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Five Centuries of the Reformation in Poland

On 31 October 1517, the Augustinian monk Martin Luther announced 95 theses against the sale of indulgences. This event is seen as the symbolic beginning of the Reformation, which quickly spread across Europe. In Poland and in Lithuania, Lutheranism became established in the first half of the 16th century, while denominations such as Calvinism and the Czech Brethren became popular a little later. In the 1560s the so-called Polish Brethren emerged from the community of Polish Calvinists.

The peaceful coexistence of different faiths had a long tradition in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Groups such as Orthodox Christians and Jews enjoyed religious freedom, as well as Tatars and Crimean Karaites in the territory of Lithuania. The last rulers of the Jagiellonian dynasty tried to stop the expansion of Protestantism, but their edicts were not enforced. In fact, the rulers themselves indirectly contributed to the establishment of Lutheranism in our part of Europe – Sigismund the Elder approved the transformation of the Teutonic State into a Lutheran duchy, and Sigismund Augustus accepted the creation of a Lutheran Courland.

In the second half of the 16th century, Poland was an oasis of religious peace, and Protestantism dominated among the noble elites. Only the heirless death of Sigismund Augustus and the need to choose a new monarch led the nobles to secure the Commonwealth against religious conflicts.

Professor Edward Opaliński