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Bolesław III Wrymouth

POlish prince
The basics
Date of birth Kraków, Lesser Poland Voivodeship, Poland
Date of death Oct 28, 1138 Sochaczew, Sochaczew County, Masovian Voivodeship, Poland
Father: Władysław I Herman
Mother: Judith of Bohemia
Children: Władysław II the Exile Richeza of Poland Queen of Sweden Bolesław IV the Curly Mieszko III the Old Dobroniega of Poland Judith of Poland Henry of Sandomierz Agnes of Poland Casimir II the Just
Spouse: Zbyslava of Kiev Salomea of Berg
Authority ISNI id Library of congress id VIAF id
The details

Bolesław III Wrymouth (also known as Boleslaus III the Wry-mouthed, Polish: Bolesław III Krzywousty) (20 August 1086 – 28 October 1138), was a Duke of Lesser Poland, Silesia and Sandomierz between 1102 and 1107 and over the whole Poland between 1107 and 1138. He was the only child of Prince Władysław I Herman and his first wife Judith, daughter of Vratislaus II of Bohemia.

Bolesław began to rule in the last decade of the 11th century, when the central government in Poland was significantly weakened. Władysław I Herman fell under the political dependence of the Count palatine Sieciech, who became the real ruler of the country. Backed by their father, Boleslaw and his half-brother Zbigniew finally expelled Sieciech from the country in 1101, after several years of fighting. After the death of Władysław I Herman in 1102, two independent states were created ruled by Bolesław and Zbigniew.

Bolesław sought to gain Pomerania which caused an armed conflict between the brothers, and forced Zbigniew to flee the country and seek military help from German King Henry V. Bolesław punished Zbigniew by blinding him. This action caused outrage among supporters of Zbigniew, resulting in a political crisis in Poland. Bolesław once again gained the favor of his subjects with public penance, and made a pilgrimage to the monastery of his patron, Saint Giles, in Hungary.

Bolesław, like Bolesław II the Generous, based his foreign policy on maintaining good relations with neighboring Hungary and Kievan Rus, with whom he forged strong links through marriage and military cooperation in order to break the political dependence on Germany and his vassal, the King of Bohemia, who in moments of weakness of Polish policy was forced to pay tribute in Silesia. These alliances have allowed Bolesław to effectively defend the country from invasion in 1109. Several years later, Bolesław skillfully took advantage of the dynastic disputes in Bohemia to ensure peace on the south-west border.

Bolesław devoted the second half of his rule to the conquest of Pomerania. In 1113 he conquered the northern strongholds along Noteć, which strengthened the border with the Pomeranians. In subsequent years, he took steps toward the conquest of Pomerania. The resolution of the conflict with the Holy Roman Empire allowed Bolesław to subordinate Western Pomerania and incorporate Gdańsk Pomerania. The military expeditions, carried out in three stages, ended in the 1120s with military and political successes. Integration of the newly annexed lands enabled Bolesław to build churches and began the process of converting Pomerania. Bishop Otto of Bamberg confirmed the Christianization of Pomerania from 1123 onward.

In the 1130s Bolesław participated in the dynastic dispute in Hungary. After an unexpected defeat, he was forced to make an agreement with Germany. The Congress of Merseburg of 1135 addressed the issues of Pomerania, Silesian (probably also Polish) sovereignty and the supremacy of the Archbishopric of Magdeburg over the Polish Church.

Bolesław was married twice. His first marriage with the Kievan princess Zbyslava gave him an excuse to intervene militarily in the internal affairs of Russia. After her death, Bolesław married to a German noblewoman, Salomea of Berg, which in some way was the cause of changes in Polish foreign policy: in the second half of his rule, the Prince sought to restore diplomatic relations with his western neighbor. His last, and perhaps the most momentous act, was his will and testament known as "The Succession Statute" in which he divided the country among his sons, leading to almost 200 years of feudal fragmentation of the Polish Kingdom.

Bolesław III Wrymouth has been recognized by historiography as a symbol of Polish political aspirations until well into the 19th century. He also upheld the independence of the Polish archbishopric of Gniezno, despite a temporary failure in the 1130s. Despite undoubted successes, he committed serious political errors, most notably against Zbigniew of Poland, his half-brother. The crime against Zbigniew and his penance for it show Bolesław’s great ambition as well as his ability to find political compromise.


A 19th-century depiction of Bolesław, by Jan Matejko

Situation of Poland during the 1080s

In 1086 the coronation of Vratislav II as King of Bohemia, and his alignment with László I, King of Hungary, threatened the position of the Polish ruler, Prince Władysław I Herman. Therefore, that same year Władysław I was forced to recall from Hungarian banishment the only son of Bolesław II the Bold and a rightful heir to the Polish throne, Mieszko Bolesławowic. Upon his return young Bolesławowic accepted the over-lordship of his uncle and gave up his hereditary claim to the crown of Poland in exchange for becoming first in line to succeed him. In return, Władysław I Herman granted his nephew the district of Kraków. The situation was further complicated for Władysław I Herman by a lack of a legitimate male heir, as his first-born son Zbigniew came from a union not recognized by the church. With the return of Mieszko Bolesławowic to Poland, Władysław I normalized his relations with the kingdom of Hungary as well as Kievan Rus (the marriage of Mieszko Bolesławowic to a Kievan princess was arranged in 1088). These actions allowed Herman to strengthen his authority and alleviate further tensions in international affairs.

Birth of Bolesław. Name and nickname

The lack of a legitimate heir, however, remained a concern for Władysław I and in 1085 he and his wife Judith of Bohemia sent rich gifts, among which was a life size statue of a child made of gold, to the Benedictine Sanctuary of Saint Giles in Saint-Gilles, Provence begging for offspring. The Polish envoys were led by the personal chaplain of Duchess Judith, Piotr.

The date of birth of Bolesław is closely linked with the death of his mother Judith. This fact is evidenced by contemporary sources:

  • Gallus Anonymus in the Cronicae et gesta ducum sive principum Polonorum reported that Duchess Judith gave birth to Bolesław on the day of King Saint Stephen of Hungary (whose feast since the 11th century was celebrated on 20 August). However, the Duchess' health never recovered from childbirth and died on the night of Nativity (i.e. 24–25 December). Gallus did not note the year in his chronicle.
  • Cosmas of Prague wrote in Latin in his Chronica Boëmorum ("Chronicle of Bohemians") that Bolesław was born three days before the death of Judith, who died in VIII Calends of January (25 December) of 1085.
  • The Kalendarz krakowski said that Duchess Judith died on 24 December 1086, and only indicated that the birth of Bolesław was in the same year.
  • The Obituary of the Abbey of Saint-Gilles reported the death of Judith on 24 December 1086.
  • The Rocznik kapituły krakowskiej (closely related to the Kalendarz krakowski) placed the death of Judith on 24 December 1086.

Historian August Bielowski established Bolesław's birth on 26 December 1085 and the death of his mother two days later, on 28 December. According to him Gallus Anonymus committed two errors. First, instead of the Sunday after the Nativity of the Lord wrote incorrectly in the Sunday of the Nativity. Secondly, he mistaken the day of Saint Stephen (26 December) with the festivities of King Stephen of Hungary (20 August). Both corrections lead to the birth date of Bolesław on 26 December. This theory was supported by the fact that in 1085 28 December fell on a Sunday.

Oswald Balzer refuted Bielowski's theory and pointed that Judith's death was on the night between 24–25 December 1086, and the birth of Bolesław was four months before, on 20 August. According to him, if Judith died on the night between 24–24 December, are possible discrepancies in determining the exact date of the event. All known sources who placed the death of Judith, would then right. Gallus wrote that Judith died shortly after giving birth to a son. Later sources interpret this as a death in childbirth and Cosmas of Prague followed this fact, despite he didn't received the information at first hand. Hence, his mistake would result in this point. In contrast, the right -indicated by Gallus- date of birth of Bolesław would be 20 August. In the medieval tradition the year began on 25 December. In that case, the reports of Cosmas must be concluded that Bolesław was born yet in 1085. This information, however, was in contradiction with the reports of the Kalendarz krakowski, who gave the year 1086. Judith was styled by the authors of the Kalendarz as "regina Polonia" (Queen of Poland in Latin), and this title could be associated with her father's coronation as King of Bohemia and Poland on 15 June 1086 (according to Cosmas). Karol Maleczyński refuted the arguments of Balzer, who accepted the date of the coronation of Vratislav II given by Cosmas. However, most researchers indicates that the coronation took place on 15 June 1085, so Judith could be called Queen a year earlier.

Karol Maleczyński determined that the death of Judith took place on the night between 24–25 December 1085, and Bolesław was born four months before, on 20 August. Researchers found that the date given by the Rocznik kapituły krakowskiej (24 December 1086) was the same established by Cosmas (25 December 1085). The difference in the year could be explained in the different of style dating followed by Cosmas, who began the year according to the Julian calendar on 1 January and Christmas (Nativitate in Latin) on 25 December. For Maleczyński, Kazimierz Jasiński not consider this calendar difference who occurs only during the period 25–31 December.

Archaeologist Wojciech Szafrański reasumed the theory of Bielowski: Judith of Bohemia died on 28 December 1085, and Bolesław was born two days before, on 26 December. According to Szafrański Cosmas used the term VIII Calends of January, with no specific date. However, in the Chronicle of Gallus should read that Judith died on Christmas Day, but on Sunday in the Octave of Christmas. Using such a broadened range of days, the investigator determined the birth of Boleslaw in the feast of Saint Stephen (26 December). For this reasons, the date of 1085 given by Bielowski is correct according to him. However, Jasiński pointed the weaknesses of the argument of Szafrański because Gallus has written about the Octave, but specifically about Christmas night, but the investigator didn't consider all other sources, as well as the achievements of research in genealogy.

