Rationale of Krakow bishops
Krakow (?), probably c. 1384-1386, 3rd Q of 16th century
77 x 62 cm
Linen or silk, pearls, parchment, gold and silk thread; flat low-profile embroidery
Place of storage: Wawel Cathedral Museum
The rationale consist of two wide ribbons that form the shoulder pieces, joined at the chest and at the back with large circular shields, to each of which, a pair of slightly narrower ribbons that go diagonally outwards is connected. All parts are covered with small pearls which serve as a background for decorations embroidered with gold thread. In the middle of each shield, inside four concentric circles, there is a standing figure of the Lamb of God with a halo round his head and a vexillum on a crossed flagpole. Along the ribbons, separated by narrow strips, there are capitalised inscriptions saying:
DOCTRINA VERITAS TERI (one shoulder part)
AN PRVDENTIA SIMPLICITAS (the other shoulder part)
HEDVIGIS (hanging ribbon)
LODOVICI (hanging ribbon)
REGINA (hanging ribbon)
FILIA REGIS (hanging ribbon)
The ends of the hanging ribbons are sectioned with couples of strips and include shields with the emblems of the Kingdom of Poland (White Eagle) and the Kingdom of Hungary (Anjou). They are placed in such a way that whether you see the rationale from the front or the back, the Eagle is on the left and the Anjou coat of arms is on the right ribbon. All edges of the rationale are trimmed with a narrow stripe, while the edges of the ribbons are trimmed with long gold tassels. Threaded pearls decorating the rationale were fixed in strings to a linen base reinforced underneath with a thick stiffening (identifying the type is not possible without thorough technological tests). The lining was made of red damask. Several types of yellow thread was used for the embroidery: drawn cored wires – smooth, twisted into ropes, lamellae (plates) and the so called bullion. All stripes, letters, vignettes and the Lamb of God are embroidered on a relief base made of thread. Red-and-gold as well as blue-and-gold lamé was used for the background in the coats of arms.
The oldest mention on the rationale of Krakow bishops can be found in Kalendarz Krakowski [Krakow Annals] of 1347 which says: obiit Johannes Grotkonis episcopus famosus Cracoviensis, qui […] racionale quod vocatur alio nomine palium beati Petri, a sede apostolica impetravit (died Jan Grotowic, Krakow bishop praised in memories, who […] was granted in the Holy See a privilege to use a rationale called St Peter’s coat). Jan Długosz (died in 1480), in Grotowic’s biography included in Vitae episcoporum cracoviensium, described the circumstances in which the privilege to use the rationale was granted. According to the chronicler, it happened while the bishop was staying in Avignon at the court of Pope Benedict XII in 1341. Based on examples of other dioceses, we may assume that the papal charter was confirmed with a suitable document. The alleged contents of the bull for Krakow may be reconstructed based on a document issued in 1133 by pope Innocent II for the Paderborn diocese. The pope grants the right to wear a rationale by referring to the dignity of Moses and Aaron. Bishops of Paderborn could use this distinction only within their diocese on specific holidays (Christmas, Epiphany, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Ascension, Pentecost, All Saints’ day, Nativity of St John’s the Baptist, Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, and all the Marian holidays, As well as during consecration of churches within their diocese, ordaining priests, on the anniversary of dedication of the cathedral and the day of the local patron – St Liborius.
A biography of Lambert called Suła included in Katalog biskupów krakowskich [Catalogue of Krakow Bishops] compiled by Jan Długosz contains information on the reasons why the rationale was used by Krakow bishops. According to this piece of information, the rationale is a badge of honour worn as a replacement of pallium to commemorate the lost metropolitan rank of Krakow. The source of this charter originates in a tradition, established in the Middle Ages, of a archbishopric seat existing in Krakow in the past. Historians identify its origins in Gallus Anonymous claim that Poland had two metropolitan bishops along with their subordinate suffragan bishops under Bolesław Chrobry. Apart this historiographical tradition, the only testimony of the past status of the Krakow diocese was the rationale itself. It was compared to the pallius – a sign of metropolitan power within the Church. Such interpretation can be traced in inventory descriptions of the Krakow cathedral’s treasury, e.g. Rationale seu Pallius (rationale or pallius) from 1563 and in report on the condition of the diocese sent to the Holy See by bishops Andrzej Stanisław Kostka Załuski and Kajetan Sołtyk. In 1751 Załuski wrote that the Krakow cathedral was in possession of rationale in forma distincta a pallio archiepiscopali confectum ex margaritis […], quo in memoriam archiepiscopalis olim dignitatis episcopi loci in maioribus festivitatibus uti consueverant (rationale in a shape different from an archbishop’s pallius embroidered with pearls […], which is used by bishops in this place on greatest holidays to commemorate its past archdiocesan status). In Sołtyk’s report of 1765, the rationale was enumerated among special privileges of Krakow diocese: the right for the first place in the senate after archbishops, the right to consecrate a primate, the honour of Krakow Academy Chancellor, and the title of duke of Siewierz along with all related rights.
