Article

Ethnic and Religious Groups in Medieval Poland

Pawel Kras

in Medieval Studies

ISBN: 9780195396584
Published online December 2010 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0043
Ethnic and Religious Groups in Medieval Poland

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  • Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500)
  • Literary Studies (Early and Medieval)
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  • Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400)
  • Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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Starting from its historical emergence in the 10th century, Poland formed the eastern margin of Western Christianity. In the Middle Ages Poland became a meetingplace between the East and the West, and the blend of Eastern and Western European traditions left its imprint on Polish culture. One of the most striking features of Poland was the ethnic and religious pluralism of its society and culture. In the mid-14th century, the expansion of Poland eastward brought thousands of Orthodox Ruthenians under the rule of Polish kings. The migration of European Jews to Poland, which started in the 12th century and later intensified, made Poland host to the largest concentration of Jews in Europe and a hub for Jewish culture. In the Middle Ages, most Polish towns and villages were inhabited by numerous minorities of Germans, who contributed to their economic growth. They introduced new legal codes and institutions that lay the foundation for city autonomy. Polish towns situated along international trade routes became places of settlement for Scots, Italians, and Armenians. Members of all ethnic minorities developed crafts and trade on both international and local scales. Polish rulers appreciated their role in the growing prosperity of the country and granted them special privileges which secured their ethnic and religious diversity. Leading up to the modern era in Poland, or rather the Commonwealth of Poland and Lithuania, it was a diverse country where various ethnic and religious groups lived together in peace. A long tradition of peaceful coexistence between various Christian and non-Christian religions gave rise to mutual acceptance and cooperation, which functioned well even in the period of the Reformation.

Article.  13783 words. 

Subjects: Medieval and Renaissance History (500 to 1500) ; Literary Studies (Early and Medieval) ; Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy ; Byzantine and Medieval Art (500 CE to 1400) ; Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Archaeology

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