Marian Plezia argued that Bolesław was born on 2 September 1085 or 1086. According to Gallus, the day of King Stephen of Hungary was also celebrated on 2 September. Jasiński considered this theory unfounded. In Poland the feast of King Stephen of Hungary is pointed by the Kalendarz krakowski and the kalendarz Kodeksu Gertrudy on 20 August. Besides, if Bolesław was born on 2 September, Gallus probably would be noted that this was the day after the celebration of Saint Giles (1 September), which was attributed to be the intercessor of his birth.

Kazimierz Jasiński placed the death of Judith in the night between 24–25 December 1086 and the birth of Bolesław four months before, on 20 August. In this point he agrees with the findings of Balzer. He supported his views with additional arguments: All sources are based in the missing Rocznika kapituły krakowskiej, and the next known text of this source refers to events in 1086. Cosmas, writing his chronicle a few decades later, probably benefited from oral tradition and could make a mistake when he placed the year. His reports who placed the birth of Bolesław three days before the death of his mother denoted a quite short time.

Today is widely recognized the view of both Jasiński and Balzer, that Bolesław most likely was born in the day of King Stephen of Hungary, 20 August 1086.

Bolesław III Wrymouth, by J.B. Jacobi (1828).

According to Cosmas of Prague, Bolesław was named after his uncle, Bolesław II the Generous. Władysław I Herman had no reason to named his first-born legitimate son after his brother, but probably in this way tried to placate the former allies of his predecessor.

Bolesław's nickname "Wrymouth" (pl: Krzywousty) appeared in Polish and Latin sources of the 13th century: Genealogii płockiej (Criwousti) and the Roczniku świętokrzyskim młodszym (Crzyvousti). Probably the origin of this nickname dates back on the 12th century and is relationed with some physical characteristics of the Polish ruler, who were noticed at the time of his reign. Probably he began to be named in this way after 1114, because Gallus Anonymus in his Chronicle never mentioned it. In the Kronice książąt polskich and Kronice polsko-śląskiej Bolesław was qualified by the Latin adjective curvus, whose significance remains unclear. According to the 14th century Kroniki o Piotrze Włostowicu the Prince was hunchbacked (Latin: gibbosus) or had a crooked mouth. The 15th century chronicler Jan Długosz wrote:

In 1974, in the Masovian Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral of Płock, where according to tradition Bolesław was buried, an archaeological research project was conducted. A coffin was discovered containing the bones of 16 men and women. One of the skulls, of a man who died aged 50, had a deformed mandible. There is a hypothesis that these remains belonged to Bolesław. Opponents of this theory suggest that the Prince was named in this way many years after his death, and his contemporary Gallus did not mention any physical defect in the hero of his Chronicles. The defenders of the hypothesis argue that the work of Gallus has the characteristics of a panegyric in honor of Bolesław, because the chronicler did not mention his physical infirmities. It is also speculated that the bone damage occurred as a result of childbirth complications, which led to the death of his mother a few months later.

The nickname of Boleslaw was also explained in other ways. According to a legend, Boleslaw slammed his face against a wall after watching his father's subservience towards the Germans and Czechs. According to Jan Długosz, the Prince in his youth suffered from an ulcer, which caused the deformity of his face. According to older historiography, he received the nickname Wrymouth for his perjury.

Early Years

Following Bolesław’s birth the political climate in the country changed. The position of Bolesław as an heir to the throne was threatened by the presence of Mieszko Bolesławowic, who was already seventeen at the time and was furthermore, by agreement with Władysław I Herman himself, the first in line to succeed. In all likelihood it was this situation that precipitated the young prince Mieszko’s demise in 1089. In that same year Wladyslaw I Herman’s first-born son Zbigniew was sent to a monastery in Quedlinburg, Saxony. This suggests that Wladyslaw I Herman intended to be rid of Zbigniew by making him a monk, and therefore depriving him of any chance of succession. This eliminated two pretenders to the Polish throne, secured young Bolesław’s inheritance as well as diminished the growing opposition to Wladyslaw I Herman among the nobility. Shortly after his ascension, however, Władysław I Herman was forced by the barons to give up the de facto reins of government to Count Palatine Sieciech. This turn of events was likely due to the fact that Herman owed the throne to the barons, the most powerful of whom was Sieciech.

Around this time Władysław I Herman married again. The chosen bride was Judith-Maria, daughter of Emperor Henry III and widow of King Solomon of Hungary, who after her wedding took the name Sophia in order to distinguish herself from Władysław I Herman's first wife. Through this marriage Bolesław gained three or four half-sisters, and as a consequence he remained the only legitimate son and heir. It's believed that the new Duchess was actively aiding Sieciech in his schemes to take over the country and that she became his mistress.

Position of Sieciech in Poland

In 1090 Polish forces under Sieciech's command, managed to gain control of Gdańsk Pomerania, albeit for a short time. Major towns were garrisoned by Polish troops, and the rest were burned in order to thwart future resistance. Several months later, however, a rebellion of native elites led to the restoration of the region’s independence from Poland. The following year a punitive expedition was organized, in order to recover Gdańsk Pomerania. The campaign was decided at the battle of the Wda River, where the Polish knights suffered a defeat despite the assistance of Bohemian troops.

Reception of Jews in Poland in 1096, Painting by Jan Matejko.

Prince Bolesław’s childhood happened at a time when a massive political migration out of Poland was taking place, due to Sieciech’s political repressions. Most of the elites who became political refugees found safe haven in Bohemia. Another consequence of Sieciech’s political persecution was the kidnapping of Zbigniew by Sieciech’s enemies and his return from abroad in 1093. Zbigniew took refuge in Silesia, a stronghold of negative sentiment for both Sieciech as well as his nominal patron Władysław I Herman. In the absence of Sieciech and Bolesław, who were captured by Hungarians and kept captive, Prince Władysław I then undertook a penal expedition to Silesia, which was unsuccessful and subsequently obliged him to recognize Zbigniew as a legitimate heir. In 1093 Władysław I signed an Act of Legitimization which granted Zbigniew the rights of descent from his line. Zbigniew was also granted the right to succeed to the throne. Following Sieciech and Bolesław’s escape from Hungary, an expedition against Zbigniew was mounted by the Count Palatine. Its aim was to nullify the Act of Legitimization. The contestants met at the battle of Goplo in 1096, where Sieciech’s forces annihilated the supporters of Zbigniew. Zbigniew himself was taken prisoner, but regained his freedom a year later, in May 1097, due to the intervention of the bishops. At the same time his rights, guaranteed by the Act of Legitimization, were reinstated.

Simultaneously a great migration of Jews from Western Europe to Poland began circa 1096, around the time of the First Crusade. The tolerant rule of Władysław I Herman attracted the Jews who were permitted to settle throughout the entire kingdom without restrictions. The Polish prince, took great care of the Hebrew Diaspora, as he understood its positive influence on the growth of the country’s economy. The new Jewish citizens soon gained trust of the gentiles during the rule of Bolesław III.


Division of the country

Prince Zbigniew

In view of his father’s disapproval, and after discovering the plans of Sieciech and Duchess Judith-Sophia to take over the country Zbigniew gained an ally in the young prince Bolesław. Both brothers demanded that the reins of government should be handed over to them. It is difficult to believe, however, that Bolesław was making independent decisions at this point as he was only 12 years of age. It is postulated that at this stage he was merely a pawn of the Baron’s power struggle. Władysław I Herman, however, agreed to divide the realm between the brothers, each to be granted his own province while the Prince – Władysław I himself – kept control of Mazovia and its capital at Płock. Władysław also retained control of the most important cities i.e. Wrocław, Kraków and Sandomierz. Zbigniew’s province encompassed Greater Poland including Gniezno, Kuyavia, Łęczyca Land and Sieradz Land. Bolesław’s territory included Lesser Poland, Silesia and Lubusz Land.

The division of the country and the allowance of Bolesław and Zbigniew to co-rule greatly alarmed Sieciech, who then began preparing to dispose of the brothers altogether. Sieciech understood that the division of the country would undermine his position. He initiated a military settlement of the issue and he gained the Prince’s support for it. The position of Władysław I is seen as ambiguous as he chose to support Sieciech’s cause instead of his sons'.

Fight against Sieciech

In response to Sieciech’s preparations Bolesław and Zbigniew entered into an alliance. This took place at a popular assembly or Wiec organized in Wrocław by a magnate named Skarbimir of the Awdaniec family. There it was decided to remove the current guardian of Bolesław, a noble named Wojslaw who was a relative of Sieciech, and arrange for an expedition against the Palatine. Subsequently, in 1099, the armies of Count Palatine and Prince Herman encountered the forces of Zbigniew and Bolesław near Żarnowiec by the river Pilica. There the forces of Bolesław and Zbigniew defeated Sieciech's army, and Władysław I Herman was obliged to permanently remove Sieciech from the position of Count Palatine. In the same year, at Christmas, Bolesław concluded to short-lived peace with Bohemia. The agreement was concluded in Žatec. According to Cosmas, Bolesław was appointed Miecznik (en: Sword-bearer) of his uncle Bretislaus II, Duke of Bohemia. In addition, the young prince would be paid the amount of 100 pieces of fine silver and 10 talents of gold annually as a tribute to Bohemia (it was about the land of Silesia, for which he paid tribute to Władysław I).

