Mieszko I (about 960 - 992) and his baptism


Mieszko the First - the first historical ruler of Poland is considered to have been the constructor of the Polish Sate. During his reign he created both the territorial foundations of our state and carried out its organisation, placing Poland among the Christian countries of Europe.

As Gall The Anonymous says, the petty state of the Polans, which was the core of our statehood, before Mieszko had been ruled by legendary rulers Siemowit, Leszek and Siemomysł. The first pieces of information about Mieszko the First come from 963. The Saxon chronicler Widukind noted then that Mieszko waged fights with Vielets. The Polish lands were then invaded by count Wichman, who defeated the Polish ruler. After that event Mieszko the First, looking for the safety for his state, made an alliance with emperor Otto the First and he gave himself under his supremacy. That is why, in later sources, he was called "the friend of the emperor". Getting Christianised in 966 was the most important act and one which had numerous consequences. Otto the First who was crowned emperor in 962, spreading the idea of Christianity, aimed at making Polish lands dependent on him. Being afraid of subordinating Polish lands to German missions, in 965 Mieszko decided to make an alliance with the Czechs. It was also to prevent the dangerous pagan Vielets from invading Poland. The confirmation of the Polish-Czech alliance was the marriage of Mieszko with princess Dobrawa. In April 966, perhaps on Easter Saturday, Mieszko adopted the Christian faith. Most probably the ceremony took place at Ostrów Lednicki. In 968 Jordan became the first Polish bishop residing in Poznań.

Getting Christianised had an enormous significance. Poland became a Christian state. Its ruler Mieszko the First started to be treated equally with other European princes. Church organisation created in our lands began giving patterns necessary for the organising of the state. The knowledge of writing and office forms became especially valuable for our new state. Christianity, being adopted by our forefathers for several centuries and removing tribal cults, at the same time made the integration of the state possible. In external relationships the baptism of Mieszko the First definitely strengthened the position of our ruler, particularly against the German Empire.

The alliance with the Czechs made it possible for Mieszko the First to fight with Vielets who were defeated by the Polish prince in 967. The Polish state with its centre in Gniezno covered then the lands of Wielkopolska (Great Poland), Kujawy, Mazovia and, partly, Pomerania. The battle of Cedynia in 972 enabled Mieszko to gain power over West Pomerania. Mieszko defeated then the German margrave Hodon. In the following years of his reign Mieszko carefully constructed the foundations of our state. He sometimes encountered failures. In 981, during the war with Russia, Poland lost some Russian Strongholds.

Conducting wise home policy Mieszko the First systematically expanded his duchy. Its area was covered with a network of regularly located strongholds. They were administrative centres of the state, its defence points, places of the gathering of tributes and of administering the prince's justice. Outside the ramparts of larger strongholds there were boroughs where craftsmen working for the stronghold settled. A system of menial villages was also organised. Their people, making their living by land cultivation, supplied specific craft products and services. These services, besides tributes and war spoils, constituted the basis for the existence of a numerous troop - armed worriers maintained by the prince.
In his declining years - between 990 and 992 - Mieszko the First performed the act of donating his duchy in favour of the Papal State. It served the weakening of the empire's influence in Poland and strengthening of the just adopted Christianity. Diagome iudex (the document is known by this name) contains the description of the borders of "the Gniezno State" which at the moment of Mieszko the First's death included Wielkopolska, Kujawy, Mazovia, Silesia and probably Pomerania.

Mieszko the Fisrt died in 992 assigning his state to his son Boleslaus. At the times of Boleslaus the Brave the Polish lands were for the first time called Poland. Mieszko the First built strong foundations of our state. Thanks to the adopting of the Christian faith he brought Poland into the sphere of European Politics, finding it a permanent place in Europe of those times.