Sarmatism in Poland

Sarmatism in Poland
Every century, generation has its unique interests, way of living, dressing etc. It is, however, hard to believe that a big part of society would make their culture depend on the myth that was unlikely to be true. Polish nobility created strong cultural formation, that lasted since the end of 16th till middle 18th century, based on the belief in their ancient origin.

The first mentions about origin of Poles from ancient Sarmatians come from 12th century and were made by Wincenty Kadlubek, one of Polish chroniclers. This point of view was afterwards popularized. While most of the Poles were probably not influenced by the myth of ancient origin, the nobility started to apply to it with their culture. Although Sarmatism influenced culture of Slavic countries, Hungary or Moldova, it was Poland that was thought to be the model of Sarmatic culture.

Sarmatism is part of Polish and noble version of Baroque style. It was especially unique as it joined traditions typical for Poland, as well as West and East. The most representative were most probably traditional clothes used by Polish Sarmatians as well as their customs and everyday behavior. Sarmatian concept popularized eastern clothing - almost oriental one, that stood out from the clothing worn by nobility from other parts of Europe. To stress their roots in Orient, the Sarmatians would wear long, colourful and rich outer garment (called Kontush) with characteristic 'open' sleeves. Later on Kontush was replaced by tail coat. Under Kontush every Sarmatian would wear 'zupan' - a long male dress - and wide, richly decorated belt. A sabre was a must!

Sarmatians would believe in special role of Poland, that was supposed to be the oasis of freedom among other countries. They demanded from the nobility to keep their tradition and customs. The myth about the uniqueness of nobility influenced their ideology and way of thinking. It especially influenced literature of Polish Baroque. Some claimed, however, that Sarmatism was not only about believing in myth that was unlikely to be true. It was more the search for roots, historical traditions and looking for its place in historical past.

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