The Warsaw Confederation was an important event in European history.
On January 28, 1573, the Articles of the Warsaw Confederation were signed by the king and the nobility, granting religious freedoms in Poland and in Lithuania.
The aim of these new laws, introduced in the aftermath of the St Bartholomew’s Day Massacre which had occurred in Paris in August 1572, was to avoid similar incidents.
“Certainly, the wording and substance of the declaration of the Confederation of Warsaw of 28th January 1573 were extraordinary with regards to prevailing conditions elsewhere in Europe; and they governed the principles of religious life in the Republic for over two hundred years.” (Prof. Norman Davies)
The document comes from the Royal archives. Physical condition: an original, written in Polish and Latin, parchment leaf, measurements: 640x350x160 mm, 206 seals. In the 19th century the ink was already faded; the seals are in a good condition.
In 2003, the text of the Warsaw Confederation was added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Programme
The death of the last Jagiellonian King (7 July 1572) took place when the reform of the political system was still incomplete. What made matters worse was the fact that there were no legal measures which would enable the state to function effectively during the interregnum when there was no king. The end of the male line of the Jagiellonian dynasty became a real challenge for the newly strengthened Union of Lublin between Poland and Lithuania. It was feared that separatist trends might prevail, especially in Lithuania, and that the integrity of the state might be threatened. There also existed a threat of two rulers being elected and the election of an unsuitable candidate might have brought about the destruction of religious stability in the country.
The approval of the Confederation of Warsaw prevented a political crisis from happening. In order to maintain the existing legal order it was necessary to make all citizens unconditionally abide by any decision taken in a body. Of such character was the general convention, which took place in Warsaw in January 1573, which approved the confederation. The confederation created a legal basis for a new political system and at the same time secured the unity of the state which had been inhabited for generations by communities from different ethnic backgrounds (Poles, Lithuanians, Russians, Germans, Georgians and Jews) and of different denominations. Religious life in late 16th century Poland, situated between Moscow, Turkey and Western Europe torn by religious conflicts, was of an exceptional character. This country became what Cardinal Hozjusz called “a place of shelter for heretics”. It was a place were the most radical religious sects, trying to escape persecution in other countries of the Christian world, sought refuge. All religious sects in Poland enjoyed tolerance as such was the King’s will. The confederation officially legalized this situation and introduced the rule of peaceful co-existence for nobles of all denominations.