Kith, Kin, and Neighbors
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Kith, Kin, and Neighbors

Communities and Confessions in Seventeenth-Century Wilno

David A. Frick

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Kith, Kin, and Neighbors

Communities and Confessions in Seventeenth-Century Wilno

David A. Frick

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About This Book

In the mid-seventeenth century, Wilno (Vilnius), the second capital of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, was home to Poles, Lithuanians, Germans, Ruthenians, Jews, and Tatars, who worshiped in Catholic, Uniate, Orthodox, Calvinist, and Lutheran churches, one synagogue, and one mosque. Visitors regularly commented on the relatively peaceful coexistence of this bewildering array of peoples, languages, and faiths. In Kith, Kin, and Neighbors, David Frick shows how Wilno's inhabitants navigated and negotiated these differences in their public and private lives.This remarkable book opens with a walk through the streets of Wilno, offering a look over the royal quartermaster's shoulder as he made his survey of the city's intramural houses in preparation for King Wladyslaw IV's visit in 1636. These surveys ( Lustrations ) provide concise descriptions of each house within the city walls that, in concert with court and church records, enable Frick to accurately discern Wilno's neighborhoods and human networks, ascertain the extent to which such networks were bounded confessionally and culturally, determine when citizens crossed these boundaries, and conclude which kinds of cross-confessional constellations were more likely than others. These maps provide the backdrops against which the dramas of Wilno lives played out: birth, baptism, education, marriage, separation or divorce, guild membership, poor relief, and death and funeral practices. Perhaps the most complete reconstruction ever written of life in an early modern European city, Kith, Kin, and Neighbors sets a new standard for urban history and for work on the religious and communal life of Eastern Europe.

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Over the Quartermaster’s Shoulder