The rebel forces were then further directed towards Sieciechów, where the Palatine took refuge. Unexpectedly, Prince Władysław came to the aid of his besieged favorite with a small force. At this point, the Princes decided to depose their father. The opposition sent Zbigniew with an armed contingent to Masovia, where he was to take control of Płock, while Bolesław was directed to the South. The intention was the encirclement of their father, Prince Władysław I. The Prince predicted this maneuver and sent his forces back to Masovia. In the environs of Płock the battle was finally joined and the forces of Władysław I were defeated. The Prince was thereafter forced to exile Sieciech from the country. The Palatine left Poland around 1100/1101. He was known to sojourn in the German lands. However, he eventually returned to Poland but did not play any political role again. He may have been blinded.

First years of government

Struggle for the supremacy (1102–06)

Division of Poland between Bolesław (red) and Zbigniew (green)

Władysław I Herman died on 4 June 1102. The country was divided into two provinces, each administered by one of the late prince’s sons. The extent of each province closely resembled the provinces that the princes were granted by their father three years earlier, the only difference being that Zbigniew also controlled Mazovia with its capital at Płock, effectively ruling the northern part of the kingdom, while his younger half-brother Bolesław ruled its southern portion. In this way two virtually separate states were created. According to some historians, Zbigniew tried to play the role of princeps or overlord, because at that time Bolesław was only 16 years old. Because he was still too inexperienced to independently direct his domains, the local nobility gathered around him took great influence in the political affairs, included his teacher, Skarbimir from the Awdaniec family.

They conducted separate policies internally as well as externally. They each sought alliances, and sometimes they were enemies of one another. Such was the case with Pomerania, towards which Bolesław aimed his ambitions. Zbigniew, whose country bordered Pomerania, wished to maintain good relations with his northern neighbor. Bolesław, eager to expand his dominion, organized several raids into Pomerania and Prussia. In Autumn of 1102 Bolesław organized a war party into Pomerania during which his forces sacked Białogard.

As reprisal the Pomeranians sent retaliatory war parties into Polish territory, but as Pomerania bordered Zbigniew’s territory these raids ravaged the lands of the prince who was not at fault. Therefore, in order to put pressure on Bolesław, Zbigniew allied himself with Bořivoj II of Bohemia, to whom he promised to pay tribute in return for his help. By aligning himself with Bolesław’s southern neighbor Zbigniew wished to compel Bolesław to cease his raids into Pomerania. Bolesław, on the other hand, allied himself with Kievan Rus and Hungary. His marriage to Zbyslava, the daughter of Sviatopolk II Iziaslavich in 1103, was to seal the alliance between himself and the prince of Kiev. However, Bolesław's first diplomatic move was to recognize Pope Paschal II, which put him in strong opposition to the Holy Roman Empire. A later visit of papal legate Gwalo, Bishop of Beauvais brought the church matters into order, it also increased Bolesław's influence.

Zbigniew declined to attend the marriage of Bolesław and Zbyslava. He saw this union and the alliance with Kiev as a serious threat. Thanks to bribery, he therefore prevailed upon his ally, Bořivoj II of Bohemia to invade Bolesław’s province, ostensibly to claim the Polish crown. Bolesław retaliated with expeditions into Moravia in 1104–05, which brought the young prince not only loot, but also effectively disintegrated the alliance of Pomeranians and Zbigniew. During the return of the army, one part commanded by Żelisław were defeated by the Bohemians. Bolesław, who commanded the other part of the army, couldn't defeated them. Skarbimir, thanks to bribery, could stopped Bořivoj II. With a vast amount of money, the Bohemian ruler returned to his homeland and was concluded a short-lived peace with Bohemia. Then Bořivoj II ended his alliance with Zbigniew. In order to paralyze the alliance of Pomerania and his older brother, Bolesław carried out multiple attacks on northern land in 1103 (the battle of Kołobrzeg, where was defeated), and in 1104–05, ended with success.

The intervention of Bolesław in the dynastic dispute in Hungary led him in a difficul political situation. At first, he supported the pretender Álmos, and marched to Hungary to help him. However, during the siege of Abaújvár in 1104, Álmos changed his mind and made peace conversations with his brother and rival King Coloman, at that point Zbigniew's ally. Bolesław then retired his troops from Hungary and in 1105 made a treaty with Coloman. It was decided then that Bolesław didn't support Álmos against the alliance Coloman-Zbigniew. In addition, the Hungarian King broke his agreements with the Bohemian Kingdom. The dynastic dispute in Prague between Bořivoj II and his cousin Svatopluk caused the intervention of Bolesław and his ally King Coloman in support of Svatopluk, with the main objective to place him in the Bohemian throne. However, a new rebellion of Álmos forced Coloman and his army to return Hungary. Bolesław also decided to retreat. Svatopluk tried to master the city alone, but suffered a complete defeat; his attempt to seize power in Bohemia was unsuccessful.

Also in 1105, Bolesław entered into an agreement with his half-brother, in the same way like just a few years before entered with their stepmother Judith-Sophia (who in exchange of an abundant Oprawa wdowia (dower lands), secured her neutrality in Bolesław's political contest with Zbigniew). The treaty, signed in Tyniec, was a compromise of both brothers in foreign policy; however, no agreement about Pomerania was settled there. One year later, the treaty ended when Zbigniew refused to help his half-brother in his fight against Pomerania. While hunting, Bolesław was unexpectedly attacked by them. In the battle, the young prince almost lost his life. Bohemia, using the involvement of Bolesław in the Pomeranian affairs as an excuse, attacked Silesia. The prince tried to re-established the alliance with his half-brother, without success. The effect of this refusal was the rapprochement to the Bohemian Kingdom in 1106. Bolesław managed to bribe Bořivoj II and have him join his side in the contest against Zbigniew and shortly after formally allied himself with Coloman of Hungary. With the help of his Kievan and Hungarian allies Bolesław attacked Zbigniew’s territory, and began a civil war for the supreme power in Poland. The allied forces of Bolesław easily took control of most important cities including Kalisz, Gniezno, Spycimierz and Łęczyca, in effect taking half of Zbigniew’s lands. Through a mediation of Baldwin, Bishop of Kraków, a peace treaty was signed at Łęczyca, in which Zbigniew officially recognized Bolesław as the Supreme Prince of all Poland. However, he was allowed to retain Masovia as a fief.

Sole Ruler of Poland

First Expedition to Bohemia and exile of Zbigniew

In 1107 Bolesław III along with his ally King Coloman of Hungary invaded Bohemia in order to aid Svatopluk in gaining the Czech throne. The intervention in the Czech succession was meant to secure Polish interests to the south. The expedition was a full success: on 14 May 1107 Svatopluk was made Duke of Bohemia in Prague.

Later that year Bolesław undertook a punitive expedition against his brother Zbigniew. The reason for this was that Zbigniew had not followed his orders and had refused to burn down one of the fortresses of Kurów near Puławy. Another reason was that Zbigniew had not performed his duties as a vassal by failing to provide military aid to Bolesław for a campaign against the Pomeranians. In the winter of 1107–08 with the help of Kievan and Hungarian allies, Bolesław began a final campaign to rid himself of Zbigniew. His forces attacked Mazovia and quickly forced Zbigniew to surrender. Following this Zbigniew was banished from the country and with his followers, took refuge in Prague, where he found support in Svatopluk. From then Bolesław was the sole lord of the Polish lands, though in fact his over-lordship began in 1107 when Zbigniew paid him homage as his feudal lord.

In 1108 the balance of power in Europe changed. Svatopluk decided to paid homage to Emperor Henry V and in exchange received from him the formal investiture of Bohemia. At the same time King Coloman of Hungary was under attack by the combined forces of the Holy Roman Empire and Bohemia. Svatopluk also directed an attack to Poland; in this expedition took part Zbigniew and his followers. Bolesław avoided a direct confrontation because he was busy in his fight against Pomerania. Now, the Polish-Hungarian coalition decided to give help and shelter to Bořivoj II. Later that year, Bolesław and Coloman made a new expedition against Bohemia. This expedition was prompted by the invasion of the German-Bohemian coalition to Hungary (siege to Pozsony Castle) and the fact that Svatopluk, who owed Bolesław his throne, didn't honor his promise in which he returned Silesian cities seized from Poland (Racibórz, Kamieniec, Koźle among others) by his predecessors. Bolesław then decided to restore Bořivoj II in the Bohemian throne. This attempt was unsuccessful as a result of the attack of the Pomeranians. Bolesław was forced to bring his army to the north, where could repelled the invasion. Thanks to this situation, Bořivoj II failed to regain the throne.

Polish-German War of 1109

In response to Bolesław’s aggressive foreign policy, German king and Holy Roman Emperor Henry V undertook a punitive expedition against Poland in 1109. In this fight, Henry V was assisted by Czech warriors provided by Svatopluk of Bohemia. The alleged reason for the war was the exile of Zbigniew and his restoration. Bolesław received an ultimatum from the German King: he abandoned the expedition against him only if Zbigniew was restored with half of Poland as a rule, the formal recognition of the Holy Roman Empire as overlord and the payment of 300 pieces of fine silver as a regular tribute. Bolesław rejected. During the negotiations between Germany and Poland, the Polish ruler was in the middle of a war against Pomerania. On the west side of the Oder river, Henry V hurriedly gathered knights for his expedition against Poland. Before the fight ended in Pomerania, the German troops have been able to approach Głogów.

Battle of Hundsfeld, from The Polish Chronicle of Marcin Bielski (1597)

The military operations mainly taken place in southwestern Poland, in Silesia, where Henry V’s army laid siege to major strongholds of Głogów, Wrocław and Bytom Odrzański. At this time along with the defense of towns, Bolesław was conducting a guerrilla war against the Holy Roman Emperor and his allies. He reportedly defeated the expedetion at the Battle of Hundsfeld on 24 August 1109, although the existence of this battle is doubted by historians because it was first recorded about a century later.

