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Article

Author: Elżbieta Cherezińska & Agnieszka Budzińska-Benne

Title :

A mature man at the peak of power and a young man of ephemeral charm


T

he first knew about the craft of war, and he had political instinct, loyalty to his own country and ambitions that significantly surpassed the power he inherited from his father. The second was well-educated and surrounded by the most distinguished minds of the era; he

showed a tendency to religious ecstasy, which did not prevent him from becoming the most powerful emperor of the world. As children, both were hostages of political opponents. The first man was Bolesław, son of Mieszko, Duke of Poland. The younger one was O o III, emperor of the Roman empire. Strangely enough, the thread that bound them in friendship was the death of Wojciech of Libice, bishop of Prague, known as Adalbert. And both of them, Emperor O o III and Prince Bolesław, wanted to make this death their own, in a manner of speaking. In some way, this was even their right. After all, they had indirectly contributed to Wojciech’s death by sending the future martyr on far-distant missions. In addition, while he lived they were his friends. It is difficult to consider Wojciech Adalbert an ordinary bishop. He was made bishop before he turned thirty, which was a sensation. He took his episcopate in Prague extremely seriously, and when he failed to persuade the people of Bohemia to renounce their pagan ways, he resigned from his office as bishop. He left Prague twice. However, a bishop is anointed of God, and the ecclesiastical courts did not free him from the burden once imposed on him. Nor did they acknowledge the fact that the ruling family in Prague was behind murders commi ed in the meantime, as a result of which most of Wojciech’s immediate family was killed, and they did not consider this violence a circumstance justifying Wojciech’s desire to abandon Pra-


gue. To satisfy ecclesiastical law, however, he was given an alternative – he could go on a mission. The young emperor O o III directed him to spread the word of God among the Polabian Slavs, who occupied the lands between the empire and the principality ruled by Bolesław. And Duke Bolesław, knowing that the Polabian Slavs would kill Wojciech before he managed to make the first sign of the cross over them, persuaded him to go on missions among the pagan Prussians, where, however, he was martyred. In some sense, both rulers played a role in Wojciech’s death. After Wojciech’s death, Bolesław bought the martyr’s body for pure silver. He built him a dignified tomb in the heart of his country, in Gniezno, and waited until the Vatican announced Wojciech a saint. For the emerging Polish state, this was a unique opportunity! Emperor O o quickly realized the importance of this death. For in times when there was starting to be a lack of pagans to convert, a true martyr was worth not just silver, but gold! A contemporary saint! A myth fulfilled before the eyes of the living! And not only that, but the martyr was also a friend. And in addition, over all this arched the young emperor’s great political – the renewal of the Roman Empire to make it greater and more powerful than it ever had been. There it was – a contemporary patron saint for a noble idea! The thousandth year had come, the Millennium, filled with the fear of the world’s end and with hopes for a spectacular transformation. The waiting period for a miracle or an end, a year of great penance and fervent prayers. After all, anything could happen. And the unexpected did happen, something that previously had had no political precedence: Emperor O o III left Rome on a Millennium pilgrimage to Gniezno, to Prince Bolesław’s country, to the tomb of Saint Wojciech Adalbert. For the first time in history, an emperor had left the borders of his power for a purpose other than war. They met like two opposites – a young man and a mature man. O o and Bolesław.


An Emperor and a Prince. Different thoughts, different policies, interests that were in conflict. But something clicked between them. O o exalted Bolesław above all the princes of the Empire. He gave him a copy of the empire’s holy spear, and in his great idea of a united empire, he appointed him a special role. Thus, Bolesław, as a ruler of all Slavs, of the realm Sklavinia, was to become the eastern flank of the Roman Empire. Four great lands pay tribute to Caesar – Gaul, Italia, Germania and Sklavinia. And all are created equal. They peacefully create a Europe united under one sceptre. The premature death of the young emperor two years later brought this first European union to an end before it really had time to develop. Historians will continue to argue about what happened in Gniezno in March 1000 AD and what the consequences were. As ordinary people, we can let our imagination run free and travel in time to the moment when Bishop Unger divides Wojciech’s bones into parts with silver tongs to give O o a decent relic. We can see the Emperor go barefoot to the tomb of the martyr friend and see what the Emperor sees in Bolesław’s eyes when the he gives the Prince the holy spear. We can close our eyes and listen. Elżbieta Cherezińska

A

nd there’s much to listen to. Adalbert-Wojciech’s death and its political and religious implications were also reflected in medieval poetry and music. Shortly after the canonization of the Prague bishop-martyr, the sequence Annua recolamus was created in

