Bishop of Krakôw (1208-1218) and chronicler who narrated the events of the Polish crusades against Pomeranians, Prussians, and Sudovians.
Wincenty (Vincent) was born in Poland around 1150 at Kargôw near Stopnica or at Karnôw near Opatôw. His erudition and literary skill were acquired during studies probably in Italy or France, or both, and he returned to Poland between 1183 and 1189 to be ordained a priest. As a canon of the cathedral of Krakôw, he became prominent at the court of Kazimierz II Sprawiedliwy (the Just). After 1194 he became a provost at the collegiate Church of Our Lady in Sandomierz and chaplain to Kazimierz’s widow Helena. It is likely that he started his work on the Chronica Polonorum at this time.
In 1208 the cathedral chapter of Krakôw elected Wincenty as bishop (the first to be canonically elected). He was consecrated by Henryk Kietlicz, archbishop of Gniezno, on 24 May. Wincenty supported his metropolitan in the reform of the Polish church and took part in the Fourth Lateran Council (1215). However, he did not take an active role in the political events of the country, possibly due to his personal convictions or because of his long association with his patron Kazimierz II and his family. Wincenty’s episcopate ended in 1218 when his supplication to be relieved of his duties was accepted by Pope Honorius III. Subsequently, Wincenty entered the Cistercian convent in Jçdrzejôw and completed work on his Chronica. In 1223 he was reappointed to the see ofKrakôw, but he died on 8 March 1223 before he could leave Jçdrzejôw to resume his duties as bishop.
The Chronica Polonorum was the second work, after the Gesta of Gallus Anonymus, to chronicle the early history of Poland and its rulers (both mythical and historical). The first three books of the Chronica were written in the form of a dialogue between Archbishop Jan of Gniezno (1148-1165) and Bishop Mateusz of Krakôw (1143/1144-1166), while the fourth was written as a narrative. All were based on oral tradition, the Gesta of Gallus Anonymous, and Wincenty’s own experiences. The chronicle contains accounts of several Polish expeditions against pagans: by Bolestaw III Krzy- wousty (Wrymouth) in 1109 against the Pomeranians; by Bolestaw IV Kçdzierzawy (the Curly) to Prussia in 1147 and 1166; and by Kazimierz II Sprawiedliwy in 1191-1192 against the Sudovians.
The language of the Chronica suggests the influence of Bernard, abbot of Clairvaux. For example, it cautioned that the Prussians were more dangerous to the soul than the body, and were not simply pagans but followers of Saladin, idolaters, and enemies of the Holy Faith. It also criticizes Bolestaw IV for accepting tribute from the Prussians instead of converting them, a practice forbidden by Bernard of Clairvaux. This failure is used to explain Bolestaw’s failure to subjugate the Prussians. The Chronica advocates the use of force in the conversion of souls alienated from God, following the Augustinian interpretation of the Parable of the Great Supper (Luke 14:15-24).