Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Many people refer to Mieszko I as the first king of Poland. However, this ruler of the country has never been crowned and died with the title of the prince. A great tribute is paid to him as he was the monarch who is thought to have united smaller tribes that inhabited neighboring lands and formed the country of Poland – giving it also a new religion.
We cannot be sure when Mieszko I was born – most probably between 922 and 945. He derived from Piast dynasty and reigned the tribe of Polans (West Slavic tribe inhabiting today Great Poland region) since about year 960. He continued politics of his father and grandfather (the historical sources mention the names of his ancestors: father – Siemomysl, grandfather – Lestek and Siemowit – great grandfather) that focused on alliances and military power that granted them subordination of other tribes.
Mieszko I was charismatic ruler. He also introduced many internal changes, within the newly formed country, that aimed to enable creating military monarchy. He also decided on one of the most important events in Polish History - the Baptism. First in 965 Mieszko I married Dobrawa – princess deriving from powerful Czech dynasty of Przemyslids. It was a part of alliance with Czech country that was to lead to changing the confession by Polish prince and his subjects. The Baptism of Mieszko I and the country he ruled took place in 966.
As more civilized western countries of Europe developed in Christian culture, the Baptism of Poland made Polish ruler equal to other European rulers. Apart from this Mieszko’s position towards his subjects was strengthened as it was believed that the reign over the country is given by God – and any rebel against the ruler was thought to be a sin. But the Baptism had also a great influence on the development of the inhabitants of Polish lands. Numerous priests that came to the country at that time were the only ones who could write and read. They also spoke Latin that helped to communicate with other rulers at international scene. From now on monasteries and churches became cultural and artistic centers. It stopped also attacks that used to take place frequently in the name of fighting paganism and introducing Christianity among Polish tribes.
Historical resources prove that Mieszko I was a very talented ruler. For the prosperity of his subjects he made alliances even with his former enemies. His allies were Czech Republic, and later on Sweden and Holy Roman Empire. At the end of his reign (that is 992) he fought with Czech dynasty for Silesian region and most probably for Lesser Poland. He left to his sons (one of whom – Boleslaw Chrobry - became the first crowned Polish king) stronger and twice as big country as he got from his father.