Bractwa Cerkiewne na terenie Wielkiego Księstwa Litewskiego w XVI-XVIII wieku
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THE ORTHODOX BROTHERHOODS IN THE GREAT DUCHY OF LITHUANIA IN XVI-XVIII CENTURY
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The origin of Orthodox brotherhoods is connected with the role of laymen in the Orthodox Church. In the Great Duchy of Lithuania land owners took patronage over village parishes, while in towns this role was assumed by burghers, who were organised into brotherhoods since the end of the 16th century. The participation of laymen in caring over the church was a result of the tradition of conciliarity of the Orthodox Church. This was not merely a custom – it was the law of the Orthodox Church. Mikołaj Kojałowicz proved that the brotherhoods were created on the basis of city guilds consisting of craftsmen of the same trade. Their task was to defend the interest of a particular trade. With time individual guilds formed closed structures, which played a major role in the socio-political life of a city. The church brotherhoods were perceived as a means of defending the Orthodox community in Poland, which faced a national and religious threat. In cities with a varied religious structure guild regulations favored Catholics. Rarely were they tolerant. The guilds were basically Catholic institutions, although other Christians also belonged to them. In their inner structures Catholics held the most privileged positions. This system caused increasing religious intolerance within the guilds. This was an additional impulse for the Orthodox to form religious trade organisations. Religious conflicts in the guilds and the situation of the Orthodox church led to the formation of Orthodox church brotherhoods. Their activity covered matters of faith, culture and education as well as sociopolitical problems. This was strongly influenced by the reformation movement, preparations for church union and the increasing wealth of Ruthenian burghers. In Ruthenian lands the brotherhoods were not mass organisations, but they gathered the most active members of the Orthodox community (the Lvov brotherhood, for example, never in its long history had more than 50 members). Although small the brotherhoods represented the basic interest of the Ruthenian nation in matters of religious freedom and cultural development. The first Orthodox church brotherhood came to be in Vilnius around 1450 on the base of a furriers guild. The reasons for this were the conditions in the craftsmen guilds in Vilnius. In most guilds the authorities were dominated by Catholics. Even though the members were formally equal regardless of religion, the guilds required them to perform certain services for the Latin church (paying tribute to the clergy, taking part in Catholic services). The requirement for all guild members to take part in church ceremonies can be found in many Guild statutes in Vilnius (e.g. the shoemakers and the butchers). In some guilds members of different denominations could avoid taking part in Catholic services by paying a fine. Guild life was regulated according to Roman-Catholic holidays. During guild elections Catholics voted first. It was similar while speaking in meetings. This state of affairs was contrary to the spirit of the prerogative given by Sigismun Kiejstutovitch in 1432, granting the burghers of Vilnius Magdeburg law and an administrative system similar to that of the city of Cracow. The city council and the mayor were elected from among the citizens. The city council was to be elected by “połowicu zakonu rymskoho, a połowicu zakonu hreckoho” (half of the Roman and half of the Greek order). The number of mayors was supposed to be equal for “Roman and Greek denomination”. In this situation the privileged position of Roman Catholics in craft guilds forced their Orthodox members to form their own religious organisations. This is how the first Orthodox church brotherhoods in Vilnius came to be. The brotherhoods had their own houses and special statutes regulating their inner organisation. Members of the brotherhoods at their own expense made candles and prepared mead, which was served during religious ceremonies (Christmas, Easter). The brotherhoods were governed by foremen (starosta), who were elected annually, and who, with the aid of stewards (klucznik), managed brotherhood assets. The foremen resolved conflicts between brotherhood members and cared over their spiritual and religious lives. The first brotherhoods of Vilnius were religious associations formed by Orthodox craftsmen. The church brotherhoods in the cities of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania developed in the middle of the 16th century. The creation of new brotherhoods was accompanied by the increasing political influence of burghers in towns with Magdeburg law and the increasing awareness of Ruthenians. In towns of many religions forming brotherhoods was caused not only by religious but also by socio-political