Łukasz Górnicki 1527-1603

He came from a wealthy merchant family from the area of Oświęcim. He came to Krakow on the orders of his uncle, who was the conductor of the king's orchestra of King Zygmunt Stary. Initially, he probably studied in the parish school of Saint John and, after arriving in Krakow, he met a group of Italian scholars associated with the Franciscan monastery. Then he began studying at the Krakow Academy. Górnicki worked in the office of Bishop Samuel Maciejowski, and after the death of the latter, at the court of Bishop Zebrzydowski. Around 1552, he received a post at the court of King Zygmunt II August, where he served as the royal secretary and librarian. During his many years of service at the court, Górnicki was friends with the greatest Polish humanists, philosophers and writers, chief among them Andrzej Nidecki and Jan Kochanowski. At the age of about thirty, Górnicki emigrated to Italy where he began his further studies. After returning to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, he was instructed by the king to translate the Italian work of Baldassarre Castiglione Il Cortegiano. In the contemporary world, it was thought that the political mirror held up by Castiglione contained the image of the ideal nobleman, thanks to which it was translated into many languages. After taking vows as a Franciscan priest, Górnicki received many benefices from the church (including the incomes from the churches in Kęty, Wieliczka and Kryuszwica), and was ennobled by the king in 1561, being awarded the coat of arms of the Ogończyk house. 1587-1603 witnessed the height of the literary creativity of Górnicki. He produced two political treatises: A Conversation Between a Pole and an Italian about Polish Freedoms and Rights and The Road to Complete Freedom as well as the diary Events in the Kingdom.  Górnicki, being fluent in Latin and Greek, translated Seneca's works, including his tragedy, Troades. He was also the author of the treatise on orthography, On Writing, which was published in a small collective work entitled The New Character of Polish. However, none of the abovementioned literary works by Górnicki equaled the artistic and artistic skill that he showed in the creation of The Polish Courtier. The Polish author paraphrased the work of Baltazar Castiglione Il Cortegiano, creating one of the greatest works of European Renaissance literature, and thus a mirror showing the model image of a courtier. The exceptional nature of Górnicki's adaptation of Castiglione's work lies mainly in the fact that the Polish translator and humanist was able to translate this work to match the native reality. While the action of the original takes place at the court of Duke Urbino, the action of the Polish courtier takes place in the palace of Bishop Samuel Maciejowski in Prądnik near Krakow. An important change in relation to the original is also the removal of women, who in the opinion of the author, did not participate in political life in Poland and therefore their presence in the work was considered irrelevant. Górnicki, in creating a Polish paraphrase of the work of Castiglione, tried to preserve the original form while at the same time changing the content of the work. He did not include many anecdotes and asides, leaving only about forty which are to be found in Il Cortegiano and adding the same number of his own. From the point of view of Polish history, it is important that the main characters of the Polish courtier are historical figures who play a significant role in the public life of Kraków and the royal court at that time. Among the most important figures are Wojciech Kryski, Stanisław Maciejowski, Andrzej Kostka, Aleksander Myszkowski, Jan Dreśniak, Stanisław Wapowski, Stanisław Bojanowski and Stanisław Lupa Podlodowski. These personalities met on the pages of The Polish Courtier in the residence of Bishop Maciejowski in Prądnik near Kraków in 1549. From their exchange of views, Górnik's image of an ideal courtier emerged as a person whose beliefs were closely connected to one another: a noble origin, manners and an impeccable education typified by virtue and honor. Two posthumously published treatises by Górnicki: A Conversation Between a Pole and an Italian about Polish Freedoms and Rights, and The Road to Complete Freedom constitute another important topic of the intellectual activity of the eminent humanist. In the first of these, the author criticized the failure of social and religious political relations in contemporary Poland, while in the second he presented the solution for the ills of the Polish state. Górnicki, who knew Ancient philosophy perfectly, referred to the philosophical legacy of Aristotle, Plato, and the Stoics, stating that the Commonwealth was in a very dangerous position. He blamed the nobility for the introduction of disharmony between the different estates, which in his opinion had become an element which threatened the social and political order. In the Conversation ... he touched upon a whole range of problems faced by the Polish State, from the issue of unjust legislation, through taxes, to issues related to the method of choosing a monarch. Górnicki spoke negatively about the king's election by the general nobility in a parliamentary session. He also pointed to the necessity of bestowing the monarch with appropriate prerogatives, while at the same time subordinating him to a superior in the person of the primate, who at the time of the dispute between the king and the nobility played the role of a mediator. Stanisław Gornicki mentioned further postulates regarding the necessary political, social and political changes in the Road to Complete Freedom. In this work, he proposed a radical reconstruction of the system, proposing, among others, appointing two chambers as part of parliament: the first chamber consisting of sixteen members of the nobility and of an opinion-forming character, and the second – of twelve-people – was modeled on the Venetian Council of Ten. This committee would have a much broader competence, because its tasks would be to maintain an adequate moral and ethical level among society. It would serve as a censor-prosecutor in moral matters. In the opinion of Górnicki, these commissions would relieve the monarch of his too many duties, and at the same time, through the collegiality of this body, ensure faster and more precise implementation of reforms that would improve the political situation of the state. Łukasz Górnicki's works are considered to be some of the greatest masterpieces of political literature in the Polish Enlightenment, and The Polish Courtier is one of the most important testaments to its fascination with the culture and literature of Italy.


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’.
Design by Stereoplan