The ‘Opinions of Religion and Divine Worship’ in the Seventeenth Century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from an English and Scottish Perspective




Poland‑Lithuania, English and Scottish travel accounts, religious toleration


The article analyses English and Scottish travellers’ accounts of interdenominational relations, and specifically religious toleration, as observed in the seventeenth century Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth. It traces the changing British perception of these matters over time, from when toleration was a subject of admiration until it began to be seen as a sign of anarchic religious liberty, a weakness; something to be, as Gilbert instigated, ‘abolished and removed from the body and the bounds’ of the English monarchy.

Author Biography

Peter P. Bajer, Monash University, Melbourne

A Polish scholar currently living and working in Australia. He is an Adjunct Research Associate at the School of Philosophical, Historical and International Studies, Monash University, Melbourne. His main areas of academic interest are: Scottish migration to the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth; history of other ethnic groups (especially processes of naturalisation and ennoblement of foreigners) in Early Modern Poland; and accounts of contemporary British travelers to Central Europe.


A declaration of His Highness, for a collection towards the relief of divers Protestant churches driven out of Poland; and of twenty Protestant families driven out of the confines of Bohemia (London: Printed by Henry Hills, and John Field, Printers to His Highness, 1658).

Anon., The Christian conquest. Being an account of the great overthrow of the Turks before the imperial city of Vienna, in Germany, who, by Gods blessing and the happy conduct of the King of Poland, the Duke of Lorain, &c were totally routed; having lost near one hundred thousand men in the field, sixty thousand tents and two millions of money in the Grand Visiers tent. &c. Tune of, When the King injoys his own again ([London]: printed for J. Wright, J. Clark, W. Thackery, and T. Passinger, 1681‑1684).

Anon., The Promotion of the Protestant cause in Poland by the ármes of His Majesty the King of Sweden (London printed: [s.n.], 1659).

Anon., The Saints liberty of conscience in the new kingdom of Poland: proposed for the consolation of the distressed (Warszawa [i.e. London]: [s.n.], 1683).

Anon., True news of another bloody battle, of the King of Poland with the Turks and also an account of the taking of the Great Vizier and divers other Turkish lords, and great commanders, and of the redeeming many thousand Christian captives from slavery (London: printed for R. P., 1683).

‘Ansuer to the Ministeris of Litle Polandis Letter, dated 20 December 1681’, cited in Extracts from the Records of the Burgh of Glasgow, ed. James David Marwick (Glasgow, 1905), vol. 3: 1663‑1690, 308.

‘A Relation of the State of Polonia and the United Provinces of that Crown, Anno 1598’, Elementa ad fontium editiones, Vol. XIII: Res polonicae ex archivio Musaei Britannici Pars 1, ed. Carolus H. Talbot (Roma: Institutum Historicum Polonicum Romae, 1965).

‘A Report from Breslau, dated 21 February 1656’, Mercurius Politicus Comprising the Summ of All Intelligence (London, Thursday, February 21, 1656); issue 298, 5987.

Barclay John, Ioannis Barclaii Icon animorum, Londini: Ex officina Nortoniana apud Iohanne Billium, M.DC.XIV. [1614].

Bargrave Robert, The Travel Diary of Robert Bargrave: Levant Merchant (1647-1656), ed. Michael G. Brennan (London: Hakluyt Society, 1999).

Catechesis Ecclesiarum quae in Regno Poloniae et magna Ducatu Lithuaniae, et aliis ad istud Regnum pertinentibus Provinciis, affirmant, neminem alium, praeter Patrem Domini nostri Jesu Christi, esse illum unum Deum Israëlis: Hominem autem illum Jesum Nazarenum, qui ex Virginenatus est, nec alium, praeter aut ante ipsum, Dei Filium unigenitum, et agnoscunt et confitentur. Ante annos quatuor Polinicè, nunc verò etiam Latinè edita (Racoviæ, 1609).

Catechesis ecclesiarum quae in regno Poloniae & magno Ducatu Lithuaniae, & aliis ad istud regnum pertinentibus provinciis, affirmant, neminem alium praeter patrem Domini nostri Iesu Christi, esse illum unim Deum Israëlis: hominem autem illum Iesum Nazarenum, qui ex virgine natus est, nec alium, praeter aut ante ipsum, Dei filium unigenitum & agnoscunt & confitentur. Cui accedit Fausti Socini Senensis vita. Et dissertatio operibus suis ab Equite Polono praemissa. Cum catalogo operum ejusdem Fausti Socini. Dissertatio quam Fausti Socini operibus praemitti voluit. Dissertatio quam Fausti Socini operibus praemitti voluit. (Racoviae [i.e. London: printed by William Dugard], anno Domini M.DC.LI. [1651]).

Charles II, Letters patent for a collection for the Protestants of Lithuania (London: printed by John Bill and Christopher Barker, printers to the Kings most Excellent Majesty, 1661).

