Władysław Odonic

Władysław Odonic

Władysław Odonic's seal, dated from 1231
Spouse(s) Hedwig
Noble family House of Piast
Father Odon of Poznań
Mother Viacheslava Yaroslavna of Halych
Born c. 1190
Died 5 June 1239(1239-06-05)
Buried Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, Poznań

Władysław (also named Włodzisław) Odonic (nicknamed Plwacz) (Polish: Władysław (Włodzisław) Odonic (Plwacz)) (c.1190 – 5 June 1239) was a Duke of Kalisz during 1207–1217, Duke of Poznań during 1216–1217, in 1223 ruler over Ujście, from 1225 ruler over Nakło, Duke of all Greater Poland during 1229–1234, and since 1234 until his death ruler over only the north and east of the Warta river (some historians believed that shortly before his death, he lost Ujście and Nakło).

He was a son of Odon, Duke of Kalisz, by his wife Viacheslava, daughter of Yaroslav Vladimirovich "Osmomysl", Prince of Halych. Władysław probably received his name after either his paternal uncle Władysław III Spindleshanks or his ancestor Władysław I Herman.

The nickname "Plwacz" (English: the Spitter) was already given to him in the 13th century chronicles. It's unknown if he was named in that way for a disease who affected his throat or because he had bad manners. Another nickname used in the contemporary sources was "Odonic", a corruption of his patronymic Odowic ("son of Odon"); here is also unknown why the sources persisted in the erroneus form instead of using the correct.[1]


Early years

Duke Odon of Kalisz died on 20 April 1194. Władysław (then only a four years old child) and his siblings were placed under the care of his paternal uncle Władysław III Spindleshanks (half-brother of Odon), who acted as regent over the south of Greater Poland (Duchy created to Odon by his father in 1182). The Duchy of Kalisz was directly annexed by his grandfather Mieszko III the Old to his domains.

First War against Władysław III Spindleshanks

In 1206 Władysław was declared an adult and began to claim the government of his domains. For him was especially hard to accept the surrender of the Duchy of Kalisz (which the young prince believed to be part of his rightful heritage) by his uncle to Henry I the Bearded, Duke of Wrocław, in exchange of Lubusz.

Unable to reach a favorable agreement with his uncle, Władysław decided to declare the open war against Władysław III Spindleshanks. His attempt to overthrow the High Duke was strongly supported by part of the Greater Poland nobility and the Archbishop of Gniezno Henryk Kietlicz, who also wanted to obtain more independence and benefits for the Church.

Duke of Kalisz

However, despite the efforts of both Władysław and Archbishop Kietlicz (who even launched an anathema against Władysław III), the rebellion was short-lived and unsuccessfully. Both were banished from the country; Władysław took refuge in Wrocław in the court of Henry I the Bearded, who, despite his good relations with Władysław III Spindleshanks, decided to fully support the rebel prince. One year later, in 1207, Henry I the Bearded gave to Władysław the Duchy of Kalisz, but with the condition that in case he could recover the south Greater Poland lands, Kalisz will then return to Silesia.

Congress of Głogów. Attempt to reconcile with Władysław III Spindleshanks

Despite these gestures, Henry I the Bearded refused to support militarily Władysław, trying to reconcile both princes through diplomatic channels. In 1208 was arranged a meeting in Głogów, where the Duke of Wrocław and the Bishops of Lubusz and Poznań discovered that the resolution of this situation was a difficult task. The meeting ended with a partial success, because Władysław III Spindleshanks managed to reach an agreement with the Archbishop Kietlicz, who could return to Gniezno, and the promise of restitution of all his goods, in exchange for lifting the anathema. However, Władysław was left with nothing.

Close cooperation with the Church

In July 1210, was organizated at Borzykowa a meeting between local Bishops and princes, in order to solve the problematic issue of the Pope Innocent III Bull, who restored the idea of a unificated Seniorate Province. Then, was formed a coalition between Władysław, Leszek I the White (High Duke of Poland since 1206) and Konrad I of Masovia against the politics of Władysław III Spindleshanks and Mieszko I Tanglefoot, Duke of OpoleRacibórz. Also, during the meeting were confirmed the privileges obtained by the Polish church at Łęczyca in 1180, included that of exemption from secular tribunals.

Leszek I the White, wanting to ensure the support of the Church, along with other Piast princes, then gave a Great Privilege, which ensured the integrity of territorial possession of the Bishops (the privilege wasn't signed by Henry I the Bearded and Władysław III Spindleshanks, who later was complied to accept the provisions established there). Mieszko I Tanglefoot wasn't present in Borzykowa; with the support of the Gryfici family, he decided to lead his army and marched against Kraków, where the confusion among the citizens left him in total control over the capital without fighting and became in the new High Duke.

