Gniezno - the cradle of our state became famous as the place of first royal coronations. It was here, in Gniezno Cathedral, that Bolaslaus the Brave, the first king of Poland was crowned and then his son Mieszko the Second. Also in Gniezno another ruler, Boleslaus the Generous, had the crown placed on his head in 1076. During the period of Poland's regional breakage which lasted from the 12th till the 14th century, many princes strived for the crown being the symbol of power and unity of the state. In 1295 Przemysl the Second, deriving from the Wielkopolska line of the Piast dynasty, was crowned in Gniezno. At the moment of his coronation he connected under his rule Wielkopolska and Gdańsk Pomerania. The last ruler whose coronation took place in Gniezno in the year 1300 was Vaclav the Second who derived from the Czech dynasty of Przemyslides. The rule of the last two rulers did not last long. The next Polish ruler, Ladislaus the Short for the first time performed the act of coronation not in Gniezno but in Cracow which since then became the place of royal coronations.
From among the coronations listed above the coronation of Boleslaus the Brave had the greatest significance. He was a very special man. Born in 967, the son of Mieszko the First and Dobrawa, he had been brought up by his mother till he was seven. He spent his later years at the German court as Otto the First's hostage. That court was the later ruler's school of life and politics. Having returned to his country he probably ruled over Małopolska (Little Poland). In 992, after his father's death and his fight against Oda, his step-mother and her sons, his step- brothers, he took over the rule in the Polish duchy.
Since the very beginning of his reign Boleslaus the Brave as a Christian ruler showed great activity in spreading the faith. It was him who was the protector of the missions amongst the pagan Prussians. Adalbert, the Bishop of Prague, sent over to the land of the Prussians died martyr's death in 997. His death contributed to regarding bishop Adalbert as Saint in 999. The cult of the saint was taken advantage of by Boleslaus the Brave to create in Gniezno an archbishopric that would be independent from Germany, as well as three new bishoprics in Cracow, Wrocław and Kołobrzeg. Decisions in this matter were made during Gniezno Convention in the year 1000. Emperor Otto the Third arrived to the convention with a political mission. The convention was the first and a very strong effort to settle Polish-German relationships peacefully and also a proof of our recognition on the arena of international politics. The result of the convention was the shaping up of the principles of neighbourly relationships between Poland and the German state in a new way. The symbol of recognizing Boleslaus the Brave's outstanding position was calling him a "brother and associate", putting a coronet on his head as the symbol of high status in the empire and handing him in St. Maurice's spear which in Germany was considered to be the symbol of royal coronation.
After the unexpected death of German emperor Otto the Third, German policy towards Poland changed abruptly, which in consequence led to long-lasting Polish-German wars. The fight which had been going on in the years 1002 - 1018 ended with the Peace of Budziszyn. It sanctioned the possessions the Polish state in the west, granting Poland the area east of Elbe and the Moravia. That war proved Boleslaus's efficiency at the craft of war, who had defended the sovereignty of Poland for good.
Soon after the signing of peace in Budziszyn, Boleslaus turned east. It was his goal to recover and include within the Polish borders the formerly lost Russian strongholds. The first crowned ruler of Poland invaded Russia twice, in the years 1013 and 1018. During his campaigns he conquered Kiev, gathering countless spoils.
The wars that went on for many years were a great cost for the people of the state. The spoils won during the fights only partially compensated enormous costs of the wars with the Germans. The military effort required sacrifice on the side of the nation who had to ensure proper supplies for the fighting troops. Boleslaus the Brave understood that only too well so the subsequent years of his reign did not bring about any more war campaigns.
The times of Boleslaus the Brave were also a period of important changes in Polish culture. Boleslaus's Christian court became the centre of Latin intellectual culture. Throughout his whole reign Boleslaus the Brave struggled to get the king's crown on his head. His endeavours produced a positive result only after the death of Pope Benedict the Eighth who had not favoured Poland and after the death of emperor Henry the Second. Most probably Boleslaus the Brave was crowned king on 18th April 2025. He did not enjoy the royal crown for too long. He died two months later on 17th June 1025. He was buried in Poznań cathedral.
Boleslaus the Brave was a ruler who ensured for Poland a prominent position in Medieval Europe. The status of the country worked out by Mieszko the First got stronger. The foundations of the country's future greatness and significance were laid. The first crowned ruler of Poland expanded the borders of the country so much that during his reign he shaped such a framework of the territory of Poland as is now up-to-date. From a duchy dependent on its German neighbour the Polish state turned into an independent, sovereign kingdom being an equal partner to the then existing superpowers.
Boleslaus the Brave constructed in the heart of Europe a strong state - a state which during his reign was called Poland in historical documents for the first time. All that was achieved by the first king of our state, because, as professor Jerzy Strzelczyk says, he was "a genius of war and the titan of endurance..., with iron consequence did he aim at goals he had put before himself... he was deeply religious but not meek before the people of the Church, although for the Church he was a benefactor in the full meaning of this word".