The aim of the project is to investigate the functioning of historical memory in Polish society in the Middle Ages. I define historical memory as a set of ideas about the past and a system of values that accompanies them. I am interested in late medieval (14th century-early 16th century) ideas about the beginnings of Poland (beginnings of the Polish state, beginnings of Poles as a community, beginnings of Christianity and beginnings of the Polish kingdom) as well as in how information about all this functioned in society and how (and when) it was transmitted. In other words, I will be interested in WHAT was known about Poland’s beginnings, WHO had this knowledge and HOW this knowledge spread and functioned in society. I would like to show the mechanisms used to stress the antiquity of specific “institutions” and places (e.g. monasteries, churches, pilgrimage destinations, e.g. the Holy Cross, as well as noble families) by linking them to the origins of Poland. The project will thus focus on, among others, late medieval monastery legends and family legends. Another important element will be an analysis of objects associated with Poland’s beginnings. These legendary “relics” included Polish coronation insignia (“Boleslaus the Brave’s crown” and the Szczerbiec), the so-called sword of St. Peter from the Poznań cathedral as well as numerous “traces” of St. Adalbert’s presence in Poland (e.g. “St. Adalbert’s pallium”, stones with the so-called “footprint of St. Adalbert”). I intend to analyse various types of sources: historiographic, hagiographic and liturgical works (including sequences), sermons and speeches, private records, evidence of witnesses at the 1422-1423 trial involving Poland and the Teutonic Knights as well as iconographic sources. Some of these sources (especially liturgical sources) hitherto have not been studied by historians, some have not even been published (e.g. late medieval adaptations of the vitae of St. Adalbert, sermons). The method I would like to use first of all is the study of sources. It will be necessary to carry out an internal and external analysis of each of the sources. These texts will be not only a source of information about the knowledge their authors had of the beginnings of Poland. They will also be sources “in themselves”, e.g. information about the copies of the various works will make it possible to follow the spread of historical information and to study the circles which the various texts reached.
I hope that the project will help us answer the question about the role of history in the life of society at the time and the significance of history to the shaping and maintenance of collective identity.