Monday, September 8, 2014

Statute of Kalisz

Artwork depicting the Statute of Kalisz
Bolesław V the Pious (1224 - 1279) was (at different and overlapping times)  Duke of Greater Poland, Duke of Kalisz, Duke of Gniezno, and duke or regent or leader of other regions, all starting in 1239 when his father died.

Not sure how he got the nickname "Pious" (Pobożny in Polish), but in 1264 he did something truly pious: he enacted the Statute of Kalisz. Kalisz, one of the oldest cities in Poland, was then on the border with Germany. It had a Jewish population, probably driven there from the Rhineland by the Crusades (which were not always about freeing the Holy Land).

In 1264, Bolesław enacted the Statute that gave rights to the Jews of Kalisz and western Poland.

One of the rights it granted was the Jews' ability to have complete legal jurisdiction over matters that were solely involving Jews, and it set up a special court to deal with Jewish-Christian disputes. Among other statutes:
  • Jeering at a synagogue required paying a fine.
  • Throwing stones at a synagogue was punishable by a payment of two pounds of pepper to the local court.
  • Christians were not allowed to accuse Jews of blood libel.*
  • Jews were not to be harassed when traveling, or be forced to pay additional road tolls.
  • Christian neighbors who failed to help a Jew who calls for help in the night would be fined 30 szelags.
The Statute (with 46 chapters of new rights) was so accommodating in the legal status given to Jews that it helped create a "nation within a nation." King Casimir III would extend it to all of Poland 70 years later.

*The kidnapping sand murder of children to use their blood in rituals—this was a common accusation for centuries.

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