Polish Vitae Christi and Passiones from the Late Middle Ages (15th-first half of the 16th Century)

Some Latin and vernacular versions of apocrypha of The Old and New Testaments were very well known and often read in Poland during the 15th and 16th c. There are testimonies of their popularity in manuscripts surviving especially in the libraries of churches and monasteries. Apocryphal motifs, particularly from New Testament, can be found in sermons, religious songs and exempla. Polish translations appeared probably at the turn of the 14th and 15th c. However, most of the surviving copies are dated to the turn of the 15th and 16th c. Some parts of Acta Pilati have been translated by anonymous Polish author. Apart from this text, also Wyrok Piłata or Epistola manu Dei scripta have been translated and popularized among people. The Epistola was copied and published yet in 17th and even in the 19th century were gladly read by priests and people. The apocryphal apocalypses were copied in 14th and 15th c., however only the small fragment of translation of Visio S. Pauli survived until today. Some apocrypha of the Old Testament were also read and translated.

The study focuses on the Polish versions of the Life of Christ and Passions: Rozmyślanie o żywocie Pana Jezusa (so-called Rozmyśalnie przemyskie) and Żywot Pana Jezu Krysta by Baltazar Opec. Particularly Żywot Pana Jezu Krysta by Baltazar Opec is one of the most important Polish texts of the late medieval period in Poland. It is an apocrypha which was based on medieval sources, and had a large influence on the Old-Polish spirituality, art and literature. Żywot was a very popular book in Poland through the ages. Around 40 editions of this text are known up to nineteenth century. My aim is to investigate the relationships between these texts, to show how they relate to the Latin sources, and to discuss in which ways the Polish versions are exceptional and specific for this region and cultural and religious conditions of the age, like anti-iudaic motifes contained in the passions, caused by strong influences of St. John Capistran and Polish Franciscan Observants on the spiritual and literary environments at the turn of the 15th and 16th c.