Piotr Skarga
Piotr Skarga was a Polish
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus is a Catholic male religious order that follows the teachings of the Catholic Church. The members are called Jesuits, and are also known colloquially as "God's Army" and as "The Company," these being references to founder Ignatius of Loyola's military background and a...

, preacher
Preacher is a term for someone who preaches sermons or gives homilies. A preacher is distinct from a theologian by focusing on the communication rather than the development of doctrine. Others see preaching and theology as being intertwined...

, hagiographer
Hagiography is the study of saints.From the Greek and , it refers literally to writings on the subject of such holy people, and specifically to the biographies of saints and ecclesiastical leaders. The term hagiology, the study of hagiography, is also current in English, though less common...

, polemicist, and leading figure of the Counter-reformation
The Counter-Reformation was the period of Catholic revival beginning with the Council of Trent and ending at the close of the Thirty Years' War, 1648 as a response to the Protestant Reformation.The Counter-Reformation was a comprehensive effort, composed of four major elements:#Ecclesiastical or...

 in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

. He was called the "Polish Bossuet
Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet was a French bishop and theologian, renowned for his sermons and other addresses. He has been considered by many to be one of the most brilliant orators of all time and a masterly French stylist....

" due to his oratorical abilities.

He was born February 2, 1536 in Grójec
Grójec is a town in Poland. Located in the Masovian Voivodeship, about 40 km south of Warsaw, it is the capital of Grójec County. It has about 14,875 inhabitants . Grójec surroundings are considered to be the biggest apple-growing area of Poland. It is said, that the region makes up also for...

, to a family of lesser landless gentry
The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. It gained considerable institutional privileges during the 1333-1370 reign of Casimir the Great. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of...

. There he was raised and started his education at a local parochial school before moving to Kraków
Kraków also Krakow, or Cracow , is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life...

, where in 1552 he joined the Kraków Academy
Jagiellonian University
The Jagiellonian University was established in 1364 by Casimir III the Great in Kazimierz . It is the oldest university in Poland, the second oldest university in Central Europe and one of the oldest universities in the world....

. He began life as a tutor to the family of Andrzej Tęczyński
Andrzej Tęczyński
Andrzej Tęczyński, Earl , was a voivode of Lublin, voivode of Sandomierz, voivode of Kraków, Castellan of Kraków...

, castellan of Kraków, and, some years later, after a visit to Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

, took orders, and from 1563 was attached to the cathedral church of Lwów
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

. His oratory was so successful that he determined to become a missionary-preacher among the people, in order better to combat the social and political evils of the day. By way of preparation he studied theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 in Italy from 1568 to 1570, and finally entered the Society of Jesus. On his return he preached successively at Pułtusk, Jarosław, and Płock under the powerful protection of Queen Anna Jagiellon
Anna Jagiellon
Anna Jagiellon was queen of Poland from 1575 to 1586. She was the daughter of Poland's King Sigismund I the Old, and the wife of Stephen Báthory. She was elected, along with her then fiance, Báthory, as co-ruler in the second election of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth...

. During a subsequent mission to Lithuania he converted numerous noble families, including the Radziwills.

He became the first rector
The word rector has a number of different meanings; it is widely used to refer to an academic, religious or political administrator...

 of the Vilnius Academy
Vilnius University
Vilnius University is the oldest university in the Baltic states and one of the oldest in Eastern Europe. It is also the largest university in Lithuania....

 in 1579, where he wrote the Lives of the Saints (Żywoty świętych), which is still popular reading today. In 1584 he was transferred to the new Jesuit College at Kraków, and in 1588 he became court preacher to King Sigismund III Vasa (a position he would hold until 1611), and thus sometimes preached to the Sejm
The Sejm is the lower house of the Polish parliament. The Sejm is made up of 460 deputies, or Poseł in Polish . It is elected by universal ballot and is presided over by a speaker called the Marshal of the Sejm ....

 (parliament). The nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

 (Polish: szlachta
The szlachta was a legally privileged noble class with origins in the Kingdom of Poland. It gained considerable institutional privileges during the 1333-1370 reign of Casimir the Great. In 1413, following a series of tentative personal unions between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of...

) ascribed to him a great (and baleful: he advocated strong royal authority) influence on King Sigismund. He died September 27, 1612 and was buried in St. Peter and Paul church in Kraków.

Skarga is remembered by Poles as a vigorous early advocate of reforms to the Polish-Lithuanian polity and as a critic of the Commonwealth's governing classes. He advocated the strengthening of the monarch
A monarch is the person who heads a monarchy. This is a form of government in which a state or polity is ruled or controlled by an individual who typically inherits the throne by birth and occasionally rules for life or until abdication...

's power at the expense of Sejm, magnate
Magnate, from the Late Latin magnas, a great man, itself from Latin magnus 'great', designates a noble or other man in a high social position, by birth, wealth or other qualities...

s and szlachta.

His name "Skarga", which in Polish means, "accusation", is likely because of this career as a reformer and critic. The loose translation of his name would therefore be "Peter the Accuser".

He established or enlarged many Catholic charitable societies and Jesuit schools.

Prominent writings

  • Lives of the Saints (Żywoty świętych, 1579, 8 editions in his lifetime).
  • Sejm Sermons (Kazania sejmowe, 1597, published posthumously).
  • Soldiers' Devotions (Żołnierskie nabożeństwo, 1618).

See also

  • Antonio Possevino
    Antonio Possevino
    Antonio Possevino was a Jesuit protagonist of Counter Reformation as a papal diplomat and a Jesuit controversialist, encyclopedist and bibliographer...

  • Polish messianism
  • Stanisław of Skarbimierz
  • Szymon Starowolski
    Szymon Starowolski
    Szymon Starowolski was a writer, scholar and historian in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. He was probably born near Pruzhany, and died near Kraków. He was very prolific writer, left behind over 70 works, mostly in Latin...

External links

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