King Władysław IV made one of his five entries into Wilno on 5 March 1636. Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Albrycht Stanisław Radziwiłł (1595–1656, chancellor from 1623), a staunch Catholic and foe of the Reformation, recorded in his diary that on this occasion “the King entered Wilno on a sleigh without ceremony and made his way to the Castle on foot. Having removed his hat, he dismissed all of us.”1 This nonevent was noteworthy precisely because of the lack of ceremony that usually accompanied the triumphal entry of a ruler. On the next occasion, 27 January 1639, Radziwiłł wrote, “The city went to great expense in order to receive the new queen [Cecilia Renata of Austria], who had come [to Wilno] for the first time.”2 Throughout the medieval and early modern periods, the entry of a ruler into a city was a highly choreographed pageant, in which the ruler and his considerable entourage would be met at the gate leading to the Royal Way within the city by local corporations such as the magistracy, the merchants’ society, and the guilds, all dressed in the livery and under banners peculiar to each.3
King Władysław loved Italian opera, and on both occasions he would command more than thirty intramural houses to quarter “His Royal Majesty’s music” (Muzyka JKrM), which probably followed the king and his retinue through the gate during a triumphal entry. The king, his entourage, and some portion of Wilno society would be entertained on both visits by the performances of Baldasarre Ferri, an Italian castrato of some European renown, who would continue his career in Vienna after the death of his Polish patron. “Little Baltazar, His Royal Majesty’s descantist” (Baltazarek, Dyskancista JKrM) was the only member of “the King’s music” identified by name in the Lustration of 1636; in 1639, he would be identified only by his profession (and the fact that he had been quartered there the last time). He was quartered by himself, on both occasions in the house of “Tyl the locksmith” (in all likelihood a Lutheran) at Glass Street 18.05.4 On 4 September 1636, the king was a part of an audience of 521 who were entertained over the course of five hours by a production of Il Ratto di Helena (The Abduction of Helen), an Italian dramma per musica with libretto by Virgilio Puccitelli and music by Marco Scacchi, who was in the employ of Władysław IV.5
In addition to feasts, pageants, concerts, operas, and hunts, the king would participate during his stay in Wilno in 1636, earlier that same summer, on 5 July, in the ceremony conferring the doctoral degree in theology upon Wilno-based Jesuit Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski (Sarbevius), “the Christian Horace,” the best known of Polish man of letters on the European stage, thanks to his Latin poetry. The ceremony took place in the Jesuits’ Church of St. John, with the newly minted doctor of theology amazing the congregation with an eloquent Latin sermon. On that occasion the king made the poet-theologian a present of a sapphire ring.6 On 14 August 1636 Władysław IV would participate in the long-anticipated translatio of the relics of Lithuania’s patron saint, Kazimierz, one of the king’s own Jagiellonian great uncles, to the newly completed Chapel of St. Kazimierz in the Roman Catholic cathedral church. The royal preacher Sarbiewski himself would give the sermon glorifying the Jagiellonian-Waza dynasty and its role in the defense of the Church.7
Triumphal entries and the sojourns of the king and his large retinue required careful preparations, central among which would have been those for the “quartering of guests” (stanowienie gości). The royal quartermaster probably arrived in the city by the route taken by his royal patron and other dignitaries.8 The “usual road” led from Warsaw, by way of Grodno and Troki. Then, nearing the suburbs of Wilno, the visitor to the city descended along Troki Road from the plateau to the south and west of the city and finally entered from the south, through Rudniki Gate; he then continued along the Royal Way that led along Rudniki Street to the back of the town hall, through Market Square and up Castle Street to Castle Gate, which also housed the Lithuanian Tribunal, the highest court of appeal in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Beyond the gate, across a small branch of the River Wilenka (Wilejka; Lithuanian, Vilnia) that served as the city’s northern limit, two focal points of temporal and spiritual power—the Lower Castle and the cathedral—were nestled under the medieval Upper Castle perched high on a hill looking out over the city to the south and over the River Wilia (Lithuanian, Neris) to the north. As a royal functionary on an assignment from the king, the quartermaster may have lodged in the Lower Castle during his stay in the city. In any event, that was his point of departure as he began his survey of the intramural houses in 1636. (And with very few exceptions, the survey of 1639 followed the same pattern.) We may imagine him having his breakfast, exiting the Lower Castle with his assistants, and passing over the little branch of the Wilenka and through Castle Gate, where he began his appraisal:
Going from the Castle, on the left-hand side, the first wooden house on land owned by the [Roman Catholic] Chapter, just beyond Castle Gate, as the Father Deacon reported, fundationis Vitoldi [of a foundation of (Grand Duke) Witold]: in it lives Matys Walecki, in which [house] there is one chamber with an alcove and a vestibule; standing [i.e., residing temporarily] in it ex officio is Thomas, His Royal Majesty’s tailor. Previously there resided in it his barber-surgeon, with the benign permission of the landlord, as it was asserted [to us].9
This description, although shorter than many because the house in question was so modest, nonetheless contains the basic information found in each of the more than seven hundred entries of the Lustration: the location; the type of house; the types and numbers of rooms in it, along with some general information about their layout; the jurisdiction to which the house was subject; which functionaries—tailors, lackeys, washerwomen, musicians, wig makers, and marzipan bakers were also part of the entourage, alongside noble dignitaries such as cupbearers, masters of the royal hunt, judges, starostas, palatines, and marshals—were temporarily residing there now; and who had resided there previously and by what right.
The physical topography I survey here is based largely on the royal quartermaster’s Lustration of 1636, with some additional material from that of 1639. A detailed examination of patterns of Jewish settlement draws, of necessity, on additional sources. The Lustrations were also my first source for the names of property owners. The royal quartermaster was uninterested in religious confession and, with only one exception, did not register confessional allegiance among Christian Vilnans, even as he carefully sorted out Jewish property owners and chief renters. I have overlaid confessional topographies upon the physical map on the basis of other sources.

