First official national ‘Baptism of Poland’ day observed

On Sunday, Poland celebrated the Baptism of Poland Day for the first time after legislation was passed in parliament in February in order to commemorate the formation of the Polish State with the baptism of Duke Mieszko I on April 14, 966.

“The Baptism of Poland is a key event in the works of our Nation and State. In addition to the religious aspect, it was also a strategic and political move,” reads the justification for the legislation submitted to the Polish parliament on February 22 this year.

Reverend Waldemar Chrostowski, a professor at the Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński University in Warsaw told Polish public radio that the Baptism of Poland was pivotal for the identity of the nation. “There has never been any other Poland than the Christian one. Poland came into being at the time of the Baptism and at the time of the Baptism it appeared on the maps of Europe,” he said. He also stressed that the country’s 1050-year history would have been “radically different” were it not for the Church.

The authors of the legislation expressed the hope that April 14 would be an occasion to reflect on the nation’s future.

One of the oldest Polish annals, the "Rocznik świętokrzyski dawny", details the event with the inscription "Mysko dux baptizatur" (Mieszko is baptised) beside the date 966. Photo: Biblioteka Narodowa/Public Domain

The Baptism of Poland took place on the Holy Saturday of 14 April 966, although the exact location is still disputed by historians, with the cities of Poznań and Gniezno being the most likely sites. Mieszko’s wife, Dobrawa of Bohemia, is often credited as a major influence on Mieszko’s decision to accept Christianity.

While the spread of Christianity in Poland took centuries to finish, the process was ultimately successful, as within several decades Poland joined the rank of established European states recognised by the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire.