The Kalisz Privilege of 1264

The Kalisz Privilege of 1264 was a privilege for Jews issued on 16 August 1264 in Kalisz by the Kalisz Prince Bolesław the Pious. Based on Bohemian and Austrian models, it took the Jews under the ducal protection, subjected their cases exclusively to the jurisdiction of the ruler and the voivode, granted facilitations in trade and credit activities, and respected their distinctive customs. The Kalisz privilege was a model for similar solutions in many Silesian principalities. In 1334 it was approved by Casimir III the Great and extended to the whole Kingdom, and Lithuanian Duke Vytautas modelled his privilege for Lithuanian Jews on it (1388) - in this way, the Kalisz privilege was the basis for legislation on Jewish matters until the end of the First Polish Republic (Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth).

We, Bolesław, Duke of Greater Poland by Divine Grace, inform both the contemporary and posterity, to whose knowledge this letter will reach, that we have decided to present to our Jews living in the whole territory of our country the laws and privileges they have received from us, as it is included in the following list: 

  1. If a case is pending against a Jew, a Christian cannot testify against him alone but with an accompanying Jew.

  2. If a Christian sues a Jew for a pledge, and the Jew maintains that he has not taken any, then the Jew will free himself by oath.

  3. When Christian claims to have received less money on a pledge from a Jew than the Jew now demands, the Jew shall give evidence by oath.

  4. When a Jew, without witnesses, claims that a Christian has borrowed a pledge, the Christian will swear.

  5. Jews shall be allowed to take on everything as a pledge except the church and bloodstained goods.

  6. If a pledge is stolen, the Jew will swear that he did not know about the theft, and a Christian shall pay him the capital for the pledge together with interest.

  7. When a Christian’s pledge is lost by fire or theft from a Jew, the Jew will free himself from the insistent Christian by swearing an oath.

  8. Jews in their disputes (i.e. among themselves) are excluded from the municipal courts; they remain under the protection of the king or a voivode.

  9. For injuring a Jew, just punishment and the cost of treatment shall be due.

  10. For killing a Jew, just punishment and confiscation of property shall be imposed.

  11. For hitting a Jew, the usual punishment applied in the country shall be imposed.

  12. Jews shall not pay higher customs duties than townspeople.

  13. Jews shall not pay anything from the dead being transported.

  14. A Christian who damages a cemetery shall lose their property in addition to the usual penalty.

  15. Whoever throws a stone at a Jewish court shall give the voivode two pounds of pepper.

  16. When a Jew, at his magistrate’s, yields to a punishment called wandel, he shall pay him a pound of pepper (Wandel - a monetary penalty).

  17. If a Jew, once and a second time sued before his judge, fails to appear, he shall pay an ordinary penalty; if he fails to appear a third time, he shall pay a comparatively higher penalty.

  18. For injuring a Jew, a Jew shall pay a usual penalty.

  19. An oath on the Ten Commandments should not be given to a Jew, only for a value exceeding the estimate of 50 grzywnas (grzywna - ancient Polish monetary unit) of silver, and in lesser things, he shall swear before his court.

  20. If there were no evidence of who killed a Jew, we would give Jews legal custody against the suspects.

  21. For the violence done on a Jew, a Christian will be punished according to the land law.

  22. A Jewish judge shall not bring any case to court unless a complaint from a party causes it.

  23. When a Christian takes back a pledge given to a Jew and the percentage is not paid within a month, the percentage on the percentage shall be imposed.

  24. No one can be accommodated at premises owned by a Jew.

  25. It is not permitted for Jews to lend money for immovable property.

  26. Dissuading a Jewish child shall be considered stealing.

  27. When a pledge remains with a Jew for a year and a day, it becomes his property.

  28. On their feast days, Jews must not be forced to give pledges.

  29. Those taking pledges violently from the Jews will bring punishment upon themselves.

  30. Jews must not be accused of using Christian blood.

  31. The misdeeds of the Jews shall be judged in their courts.

  32. If a Jew borrowed money in a given currency borrowed, he may demand that debt be repaid with due interest in such a currency.

  33. Jews can pledge horses only during days.

  34. Coiners are not allowed to detain Jews on the pretext that they are counterfeiting money.

  35. Neighbours shall be obliged to help the Jew when he is a victim of burglary under penalty of 30 groats.

  36. It is free for Jews to buy all goods, to touch bread and other foods[1.1]

 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Statute of Kalisz of Prince Bolesław Pobożny of 1264 illuminated by Artur Szyk in 1926-1928, Warsaw 2013, pp.10-11.
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