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Zbigniew Oleśnicki
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Zbigniew Oleśnicki or Zbigniew z Oleśnicy (December 5, 1389April 1, 1455), known in Latin as Sbigneus, was a high-ranking Roman Catholic clergyman and an influential Polishmarker statesman and diplomat. He served as Bishop of Kraków from 1423 until his death in 1455. He took part in the management of the country's most important affairs, initially as a royal secretary under King Władysław II Jagiełło and later as the effective regent during King Władysław III's minority. In 1449 he became the first native Polish cardinal.

At the age of twenty he was secretary to King Władysław Jagiełło, and fought with him in the battle of Grunwaldmarker on 14 July, 1410. A favourite with the king, he took part in the management of the country's most important affairs. His influence with the king greatly aided him in opposing the Hussites, who had gained royal favour. On 9 July, 1423, he was appointed to the episcopal See of Krakówmarker, and in 1433 he was sent by the king as legate to the council of Basle, where he endeavoured to be on friendly terms with both parties.

On 18 December, 1439, he was created cardinal priest with the titular church of St. Prisca, by Pope Eugene IV. As cardinal, his influence in Poland was second only to that of the king, and, during the frequent absence of Casimir IV in Lithuaniamarker, he transacted the affairs of the State.

He was recognized as one of the two most important Polish magnates of his time (the other one was magnate Jan Tęczyński.

In 1449, after the death of archbishop of Gniezno and primate of Poland Wincenty Kot, the position was proposed to Oleśnicki, but he refused it. It then passed to his political rival, bishop Władysław Oporowski.

In his conduct of Poland's affairs Oleśnicki etertained far-reaching imperial dreams, which included a complete assimilation of Lithuaniamarker into the Polish state and the conquest of Silesia from the Kingdom of Bohemia. In particular, Oleśnicki pursued the idea of a Crusading alliance with Hungarymarker against the Ottoman Turks, with the ultimate aim of extending Poland's coundaries to the Black Seamarker. This was manifested in promoting Władysław III's taking the Hungarian Crown - to which some Polish magnates were strongly opposed. However, all these aspirations came to naught with King Władysław's death at the Battle of Varnamarker.

Being a man of great learning, he advanced the study of arts and letters in every possible way, and the flourishing condition of the Academy in Krakówmarker during his episcopacy is due chiefly to his efforts. The well-known historian Jan Długosz was his was his secretary. To repress the spread of Hussitism he called Giovanni da Capistrano (then in Breslaumarker) and the Minorites to Kraków.

Da Capistrano, whom Oleśnicki invited, was also known for his anti-Jewish zeal, in which he engaed in Poland as in other countries. Oleśnicki's own Anti-Jewish intolerance was manifested in his strongly critcising Casimir IV for reaffirming in 1453 the tolerant measusres towards Jews enacted by Casimir III. Under Oleśnicki's influence, the 1454 Statutes of Nieszawa included the provisions that Jews' rights be "restricted when they contradict canon law" and that Polish Jews be compelled to wear distinctive clothing. However, this was never enforced in practice.


  1. Tęczyńscy, PWN Encyklopedia
  2. Bernadeta Kruszyk, Władysław Oporowski, Poczet Arcybiskupów Gnieźnieńskich, Archidiecezja Gnieźnieńska

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