The Statute of Kalisz – the 750th anniversary of the first privilege granted to Polish Jews

Statut kaliski
fot. Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich

On 16 August 1264, in the town of Kalisz, prince Bolesław the Pious issued a statute (charter) for Jews living in Greater Poland, which was under his rule. This piece of legislation, approved in the 14th century by Casimir the Great and then confirmed by subsequent rulers of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Stanisław August being the last of them), was intended as the core document regulating the legal status of Jews in Poland for many centuries.

The Statute tackled the issues of authority over the Jewish population and defined rules under which Jews were allowed to engage in lending and trade, as well as norms related to their relations with Christians. The Statute provided for penalties for desecration of a Jewish cemetery or a synagogue. It also contained provisions concerning blood libel directed against Jews.

Confirmed by subsequent rulers, the Statute of Kalisz became a symbol of Jews’ safe living in Poland.

The original document, modelled after similar acts adopted by rulers of Bohemia and Hungary, has not survived. In 1928, Artur Szyk (1894–1951), a painter from Łódź, published a bibliophile edition of the Statute of Kalisz dedicated to Józef Piłsudski.

The edition contains the text of the Statute in nine languages: Latin, Polish, Hebrew, Yiddish, French, English, German, Italian and Spanish, with Szyk’s illustrations. The miniatures either relate directly to specific articles in the document, or illustrate some events from the thousand years of Jewish history in Poland.

The copy presented at the exhibition was donated to the Museum by Maciej Knothe.