Second Expedition to Bohemia

In 1110 Bolesław undertook an unsuccessful military expedition against Bohemia. His intention was to install yet another pretender on the Czech throne, Soběslav I, who sought refuge in Poland. During the campaign won a decisive victory against the Czechs at the Battle of Trutina on 8 October 1110; however, following this battle he ordered his forces to withdraw further attack against Bohemia. The reason for this is speculated to be the unpopularity of Soběslav I among Czechs as well as Bolesław’s unwillingness to further deteriorate his relations with the Holy Roman Empire. In 1111 a truce between Poland and the Holy Roman Empire was signed which stipulated that Soběslav I would be able to return to Bohemia while Zbigniew would be able to return Poland. Bolesław probably also agreed with the return of his half-brother as a result of pressure from the many supporters of the exiled prince in 1108, who according to the reports of Gallus Anonymus was surrounded to bad advisers (in this group unfavorable to Bolesław was probably Martin I, Archbishop of Gniezno). Once in Poland, Zbigniew could claim the sovereignty over his previous domains at the instigation of this group. The first step towards this was his presence in the Advent ceremonial (which was forbidden to him by Bolesław after recognizing him as his overlord in Łęczyca in 1107), which is reserved only for rulers. Zbigniew arrived surrounded by attendants, being carried before him a sword. This could be perceived by Boleslaw as an act of treason and caused a definitive breach in their relationship, under which Zbigniew was the vassal and Boleslaw the ruler. Probably these factors influenced Bolesław's decision of a terrible punishment to Zbigniew: a year later, in 1112, he was blinded on Bolesław’s orders.


Martin I, Archbishop of Gniezno.

The blinding of Zbigniew caused a strong negative reaction among Bolesław's subjects. Unlike blinding in the east, blinding in medieval Poland was not accomplished by burning the eyes out with a red hot iron rod or knife, but a much more brutal technique was employed in which the condemned's eyes were pried out using special pliers. The convict was then made to open his eyes and if they did not do so, their eyelids were also removed.

Contemporary sources don't provide clear information if Bolesław was indeed excluded from the community of the Church. Is generally believed that Archbishop Martin I of Gniezno (who was a strong supporter of Zbigniew) excommunicated Bolesław for committing this crime against his half-brother. The excommunication exempted all Bolesław's subjects from his oath to obedience. The prince was faced with a real possibility of uprising, of the sort that deposed Bolesław the Bold. Seeing his precarious situation Bolesław sought the customary penance that would reconcile the high priesthood. According to Gallus Anonymus, Bolesław first fasted for forty days and made gifts to the poors:

It's possible that Bolesław decided to celebrate a public penance as a result of the negative public response to the blinding of Zbigniew. His intention with this was to rebuild his weakened authority and gain the favor of Zbigniew's supporters. Punishment of blinding was used in medieval Europe to the rebellious nobles. This act of Bolesław against his half-brother could be received by the Polish society as a breach of the principle of solidarity among the members of the ruling dynasty, accepting the foundation of public order.

Ruins of the Abbey of Saint Giles in Somogyvár, Hungary.

According to Gallus, Bolesław also sought and received forgiveness from his half-brother. In the next part of his penance, the prince made a pilgrimage to Hungary to the Abbeys of Saint Giles in Somogyvár and King Saint Stephen I in Székesfehérvár. The pilgrimage to the Abbey of Saint Giles also had a political goal; Bolesław strengthened his ties of friendship and alliance with the Arpad dynasty. Following his return to Poland, Bolesław even traveled to Gniezno to pay further penance at the tomb of Saint Adalbert of Prague, were poor people and clergy received numerous costly gifts from the prince. Only after this the excommunication was finally lifted. Following his repentance the Polish prince made a vague commitment to the Church.

About Zbigniew's death there are not preserved information. In the obituary of the Benedictine monastery in Lubiń dated 8 July 1113 was reported the death of a monk in Tyniec called brother Zbigniew. Historians believed that he could be Bolesław's half-brother. The information marked that his burial place was in the Benedictine monastery of Tyniec.

Conquest and conversion of Pomerania

Map of Pomerania including the island of Rugia (17th century).

The separation of Pomerania during the reign of Casimir I the Restorer contributed to the weakening of the Polish state, and subsequent rulers during the second half of the 11th century weren't able to unite all the lands that once belonged to Mieszko I and Bolesław I the Brave. All attempts made to reconquer this area failed. Only after defeating Zbigniew and repelling the claims of Bohemia against Silesia in 1109, Bolesław III Wrymouth was able to direct the expansion to the West, which he intended to return to Poland.

Strengthening the Polish-Pomeranian borders

The issue of conquest of Pomerania had been a lifelong pursuit for Bolesław III Wrymouth. His political goals were twofold; first – to strengthen the Polish border on the Noteć river line, second – to subjugate Pomerania with Polish political overlordship but without actually incorporating it into the country with the exception of Gdansk Pomerania and a southern belt north of river Noteć which were to be absorbed by Poland. By 1113 the northern border has been strengthened. The fortified border cities included: Santok, Wieleń, Nakło, Czarnków, Ujście and Wyszogród. Some sources report that the border began at the mouth of river Warta and Oder in the west, ran along the river Noteć all the way to the Vistula river.

Before Bolesław III began to expand in Gdańsk Pomerania (Pomerelia), he normalized his political relations with Bohemia. This took place in 1114 at a great convention on the border of the Nysa Kłodzka river. In addition to Bolesław also assisted Bohemian princes of the Premyslid line: Vladislaus I, Otto II the Black and Soběslav I. The pact was sealed by the marriage of Bolesław (a widower since his wife Zbyslava's death) with Vladislaus I and Otto II's sister-in-law, the German noblewoman Salomea of Berg.

The conquest of Gdańsk Pomerania

After being normalized his relations with Bohemia, Bolesław directed his efforts against Prussia, and in 1115 he made a victorious expedition, ravaging their tribal lands. As a result, the north-east border was at peace, which allowed to freely prepare the invasion to Gdańsk Pomerania. The conquest of this part of the Pomeranian lands (made during 1115–19), crowned a long-time struggle of previous Polish rulers. The result was the complete incorporation of the territories on the Vistula River, including the castellany of Nakło, to Poland. Northern borders were established Polish Duchy probably on the line along the rivers Gwda and Uniesta (in later times currents of these rivers were the boundary between Pomerania and the Oder Slavic). It's also possible that the border ran along the Łeba.

The local rulers of the conquered Gdańsk and Słupsk were removed from power and replaced by Polish nobles. Bolesław also introduced Polish clerical organization, which was made in order to protect his interests in that territory. However, these areas refused to follow the church organization. The incorporation to the Polish Church occurred only during 1125–26 at the time of the visit of Papal Legate Gilles, Cardinal-Bishop of Tusculum.

Rebellion of Skarbimir

During Bolesław's Pomeranian campaign a formidable rebellion led by Count Palatine Skarbimir from the Awdaniec family began. The rebellion was quelled by the prince in 1117 and the mutinous nobleman were blinded as punishment. The conflict between Bolesław and the Awdaniec family is difficult to explain due to the lack of sources. The cause was probably the growing influence of the family, the ambition and jealousy of Skarbimir against Bolesław and his increased popularity. Another probable factor was the desire to put Władysław II, Bolesław's first-born son, as the sole ruler after his death or also Boleslaw's fears to lose his position, as it was in the conflict with Sieciech. It was also suggested that Skarbimir entered in contacts with Pomeranians and Vladimir II Monomakh, Grand Prince of Kievan Rus'. Medieval historiography also associated the rebellion with the Law of Succession issued by Boleslaw. The problem with the principle of inheritance appeared between 1115 and 1116 (after the birth of his second son Leszek, first-born from his second marriage). According to one hypothesis Skarbimir objected the adoption of the statute who changed the traditional Polish succession customs. In the suppression of the rebellion played a major role Piotr Włostowic of the Labedz family, who replaced Skarbimir as Count Palatine. Defeated, Skarbimir received a minor punishment from Bolesław. The rebellion of Skarbimir also rested importance to the conquest of Gdańsk Pomerania.

Intervention of Kievan Rus'

Probably in the rebellion of Skarbimir intervened the Rurikid ruler Vladimir II Monomakh and his sons. In 1118 Monomakh incorporated Volhynia to his domains and expelled his ruler, Yaroslav Sviatopolkovich, who sought refuge firstly in Hungary, then in Poland. In Yaroslav's place, Monomakh put his son Roman as a ruler of Volhynia, and after his early death in 1119, replaced him with another son, Andrew, who in 1120 invaded Polish territory with the support of the Kipchaks tribe. A year later, Bolesław with the exiled Yaroslav (who was his brother-in-law), organized a retaliatory expedition to Czermno. After this, for several years Bolesław intervened in the dynastic disputes of the House of Rurik.

During the 1120s the Kievan princes continue their expeditions against Poland. The neutrality of the neighboring Principality of Peremyshl was attributed to Count Palatine Piotr Włostowic, who in 1122 captured Prince Volodar. A year later Bolesław intervened again in Volhynia, where he wanted to restore Yaroslav. The expedition (aided by the Bohemian, Hungarian, Peremyshl and Terebovl forces) failed due to the death of Yaroslav and the stubborn resistance of the besieged Volodymyr-Volynskyi, aided by Skarbimir's supporters. This failed military expedition led to disturbances in the Polish-Hungarian-Halych alliance.

Conquest of Western Pomerania

In 1121 (or 1119) Pomeranian Dukes Wartislaw I and Swietopelk I were defeated by Bolesław's army at the battle of Niekładź near Gryfice. Polish troops ravaged Pomerania, destroyed native strongholds, and forced thousands of Pomeranians to resettle deep into Polish territory. Bolesław's further expansion was directed to Szczecin (1121–22). He knew that this city was well defended by both the natural barrier of the Oder river and his well-built fortifications, like Kołobrzeg. The only way to approach the walls was through the frozen waters of a nearby swamp. Taking advantage of this element of surprise, Bolesław launched his assault from precisely that direction, and took control of the city. Much of the population was slaughtered and the survivors were forced to paid homage to the Polish ruler.

