A prince of the Polish Piast dynasty, duke of Sandomierz, crusader, and pilgrim to Jerusalem.
Born between 1127 and 1134, Henryk was the third surviving son of the Polish ruler Boleslaw III Krzywousty (Wry- mouth) and Salome, daughter of Henry, count of Berg. According to an act of succession dating from 1138, Henryk ruled the duchy of Sandomierz in the eastern part of Poland from about 1146, with his court based in Wislica. Henryk was a close ally of his elder brother, Prince Boleslaw IV Kçdzierzawy (the Curly) (d. 1173).
Henryk and his elder brothers formed a coalition of the younger sons of Boleslaw III, who are known to scholars as the “Piast Juniors.” They opposed the rule of their stepbrother, Prince Wladyslaw II Wygnaniec (the Exile) (d. 1155) and, with the support of the Polish magnates and prelates, defeated him during a civil war (1142-1146). Henryk was evidently greatly influenced by the preaching of the Second Crusade (1147-1149), and it is probable that he was the “King of the Poles” listed by the Greek chronicler John Kinnamos as leading the Polish contingent in the crusade. If this hypothesis is correct, it means that Henryk went on crusade to the Holy Land at least twice.
Henryk’s participation on crusade in 1153-1154 is confirmed by a number of Polish annals, which report in an almost uniform way under the year 1154 that he went to Jerusalem. It is likely that Henryk and his troops took part in some military action under the direction of King Baldwin III of Jerusalem. A fifteenth-century narrative, the Annals of Jan Dlugosz, commented that Henryk went to Jerusalem and spent about a year in the Holy Land, together with a group of Polish knights. After his return to Poland, he was revered by his compatriots for his chivalric prowess and his pursuit of crusading, and esteemed as an example of a Christian knight and Christian ruler.
Henryk’s involvement in the crusading movement is also highlighted by his close relationship with the military Order of the Hospital. At some point between 1154 and 1166, Henry granted the Hospitallers an estate in Zagosc, where the order soon established a church, hospice, and comman- dery. Henry’s contacts with and subsequent adherence to the culture of crusading, courtliness, and the art of chivalry were a significant conduit for the introduction of these cultural influences to Poland and led to their imitation by the court circle. For example, the romantic tale of Walter and Hel- gunda was sung at Henry’s court in Wislica, and preserved in the thirteenth-century Chronica Poloniae Maioris.
Henryk was killed on 18 October 1166 during an expedition of his brother Boleslaw against the pagan Prussians. His remains were probably buried in the collegiate church in Wislica, where his grave is marked by an ornamental tombstone donated by his younger brother and heir, Kazimierz II Sprawiedliwy (the Just).