Calvinism in the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth 1548–1648

The Churches and the Faithful


Calvinism in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth 1548–1648 offers an in-depth history of the Reformed Churches in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in their first hundred years. Kazimierz Bem analyses church polity, liturgy, the practices of Calvinist church discipline and piety, and the reasons for conversion to and from Calvinism in all strata of the society.
Drawing on extensive research in primary sources, Bem challenges the dominant narrative of Protestant decline after 1570 and argues for a continued flourishing of Calvinism in the Commonwealth until the 1630s.

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Kazimierz Bem, Ph.D. (2007, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam), is pastor of First Church in Marlborough (Congregational) UCC in Massachusetts, USA. He received his M.Div. and S.T.M. degrees from Yale Divinity School in 2010 and 2012. He is the author of many articles on Calvinism in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the book Biographical Dictionary of Reformed Clergy. Pastors and Deaconess of the Lesser Poland and Warsaw Consistory 1815–1939 (Wydawnictwo Naukowe Semper, 2015).
“Kazimierz Bem’s fine monograph […] presents the fullest, clearest, and most comprehensive study of the Reformed faith in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth available to an Anglophone audience today. […] For anyone serious about the world of Polish Calvinism, this book will be indispensable.”
Howard Louthan, University of Minnesota. In: Church History, Vol. 91, No. 3 (September 2022), pp. 674–675.

“important study […] This is the first book to provide a comprehensive assessment of Calvinism in Polish-Lithuania as a whole.”
Robert Frost, University of Aberdeen. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 75, No. 3 (Fall 2022), pp. 1065–1066.

“[...] The first modern historical synthesis in any language of Calvinism, broadly understood, in the entire Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It can be recommended to all scholars and advanced students interested in the history of the Reformation in Europe.”
Wioletta Pawlikowska, Polish Academy of Sciences. In: Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Vol. 72, No. 4 (October 2021), pp. 881–883.

“This is the first scholarly monograph of the Reformed Churches in Poland-Lithuania in the period of the Reformation’s growth down through the beginning of its decline. [...] It is also a merit of the book to have drawn our attention to the manifold roles women played in Reformed congregations of the Commonwealth.”
Waldemar Kowalski, Jan Kochanowski University of Kielce. In: Religious Studies Review, Vol. 46, No. 4 (December 2020), pp. 551–552.

Name and Place Conventions
Timeline of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Maps and Illustrations

The Commonwealth in the Age of the Reformation

1 Introduction

2 The Land of Many Sects
 2.1 The People and Their Religions
 2.2 The Territories and Their Governance
 2.3 The Reformation in Poland and Lithuania before 1548

The Reformed Churches

3 Church Polity
 3.1 The Early Years: 1548–1595
 3.2 Growing Together: 1595–1630s
 3.3 The 1634 Wlodawa General Convocation and Its Aftermath

4 The Liturgy
 4.1 The Early Years 1550–1595
 4.2 Krainski’s Forma of 1599 and the 1601 Agenda in Lesser Poland
 4.3 Liturgical Developments in the Greater Poland Brethren Churches
 4.4 Reformed Liturgy in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania 1550–1621
 4.5 Toward a Unified Reformed Liturgy in Poland and Lithuania

5 Church Discipline
 5.1 Theological Background of Reformed Church Discipline before 1634
 5.2 The Practice of Reformed Church Discipline before 1634
 5.3 Reformed Church Discipline after the 1634 Wlodawa Convocation

6 The Ministry

7 Patterns of Piety

The Reformed Faithful

8 The Nobles Convert

9 A Few Sheep Are Better than a Herd of Pigs

10 Calvinists in Royal Towns

11 Calvinist Fishing in Lutheran Waters

12 “Most Fanatical Champions of Their Perfidious Dogmas”— Women and Calvinism in the Commonwealth

13 The Ambiguity of Numbers

14 Conclusion

All interested in the history of Calvinism in Europe, religious history of Central Europe in early-modern era, historians of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations.
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