The tradition of Krakow rationale seems especially similar to the tradition of Eichtätt diocese. The life of their patron, St Walpurga by Phillip von Rathsamhausen (before 1322), contains information that the Mainz archbishop, St Boniface, appointed St Willibald the first suffragan bishop of the archdiocese, establishing Eichstätt as his seat and appointing him the chancellor of the entire archdiocese. To confirm the status within German episcopate, the one who primum post Archiepiscopum locum obtineret (the one ranked first after the archbishop) also enjoyed the right to wear the rationale.
Jan Długosz, in his in-depth relation on foundations made by Jadwiga d’Anjou in Roczniki sławnego Królestwa Polskiego [Annals of the Famous kingdom of Poland], wrote: Haec Cracoviensi ecclesiae casulam, cruce margaritis et lapidibus pretiosis intextam, et rationale margaritis plenam, reliquit (She left the Krakow Church a chasuble with a cross embroidered with pearls and gemstones and a rationale embroidered with pearls). Jadwiga’s foundation is however confirmed by an inscription and the coats of arms on the rationale in the first place. Aleksander Przezdziecki, and most researchers after him, believed that it was made no sooner than in 1384, when Jadwiga came to Krakow, and no later than in 1385, because there is no reference to Władysław Jagiełło on the rationale. Father Bolesław Przybyszewski suggested that the rationale might have been Jadwiga’s coronation votive offering for the cathedral. Ewa Śnieżyńska-Stolot is the only one to date the rationale to c. 1394-1395 and connect it to the queens embroiderers, Klemens and Jan that are mentioned in resources. No written documents that could dispel the doubts explicitly, but there are several premises that may be used for a hypothetical dating of this distinction. Assuming that the original pattern of outer ribbon has not been altered, coats of arms or Hungary and Poland (in this very heraldic order) are depicted on each one. The foundation inscription was phrased in such a way that the following terms are next to one another: HEDVIGIS (over the Polish coat of arms) and LODOVICI (over the Hungarian coat of arms) on one side and REGINA (over the Polish coat of arms) and FILIA REGIS (over the Hungarian coat of arms) on the other side. Due to prolonged diplomatic operations which were to secure Jadwiga’s succession from Luis I of Hungary, in the autumn of 1383 she started to be officially referred to as: the successor in the Kingdom of Poland from lord Luis, a named king, true and entitled, and the heir of the Kingdom of Poland. It seems then that the way inscriptions were placed on the rationale emphasises the Anjou succession to the Polish throne. Since 1320, Polish coronation procedure was unique because the primary held it outside his archcathedral in Gniezno. Coronation of Luis the Great in 1370 played an especially important role in establishing this tradition. Strong group of lords from the Greater Poland region demanded that the ceremony was held in Gniezno, to which Luis replied that: he will introduce no changes to the original tradition obeyed in respect to his grandfather and uncle and will in no way violate the right Krakow cathedral and the city of Krakow had gained. It seems very possible that offering rationale was another way to confirm the charters of Krakow church expressed explicitly by Louis’ daughter and heir on the occasion of her coronation.
