Udział elit w bractwach jezuitów prowincji polskiej i litewskiej. Kontrola z góry czy organizacja od dołu?
The participation of elites into Jesuit brotherhoods of Polish and Lithuanian Province. Control from above or organization from beneath?
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This article deals with the role of the nobility within Jesuit congregations in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth around the mid-eighteenth century. The author takes into consideration the most recent acquisitions of Western European historiography. The French historian Louis Chatellier has underlined that brotherhoods and Marian congregations in particular were not mere instruments of social control imposed by Jesuits, but rather religious organizations meeting basic social needs like the care of the Poor. Therefore, their creation was mainly demanded from laics, who then played an important role in the administration of these organizations. As Enlightenment began to have an influence on elites, Jesuits transformed brotherhoods by making them more autonomous from elites and addressed their activity in favor of lower social groups. By using Polish old prints and archive sources, the author tries to verify to which extent the framework depicted by western historiography can be applied to the Polish-Lithuanian context. Similarities, as well as differences can be observed. In comparison to Western Continental Europe, the nobility of Poland and Lithuania traditionally played a major political and economical role and identified itself with the country’s social elite. Therefore, noblemen appeared either as main financial supporters, or as the most important actors in the religious and social life of congregations. Around the mid-eighteenth century, as Enlightenment began to spread throughout the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, a close relationship persisted between Jesuits and elites. Nobility felt the importance of ensuring a minimum level of assistance to lower social groups in rural areas. In this light it can be understood the reason why Polish Jesuits enjoyed a great support from the nobility as they extended the activity of their congregations to such groups. Being under the influence of the nobility, Jesuits acted not only as part of the social care system in accordance with their religious views, but also as a factor of social cohesion in the Polish country.
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