Stanisław ze Skarbimierza ok. 1365-1431

Together with Paweł Włodkowic, he was the creator of the Polish concept of international law. He studied at the University of Prague at the Faculty of Liberal Arts which was founded in 1348. After graduation, he was ordained as a priest. Then, in 1389, he took up legal studies in Prague, obtaining in 1396 the title of doctor of decrees from the Faculty of Law. During his studies, he did not break off contact with his native country, working closely with the relaunch of the University of Krakow and trying to resume the didactic activity of the institution. At the same time, he was associated with the activity of the royal court, being the confessor of Queen Jadwiga. In 1400, King Władysław Jagiełło issued the foundation document of the University of Krakow, naming Stanisław of Skarbimierz the first rector of the university. During his inaugural speech entitled In Praise of the Newly Founded University he presented his vision of the organization of academia and the university. He accorded theology the highest place in the hierarchy of the sciences, while at the same time emphasizing the role of university institutions in shaping human development and regarding educated people as those who were to contribute to the strengthening of the power of the state and the Church. He held the office of rector of the University of Krakow once more in 1413. Despite the fact that Stanisław of Skarbimierz did not perform any public functions, he was deeply involved in the political debates of the time. One of the most important of his works is that which was created during the war between Poland and the Teutonic Order (1409-1411) entitled A Sermon on Just and Unjust War (1410). The Krakow lawyer tried to supply moral reasons for warfare, determining which wars can be considered just. According to him, such a war must meet the conditions laid down in his treatise. The first of these was to make a war only out of necessity, in order to defend the homeland or to regain lost land. He then claimed that during a just war, the murder or destruction of property is justified if it stems from a higher necessity and is not caused by hatred of the enemy, or because of the greed of the ruler. In addition, the one responsible for the war had the right to keep the spoils obtained in the fight against the enemy. A very important element in Stanisław's conception was the full moral and material responsibility for the consequences of the struggle that the ruler initiating an unjust war had towards his subjects. He further argued that a just war could be fought against a Christian ruler even with the help of pagan troops. What is more, it was not possible to start a war against pagans solely because they did not recognize the Christian faith, especially if they had rights to the lands they occupied. Stanisław's theoretical involvement in the conflict with the Teutonic Knights also had a practical dimension, as he was the representative of Władysław Jagiełło during the Polish-Teutonic trial of organized by Pope Marcin V’s envoy in 1422. Of particular importance in the legal-political considerations of Stanisław of Skarbimierz is his concept of the state, which he treated as an organism. According to this, the king, as the head of state, could not violate anybody's rights, while all subjects should care for the common good. The necessary virtue of a good ruler was wisdom, which he closely connected with education and the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures as these allowed direct contact with divine wisdom. A ruler who did not have the virtue of wisdom should take care to appoint wise advisers. At the same time, the scholar chided those monarchs who believed that they possessed all knowledge and rejected the help of educated people. While caring for the unity of the whole organism of the state, members of the community were assigned roles in line with their position. Therefore, members of the lower classes should not strive for higher positions, while those who occupied them should not despise the lower ones. In the thought of Stanisław of Skarbimierz, the state, in striving for prosperity, should be guided by certain specific rules. The first of these was justice, and the second principle indicated by him was the compliance of citizens, combined with their cooperation in state matters, which was supposed to protect against the tyranny, egoism and political divisions. Subsequently, the Krakow thinker emphasized the great role of trust between the inhabitants of the state. A considerable degree of importance, as mentioned before, was attached to the role of advisers in the state, which would serve as support for the ruler and help him to make wise and considered decisions. The final element necessary for the state to achieve good governance was the defining of one common goal that would protect it against certain aspirations and prevent the breakdown of the state. Stanisław of Skarbimierz died on January 9, 1431. Today he is best known for his work on legal and political issues. Together with his pupil, Paweł Włodkowic, he is considered to be the creator of the Polish concept of international law. It should be emphasized, however, that his legacy includes more than 600 pieces which mainly deal with theological and pastoral issues, especially in the collections of his sermons. It is also significant that, despite his legal education, Stanisław of Skarbimierz did not write any work which was strictly connected with the law.


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’.
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