The oldest exact description of the rationale dating back to 1563 says: Rationale seu Pallius ex margarithis minutis confectus cum armis Regni Poloniae et Regni Hungariae, cum textu aureis filis extexto doctrina veritas et prudens simplictas Regina Hedvigis filia Lodovici (rationale or pallius, whole embroidered with small pearls with coats of arms of the Kingdom of Poland and the Kingdom of Hungary, with an inscription embroidered in gold thread: doctrine, truth and humble simplicity Queen Jadwiga daughter of Louis). A comment made next to it says: reformatus est (it is renovated) confirms that it was repaired before 1586. The next inventory – dating back to that year – says that the rationale is preserved in a good condition: integer. Inventory of 1620 states: Palius Gemmis per totum ornatus habetur integer antea per Rm. Radziwilum postmodum vero per Tilicium reformatus (not many pearls are left in their places, had been repaired by honourable Radziwiłł and Tylicki). It suggests that further repairs were made under bishops Jerzy Radziwiłł (1591-1600) and Piotr Tylicki (1607-1616). Modern font type, the shape of escutheon and the style of figures inside it suggest that the present form of the rationale dates back to the end of the 16th or early 17th century. Unfortunately, no record specifies the scope of subsequent repairs executed in relatively short time spans. Also, the character of decorations without clear stylistic features makes precise dating of the distinction impossible. Restoration of the rationale damaged by prolonged and intense use was probably so thorough that the present exhibit is a modern copy of the Medieval one, both in form and ideological content. The core and constitutive features of the original were preserved while the font and style of decorations was modernised. What is probably also common for the present rationale and the original one is a large portion of reused pearls. The result of the transformation in question is an awkward abbreviation of the word Temperantia divided into two ribbons (TERI AN). Apart from that, the shoulder piece with the words DOCTRINA VERITAS TERI was re-sewn upside down which makes the abbreviation difficult to read (its two parts are located on two diagonally opposite sides of the rationale). It seems that incorrect attachment of the shoulder piece does not date back to the above mentioned thorough restoration, but at some later time. It certainly had happened before mid 19th century because the famous work by Przeździecki and Rastawiecki (Wzory Sztuki Średniowiecznej w Polsce) reports of the rationale’s condition identical to its present state. An account on the state of Krakow diocese sent to Rome by bishop Sołtyk (1765) includes a note on the ideal state of the rationale’s preservation, so admirable that almost miraculous. In 1880, on father Ignacy Polkowski’s initiative, Krakow Cathedral Chapter financed a thorough restoration of the rationale (400 missing pearls were replenished, new lining of white damask was made, tassels with braided net were replaced with tassels with simple net). During World War II, the rationale was stored in the bishops’ palace at ul. Franciszkańska 3 and it returned to the cathedral only after June 30th, 1945. The white lining mentioned by father Kruszyński was replaced with the present red damask lining most likely after World War II. The rationale still serves its original purpose in the present times, although Krakow has been the actual archdiocese since 1925. Pope John Paul II wore it twice, in 1979 and 1983, during liturgical celebrations in Krakow, which is a rare phenomenon in the history of liturgy.
The most important source that gave medieval liturgists the idea to enrich the bishop’s clothing with a rationale is Genesis (28), which provides a detailed description of an old-testament high priest. The description and interpretation of the symbolic of this piece of high priest’s clothing is found in the most important medieval texts on liturgy, such as Gemma animae by Honorius of Autun and in Rationale divinorum officiorum by Wilhelm Durand. These texts undoubtedly played a key role when particular rationales were being designed. The phenomenon is best depicted by the interpretation of the words Urim and Thummim used by the author of the Book of Leviticus in the description of how priest’s robe was being prepared for Aaron. In the Vulgate, they were translated into Latin as Doctrina (Science) and Veritas (Truth). In the missal of bishop Sigebert of Minden of 1030 (Wolfenbüttel, Cod. Helmstad. 1151), which includes the phrase Missam Illyricam, there is a prayer on the placing the rationale that refers the names of virtues directly to the talents and qualities of the Church hierarch. A short anonymous treaty entitled De paramentis episcoporum (On bishop’s robes) written in the 12th century in St Gallen monastery (Cod. Sangallensis 777) includes a clear and unambiguous interpretation: Rationale, quod circumdat humeros et pectus, doctrinam et veritatem ostendit (rationale, which covers the shoulders and chest means doctrine and truth). In turn, Bishop Sicard of Cremona (c. 1200), in his work entitled w Mitrale, explains: Haec vestis rationem sive discretionem significabat, ideoque rationale judicii vocabatur (this clothing meant wisdom or prudence, therefore it was called the wisdom of court). Finally, the life of St Walpurga by Phillip von Rathsamhausen quoted above, states that the reationale symbolises simply the numerous features of the high priest.