reasons. Having a legal organisation allowed the members of the brotherhoods to better defend their secular causes. In the brotherhood society a movement for the reformation of the Orthodox Church formed, especially as far as the morality of the clergy and faithful was concerned. This activity exceeded the religious sphere of brotherhood policy. The brotherhoods struggled for the preservation of Ruthenian culture, the rights of Orthodox believers, equality with the Catholics. Reformatory tendencies first appeared among the Orthodox burghers of Lvov and Vilnius. In the very beginning of the 16th century a few brotherhoods were formed in Vilnius, based on the tanners’, merchants’ and furriers’ guilds. Statutes of new brotherhoods, called bills (ustawy), were similar to those of guilds. Brotherhoods had their own governing bodies and held trials over their members. All members were obliged to pay a certain tribute and make mead for most important holidays. Similar brotherhoods were created in Lvov in association with the churches of st Nicholas, Annunciation and Dormition of Our Lady (Zwiastowania i Zaśnięcia NMP). The brotherhoods concentrated on religious and charity activities. Some supported hospitals, cared over widows and orphans, lent money to impoverished members, organized secular and religious ceremonies. The 16th century brought significant changes in the religious life of Ruthenians. The traditional religiousness, devoid of strong dogmatic support, met with the dynamically developing protestant movements and pro-Trydent Catholic church. The secularisation and materialism of higher clergy was an additional factor influencing the ideas of the faithful. In result only part of the clergy (mostly monastic) was ready to defend dogmas and conduct theological disputes. The position of the clergy was often diminished by the position of the ktitors, who undermined the prestige of the Orthodox church by interfering with its inner politics. The appearance of church brotherhoods and the involvement of laymen in church reformation was a new thing in the Orthodox church. Facing a threat from new religious movements from the fifteen-seventies attempts were made to reach a larger part of the Ruthenian society. Funding hospitals, printers, hospices and schools served this purpose. Religious teaching was also developed by polemic writings, sermons and envoys. Rich Orthodox burghers cared over Orthodox culture and education. Brotherhoods opened schools, which aimed at raising the educational level and religious awareness of Orthodox faithful. Thus they tried to deter the classes levels of Ruthenian society from leaving the Orthodox church. Cases of leaving the church by faithful was accompanied by an increasing religious awareness of Orthodox faithful. As a result of a great reformatory effort undertaken first of all by the brotherhoods there was a significant change in religious life. Active work in favour of the Church was part of the responsibility of Orthodox higher classes. Their religious and political activity in cities was caused by an increase in their national and religious awareness. Activity of craftsmen and traders in brotherhoods was treated as a natural result of their faith. The state of churches and monasteries, which were under their supervision, reflected their political and social aspirations. Charity activities of brotherhoods (caring over hospitals and hospices, supporting the poor, caring over elderly and orphans) was treated as part of the responsibility of a ktitor towards his parishioners. In the second half of the 16th century a new type of brotherhoods appeared. Their main aim was to improve the situation in the Orthodox Church. Reformation and counter-reformation slogans gave way for the rebirth of intellectual life. The Ostrog Academy, founded in fifteeneighties, played a major role in this process. The patriarch of Antioch Joachim, who came to Poland in 1585, saw the role of brotherhoods. He reformed the Lvov brotherhood and used it to help reform the whole church. The Lvov brotherhood got a new statute, which allowed it to accept noblemen and common people. Every year the members of the brotherhood would elect a governing body of four elders of which the eldest kept the chest and the youngest the keys to it. The governing body presented a report of its activity every year. The members were obliged to help each other and lending money without interest to those in need from a common treasury. They were supposed to care over the common goods, the church, monastery, clergymen and choir, as well as a school, printer and hospital. They had to take part in services in the intention of living and deceased members at particular times. Being responsible towards each other lead to a close control of the lives of brotherhood members. If one were to disobey the rules the elders rebuked him and if this did not help, the case was handed over to the bishop. People who would not comply by the brotherhood’s orders were excommunicated. This