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History: Commandery in Poznań


The date of the establishment of the first Commandery of the Knights of Saint John in Poznań is disputed by two key sources. The suspiciously precise date of 6 May 1170 is given by Polish medieval historian, Jan Dlugosz (1415-1480), in his Roczniki (Chronicle or Annals) as the founding date of a hospital and hospice under a patronage of the Order of Saint John. In contrast, a document issued by a Bishop Benedykt at the end of the twelfth century suggests 1187 as the date of the donation. The second source is more generally accepted, and 1187 is generally acknowledged as the founding date of the Poznań House of the Knights of Saint John. It was also from 1187 that the Poznań Commandery was allowed to pay the customary responsium to the Grand Magistry.

Duke Mieszko III StaryDuke Mieszko III StaryThe Poznań donation was made by Duke Mieszko III Stary [1173-77 and 1194-1202] assisted by Bishop Radwan, Bishop of Poznań, and consisted of a hospital and hospice for the poor, pilgrims and travellers. Duke Mieszko III Stary supported the foundation with a grant of several villages to ensure the financial stability of the settlement. The Knights of Saint John were invited to take care of this foundation. Interestingly, the national origin of the Knights who settled in Poznań is not known. It is suggested that they were part of the Moravian or Bohemian contingent. This seems unlikely given the outcome of linguistic analysis of the documents issued by the Commandery indicate that they were French. In a further contradiction, most of the Knights in charge of the Commandery were bearers of Teutonic Christian Names, which suggest a German origin. The question stands unsolved.

Administratively, the Poznań Commandery belonged to the Grand Priory of Bohemia, which exercised its rights of supervision over the Order’s estate in Poznań. It seems however, that contact between the two was sporadic. Regular contact seems only to have been maintained during the fifteenth century, when a great deal of time of the Grand Priory of Bohemia was spent analysing the administration of the Commandery.

From the fifteenth century onwards successive Commanders of the Poznań House are Poles, which reflects the growing patronage of the Kings of Poland over the Commandery. This process was most likely initiated by King Wladyslaw II Jagiello [1386-1433]. This is also a reason for the increased number of disputes between the Crown and the Grand Magistry in regards to the appointments of the Poznań Commanders. Disputes typically arose when the Crown refused to acknowledge the sovereignty of the Order in regards of the appointments. The Crown treated the office of Commander as one of the dignities customarily awarded at the Monarch’s pleasure. Settlement of this issue was finally reached by the end of the seventeenth century when the Crown agreed that a necessary prerequisite for the appointment to the office was membership of the Order and the Crown’s nominee need to obtain approval of the Grand Master.

Throughout its existence, the Commandery attracted various grants from both the local bishops and nobility as well as the Kings of Poland. It seems that the Knights were also good administrators as they purchased other land and settled a town named Saint John’s Town. In the seventeenth century the Order was an owner of the estate comprising several villages (Baranowo, Chrostowo, Krzesinki, Radzim, Slepuchowo, Zukowo and the Saint John’s Town). The decline of the Poznań Commandery at the end of the eighteenth century is closely associated with the demise of Poland as a result of the partitions (1772, 1793, 1795) and also with the decline in the personal qualities of the Commanders.

Grand Master Fra’ Emmanuel de Rohan-PolducGrand Master Fra’ Emmanuel de Rohan-PolducThe last Commander of Poznań Andrzej Marcin Miaskowski [1781-1832] of the Clan (Herb) Boncza was installed in 1781 at the request of Grand Master Fra’ Emmanuel de Rohan de Polduc [1775-1797]. Commander Miaskowski became subsequently a Professed Knight. In 1810, after the fall of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Prussian Government took over the property of all religious orders. The Commander ceased to use his title and failed to intervene with the Government when the parishioners and the parish priest protested against the demolition of the ancient church of Saint John in Poznań. The final chapter of the history of the Commandery in Poznań was closed with the death of Commander Miaskowski in 1832 and its property was ultimately forfeited to the Prussian state.

The Commandery in Poznań and its activities are the example of an extraordinary achievement of maintaining the continuous, active presence of the Order of Saint John on Polish soil. It was remarkable because it was able to maintain the Hospitaller tradition as well as uphold the virtues of the Knights of Saint John in a situation of geographical isolation from the Grand Magistry and the contemporary mainstream Langues.


by Darius von Guettner-Sporzynski