The seals of Adam Sędziwój Czarnkowski, the general starost of Grand Poland
KeywordsAdam Sędziwój Czarnkowski
polskie pieczęcie z XVI w.
Auxiliary sciences of history
Bibliography. Library science. Information resources
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Abstract<span>Adam Sędziwój Czarnkowski descended from an old noble family with origins in Grand Poland that can be traced back to at least the first half of the fourteenth century. He belonged to the younger family line started by Sędziwój Czarnkowski, the castellan of Przemęt (his brother, Maciej, is considered to be the progenitor of the older line), a son of Sędziwój, the voivode of the Poznań, and a grandson of Jan, the castellan of Gniezno. Adam was a grandson of Sędziwój and a son of Wojciech Sędziwój Czarnkowski, the general starost of Grand Poland, and Jadwiga Sierpska from Gulczewo of the Prawdzic coat-of-arms, the daughter of the voivode of Rawa. As a reward for his contribution to the wars with Russia, he was appointed the starost of Pyzdry by King Stefan Batory in 1579. At the same time, he inherited the title of the commander of the Knights of Saint John in Poznań (komandor poznańskich joannitów) from his father. During the reign of king Sigismunt III, he was a supporter of the king. It was during that time that his career proceeded quickly: in 1593 he became the general starost of Grand Poland, and in 1606 he was appointed the voivode of Łęczyca. Not all of Adam Sędziwój Czarnkowski's seals survived to this day, but those remaining allow the analysis of the sigillographic collection of one of the oligarchs of Grand Poland. This collection, however, is specific. It seems to be unusually numerous when compared to the seal collections that belonged to other, even the richest, noblemen. That is because Czarnkowski's collection included official seals necessary to carry out the duties of the general starost and other, lower posts, e.g. those related to governing a castle court and office (urząd grodzki), as well as personal seals, which can be divided into several sub-categories. The collection grew mostly because Czarnkowski held the office of the general starost of Grand Poland and this required using seven, out of nine, known types of Czarnkowski's seals. It shows to what a great extent the seal collections of noblemen were influenced by the offices they held. It also allows the author to state that a seal collection of a nobleman reflected his social status and the amount of offices he held. The images and inscriptions on Czarnkowski's seals were part of the communication system present in Poland at the time. The words inscribed in the seals not only allowed the identification of an official but also his competence. This became particularly important after the judicial reform (reforma sądownictwa grodzkiego) in Grand Poland, when the competence of the deputy starost of Kalisz and Poznań covered only selected districts. However, it was the coat-of-arms that was the main medium for conveying information and that allowed the transferring of quite complex messages. Because Czarnkowski's seals functioned on the verge of the private and public spheres, they not only provide a lot of information about the history of the starost office, but through their images they also give us an insight into the world of ideology of the nobility and its related symbols. In this case, the coat-of-arms on Adam Sędziwój Czarnkowski's seals helped encode the legend of this version of the Nałęcz coat-of-arms that was used by his family. Its design emerged probably around the first half of the sixteenth century and had something to do with the case of forgeries (czarnkowskie falsyfikaty). However, the images on the seal can be also interpreted as referring to the aspirations of the magnate who, according to a legend, had royal ancestors and began to think of himself as a prince as well.</span>