could not be lifted without the agreement of the brotherhood. According to the new statute these rules applied not only to brotherhood members, but to all faithful. Brotherhood members could stand against the bishop if he was proved to live his life against the rules of the church. Thus the brotherhood gained influence over the position of bishops. The aforementioned Patriarch of Antioch Joachim freed the brotherhood from the power of the local lord and positioned it above the existing hierarchy. Most historians believe that this decision, although born of the Patriarch’s good intentions towards reforming the church, lead to conflicts between Orthodox hierarchy and brotherhoods. The statute of the Lvov brotherhood formed the basis for the reform of the Vilnius brotherhood in 1588. The statute of the Lvov brotherhood was acknowledged in 1592 by king Sigismund III Waza. The privileges granted to the Lvov brotherhood by patriarch Jeremiah II in 1588 dictated the its goals. It was stated that the brotherhood was formed to „bring charity and aid those who suffer”. This included the following tasks – bringing up orphans, supporting old people in hospitals, receiving pilgrims, helping widows, endowing lords, protecting the aggrieved, helping people who have suffered from disasters, buying out the imprisoned, burying the impoverished dead, helping to renovate churches and monasteries. The second group of goals concerned educational matters connected with opening printers and schools. The assets for these activities were obtained mostly through renting houses and trade. The most important goals concerned matters of the whole church. Patriarch Jeremiah II commanded the Lvov brotherhood with overseeing the following of church dogma and traditions, spreading the faith among Ruthenians, caring over the church property and inner order. In time brotherhoods became a mass phenomenon. In 1584 the Vilnius brotherhood of the Holy Trinity included merchants from Belarussian and Lithuanian cities. In time burghers, clergymen and noblemen joined the brotherhoods. The Lvov brotherhood catalogue shows that some of the Moldavian, Volosian and prominent Ruthenian princes were among its members. The brotherhood included also metropolitans, bishops, heads of monasteries, monks and parsons. Some clergymen signed up with whole parishes. Raising them to the rank of satauropigial brotherhoods by patriarch Jeremiach II in 1588 was an important stage in the development of the Lvov and Vilnius brotherhoods. These brotherhoods were subject directly to the patriarch. Such brotherhoods had an exceptional position in the Orthodox church. Clergymen of these brotherhoods prayed for the patriarchs and were under their direst jurisdiction. Only the patriarch could give them orders and grant blessings. Their laws allowed the brotherhoods to freely manage their monasteries, churches, hospitals, printers and schools. Heads of monasteries had to inform brotherhoods about leaving the monastery, consult them on church canons and together with them watch over the religious life of the faithful. The brotherhoods informed the patriarch on the situation in the whole church, disorders in church life and violating canon laws by bishops. Their representatives also had the right to partake in electing a bishop, so that the position was taken by worthy people responsible for the future of the church. Both stauropigial brotherhoods (of Vilnius and Lvov) contributed to the development of church brotherhoods in other towns. By the end of the 16th century church brotherhoods were created in Krasnystaw and Rohatyn (1589), Brest, Grodek and Gologory (1591), Peremysl and Komarno (1592), Bielsk, Halitch and Lublin (1694), Mohylev and Stara Sol (1600). In the beginning of the 17th century there were church brotherhoods in almost all cities with a mixed denomination structure (Orthodox-Catholic). Stauropigial brotherhoods did not have control over regular brotherhoods, only a tradition of primacy. Their elders advised other brotherhoods, but did not control them – they were under the jurisdiction of the local bishops. However, the stauropigial brotherhoods were the only defenders and protectors of the regular brotherhoods. The elders of the Vilnius and Lvov brotherhoods formed statutes for other brotherhoods, informed them on their rights and responsibilities, supported them financially and legally, especially during trials against city authorities and Uniats. In matters concerning the whole church they expected the regular brotherhoods to support them. Let us take a closer look at the inner structure of the church brotherhoods. At the head of a brotherhood there were foremen, who were elected annually. They resolved disputes and conflicts between brotherhood members and watched over their spiritual life. They managed brotherhood policies and represented their organisations in contacts with town, church and state authorities. They managed the brotherhood, church and monastery assets and property and