Rationales of the following dioceses have been preserved until now (dates in brackets denote time of creation or rule of bishops who founded them): Bamberg (c. 1050), Eichstätt (1445-1464; 1736-1757; 1867-1905), Paderborn (1666, 1986), Regensburg (mid 14th century; c. 1600), Toul (c. 1852; three rationales from late 19th and 20th century) and Würzburg (fragments c. 1200; fragments 1274-1287). Apart from that, many iconographic sources depicting non-existing works (including the rationale from the Paderborn diocese dating back to the 12th century) and numerous mentions in written sources have been preserved. Among the above listed rationales, the Krakow rationale is one of the oldest ones preserved to this time (only Bamberg and Regensburg rationales are older). Also the royal founder, queen Jadwiga (the Bamberg and Regensburg rationales were founded by the emperor, while the remaining ones, as far as we know, were ordered by bishops). The enumerated parameters differ in size, but mostly in decorations. The most complicated iconographic designs are found on the Bamberg and Regensburg rationales (they are based, to a large extent, on the Book of Revelation and Song of Songs). Others, such as the Eichstätt and Paderborn rationales, are relatively simple and thus similar to the Krakow one. Shared features include a consistent use of shields (usually on shoulders, with the exception of Krakow rationale, where they are placed on the chest and the back) and the names of virtues. Apart the most important ones – doctrinam et veritatem, there are 11 terms used all together: fides (faith), spes (hope), Caritas (love), temperantia (moderation), simplicitas (simplicity), prudentia (modesty), iustitia (justice), disciplina (discipline), fortitudo (valour), misericordia (mercy) and pax (peace). They appear in various combinations, but the names of the cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, moderation and valour, as well as modesty, were used most often. Apparently, there was no formal canon and the virtues were selected according to how a perfect bishop was perceived. Therefore, a juxtaposition of rationales’ decorations with text on priestly virtues may be enlightening. For example, Poppo of Stavelot, who died in 1048, allegedly expressed a wish to be buried with the letters of his predecessor and master, Richard of St-Vanne on the topic of caritas. The life of St Thomas Becket by William fitz Stephen states that the bishop – martyr: possessed a fourfold virtue: prudentia, iustitia, fortitudo and temperantia. In St Stanislaus’ canonization bull issued half a century later by pope Innocent IV, the saints’ virtues were enumerated – humilitas, patientam and prudentiam. The same set of virtues can be found in its contemporary bulls on canonization of St Edmund of Abingdon and St Peter Martyr. It is characteristic that the same set was included in Summa Theologiae by Geoffrey of Tranni written in the years 1241-1243. According to this text, which contains the only medieval “catalogue” of virtues proving holiness, the most important ones are: patientia, simplicitas and humilitas.
The evolution of how virtues, whose names were placed on rationales, were perceived is related to the evolution of the bishop’s meaning. When in 1090s, archbishop Siegfried of Mainz wanted to join a monastery, the cathedral clergy wrote him a letter expressing a conviction that the bishop’s position is of highest majesty: nothing in the world exceeds and every monk, recluse or hermit must yield to his as lower. Extreme importance of a bishop is shown in an ivory plate dated back to c. 1030 depicting bishop Sigebert of Minden (1022-1036, Berlin, Staatsbibliothek, Ms. Germ. Qu 42), destined to be set on the cover of one of the manuscripts he founded. It shows the bishop in pontificate clothing with a rationale, surrounded by four clergymen. Two priests standing on each side support two books (the one on the right – an open book, the one on the left – a closed book). Another two clergymen spread a cloth under the bishops feet, the one on the right additionally supports the bishop’s crosier, while the one on the left touches his robes. The top of the entire composition is complemented by fields with the images of the Lamb of God and Holy Spirit’s Dove surrounded with beams.
Studies of the symbolic of Krakow rationale is difficult due to the lack of sources.
A sermon delivered by Bartłomiej of Jasło on a request from bishop Jan Radlica on St Stanislaus day (May 8th, 1391) dates back to queen Jadwiga’s times. The sermon addressed the personality of the bishops whom the preacher compared to the king of animals – the lion. St Stanislaus was an example of such an archpriest who should be followed by subsequent hierarchs which, unfortunately, they not always do. The same issue was addressed in sermons by Stanisław of Skalbmierz and Bartłomiej of Jasło on the ingres of Piotr Wysz into the Krakow cathedral (1392). According to Bartłomiej, a bishop’s mission is limited to three imperatives: ‑ Dic, duc, fac (teach, lead, act).
