Bishop Bernard Maciejowski's 'Epistola pastoralis' of 1601. A Forgotten Document Concerning the Reception of the Post-Tridentine Principles of Creating Sacred Art in Poland
Epistola pastoralis biskupa Bernarda Maciejowskiego z roku 1601. Zapomniany dokument recepcji potrydenckich zasad kształtowania sztuki sakralnej w Polsce
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During the last session of the Council of Trent in 1563 the principles of creating Catholic sacred art were only established in a very broad outline. Much more detailed regulations appeared for the first time in the 'Instructiones fabricae et supellectilis ecclesiasticae', promulgated by St Charles Borromeo in 1577. These instructions were designed exclusively for the archdiocese of Milan, but soon began to be included in the Post-Tridentine legislation of other ecclesiastical provinces. In some dioceses attempts were also made to considerably simplify St Charles's orders for the purpose of adjusting them to a rather poor knowledge of art and liturgical tradition among the local clergy. It was in such a form that Jakob Mueller, vicar general of the Ratisbon diocese, published them for his subordinates in a booklet entitled 'Ornatus ecclesiasticus /Kirchliche Geschmuck' (1591). The chapters 'De fabrica ecclesiae and De supellectilli sacra' in the 'Epistola pastoralis' promulgated in 1601 by Bernard Maciejowski, Bishop of Cracow, who in 1582, at the outset of his ecclesiastical career, stayed for some time at Charles Borromeo's court, should also be considered as a highly simplified version of the Borromean instructions. Maciejowski stated that one of a clergyman's most important duties was to look alter the church entrusted to his care with as deep a commitment as would be shown by the husband solicitous to meet his wife's needs. Thus, he first ordered parish priests to see that their churches were in the best possible technical condition, especially their walls, roofs, windows, and paved floors. He attached great importance to proper storage of the Eucharist, claiming that the most suitable place for the Blessed Sacrament was a tabernacle set up on the high altar with an eternal light burning before it. A considerable part of instructions related to the principles of exhibiting relics and storing chrism as well as to those concerning the shapes and locations of baptismal fonts, pulpits, confessionals, and stoups. Maciejowski generally demanded that the pictures placed in a church have 'a suitable appearance and induce the souls of the faithful to piety'. A factor of considerable importance to creating the forms of churches was the order to build porches in front of their main entrances and erect sturdy bell towers separated from the church walls. The 1607 synod of Piotrków extended the instructions of the 'Epistola pastoralis' to the whole Gniezno archdiocese (that is, to most of the Commonwealth's area), Particular Polish dioceses soon incorporated it into their statutes and ordinaries announced its successive reprints. Therfore, it was probably no accident that a mass adaptation of the interiors of Polish churches to Post-Tridentine liturgical and pastoral reforms took place especially in the first half of the I7th century, thus coinciding with the promulgation and popularization of Maciejowski's text. So there are many indications that the 'Epistola pastoralis' was the most important and influential native product of the 'Counter Reformation theory of art' in the Polish Commonwealth.
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