1778 one was selected for each semester. Other officers were: the curators who watched over the rights and privileges of the university, the procurator and notarius, and the consiliarii who had to decide in case of an appeal. From the start the professors lived together in colleges, and were divided according to faculties. They had a common table, decided as to the reception of members, and bestowed the positions of canon and prebend, of which each faculty, with the exception of the medical, had often as many as twelve at its disposal. During the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the fortunes of the university sank to a very low ebb. J. Gorski, in his “Apology” (1581), and Petrycy give as the chief reasons for this the utter insubordination of the students, complete indifference of the professors to the advances of learning in the West, and lack of means for the support of the university. Above all, there arose after the opening of the seventeenth century, a bitter conflict on the part of the university against the Jesuits, who, on the strength of their constitutional privileges, had opened schools in Cracow, Posen, Lemberg, and other places, to protect Polish youth against the advances of Protestantism. The university, however, appealed to a privilege, the jus exclusionis, and demanded the closing of the Jesuit institutions. For nearly one hundred and fifty years this conflict was carried on with incredible tenacity. The common people, nobility, clergy, kings, bishops, and popes were drawn into it, and the struggle ended in the discomfiture of the Jesuits (cf. Zaleski, Jezuici ev Polsic, II, III). When, towards the dose of the eighteenth century, national misfortunes overtook the country, and the three Partitions of Poland put an end to Polish freedom, the life of the university came to a complete standstill. It is true that Bishop Soltyk, and after him the energetic Koltataj, undertook a thorough reform by breaking with the medieval routine and giving prominence to the natural sciences. But the political conditions in the decades following these efforts were unfavorable to quiet and serious study.

MODERN TIMES.—After Cracow had become, in 1846, a part of the Austrian Empire, the central Government at Vienna endeavored to make the university more German, but did nothing to improve it. A new era did not open for the school until 1861, when Francis Joseph I permitted Polish to be again used as the language of instruction and official life, and the Government allowed a new building to be erected for the university. The number of professors and students now increased each year. While, in 1853 there were only 47 professors, of whom 37 were regular professors, 2 assistant professors, and 8 docents, in 1900, the fifth centennial of the university, there were 103 professors; of this number 48 were regular, 36 assistant professors, and 19 docents and lecturers. In 1907 the professors numbered 115. In 1853 there were 175 students; in 1893, 1320; in 1907, over 2700. The university library contains 250,000 works in 330,000 volumes; 5500 manuscripts in 7000 volumes (some of them very valuable and as yet unpublished); about 10,000 coins, and 1200 atlases. The university has a college of the physical sciences, and a medical college for anatomical and physiological lectures; the medical school is entirely modern in its equipment and possesses very fine collections. There are also surgical, gynaecological, and ophthalmic clinics, besides one for internal and nervous diseases: an agricultural institute is in process of construction. Among the distinguished scholars connected with the university (1908) are: Professor Obszewski, the discoverer of a new method for liquifying gases, the surgeon Professor Kader, and Professor Wicherkiewicz, the oculist.


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