April 18, 1025–Boleslaw I the Brave

April 18, 1025--Boleslaw I the Brave

Written by Matthew Mendez, Journalist

April 18, 1025 C.E.

An elderly Duke of Małopolska kneels before a priest, the light of the sun illuminating the two men in an almost angelic fashion. For decades this duke had dreamed of being crowned King of Poland. Now, his ambitions were about to become a reality…

Born in 966 C.E. to Duke Mieszko I of Małopolska and his wife, Dobrawa of Bohemia, Bolesław would go on to become the first king of Poland on April 18, 1025 C.E. Prior to his death in 992 C.E., Mieszko had ordered that Małopolska be divided among its claimants. However, via the expulsion of rivals who claimed the throne, Bolesław managed to unify the dukedom under his control. During the first half of his reign, Bolesław further cemented his power through military expansion and the creation of an intricate network of alliances to some of Central Europe’s most powerful men, most notably the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III. With Małopolska elevated to the status of a great power, Bolesław seemed to have reached the pinnacle of his monarchical career. Yet, in 1000 C.E., the Holy Roman Emperor called an imperial congress in city of Gniezno (Małopolska’s capital at the time) – a decision which would forever change the fate of Poland.

At the Congress of Małopolska, Otto III declared the city of Gniezno an archbishopric (which gave the city much more religious influence over the region) and bestowed upon Bolesław the title of “frater et cooperator imperii” (“Brother and Partner of the Empire”). Otto’s proclamation, while not directly handing the crown of Poland to Bolesław, certainly ignited the duke’s ambition. Otto III soon passed away after the events at Gniezno, a turn of events which would serve to cause a fracture between Poland and her Holy Roman overlord. With no strings attached to the new Holy Roman Emperor, Henry II, Bolesław crowned himself King of Poland. However, before Henry II could take action against Bolesław’s growing power, his imperial majesty passed away in 1025 C.E. Henry II’s successor, Mieszko II Lambert, also attempted to curb Bolesław’s ambitions however, the Pope stepped in and allowed the king to keep his title. Thus, with the blessing of the Pope, Bolesław emerged as the first true King of Poland.