Chyliński Samuel Bogusław, An account of the translation of the Bible into the Lithvanian tongve, into which language the Scriptures were as yet never translated with a copy of the testimoniall given to the translator: and of the approbation of his undertaking, by several reverend doctors of divinity, with the professors of the same, and other persons of note in the University of Oxford, November 15, 1659 (Oxford: printed by Hen. Hall…, 1659).

Clarke Samuel, A generall martyrologie containing a collection of all the greatest persecutions which have befallen the church of Christ from the creation to our present times, both in England and other nations: whereunto are added two and twenty lives of English modern divines … : as also the life of the heroical Admiral of France slain in the partisan massacre and of Joane Queen of Navar poisoned a little before / by Sa. Clarke (London: printed by Tho. Ratcliffe for Thomas Underhill and John Rothwell, 1660).

Gilbert Eleazar, Nevves from Poland wherein is declared the cruell practice of the popish clergie against the Protestants, and in particular against the ministers of the city of Vilna, in the great dukedome of Lithuania, under the governement of the most illustrious prince, Duke Radziwell / faithfully set downe by Eleazar Gilbert … (London: by E.P. for Nathanael Butter, and are to be sold at his shop, 1641).

Gordon Patrick L., ‘Diary 1659–1667’, Russian State Archive of Military History, Moscow, Fond 846, Op. 15, Vol. 1‑6.

H. G., Scanderbeg redivivus an historical account of the life & actions of the most victorious Prince John III, K. of Poland: containing an exact and succinct series of affairs from his cradle to this present day, with a particular account of the many great and signal victories obtained by him against the Turks, from the time he was first made crown‑general, and afterwards elected King of Poland: dedicated to the Lord Landsdowne, Count of the Holy Empire (London: printed by H.C. for Tho. Malthus…, 1684).

John III Sobieski, A speech delivered by the King of Poland to his army before the battle, September 12th, 1683 ([London]: printed by N. Thompson …, 1683).

‘John Thurloe to the lord embassador Nieuport, dated Westminster, 19th April, 1658. [N. S.]’, A collection of the State Papers of John Thurloe, ed. Thomas Birch (London, 1742), vol. 7 (March 1658 – May 1660), 61-62.

Komenský, John Amos, Lesnae excidium, anno MDCLVI in Aprili factum, fide historica narratum (Amsterdam, 1656).

Kraino Kraiński de John, A relation of the distressed state of the church of Christ professing the protestant religion in the great dukedom of Lithuania, presented to the view of all compassionate Christians (London: printed in the year of our salvation, 1661).

Lithgow William, The Totall Discourse of the Rare Adventures and Painefull Peregrinations of long Nineteene Yeares Travayles from Scotland to the most famous Kingdomes in Europe, Asia and Africa [London: Nicholas Okes, 1632], reprint (Glasgow: James MacLehose and Sons, 1906).

Martyrs in flames, or, Popery (in its true colours) displayed. Being a brief relation of the horrid cruelties and persecutions of the Pope and Church of rome for many hundred years past, to this present age, inflicted upon Protestants in Piedmont … : With an abstract of the cruel persecution lately exercised upon the Protestants in France and Savoy, in the year 1686 and 1687.: Together with a short account of Gods judgment upon popish persecutors. / Published for a warning to all Protestants, [] what they must expect from that bloody generation of Antichristians. By R.B (London: printed for Nath. Crouch …, [1693]).

Mercurius Politicus Comprising the Summ of All Intelligence (London, England, Thursday, April 10, 1656), issue 305, 6097.

Moderate Intelligencer (London, Thursday, April 20, 1648), issue 162, 1282.

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Mundy Peter, The travels of Peter Mundy, in Europe and Asia, 1608-1667, ed. Richard Carnac Temple (Cambridge: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1907-1936), vol. 4.

Przypkowski Samuel, Dissertatio de pace, &c. Or, A discourse touching the peace & concord of the Church. Wherein is elegantly and acutely argued, that not so much a bad opinion, as a bad life, excludes a Christian out of the kingdom of heaven; and that the things necessary to be known for the attainment of salvation, are very few and easie: and finally, that those, who pass amongst us under the name of hereticks, are notwithstanding to be tolerated (London: printed by Ja: Cottrel, for Rich. Moone, at the seven stars in Paul’s Church‑yard., 1653).

Przypkowski Samuel, Dissertatio de pace, &c. Or, A discourse touching the peace and concord of the Church. Wherein is elegantly and acutely argued, that not so much a bad opinion, as a bad life, excludes a Christian out of the kingdom of heaven: and that the things necessary to be known for the attainment of salvation, are very few and easie: and finally, that those, who pass amongst us under the name of hereticks, are notwithstanding to be tollerated (London: printed [by J.G. from Thomas Malthus], 1684).