A further step is probably fought battles on the western side of the Oder River, where Boleslaw had addressed areas to the Lake Morzyce (now the German Müritz). These areas were outside the territorial scope of Pomeranians. In parallel with the expansion of the Polish ruler to the west continued the conquest of these lands by Lothair, Duke of Saxony (and future Holy Roman Emperor). According to contemporary sources, a Saxon army approaching from above the Elbe River in the direction of today's Rostock. They conquered the Warinis, Circipanes, Kessinians and part of the Tollensers tribes. The expansion led by the two rulers was probably the result of earlier unknown agreements. This was the first step for the later Christianization of Pomeranian lands.

In 1122 Bolesław finally conquered Western Pomerania, who became a Polish fief. Duke Wartislaw I was forced to paid homage to the Polish ruler, paying an annual tribute of 500 marks of fine silver and the obligation to give military aid to Poland at Bolesław’s request. In subsequent years the tribute was reduced to 300 marks. This success enabled Bolesław to make further conquests. In 1123 his troops even reached to Rügen, but didn't mastered these areas.

According to modern historiography, Bolesław began to pay tribute to Emperor Henry V, at least from 1135. Is believed that the amount was 500 marks of fine silver annually. It's unknown why Bolesław began to paid homage to Henry V, as the sources do not mention any reference about the Polish ruler being tributary of the Holy Roman Empire in the period 1121–35.

Christianization of Western Pomerania

Saint Otto of Bamberg.

In order to make Polish and Pomeranian ties stronger, Bolesław organized a mission to Christianize the newly acquired territory. The Polish monarch understood that the Christianization of the conquered territory would be an effective means of strengthening his authority there. At the same time he wished to subordinate Pomerania to the Gniezno Archbishopric. Unfortunately first attempts made by unknown missionaries did not make the desired progress. Another attempt, officially sponsored by Bolesław and led by Bernard the Spaniard, who traveled to Wolin during 1122–23, has ended in another failure. The next two missions were carried out in 1124–25 and 1128 by Bishop Otto of Bamberg (called the Apostle of Pomerania). After appropriate consultation with Bolesław, Bishop Otto set out on a first stage of Christianization of the region in 1124. In his mission Otto stayed firstly at Bolesław's court, where he was provided with appropriate equipment, fire and several clergymen for his trip to Pomerania.

The Bishop was accompanied throughout his mission by the Pomeranian ruler Wartislaw I, who greeted him on the border of his domains, in the environs of the city of Sanok. In Stargard the pagan prince promised Otto his assistance in the Pomeranian cities as well as help during the journey. He also assigned 500 armored knights to act as guards for the bishop’s protection, and obtain the baptism of the elders tribal leaders. Primary missionary activities were directed to Pyrzyce, then the towns of Kamień, Wolin, Szczecin and once again Wolin. In the first two towns the Christianization went without resistance. In Kamień the task was facilitated by the intercession of Wartislaw I's own wife and dignitaries. At Szczecin and Wolin, which were important centers of Slavic paganism, opposition to conversion was particularly strong among the pagan priests and local population. The conversion was finally accepted only after Bolesław lowered the annual tribute imposed on the Pomeranians. Four great pagan temples were torn down and churches were built in their places. Otto's mission of 1124 ended with the erection of bishoprics in Lubusz for Western Pomerania and in Kruszwica for Eastern Pomerania (Gdańsk), which was subordinated to the Archbishopric of Gniezno.

In 1127 the first pagan rebellions began to take place. These were due to both the large tribute imposed by Poland as well as a plague that descended on Pomerania and which was blamed on Christianity. The rebellions were largely instigated by the old pagan priests, who had not come to terms with their new circumstances. Wartislaw I confronted these uprisings with some success, but was unable to prevent several insurgent raids into Polish territory. Because of this Bolesław was preparing a massive punitive expedition that may have spoiled all the earlier accomplishments of missionary work by Bishop Otto. Thanks to Otto’s diplomacy direct confrontation was avoided and in 1128 he embarked on another mission to Pomerania. Wartislaw I greeted Otto at Demmin with some Polish knights. This time more stress was applied to the territories west of the Oder River, i.e. Usedom, Wolgast and Gützkow, which weren't under Polish suzerainty. The final stage of the mission returned to Szczecin, Wolin and Kamień. The Christianization of Pomerania is considered one of the greatest accomplishments of Bolesław’s Pomeranian policy.

In 1129 Bolesław concluded with Niels, King of Denmark an alliance directed against Wartislaw I and the attempts of Lothair III, King of Germany to subordinate Western Pomerania. In retaliation for the sack of Płock by Wartislaw I in 1128, Polish-Danish troops taken the Western Pomeranian islands of Wolin and Usedom.

At end of the 1120s Bolesław began to implement an ecclesiastical organization of Pomerania. Gdańsk Pomerania was added to the Diocese of Włocławek, known at the time as the Kujavian Diocese. A strip of borderland north of Noteć was split between the Diocese of Gniezno and Diocese of Poznan. The bulk of Pomerania was however made an independent Pomeranian bishopric (whose first Bishop was one of the participants in the missionary expedition and former Polish royal chaplain, Adalbert), set up in the territory of the Duchy of Pomerania in 1140, and after Bolesław had died in 1138 the duchy became independent from Poland.

The project of Archbishop Norbert of Magdeburg

During the 1130s a project was designed by Norbert, Archbishop of Magdeburg, under which Pomerania would be divided between two dioceses subordinated to the Archbishopric of Magdeburg. At the same, he revivied the old claims about Magdeburg's ecclesiastical sovereignty over all Poland. A first Bull was prepared already in 1131, but never entered into force. Despite adversity, Norbert continued his actions to subdue the Polish Church during 1132–33. For the Polish bishops, a call was made in the Curia.

The Polish bishops didn't appear before Pope Innocent II, which resulted in the issuing of the Bull Sacrosancta Romana in 1133, which confirmed the sovereignty of the Archbishopric of Magdeburg over the Polish Church and the projected Pomeranian dioceses. The formal privilegium maius was the culmination of Norbert's efforts. Bolesław, trying to save his past efforts in Pomeranian politics, opted for his submission at Merseburg in 1135.

Conquest of Rügen and alliance with Wartislaw I

To consolidate his power over Pomerania Bolesław conducted in 1130 an expedition to the island of Rügen. For this purpose, he concluded an alliance with the Danish duke Magnus Nilsson (his son-in-law) who provided him with a fleet in exchange for support in his efforts to obtain the Swedish throne. The fleet of Magnus transported Polish troops to the shores of the island of Rügen. However, the intended battle on the island doesn't happen, because the Rani at the sight of the Polish-Danish combined forces recognize Bolesław 's overlordship.

After the successful invasion to the Danish capital, Roskilde in 1134 Bolesław formed an alliance with Wartislaw I of Pomerania against King Eric II of Denmark (an ally of Emperor Lothair III). The role of the Polish prince was limited only to aid the House of Griffins, not due while the real interest in Danish affairs. The Danish, after repelling the first attack, in retaliation led an expedition who led to their expansion into the lands of Pomerania.

Congress of Merseburg

Political Background

In 1125 Henry V, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Germany, died. His successor, Lothair of Supplinburg, has been embroiled in disputes over his inheritance. For the Imperial crown, he became involved in the affairs of the Papacy. In 1130 there was a double election to the Apostolic See. Lothair supported Pope Innocent II, hoping in this way to secure his own coronation. Contrary to was expected, Lothair's Imperial coronation didn't end his disputes against the contenders for the German throne.

In 1130 Bolesław controlled the areas situated on the left bank of the Oder river on the island of Rügen. Germany also wanted to control these lands, but the internal political situation and the involvement in the civil war in Hungary, however, didn't allow an armed conflict. The Bull Sacrosancta Romana of 1133 give the Archbishopric of Magdeburg sovereign rights over the Pomeranian dioceses instituted by Bolesław.

The death of King Stephen II of Hungary in 1131 led the country into civil war between two claimaints to the throne: Béla the Blind (son of Álmos, Duke of Croatia) and Boris (the alleged son of King Coloman). Boris sought the help of the Polish ruler, who hoped for a closer alliance with Hungary and cooperation with the Kievan Rus' princes (Boris was a son of a daughter of Vladimir II Monomakh). However, Bolesław overestimated his strength against Béla, who counted with the support of almost all his country. The Polish army faced the combined forces of Hungary, Bohemia, Austria and Germany in the Battle of the Sajó river (22 July 1132), where the coalition had a complete victory over the Polish prince, who was forced to retreat.

The success in Hungary was used by the Bohemian ruler Soběslav I, an Imperial vassal, who during 1132–34 repeatedly led invasions to Silesia. The issue over the property of Silesia was subjected to the decision of Lothair III.

Preparations for the Congress

In February 1134 Soběslav I of Bohemia and dignitaries of King Béla II of Hungary, together with Bishop Peter of Székesfehérvár went to Altenburg, where they presented their allegations against the Polish ruler. They asked the intervention of the Holy Roman Empire (preliminary requests occurred two years earlier). Lothair III accepted the request, acting as an arbitrator in the dynastic disputes in Central Europe.