presented annual reports in general meetings. Resolving disputes and conflicts between brotherhood members and watching over their spiritual life and performance of their duties, as well as preparing subjects for general meetings was also an important form of their activity. In general meetings, which took place after Sunday services, matters of the inner order of the brotherhood were discussed, the morality of its members was assessed, conflicts were dealt with, problems of the hospitals, hospices, churches, monasteries, schools and printers were discussed. Money was divided between different brotherhood needs in these meetings. Matters of the whole church, the situation of the Orthodox church and Ruthenian citizens in the Republic of Poland were important subjects of discussion. The main source of income for the brotherhoods were fixed donations from its members and people from outside the brotherhood, as well as penalties for breaking brotherhood rules or statute, mead production, publishing. Furthermore, brotherhoods received many voluntary donations, testamentary bequests for building or renovating churches, supporting a choir, monastery, hospital, school or printer. In situations of unusual need money was gathered among members or faithful, as well as from other brotherhoods and communities. The Orthodox hierarchy was not happy with the appearance of new brotherhoods and with them taking over church education. The conflict between the Lvov brotherhood and the bishop of Lvov Gedeon Balaban, as well as achieving suropigial rights by some other brotherhoods diminished the position of Ruthenian lords. In the Orthodox council in June 1594, which was devoted to the matters of church brotherhoods, members of many of these (from Vilnius, Lvov, Brest, Holsztyn, Halitch, Belsk, and others) took part alongside clergymen. The council was initiated by the Lvov and Vilnius brotherhoods. Rules for organising and financing brotherhoods were established at the council, the legal status of brotherhoods was confirmed, permission was given for brotherhood printers to be established in Vilnius and Lvov, as well as a brotherhood church by the Holy Trinity monastery in Vilnius. Church brotherhoods and some Ruthenian lords responded to union slogans by increasing educational activity and publishing among Orthodox faithful. The reformatory attitude of brotherhoods and sauropigial prerogatives acquired from the patriarch of Constantinople Jeremiah II and the patriarch of Antioch Joachim caused unrest among the Ruthenian hierarchy. Granting stauropigial rights to brotherhoods disturbed the inner order of the Orthodox Church. It undermined the authority of local bishops and set a new role for laymen. Synods of bishops were dominated by conflicts with brotherhoods and the first reformatory attempts. Possibility of acquiring places in the senate, the perspective of freeing themselves from the control of stauropigial brotherhoods and pressures from the king encouraged some of the Orthodox episcopate to support the church union. Entering the Pope’s jurisdiction made them independent of the Patriarchs and the reformatory activity of brotherhoods. The brotherhoods played an important role in the history of the Orthodox church in Poland. Brotherhoods concentrated on religious matters and charity work. Some supported hospitals, widows and orphans, gave loans to their impoverished members, organised lay and religious holidays. An important task of a brotherhood was to support clergymen and church servants. In the end of the 16th and during the 17th century they became main centers of anti-union opposition. After many magnate families had joined the union or converted to Catholicism, brotherhoods became, along with the Cossacs (?) the main force to support the Orthodox church politically and financially. It was expressed in many foundations and bequests of prominent faithful to the benefit of the Church and their dedication to its defense. The history of church brotherhoods indicate that this organisation, unknown anywhere else, which brought together ley members of the Orthodox society, was a significant support for the Orthodox church. For over two hundred years the brotherhoods fought for the rights of their church, protected its possessions, and saw to the morality of its clergy and faithful. The Lvov brotherhood was in 1439–1708 the main protector of the Orthodox faith in Halitch Ruthenia. The Holy Spirit brotherhood in Vilnius played a similar role in the Great Dutchy of Lithuania. The Holy Cross brotherhood for over a hundred years supported the Orthodox church in Volhynia. The Kiev brotherhood in the times of metropolitan Peter Mohyla and Sylveter Kossow supported the creation of an educational centre in Kiev. The Mohylev brotherhood supported in 1633–1772 the activities of Belarussian bishops. Other brotherhoods, over the course of their existence, played a similar role in cities in which they operated.
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