Castle Street

The quartermaster began his survey with Castle Street, proceeding from Castle Gate to Market Square, first on his left, as he stood with his back to the Lower Castle, facing south (1.01–1.42), then returning to the top of the street to repeat the process on his right (2.01–2.32).10 This was in fact one of German visitor Kiechel’s “two most fashionable streets or ways, in which to the greater extent Germans and others live[d] as merchants.” From Castle Gate, the street bent slightly to the left and rose gently until it came to Fish Market, widening a bit as it reached its end at the opening into the top of Market Square. In this section of his survey, the quartermaster found seventy-five dwellings and four places of worship—one large Roman Catholic church and three smaller, formerly Orthodox, now Uniate churches. Of those dwellings, fully seventy were identified as “bricked town houses” (kamienice). The other five (1.01, 1.02, 1.29, 1.31, 1.41) were called “houses” (domy); only the first was specifically called “wooden” (dom drzewiany), but all five seem to have been modest structures, two of them (1.29 and 1.41) perhaps outbuildings of other town houses. Since the quartermaster took such pains to identify hybrid structures—a “bricked town house with a wooden chamber,” a “house with a bricked chamber”—I make the assumption that structures identified simply as houses, rather than as bricked town houses, whether or not they receive the qualifier “wooden,” were in 1636 and 1639 wholly or at least largely constructed of wood.
The larger neighborhood was one of impressive residences. Only a small number (five) of the seventy-five houses in this first area surveyed remained at least partially nonbricked. The survey gives the impression that, of the houses on Castle Street, only three were single-story houses, thirty-seven possessed at least two floors, ten had three stories, and one had four. My estimations of the number of stories in each house are based on the quartermaster’s description of rooms as lying “upstairs” (na górze) or “downstairs” (na dole) from others described. This is why I say “at least” two stories, since it is entirely possible that he neglected on occasion to specify “upstairs” and “downstairs.” The only house in the Lustration clearly described as a four-story structure was located at Castle Street 2.17.
A large number of houses in the neighborhood (twenty-three) received no detailed physical description, usually because they were exempt from the obligation of housing guests and thus were of less immediate interest to the quartermaster. Many of them were exempt because they were not subject to the magistracy. The ones subject to the jurisdiction of the land and castle courts (the court of the nobles, Jews, and Tatars) were usually owned by nobles, and many of them would have been imposing structures, as opulent as—or even more impressive than—the town houses of their neighbors from the burgher elite. These included, for instance, the large town house at Castle Street 1.34, owned in 1636 by Krzysztof Chodkiewicz, an ardent Roman Catholic and a holder of a series of important offices in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania—castellan of Troki (1633–1636), castellan of Wilno (1636–1642), and palatine of Wilno (1642–1652). It is still known as Chodkiewicz Palace, and the complex, then as now, was linked by a large internal courtyard with a gate at Sawicz/Bakszta Street (in the vicinity of 68.02). Farther down the same block, at Castle Street 1.38, we find another large noble house with an internal courtyard reaching again to a rear gate on Sawicz/Bakszta Street (between 69.05 and 69.06). It was in the possession of the Roman Catholic sons of Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł “the Orphan,” himself the Roman Catholic son of the original patron of Lithuanian Calvinism, Mikołaj Radziwiłł “the Black” (1515–1565): in 1636 the owner was the castellan of Wilno, Albrycht Władysław (d. 1636), and in 1639 his brother, grand marshal of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Aleksander Ludwik (d. 1654). Across the way at Castle Street 1.16 was the so-called Cardinalia, the urban palace once in the possession of Mikołaj Radziwiłł the Black but named for another of his Roman Catholic sons (all his children would revert to Roman Catholicism)—Cardinal Jerzy Radziwiłł, archbishop of Wilno, later bishop of Cracow, who is said to have staged in 1581 outside the palace windows an auto-da-fé of the Protestant books his father had paid to have printed.11 Across St. John Street to the north of the Cardinalia was the old Roman Catholic Church of St. John (founded in 1387, first bricked in 1426), by now the Jesuit parish church of Wilno (where for much of the seventeenth century the city’s Catholic baptismal records were kept). It was the seat of the famous Jesuit Academy (established as a collegium in 1570, academy in 1579), the future University of Wilno.12