At the same time Béla II and Prince Volodymyrko of Peremyshl undertook a military expedition against Poland. The combined forces occupied Lesser Poland, reaching to Wiślica. Shortly after, Bolesław received a summons to the Imperial court at Magdeburg on 26 June 1135. Playing for time, however, he only send deputies. The emperor sent another delegation and requested a personal appearance of the Polish ruler, setting a new date on 15 August 1135, this time in Merseburg. Bolesław realized that without an agreement with Lothair III he couldn't maintain the control over the newly conquered lands on the west side of the Oder and the island of Rügen.

Even before the Congress of Merseburg was performed, Bolesław persuaded one of ruling princes of Western Pomerania, Ratibor I to make an expedition against Denmark. It was a clear expression of ostentation to Emperor Lothair III because the King of Denmark was a German vassal. The fleet formed by 650 boats (with 44 knights and 2 horses) attacked the rich Norwegian port city of Kungahälla (now Kungälv in Sweden).

Provisions of the Congress

The Congress took place on 15 August 1135. During the ceremony, Emperor Lothair III recognized the rights of the Polish ruler over Pomerania. In retribution, Bolesław agreed to paid homage for the Pomeranian lands and the Principality of Rügen, with the payment of 6000 pieces of fine silver from these lands to the Holy Roman Empire; however he remained fully independent ruler of his main realm, Poland. With Bolesław's death in 1138, Polish authority over Pomerania ended, triggering competition of the Holy Roman Empire and Denmark for the area. The conflict with Hungary also ended, with Bolesław recognizing Béla II's rule. The agreement was sealed with the betrothal of Bolesław's daughter Judith with Béla II's Géza (this marriage never took place). In case of the Bohemian-Polish dispute the Imperial mediation failed. Bolesław argued he must be treated as a sovereign ruler, who wasn't the case of Soběslav I, an imperial vassal. Lothair III, unable to come to an agreement with the Polish ruler, proposed to discuss the matter in subsequent negotiations.

The Congress ended with church ceremonies, during which Bolesław carried the imperial sword. This was an honor granted only to sovereign rulers. An indirect goal of Polish diplomacy was the successful invalidation of the Papal Bull of 1133 and the recognition of metropolitan rights of the Archbishopric of Gniezno at the Synod in Pisa in 1135. On 7 July 1136 was issued the protectionist Bull Ex commisso nobis a Deo under which Pope Innocent II confirmed the unquestioned sovereignty of the Archbishopric of Gniezno over the Polish dioceses.

Last years and death

Normalization of relations with his neighbors

After entering in the imperial sphere of influence, Poland normalized his relations with Bohemia at the Congress of Kłodzko on 30 May 1137 (the so-called Peace of Kłodzko), but the details of this agreement are unknown. This treaty was confirmed in the town of Niemcza, where Władysław, the eldest son of Bolesław, stood as godfather in the baptism of Wenceslaus, Soběslav I's son.

Sarcophagus of Bolesław III in Płock Cathedral.

In the last years of his life, Bolesław's main concern was to arranged political marriages for his children in order to strengthening his relations with neighboring countries. In 1137 Bolesław reinforced his relations with the Kievan Rus' with the marriage of his son Bolesław with Princess Viacheslava, daughter of Vsevolod, Prince of Pskov. In the year of his death, by contrast, finally normalized his relations with Hungary through the marriage of his son Mieszko with Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King Béla II.


Bolesław III Wrymouth died on 28 October 1138, probably in the town of Sochaczew. There are no records about the circumstances of his death. 12th century sources didn't provide information about his place of burial. It was only in the 15th century, when Jan Długosz recorded that the Prince's tomb was in the Masovian Blessed Virgin Mary Cathedral in Płock. However, he didn't show from where he took this information. Presumably the chronicler took this report from the lost Rocznik mazowiecki. Wawrzyniec Wszerecz, Canon of Płock during the 16th–17th century, wrote that Bolesław was in a common coffin at the Cathedral, where the remains of his father Władysław I Herman and several other Piast Masovian rulers were also placed.

Marriages and Issue

Bolesław was married twice:

Zbyslava (c. 1085/90 – c. 1114), his first wife, was a member of the Rurikid dynasty. She was the daughter of Sviatopolk II Michael, Prince of Polotsk (1069–71), of Novgorod (1078–88), of Turov (1088–93) and Grand Prince of Kiev (1093–1113). The marriage was probably concluded in 1103 with the purpose to obtain future military help from Kiev in the fight against Zbigniew. This union also notoriously limited the attacks of the Princes of Galicia and Terebovlia against Poland. Until Zbyslava's death the relations between Poland and the Principality of Galicia–Volhynia remained friendly.

Salomea (c. 1093/1101 – 27 July 1144), his second wife, was a German noblewoman. She was the daughter of Henry of Berg-Schelklingen, Count of Berg. The marriage took place in January or February 1115. This union was motivated by the current political situation, on the occasion of the signing of a peace treaty between Poland and Bohemia. Salomea came from a powerful and influential family, who, after the death of Emperor Henry V in 1125, as a result of the support of the opposition in Germany, lost their political influence at the court of Lothair III.

In older historiography Adelaide, daughter of Emperor Henry IV, was erroneously considered as another wife of Bolesław. The information about this stated that after the death of Zbyslava, Bolesław married her in Bamberg in 1110. This report is provided by Jan Długosz and Archdeacon Sulger. This view was challenged by Oswald Balzer.

Issue of Zbyslava of Kiev

  1. Władysław II the Exile (1105 – 30 May 1159), the only son of Bolesław and Zbyslava, was Prince of Kraków, Silesia, Sandomierz, eastern Greater Poland, Kuyavia, Western Pomerania and Gdańsk Pomerania (1138–46). Gallus Anonymous wrote that the heir of the Polish throne was born in the winter of 1107–08, but omitted the gender and name of the child. The Rocznik świętokrzyski and Rocznik kapitulny recorded Władysław's birth in 1105.
  2. A daughter [Judith?] (c. 1112 – after 1124), married in 1124 to Vsevolod Davidovich, Prince of Murom. Her filiation is doubtful, because in Russian chronicles was only noted that Vsevolod's wife came from Poland; she probably could be either Bolesław and Zbyslava's daughter or a member of the Awdaniec family as daughter of Skarbimir.

Older historiography attributed another child born from the marriage of Bolesław and Zbyslava. In addition to Władysław II and the unnamed daughter was also added an unnamed second son. Gallus Anonymous wrote that this son was born around 1107–08. According to Oswald Balzer, he died shortly after birth. However, Karol Maleczyński believed that he never existed, pointed that probably the sources who provided the year of 1105 as Władysław II's date of birth (Rocznik świętokrzyski and Rocznik kapitulny) could be made a mistake.

Issue of Salomea of Berg

  1. Leszek (1115/16 – 26 August before 1131), the eldest son of Bolesław and Salomea. He probably died in infancy.
  2. Ryksa (1116 – after 25 December 1156), eldest daughter of Bolesław and Salomea, in 1127 she married with to Danish prince Magnus Nilsson, future King of Västergötland. This union was made to obtain Danish support for Poland in the war against Germany, but in 1134 Denmark took the side of Germany in the conflict. After Magnus' death in 1134, Ryksa returned to Poland. Later she married with Volodar Glebovich, Prince of Minsk and Hrodno; this marriage was concluded in order to obtain an ally in the Polish war against Hungary. Her third marriage was with King Sverker I of Sweden.
  3. A daughter (before 1117/22 – after 1131), betrothed or married in 1131 to Conrad, Count of Plötzkau and Margrave of Nordmark.
  4. Casimir, known in historiography as the Older (9 August 1122 – 19 October 1131), according to sources (like Rocznik kapituły krakowskiej), he died aged 9. Jan Długosz in his chronicle wrote that he was born from the marriage of Bolesław and Adelaide, the Prince's supposed second wife.
  5. Gertruda (1123/24 – 7 May 1160), a nun at Zwiefalten (1139).
  6. Bolesław IV the Curly (c. 1125 – 5 January 1173), Prince of Masovia and Kuyavia (1138–46), of Kraków, Gniezno and Kalisz (1146–73), of Sandomierz (1166–73), married aged 12 with Viacheslava, daughter of Vsevolod, Prince of Pskov. Jan Długosz reported his birth in 1127 as the second son born from Bolesław and Adelaide.
  7. Mieszko III the Old (1126/27 – Kalisz, 13 March 1202), Duke of Greater Poland (1138–1202), of Kraków (1173–77, 1190, 1199–1202), of Kalisz (1173–1202), of Upper Gdańsk Pomerania (1173–1202) and Kuyavia (1195–98), around 1136 married to Elizabeth, daughter of King Béla II of Hungary. The marriage was concluded as one of the provisions of the Congress of Merseburg.
  8. Dobroniega (1129 – by 1160), after her father's death she was married by her mother Salomea around 1141–42 to Theodoric I, Margrave of Lusatia, who later repudiated her.
  9. Judith (1130 – 8 July 1175), betrothed in 1136 to Prince Géza, son of King Béla II of Hungary; however the marriage never took place and in 1148 she married to Otto I, Margrave of Brandenburg.
  10. Henry (1131 – 18 October 1166), Duke of Sandomierz (1146–66), according to Jan Długosz he was born in 1132. Further mention of him was made in his chronicle by 1139, describing the division of the country in districts. Karol Maleczyński placed his birth between 1127 and 1131. During his father's lifetime Henry didn't play an important political role. He died in 1166 in battle against the Prussians, unmarried and childless.
  11. Agnes (1137 – after 1182), around 1140–41 she was a proposed bride to one of the sons of Grand Prince Vsevolod II of Kiev. This union was to ensure the support of Kiev in the dispute between Salomea's sons and Władysław II, their half-brother. At the end, the marriage never took place and she married around 1149–51 to Mstislav II, Prince of Pereyaslavl and Grand Prince of Kiev since 1168.
  12. Casimir II the Just (1138 – 5 May 1194), Duke of Wiślica (1166–73), of Sandomierz (1173–94) of Kraków (1177–94), of Masovia and Kuyavia (1186–94), for a long time considered a posthumous child, and for this reason not included in his father's testament.

