The epitaph of the Scottish trader

The epitaph of the Scottish trader

Saints Peter and Paul Church located in the Old Suburb of Gdańsk was an important place of interest for the Calvinist Scottish diaspora. The Scottish immigrants in their search for a better future often chose Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth as a new home. The history of this Celtic nation in Poland is, without a doubt, an extremely interesting chapter in the history of our country.

“A map of the Kingdom of Prussia and Polish Prussia”, Thomas Kitchin, London 1757. Source: Polona.pl (public domain)

Some of the Scots fought for Polish kings; others joined the ranks of the bourgeoisie or acted on behalf of Scottish (and later British) rulers. Other times the Scots appeared as clergymen, teachers, or medical practitioners: such as William Davidson, royal physicians of famous queen Marie Casimire.

Some descendants of the proud Celts were great bankers, who were granting loans to the nobles. Some of them, thanks to their wealth, even slipped into the ranks of the Polish nobility and magnates, adopting their lifestyle and succumbing to Polonization over time. Cochrane became Czochran, Chalmers became Czamer, Cockburn became Kabrun.

The greatest city of the Commonwealth

In the early modern period, Gdańsk was the biggest and wealthiest city in Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

The first Gdańsk-Scotland ties were established at a time when this important Baltic port was still part of the state of the Teutonic Order. From the fourteenth century, in the primary sources, we can observe traces of the trade between Alba and merchants of Gdańsk.

The most important Calvinist temple was the medieval, gothic church of St. Peter and Paul, located in the Old Suburb. Inside the church, one can discover remnants of the Scottish burghers of the past. Source: Pbc.pl (public domain)

The first waves of Scottish newcomers reached Gdańsk at the end of the fourteenth century, and from here they set off to other cities of Royal Prussia – in 1477, about 180 newcomers from Scotland lived in Gdańsk. Scottish immigration was most intense in the 16th and 17th centuries when hundreds of newcomers settled not only in the cities of the north but also in the southern provinces of the Crown.

Among the patricians and the merchants

Scots who chose to stay in Gdańsk quickly joined the ranks of the city citizens. Although they adapted to regional customs, more than often they were able to maintain strong ties with their homeland. Another distinguishing feature was the professed faith: most Scots joined the Calvinist community of Gdańsk.

Most of the city’s inhabitants were Lutherans, but Catholic and Calvinist minorities were accepted within the city limits as well. The latter had a very strong influence within the ruling elite: in the early 17th century they were a majority in the City Council!

The most important Calvinist temple was the medieval, gothic church of St. Peter and Paul, located in the Old Suburb. Inside the church, one can discover remnants of the Scottish burghers of the past: for example, epitaphs.

Below is one of them. This tombstone belongs to Emmanuel Davidson, who died on October 20, 1743. The tomb is decorated with the coat of arms of his family and Latin quote for Bible (1 Corinthians 15:54):

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

This tombstone belongs to Emmanuel Davidson, who died on October 20, 1743.

On SYLWA you will find captivating trivia related to the history of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. We will travel in time not only to experience long lost world of a non-existent kingdom but also to see what is left of it in our present time.

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