By the early seventeenth century, we find no Ruthenian owners of houses in this section of the city; nonetheless, there were still echoes of their former strong presence. The large town house at Castle Street 1.17 was called the Constantine House (kamienica konstantynowska), because it had been built by one of the greatest of the Orthodox magnates, the hetman of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Prince Konstanty Ostrogski (d. 1530).13 The house next door at Castle Street 1.18 was still called the Sołtan House (kamienica sołtanowska) because at the beginning of the sixteenth century it had belonged to a landed Orthodox gentryman of the Brześć Palatinate by the name of Jarosław Iwanowicz Sołtan, who was a relative of the Orthodox Metropolitan of Ruś, Josyf II Sołtan (d. 1521).
And there were other signs of a past Ruthenian presence in the street. The Radziwiłł and Chodkiewicz palaces on the eastern side of lower Castle Street shared the block with two formerly Orthodox, now Uniate, places of worship. The Radziwiłł palace, toward the lower end of the block (1.38), stood next to the Church of St. Nicholas (practically the patron saint of the Lithuanian Orthodox), which was erected in 1514 with an endowment by that same hetman Konstanty Ostrogski. And the Chodkiewicz palace (1.34), near the top of the block, was located next to the old Church of St. Parasceve;14 it was erected in 1345, before the Christianization of the Grand Duchy, allegedly on the site of a temple to the pagan god Ragutis. At the very end of this section of the survey, on the western side of Castle Street at the intersection with Glass Street, stood the old Orthodox, by now Uniate, Church of the Resurrection. Later in the survey, we will discover that the church was indeed still functioning, and moreover that, around the corner on Glass Street (20.01), “next to the church, in the gate to the courtyard, lives the [Greek-rite] priest [pop] of that very church, Mikołaj Rybiński by name, on Church land.”15
Other echoes of a Ruthenian presence in this part of town are the several “hospital houses” and other buildings owned by what were now Uniate churches, all of them on the eastern, Ruthenian side of the street, which was the entryway to the “Greek” side of the city. The houses at Castle Street 1.29 and 1.41 were “hospitals”—i.e., either the poorhouses and shelters themselves or rent-producing properties for the support of such institutions—of the Uniate Holy Savior Church and the Uniate Holy Trinity Church, respectively. Those who lived at Castle Street 1.33 and 1.40 paid rents that supported the mission of the Uniate Holy Trinity Church. It is likely that in all these instances we are dealing with old bequests of property from Ruthenian families. If the bequest predated the 1596 Union of Brest, the gift had originally been made to an Orthodox institution. This was certainly the case, for example, at Castle Street 1.40, which was originally owned by the Orthodox magnate Sapieha family. Bohdan and Apolonia Sapieha had bequeathed it to the Orthodox in 1558.16
In 1636 this remained one of the wealthiest streets in town, with clear echoes of a former Orthodox magnate presence and some palaces of newly converted Roman Catholic notables. The survey began, however, at the other end of the social and economic spectrum. The first houses that the quartermaster entered—on both sides at the very top of Castle Street, just below Castle Gate—had very little to do with Orthodox and Catholic magnate families or with Kiechel’s German merchant elites. These were all houses under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Chapter (1.01–1.07, 1.09, 2.01–2.04, 2.06), and it was to the chapter court that their inhabitants would go for all matters of civil law. The first structures just inside the gate were of the more modest sort. The very first house, as we have seen, was nonbricked and consisted of one chamber, one alcove, and a vestibule; it was occupied by an otherwise anonymous Vilnan of no specified trade (and in 1639 by a cap maker); in spite of the obviously modest possibilities of the layout, it was temporary home to a guest: a royal tailor. The next house at Castle Street 1.02, likewise wooden, was home to a tailor in 1636: ...

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