Pontifical of Płock

In April 2015, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek restituted the so-called "Płock pontifical", a medieval parchment manuscript, to the bishopric of Płock located around 100 kilometres to the north-west of Warsaw.

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek had acquired the strongly damaged parchment manuscript marked with an erroneous provenance and designation from a West-Berlin antiquarian book trader in 1973 for 6,200 DM. It had ended up there via the central antique books repository of the GDR. The great importance and the real origin of the liturgical manuscript came to light only during the years after the acquisition, in the course of restoration at the Institute of Conservation and Restoration of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and the more thorough scholarly examination of the object. It was found that the manuscript had probably been written in Poland in the mid-12th century. It was the "pontifical of Płock", which had originally been created for the Archdiocese of Gniezno and had been ceded to the bishopric of Płock in 1250. In the year 1941 the pontifical was stolen together with the library of the priest seminary of Płock by the National Socialists and obviously handed over to the State and University Library of Königsberg (Kaliningrad).

The valuable manuscript contains the collection of those liturgical actions which are reserved to the bishop exclusively. In addition, it is still regarded presently as the only complete pontifical giving first evidence of numerous actions and rites described in it, such as the Easter liturgy, to have taken place on Polish soil. Accordingly, it is one of the most important documents of early Polish Church history.

Earlier efforts of the Polish Church in a bid for the restitution of the pontifical had been unsuccessful, also for the reason that the manuscript had formed part of the German-Polish negotiations about restitutions conducted on various levels. Regarding the restitution, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek invoked the Washington Principles of 1998, endeavouring to find an "equitable and fair solution" within their meaning. The decision to return the pontifical to its rightful owner, the diocese of Płock, was jointly taken by the Bavarian Ministry of Education and Culture, Science and the Arts and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, also considering the enormous importance of the manuscript for the Polish Church. On 15 April 2015 the manuscript was restituted in a ceremonial act at the Polish Foreign Ministry. Poland was represented by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Grzegorz Schetyna, and the Bishop of Płock, Piotr Libera; Germany was represented by the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany, Rolf Nikel, State Minister Dr. Ludwig Spaenle and the Director General of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Dr. Klaus Ceynowa.

The pontifical of Płock has been digitized in its entirety by the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek and can be retrieved as part of the Digital Collections.

Pontifical of Płock in the Digital Collections