THE CRACOW LIBER TESTAMENTORUM AS A SOURCE OF DATA ON LATE MEDIAEVAL URBAN SOCIETY (AN OUTLINE OF PROBLEMS)
The article characterises a group of Cracow burghers from the 15th and 16th c. whose testaments were included in the Cracow liber testamentorum between 1427 and 1543. The book contains 292 records of testaments from that period, among them several mentions of new versions of earlier testaments or their supplements. Only a partial correlation was established between the increased number of testaments in certain years and the dates of epidemics in Cracow. A clear correlation can be assumed in the case of the epidemics of 1482 (12 testaments) and of 1543 (40 testaments). As far as the language is concerned, more testaments were written in German than in Latin until the end of the 15th c.; the tendency changed in the 16th c., when Latin started to dominate. This phenomenon was probably caused by the increasing influence of the renaissance and of Polish gentry culture on the German -language culture of Cracow burghers. In the period discussed about 30% of the testaments recorded in the book were made by women. This was a general tendency which is also evidenced in other large mediaeval towns. One hundred testators from the years 1427-1467 were examined more closely to estimate their wealth. This was done by analysing the value of dowries, which were specified in 49 cases, and other mentions that indicated the testators’ financial standing. It was estimated that over a half of the testators were very affluent, while only 10 were relatively poor. The analysis showed that the testators recorded in the liber testamentorum were primarily rich and very rich, with men dominating. The group, however, was not homogenous, and the tendencies connected with the language of testaments, as well as the relatively small impact of epidemics on the number of testaments, suggest that there might have been other, unidentified factors that induced burghers to draw up testaments and record them in the town register. Further research on the whole collection of Cracow testaments will help to understand the character of this book and to discover the principle by which Cracow councillors decided to register particular testaments in it.
Instytut Historyczny Uniwersytetu Warszawskiego, ul. Krakowskie Przedmieście 26/28, 00-927 Warszawa
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