Older historiography attributed another two daughters from the marriage of Bolesław and Salomea: Adelaide and Sophia. Adelaide (c. 1114 - 25 March before 1132), was the first wife of Adalbert II the Pious, eldest son of Leopold III, Margrave of Austria. Modern historians denies that she was a daughter of Bolesław. Sophia (d. 10 October 1136), was probably the mother of Mateusz, Bishop of Kraków.


Statute of Succession (Testament of Bolesław III Wrymouth)

The Senioral Principle

His own experiences during his youth probably motivated Bolesław to make a division of his domains between his surviving sons. At the trustee of his provisions was appointed the faithful Count Palatine Piotr Włostowic. In his testament, also known as the "Statute of Succession", Bolesław introduced in Poland the Senioral Principle, in an effort to keep the unity of the state and to prevent the struggle for power among his sons. This regulation about the succession came into force after Bolesław's death, although is unknown the exact date of his establishment. It's believed that his creation could happen in 1115 or 1116, after the birth of a son Leszek, or after the suppression of the rebellion of Skarbimir (in 1117). Sources indicate that the original document about the succession was established in 1137. The Statute was nullified in 1180 but restored by Pope Innocent III in 1210 after a petition of the Silesian rulers; however, historians challenge the approval of the Statute by the Pope in the absence of any other information.

The "Senioral Principle" established that the eldest member of the dynasty was to have supreme power over the rest and was also to control an indivisible "senioral part": a vast strip of land running north-south down the middle of Poland, with Kraków its chief city. The Senior's prerogatives also included control over Pomerania, a fief of the Holy Roman Empire. Sources showed a discrepancy in terms of the power exercised by the Senior Duke. Pope Innocent III talked about Primogeniture, while Wincenty Kadłubek refers to both Seniority and Primogeniture. Kadłubek combined in one sentence the two systems, i.e. inheritance of supreme power in individual districts, where Primogeniture was in force. Among historians, there is a view that Bolesław not established Seniority, but Primogeniture that belongs exclusively to Władysław II and his descendants. A fact who supported this hypothesis was the coverage and nature of power exercised by Bolesław IV the Curly in 1146.

Division of the Polish state

Division of the Polish state in 1138:
Seniorate Province.
Pomeranian vassals under the rule of the Seniorate Province.
Silesian Province of Władysław II.
Masovian Province of Bolesław IV.
Greater Poland Province of Mieszko III.
Sandomierz Province of Henry.
Łęczyca Province of Salomea of Berg.

Bolesław divided his domains into the following provinces:

The Seniorate Province (with his capital Kraków) was supposed to be non-inherited and indivisible. It consisted of Lesser Poland, Sieradz and Łęczyca, the western part of Kruszwica and Kuyavia, the eastern part of Greater Poland, Kalisz, Gniezno and Gdańsk Pomerania. Western Pomerania as a fief would remain under the control of the Princeps.

  • Władysław II received the Silesian Province, comprising Silesia, with his capital Wrocław and the Lubusz land. He probably received this domain already between 1124 and 1125 after his marriage with Agnes of Babenberg. As the eldest son, he became in the first Senior Duke (or Princeps).
  • Bolesław IV received the Masovian Province, with his capital in Płock and eastern Kuyavia.
  • Mieszko III received the Greater Poland Province, composed of the remaining western parts of Greater Poland, with his capital in Poznań.
  • Henry received the Sandomierz Province, composed of eastern Lesser Polish territories centered around the city of Sandomierz and the Bug River to the north, with his capital in Lublin.
  • Salomea of Berg, Bolesław's widow, received Łęczyca or Sieradz-Łęczyca as her Oprawa wdowia or widow's seat. After her death, these lands were to be included in the Seniorate Province.

Casimir II, Bolesław's youngest son, wasn't included in the Testament, because he was born after his father's death or shortly before.

Among medievalists there is a view that the Statute only provide the inheritance of Bolesław's descendants in the first generation (i.e. his sons). After their deaths, their lands were to be included in the Seniorate Province. However, the later fights between them made the provinces transformed into a hereditary domains.

Feudal division of Poland

The "Senioral Principle" was soon broken, leading to a period of nearly 200 years of Poland's disintegration, also known as feudal fragmentation, a phenomenon common in medieval Europe. Among others countries who were affected by this are Russia, Hungary, and Germany. This was a time of internal struggles that caused the weakening of the Polish state and the enormous growth of internal development, culture, and improving the situation of the broad masses of the population. Distribution of the then princely rights by contemporary historiography also had a good side, which include: the reconstruction of the political system in the new economic fundamentals and increasing responsibility for the fate of the country placed upon its upper echelons.

Organization of the Polish state during Bolesław's rule

Representation of the tripartite social order of the Middle Ages: oratores "those who pray" (cleric), bellatores "those who fight" (knight), and laboratories "those who work" (workman: peasant, worker, member of the lower middle class); miniature by Aldobrandino di Siena in the Li Livres dou Santé, France, 13th century.
A warrior preparing his crossbow. At the end of the 11th century, the army began to make crossbows.

A detailed knowledge of the internal organization of the 12th century Polish state is impossible. There are no documents from this period and the reports of chroniclers showed problems about a real knowledge of the principality's management.

Bolesław divided his domains into provinces, districts and grods (a type of fortified village or castellany). Within them remained the Opole. Territorial scope of the province corresponded to the laters Dzielnica. It's believed that 6–7 provinces were created: Masovia, Silesia, Greater Poland, Kraków, Sandomierz, Kalisz-Łęczyca and Pomerania (from the lands of Gdańsk Pomerania). During Bolesław's reign attempts were made to organize the borders areas marches following the German model. Among the marches corroborated in the available sources are: Głogów, Gdańsk and probably Lubusz. Probably Bolesław had a number of well-maintained castles that served in the political, economic and administrative spheres.

The State's nature during the Piast dynasty was patrimonial. The Ducal court (Latin: curia ducis) was a center of power, which belonged to the reigning family (along with a separate court by the Duchess), after them came the secular and Church dignitaries and subjects, next to lower officials, chivalry and courtly princely members and chaplains. The most important office at the court of Władysław I Herman and Bolesław was the Count Palatine (also known as Voivode). The Count palatine (Latin: comes palatinus) included major command of the military expeditions (in place of the ruler), defense of the State, supervision of the administration (as head of the Ducal court), control and appointment of the heads of the castellanies and the exercise of the courts. The Count Palatine Office was abolished in 1180. Already during the reign of Mieszko II Lambert saw the development of Polish bureaucratic apparatus. The Collector (Latin: camerarius), managed the economy of the ducal court. Another specific offices in the Ducal court the Cześnik (cup-bearer), the Stolnik (esquire), the Strażnik (guard), the Miecznik (Sword-bearer), the Koniuszy (Master of the Horse) and the Łowczy (Master of the Hunt). During Bolesław's reign appeared the office of the Chancellor, who directed the work of the court offices and the Ducal chapel (Latin: capella), which consisted of a bunch of secular and religious duties. Michał Awdaniec was a chancellor at this time. Also belonged to the central government the Treasurer, the Mint Master and others. Also during the rule of Bolesław the structure of the state was closely linked to the organization of the Polish Church. The church was subject to the ruler, which had the right of Investiture.

The Ducal court was in contact with the subjects via the castellanies, who were managed by the Naczelnik or Town Chief (Latin: princeps terrae). He had sovereignty over the castellanies or Grods (Latin: comes), while the castellans (Grod rulers) should exercise the local civil authority, getting benefits from the public, organizing the defense and probably exercising the courts. Under the direct obligation of the ruler are the Bailiff, the Żupan (Gastald), the Minters, the Celnik (Tax collector) and collectors. All important functions in the principality are held by the nobility. The Castellan belonged to the group of nobles, officials and ministerialis. Some had served directly to the ruler, others held the offices, while the role of others are of food shortages. The Margraves (who are in charge of the border areas) were directly subordinate to the Polish ruler and had greater power than the Provincial chiefs.

At the end of the 11th century waned this princely organization. Was replaced with the Western European model of troops consisting of chivalry. The Latin term milites, which had been used to determine the soldiers came to be called the category of Knights and warriors who could afford to keep a horse. Polish armed forces in Bolesław's times are composed of three types of forces: the Princely army (Oddziału nadwornego), the Lords army (Drużyny możnowładców) and the militia (Pospolite ruszenie), composed of branches of small feudal lords and peasants (according to other views the militia adjutant troops were powerful and also composed by clergy and laity).

The Princely army consisting of his nobles -at the end of the 11th century, the so-called "New People" (pl: Nowi Ludzie): tribal chiefs, local leaders and opolne rulers who aspired to participate in government, sent their sons to the Duke's court, where he was accompanied the ruler-. Bolesław's personal guard was probably chosen by himself, using an invocation which was written in the Chronicles of Gallus Anonymous:

The nobles maintained their own army, which consisted of poor knights supported by peasants. They also are responsible for their armament. Among the equipment used by them was a wooden weapons (like spear), blunt weapons (like club), cutting weapons (like sword) and belching weapons (like crossbow, bow and arrow, sling), and the so-called protective equipment (shield, helmet, armor). These armies over time become larger than the princely one, the most notorious example from this was Sieciech. During the constant conflicts at the beginning of the 12th century, the nobles invoked the militia, particularly of endangered lands. The whole militia was divided into branches, which were given the names of their native districts (for example, the Kruszwiczan hordes). In the case of an armed conflict to a greater weapon are invoked independent branches composed by peasants (for example, during 1109).

