Fr Mažvydas, Žemaitija and the Gniezno Consistory Court of Appeal, 1525–1539

Stephen Christopher Rowell


By the late fifteenth century, more notably after 1477, appeal cases from Catholics in the Grand Duchyof Lithuania began to appear before the Consistory Court in Gniezno in increasing numbers. Thesecases involved quite a wide social group, and dealt with a broad range of issues (not just matrimonialdisputes or the hiring out of parish churches between priests). Appellants came before the judgesfrom across the Grand Duchy. This article covers cases from 1524 to 1539. Even when court materialgives few details of cases, it can help solve issues of parish church and chantry foundations andpatronage. The most striking feature of the records between 1524 and 1538 is the predominance ofcases from Žemaitija, a diocese which previously featured only in disputes involving the bishop. Thisconfirms the deepening of Catholic practice across the diocese of Medininkai (Žemaitija) as reflectedin particular in the increasingly predominant use of Christian forenames from the last quarterof the fifteenth century. Most interesting perhaps for those studying the rise of Protestantism inLithuania will be the occurrence of one Fr Andriejus Mažvydas, parish priest of Alsėdžiai, among theappellant litigants of 1536. This information about a very probable kinsman (uncle, cousin, brother?)of Martynas Mažvydas offers new insights into the Lutheran’s family background and geography.

KEY WORDS : Catholic Church, consistory court, appeal, Gniezno, Lithuania, Žemaitija, Andriejus Mažvydas.

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