Reichenau, also mentioning Emperor O o III. Most probably, O o himself took care of immediately commemorating the murdered friend by ordering that a new piece

be wri en in his honour. In Gniezno, we find the sequence Hac festa die - the oldest from a repertoire of over 140 sequences dedicated to Adalbert, wri en in Poland,


the Czech Republic and Hungary. Most of these songs mention both Bolesław Chrobry, as well as O o III, stressing the importance of both these figures’ roles for the development of the Polish state. Offices, hymns and alleluia-verses were still wri en until the early 16th century in honour of Adalbert, sung in Gniezno, Poznań, Wrocław, Kraków and many other places celebrating the liturgy of the martyr. Saint Wojciech, however, remained most closely associated with the diocese and church of Greater Poland - as a counterweight to the thriving cult of Saint Stanisław in Lesser Poland - and it is this link that is emphasized by the choice of songs on the recording. Where and when many of them were wri en, however, remains extremely contentious. This includes the oldest song in Polish: Bogurodzica. There is a rich literature on the subject of dating the song’s first two verses beginning in the 10th century (with the famous, but false theory in favour of the authorship of Saint Wojciech himself) and extending through the late 14th century, and the disputes continue today. The provenance of this work is equally problematic - from Kcynia in Greater Poland, where the oldest version of this song from the early 15th century was found, which we used during this recording, or from Gniezno itself, through the circles of Władysław Jagiełło’s court in Kraków. The origin and time in which a number of sequences were wri en are similarly unclear. The oldest native sequence about Saint Wojciech, Hac festa die, was probably created in Gniezno after 1090 AD; other researchers, however, place the origin of the work at the turn of the 11th to the 12th century or simply the 13th century. The question of authorship is similarly debatable for the sequence Salve sidus Polonorum. The text, on the basis of the acrostic poem SVINCA in the verse, is a ributed to Adam Świnka from Zielona, who died in 1433, a canon from Gniezno and Kraków. However, it is possible that the author of this text is unknown, and the mentioned acrostic expresses worship to the restorer of Saint Wojciech’s cult in the 14th century - Jakub Świnka, Archbishop of Gniezno (died 1314). It should be noted that many of these works survived only in much lat-


er manuscripts from the 15th and 16th centuries, which makes it difficult to determine precisely the place and time that they were wri en. The texts of four sequences created in Poland have been matched to existing melodies of western melodies like Hac clara die or Lauda Sion Salvatorem. The melodic schemes of these pieces or their selected parts were adapted to newly created texts quite freely and often very ingeniously, therefore, the prosody and versification structure of these songs often suffered. In the improved versions of texts and melodies I tried to retain the original idea of the scribe, adapting the problematic fragments of the piece chosen by him in a new way, being guided as much as possible by a more correct prosody to propose solutions more satisfying musically and in terms of versification. Those listeners more familiar with the Polish heritage of music will probably be surprised not only by the proposition of the 13th century pronunciation of Bogurodzica, arrived at after consultation with researchers of the old Polish language, but also by the polyphonically enriched fragments of this song notated as a one-part piece. Here, I allowed myself to read the score freely, suggesting highlighting the collective moment of the espression of faith in the invocations of “Maria”, “Kyrieleyson” and “Bożycze” in a simple, archaic polyphony. Also in the sequence Consurgat in preconia and in the hymn Fulget in templo we include an improvised polyphony. Some pieces in this programme needed to be reconstructed due to the unclear notation. Annua recolamus, taken from a manuscript from Reichenau, an abbey closely connected with the O onian dynasty, presents the neumatic notation of the sequence and melisma side by side. In deciphering the neumes for the melody of this sequence (and those neumes indicate the pitches only very approximately), a note from the scribe from Reichenau that mentioned the title of the song which this sequence was modelled on was a great help. It turned out to be the known sequence Mater by Notker Balbulus from St. Gallen in SwiRerland, whose melody we fortunately know from later manuscripts. The full reconstruction is Omnis etas, the beau-


tiful carmen lugubre for the death of Bolesław Chrobry from Gallus Anonymous’ “Chronicle”. It is a lament of Poland personified as a widow, calling “the people of every age, gender and status” to widespread mourning of a great ruler. The songs are accompanied by a Romanesque harp and vielle, which can also be heard in the remaining instrumental improvisations. Agnieszka Budzińska-Benne+

A mature man at the peak of power and a young man of ephemeral charm