He came from a poor noble family, holding the hereditary office of the mayors of Wolbórz. He started his initial studies in Woborze and Kazimierz near Krakow. In the years 1517-1519 he studied at the Krakow Academy, obtaining a degree in the field of liberal arts. He remained in the academic circle of the Krakow Academy until about 1522. After studying in Krakow, he was ordained and began working in the office of the bishop of Poznań, Jan Lataski, before becoming associated with the Łaski family. At the request of Jan Łaski, Modrzewski made a series of trips to the countries of Western Europe. He stayed, among others in Germany, Switzerland and France, where he met Marcin Luther and Filip Melanchthon. In 1536, after the death of Erasmus and following the orders of his protector Łaski, he transported the library of the outstanding humanist from Basel to Poland. In 1540, Modrzewski returned to Poland, settling near Łowicz where he received a small presbytery. This he let out, himself moving permanently to Kraków to the court of Jan Łaski. Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski began his writing career in 1543, publishing the speech Lascius, sive de poena homicidii [“Mercy, or About Punishment for Murder”]. He attacked the inequality of punishments for murder, depending on the social status of the killer and the victim. He continued this topic in subsequent speeches issued in 1544, 1545 and 1546. The work Oratio Philalethis peripatetici [“A Peripatetic Speech on Truth”], issued in 1545, aimed against laws banning landlords from selling land was also of great importance. In 1546, he published the treatise Ad Regam, Pontifices ... et Populos Poloniae ... oratio, in which he postulated that, in addition to spiritual delegates, representatives of the laity should also be sent to the Council in Trent. This work provoked the first, but not the last, of his conflicts with the Polish Catholic clergy. At the turn of the 1640s and 50s, Modrzewski worked on his most important work - Commentariorum de Republica emendanda libri quinque [“Considerations on the improvement of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, book five”]. The first edition of this work appeared in Krakow in 1551. As a result of the intervention of the church authorities it consisted of three books: On Customs, On Rights and On War, while the previous edition also contained books about the church and school. In this treatise Modrzewski analysed the socio-political secession of contemporary Poland and presented a comprehensive program for its reconstruction. He demanded, among others, the equality of citizens before the law, a centralized monarchy but with royal power subordinate to the law, and a fair judiciary. He also postulated secularization of education, raising the level of education, and propagating science and culture. In the book about the church and the work Silvae quatuor he criticized the feudal relations in the Church, demanded their democratization, rising above dogmatic differences and the equal treatment of religions, without favouring Rome. He emphasized the ethical values of Christianity and also critically assessed the then state of education. As a result, he was in favour of handing over schools to the state, defended the dignity of the teacher as a master and postulated the reform of basic pedagogical problems. Modrzewski was one of the few humanists in sixteenth century Poland who combined in his successful reforms issues concerning the morality of citizens, the level of their education and their customs. Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski belonged to a small group of 16th century Polish scholars whose thought enjoyed considerable attention in Western Europe. This was due to the fact that he created all of his works in Latin which gave them an audience them outside of Poland. In the Polish academic community, his modern social and political program found a large group of followers and popularizers known as Modrzewski's school. Polish editions of Modrzewski's works include: On the Improvement of the Commonwealth, Speech, On the Church, Letters 1560-1562, Sylvae.
This website is a part of the project entitled ‘Polish Political Thought and Independence: A Program for the Promotion of Polish Intellectual Heritage Abroad’, generously funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland as A part of ‘Public Diplomacy 2017’ programme, component ‘Collaboration in the field of Public Diplomacy 2017’.