The rationale was interpreted as a spiritual shield or armour that protected the bishop against satanic designs by the power of virtues, whose the only source is Jesus Christ depicted as the Lamb of God. Placing Christ’s symbol on the rationale’s shields that resemble a breastplate and backplate of an armour emphasises the belief that every bishop acts by God’s power as his anointed. Use of large number of pearls, which were assigned various symbolic meanings, is noticeable in the Krakow distinction. Many names and attributes of gemstones were adopted in the Middle Ages directly from Greek sources. According to these, pearls were to strengthen the heart. A collection of texts on gemstones dating back to the 12th century, preserved at Bodleian Library in Oxford (Ms. Bodleian Digby 13) includes, among others, a description of pearls in French. According to its author, the nature of pearls places them half way between hot and cold gemstones, they posses a number of valuable characteristics, the most significant of which is anti-melancholy property. Simultaneously, description of pearls’ appearance and mostly of their characteristics and symbolic appeared in theological treaties on the pectorale of the Highest Priest in the Old testament and the Book of Revelation.
The presence of the Krakow rationale in iconography is another issue. Its oldest and unrelated images date back to the 15th century. One of them has been preserved on the seal of bishop Zbigniew Oleśnicki (c. 1423-1449), another on the wing of the old main altar in Krakow cathedral (c. 1460). In both cases, the rational was placed on St Stanislaus’ shoulders. Such a combination undoubtedly served to emphasise the special importance of the diocese. It may possibly be related to the archdiocesan propaganda spread at Zbigniew Oleśnicki’s court. It intensified when the hierarch became appointed as a cardinal (1449), which, according to medieval church hierarchy, was placed above the position of archbishop. The rationale depicted on Oleśnicki’s seal resembles the preserved one, although the image is only schematic. The rationale depicted on the painting from the cathedral is completely different – its shape resembles a pallius, only made of a wide checked ribbon. It is striking that we cannot find a single depiction of the Krakow rationale dating back to the next 400 years – from mid-15th century until the end of the 19th century. What is more, there are no such images in more obvious locations – on bishops’ tombs in the cathedral, on their portraits in Krakow Franciscan monastery and other official images, which proves there was no such tradition. It is especially striking when compared to well-established throughout centuries traditions of depicting German bishops, especially those from Eichstätt, Würzburg and Regensburg. The Eichstätt is most interesting because the rationale has been continually depicted on the tombs of local ordinaries since the Middle Ages until the present. The situation described above changed in the second half of the 19th century, when interest in domestic history flourished. Jan Matejko painted the rational with due precision on Unia Lubelska [the Union of Lublin] dating back to 1869. The painter, however, showed the distinction differently from its designed use – on the shoulders of Jakub Uchański, the archbishop of Gniezno. One of the most spectacular depictions of the rationale can be found on the tomb of cardinal Jerzy Radziwiłł erected in 1904 by Pius Weloński in the Szafranic chapel at the Krakow cathedral. However, the sculptor showed the deceased hierarch in a liturgical cope with the rationale placed on top of it, which proves lack of knowledge on rituals, because the rationale was worn on top of a chasuble only.
Depictions of the rationale related to its founder – queen Jadwiga – should be mentioned separately. The first example can be found in the painting by Antoni Piotrowski, Królowa Jadwiga [Queen Jadwiga] (1900, Krakow, Jagiellonian University, Collegium Novum lecture theatre). Next, in Poczet królów polskich [The Gallery of Portraits of Polish Kings], Jan Matejko showed Jadwiga with a large pectorale-type-medallion whose shape was clearly inspired by the rationale. The painter adopted a similar solution in his work Założenie Szkoły Głównej [Foundation of the Main School] of 1888. Due to endeavours undertaken within the scope of beatification, and canonization later on, of queen Jadwiga, works of art she had founded increased in importance to the status of relics. Thus the contemporary tradition of calling the distinction as “queen Jadwiga’s rationale” instead of “Krakow bishops’ rationale”. A painting included in a series on the treasury of Krakow cathedral painted by Leon Wyczółkowski in 1907 is a separate case. An interesting example is using an image of the rationale on a poster printed in 1966 on the millennial anniversary of baptism of Poland celebrated in Krakow archdiocese.
Examples presented above prove that the rationale still functions in common consciousness more as a testimony of the past glory of the Church and a memorabilia of queen Jadwiga than an attribute of a special position of Krakow hierarchs and a most unique artefact of medieval liturgical traditions.
We are all well aware that to enter this Cathedral can not be without emotion. More I say, you can not enter it without the internal tremor, without fear because it contains in it - as in almost no Cathedral of the world - the enormous size, which speaks to us in all our history, our entire past.cardinal Karol Wojtyla