Przypkowski Samuel, Dissertio de pace, &c, or, A discourse touching the peace and concord of the Church wherein First, is elegantly and accurately argued, that its not so much a bare error in opinion … secondly, that the things necessary … Lastly, that those who pass amongst us … (London: printed and sold by Andrew Sowle …, 1688).

Przypkowski Samuel, The life of that incomparable man, Faustus Socinus Senensis, described by a Polonian knight. Whereunto is added an excellent discourse, which the same author would have had premised to the works of Socinus; together with a catalogue of those works (London: printed for Richard Moone, at the seven Stars in Pauls Church‑yard, neer the great north‑doore., 1653).

Publick Intelligencer (1655) (London, England, Monday, April 7, 1656), issue 28, 472.

Publick Intelligencer (1655) (London, England, Monday, April 14, 1656), issue 29, 486.

Publick Intelligencer (1655) (London, Monday, May 5, 1656); issue 32, 540-41.

‘Records of the Court of Investigation in Cracow (1603)’, Papers Relating to the Scots in Poland 1576-1593, ed. Francis Archibald Steuart (Edinburgh: Scottish Historic Society, 1915).

Roberts Lewes, The merchants mappe of commerce wherein, the universall manner and matter of trade, is compendiously handled. The standerd and currant coines of sundry princes, observed. The reall and imaginary coines of accompts and exchanges, expressed. The naturall and artificiall commodities of all countries for transportation declared. The weights and measures of all eminent cities and tovvnes of traffique, collected and reduced one into another; and all to the meridian of commerce practised in the famous citie of London. By Lewes Roberts, merchant. Necessary for all such as shall be imployed in the publique affaires of princes in forreigne parts; for all gentlemen and others that travell abroad for delight 386 or pleasure, and for all merchants or their factors that exercise the art of merchandizing in any part of the habitable world (London: printed by R. O[ulton, Eliot’s Court Press, Thomas Harper, and Felix Kingston] for Ralph Mabb, MDCXXXVIII [1638]).

Speed John, A prospect of the most famous parts of the vvorld Viz. Asia, 3 Affrica, 5 Europe, 7 America. 9 VVith these kingdomes therein contained, Grecia, 11 Roman Empire, 13 Germanie, 15 Bohemia, 17 France, 19 Belgia, 21 Spaine, 23 Italie, 25 Hungarie, 27 Denmarke, 29 Poland, 31 Persia, 33 Turkish Empire, 35 Kingdo: of China, 37 Tartaria, 39 Sommer Ilands, 41 Ciuill Warres, in England, Wales, and Ireland. You shall finde placed in the beginning of the second booke marked with these [3 asterisks in triangle formation] and (5) Together with all the prouinces, counties, and shires, contained in that large theator of Great Brittaines empire. Performed by Iohn Speed (London: printed by Iohn Dawson for George Humble, and are to be sold at his shop in Popes‑head Pallace, 1631).

‘The banishment of Arianism out of Polonia: with the entrtainment of a Polonian Embassador in Muscovia’, Moderate Intelligencer, 119 (Thursday, June 17, 1645), 1134-1135.

The Racovian catechisme vvherein you have the substance of the confession of those churches, which in the kingdom of Poland, and great dukedome of Lithuania, and other provinces appertaining to that kingdom, do affirm, that no other save the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, is that one God of Israel, and that the man Jesus of Nazareth, who was born of the Virgin, and no other besides, or before him, is the onely begotten Sonne of God, [Apparently translated from the Latin version] (Printed at Amsterledam [sic]: for Brooer Janz, 1652).

Universalium sacrae regiae majestatis Poloniae & Sueciae, &c. ad dissidentes ab Ecclesia Catholica Romana: et literarum illustrissimi ac Reverendissimi Dn. Archiepiscopi Gnesnensis regni primatis, &c. ad eosdem: tum ad universales S.R. majestatis deputorum ab eclesiis regni & M.D. Lithuan. evangelicis Orlae congregatorum, supplicis libelli. Ac eorundem ad literas illustrissimi &c. Dn. Archiepiscopi responsionis, ex originalibus fidelis transcriptio. Feb. 15. 1644. Imprimatur. Ja. Cranford (Londini: Excudebat E.G. impensis Johannis Rothwell, sub signo Solis in Coemeterio Paulino, 1645).

Votes of Parliament touching the Book commonly called The Racovian Catechisme (London: Printed by John Field, Printer to the Parliament of England, 1652).

Whitebrook A., A true copy of a letter from an English gentleman in the Emperour’s army, to an English officer in Holland concerning the total rout of the Turks by the united forces of the Christians, commanded in person by the Emperour, the King of Poland, and Duke of Lorain (London: printed by E. Mallet, [1683?]).

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How to Cite

Bajer, P. P. . (2021). The ‘Opinions of Religion and Divine Worship’ in the Seventeenth Century Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from an English and Scottish Perspective . Studia Historyczne, 61(4 (244), 19–43.