In addition to the nobles (who were tied to the ruler and his court) and warriors the Polish society in Bolesław's times also consisted of free peasants and servants (attached to his place of residence). A distinct social group were the free people, the so-called guests (Latin: hospites) -who do not own property-, the warriors (Latin: milites gregarii) who had farms and are counted into the common people. At the end of the social scale are the slaves (brańcy of war, or their descendants). There are little difference between them and the free peasants, but their duty to their master was higher. Non-free population was also used for personal services or to work on the land in favor of the ruler.

All aspects of life in the State were regulated by the Ducal Judge (Latin: ius ducale). He covered all the rights of the Duke, in relation to the subjects or property, the enforcement of a variety of benefits, dues and ministries. The expanded state apparatus and the church maintained by benefits from the population producing material goods. The main burden of the tax rests on the lowest social class: the peasantry (Latin: heredes, rustici ducis, possesores). Up to them to submit certain levies, tithes, and other forms of taxes like the Podworowe (in the form of a cow, which consisted of the entire village), Podymne (for every house), Poradlne (for each piece of land), Narzazu (for grazing pigs in the woods), the Stacji or Stanu (who allow the maintenance of the Duke's court) and the posług komunikacyjnych, who regulated the transport ways in the country and was divided in three main taxes: Przewód ("the cable"), Powóz ("the carriage") and Podwód ("the wagon"). Other minor taxes involved hunting, military, guards (who custodied the Grods), taxes on regalia and criminal penalties. In addition, subjects were required to repair roads, bridges, construction and maintenance of castles.

Seals and coinage

Bulla discovered in Głębokie (2002).
Bulla discovered in Ostrów Tumski (2005).

Of the five oldest preserved seals from Polish rulers four were discovered in various places during 2002–06, while one of more than 100 years ago. Polish archaeologists made further discoveries in Głębokie (2002), in Ostrów Tumski (2005), in Gniezno (2005) and in an undisclosed location in the village of Susk near Sierpc, 32 km. from Płock (2006). The first preliminary studies suggested that the seals could belonged to Bolesław III Wrymouth. They are made of lead, a durable material, with a diameter of 36–40 mm. The lead seals are used at that time in European courts and are from the Bulla tipe. Seals are known in municipal and military orders. Occasionally, in the most important documents (acts) were used golden bullas.

The discovered bullas from Bolesław's reign fall into two major types, differing in the form of writing:

  • Type I: extended stored on the obverse in the genitive, with the Latin word sigillum.
  • Type II: short and around the bulla.

One example from both type of seals came from the relationship with St. Adalbert, where he emphasizes his pontifical recognition (in type I) and in the crosier, with the gesture of the imposition of hands, clearly visible in the seals after restoration (in type II). The use of the genitive seals in Poland came from the 12th century, a phenomenon (unprecedented), with its only then monetary equivalent in the denarius with the Latin legend: Denarivs ducis Bolezlai. At the end of Bolesław's reign returned to the staid mold inscriptions with the Latin legend: Dvx Bolezlavus. According to S. Suchodolski the bullas were used for the authentication of princely documents like letters, privileges, judgments, etc., and by T. Jurek, they could also be used to secure the business arrangements (like buy of doors, chests, reliquaries).

In October 2006, the Poznań Society of Friends of Learning has confirmed that the discovered bullas during 2002–05 belonged to Bolesław III Wrymouth.

Boleslaw's protective bracteate.
Denarius with the legend ADALBIBVS.
Denarius with "cavalry" cross of Sieciech.

During Bolesław's reign appeared a two-sided denarius, which was denominated the foreign coin (Polish: monetą obcą). The first known denarius from this time bears the Latin legend Bolezlav. For the others most commonly used coins bears the Latin inscription Bolezlavs, denarivus, dicis Bolezlai with St. Adalbert in the reverse. Another type of coins didn't have legends. They differ mostly came from the weight: they were much lighter, punched for purely economic purposes.

In this time was also modeled mainly on the Magdeburg technique a bracteate, who was one of the oldest in Europe. There are two types of bracteates who dated from Bolesław's reign:

  • The type II shows in both sides before Bolesław and St. Adalbert, who put his hand over the ruler in a gesture of protection. The legend shows the Latin inscription Bolezlaus Adalbertus. This bracteate initially was considered a way of penance from Bolesław for Zbigniew's blinding. Was probably minted in Kraków around 1127.
  • The type I is less frequent. Showed St. Adalbert in episcopal robes, holding a crozier and Gospel. Legend of the coin determines the form of the Archbishop of Gniezno. Further studies have shown that the coin was minted between the period of the Congress of Merseburg (1135) and Bolesław's death (1138). It's now called the protective, since illustrates the protection of St. Adalbert to the Polish ruler, who after the his homage to the Holy Roman Empire in 1135 only recognizes the saint as his protector. It's one of the few examples of political propaganda in the coin's legend. According to A. Schmidt this was an Archbishop's coin which was minted in Gniezno, probably in 1135.

In addition to the two presented bracteates from Bolesław's there is one, which is now counted among the oldest known in numismatics. This bracteate was found in Brzeg (in Gmina Pęczniew) and preserved almost the 2/3 part of the whole weight of 0.61 g and a diameter of 27 mm. The coin shows the figure of the ruler with crown, sword in hand and an outstretched hand. Initially, was believed that showed Władysław II the Exile. Further studies, included by A. Mikolajczyk, identified this image with Bolesław III Wrymouth. Among researchers, however, today, there are discrepancies about what ruler showed the coin, because the inscription preserved is incomplete.

Princely mints are mostly located in Wrocław, Płock, Gniezno and Kraków. In that time also existed private mints, such as Palatine Sieciech, who placed them in Sieciechów and near Kraków.

Church foundations

It was customary between the 12th century ruling families a wide-ranging religious activities like donations in the benefit of the Church. The main objective was to spread Christianity. This was to include show religious rulers in the face of God, church hierarchs, clergy and society. Bolesław wasn't the exception, and he wasn't not only a predatory warrior, a cunning politician and a diplomat; he was also a patron of cultural developments in his realm.

Like most medieval monarchs, he founded several churches and monasteries. Among the most important of which are:

Benedictine Abbey of the Holy Cross (Święty Krzyż).
  • The Benedictine monastery of Holy Cross atop the Łysa Góra which was founded in place of an ancient pagan temple. The first Abbot of this monastery, Boguchwał, wrote about the foundation and the Duke:

Stored documents from about 1427 (called the świętokrzyskie dokumenty pergaminowe) confirm the history of the Bishop, adding that the co-founder of the monastery was the knight Wojsław.

St. Giles-Church in Inowłódz, founded in 1138.
  • The St. Giles-Church in Inowłódz was built in the Romanesque style. According to a modern plate inscription (presumably from the 17th century) this temple was built in 1082 by Władysław I Herman. However, modern research revealed that the foundation of the Church was probably during the 12th century (at the latest from 1138) and the founder was Bolesław.
  • The Collegiate Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Ostrów Tumski was founded thanks to the donations of Haymo, Bishop of Wrocław and comes Wojsław in 1120, following the reports of the 15th century Rocznika głogowskiego. Modern scholars believed that the founder was Bolesław (T. Lalik), or the foundation was made by Bishop Haymo and Wojsław with the consent of the Duke (H. Gerlic) or was a foundation made by Bishop Haymo and Bolesław (T. Jurek). In earlier studies of the history of Silesia existed the opinion that Bolesław founded the Collegiate as a gesture of gratitude for the loyalty and bravery of the people of Głogów and also as a way of penance for Zbigniew's blinding.
  • The Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec according to some hypotheses was also founded by Bolesław. In 1124 the Papal legate issued the confirmation of the goods received from the Abbey's estates.
  • The Abbey of Lubiń was restored during 1137–38 by Bolesław and the Awdaniec family.
  • The Wawel Cathedral was completed during Bolesław's reign. In 1118 Bishop Maurus was buried there.
  • The Canons regular of St. Augustine in Trzemeszno was probably founded by Bolesław. Evidence of this was in a document issued by Mieszko III the Old in 1145.
Abbey of Zwiefalten, Germany.

The connection of Bolesław and his second wife Salomea with the Swabian monastery of Zwiefalten was well known. The detailed description of Berthold of Zwiefalten was the only evidence of the cultural, artistic and religious development of the 12th century Polish court:

Gniezno Cathedral.

The same source mentioned that the golden cross donated to the monastery was made by master Leopard, who worked for the Polish ruler during 1129–37.

The Reliquary of 1113 is an example of the artistic development during Bolesław's rule; was made during the penitential journey to the tomb of Saint Adalbert in Gniezno Cathedral after the blinding of Zbigniew, according to the reports the Gallus Anonymous:

The Reliquary contained the head of Saint Adalbert. At the end of the 15th century was melted in order to make a new one. According to the notes of 1494 had the form of octagonal shrine. The side walls have the shape of squares and were separated by small columns, which were based on the figures of saints or prophets. The monument was decorated with 8 pearls and 40 sapphires.

Polish historiography during Bolesław's reign

Stone in honor of Gallus Anonymous in Wrocław.

During his rule, Bolesław wanted the history of the Piast dynasty to be written. This task was assigned to an unnamed Benedictine monk (who had been incorrectly named as Gallus Anonymous). Modern research, however, suggests that the monk was a Venetian.

His Chronica Polonorum, written in Latin, was made between 1112 and 1116. The history of the State (Latin: gesta ducum) was made describing the fate of the rulers. The Chronicle covers the history from legendary times until 1114. Composed of three parts, this unfinished literary work justified the right of the Piasts to rule over Poland. The Chronicle also explain many controversial events that were placed under the responsibility of the rulers, and give a full explanation about their policy.

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