Władysław's policy of full cooperation with the Church resulted in the issue of a Bull by Pope Innocent III on 13 May 1211, in which the Pope declared him under his protection. Also, he actively supported the monastic orders, notably the Cistercians, whose on 29 July 1210 gave lands in the district of Przemęt. On 20 October 1213 was founded a newly Cistercian monastery in Ołobok over Prosna, who was richly furnished by Władysław.

In 1215 Władysław took part in the congress of princes and Bishops in Wolbórz, where the Duke of Kalisz, together with the other Piast rulers (the meeting was also attended by Leszek I the White, Konrad I of Masovia and Casimir I of Opole) agreed to extend the economic and legal benefits for the Church.

Duke of Southern Greater Poland. Conflict with Henry I the Bearded

A year later, Archbishop Kietlicz supported the provisions of the IV Lateran Council, were the papal authority was reinforced and the Fifth Crusade was organized. Also, and with the support of other Polish princes, the Archbishop promoted the surrender of the southern Greater Poland lands to Władysław. Finally, in 1216 Władysław III Spindleshanks gave to his nephew the rule over southern Greater Poland.

However, the receipt of lands near Obra River created a new problem to Władysław. In accordance with the treaty of 1206 between him and Henry I the Bearded, the Duchy of Kalisz had to return to Silesia if Władysław recover his heritage. In addition, the previous excellent relations with the Archbishop Kietlicz also began to deteriorate, and this caused that Władysław managed to get a new protectionist Bull from the Pope (issued on 9 February 1217), this time to protect him against the claims of the local Church hierarchy.

In 1217 the congress in Danków proved to be very dangerous for Władysław, because there his uncle and Leszek I the White signed an agreement for mutual succession, which obviously reduced considerably the chances of the young prince to acquired, by peaceful means, his uncle's inheritance.

Second War against Władysław III Spindleshanks. Escape from the country

The agreement of Danków (were Henry I the Bearded soon joined) and the death of Archbishop Kietlicz caused that Władysław III Spindleshanks decided to attack his nephew, with the benevolent neutrality of the other Piast rulers. Władysław wasn't able to defend himself and his lands; shortly after he escape to Hungary.

From the first stage of Władysław's exile from Poland, almost nothing is known. There are some assumptions that the prince attended the expedition of King Andrew II of Hungary to Palestine. Subsequently, he probably went to Bohemia and Germany, where he tried to encourage the help of local rulers.

Arrival to Pomerania. Conquest of Ujście and Nakło

In 1218 Władysław finally arrived to the court of Swantopolk II of Pomerania (probably his brother-in-law),[2] who wanted to his own political emancipation and broke his homage to Leszek I the White. Swantopolk II promised Władysław his support in the reconquer his heritage.

Thanks to the help of the Pomeranian Duke, in 1223 Władysław could capture the north-eastern fortress of Ujście. Two years later (in 1225), he could repelled the counter-attack of his uncle and could obtain the district of Nakło.

New phase in the War against Władysław III Spindleshanks. Defeat of voivode Dobrogost

In 1227 Władysław III Spindleshanks finally decided to directly attack his nephew. For this purpose, he sent troops under the command of a strong voivode Dobrogost, who besieged Ujście. Surprisingly, the voivode not only failed to conquer the strongly fortified city, but Władysław made a surprise over Dobrogost's troops and on 15 July, the voivode was completey defeated and killed. Thanks to this victory, Władysław was able to take most of Greater Poland.

The Congress of Gąsawa and his tragic consequences. Responsibility over Leszek I the White's death

Main article: Gąsawa massacre

Afraid that he could lose all his domains, Władysław III Spindleshanks decided to find a peaceful solution to the dispute with his nephew. For this purpose, a solemn convention of the Piast princes, bishops and nobles in the Kuyavian district of Gąsawa was convened in November 1227. Among the princes who assisted to the meeting were Leszek I the White, Henry I the Bearded, Konrad I of Masovia and Władysław Odonic. For unknown reasons, at the end Władysław III Spindleshanks didn't appear in the congress, perhaps because his interests there probably watched by Paul, Bishop of Poznań. In addition of this conflict in Gąsawa were also discuss proposals for a solution to the usurpation of the ducal title by Swantopolk II of Pomerania (who used the confusion in Greater Poland to seized Nakło, who belonged to Władysław).

To the tragic end of the meeting took place on the morning of 24 November, when during a short break from the deliberations the princes were attacked by Pomeranians, who killed Leszek I the White and seriously injured Henry I the Bearded. By sources and historiography, the main culprit in the murder rested on Duke Swantopolk II, although there are some who believe that Władysław Odonic was also involved in the crime (however, contemporary historians were inclined to absolve Władysław from any part in the attack).

Friendly relations with Konrad I of Masovia. New struggles with Władysław III Spindleshanks

The events of Gąsawa led a very complicated situation in Poland, and brought little benefits to Władysław in his conflict with his uncle. At the beginning of 1228 Władysław III Spindleshanks, with the help of Silesian forces, managed to defeat his nephew under unknown circumstances, taking him prisoner. However, the Duke of Greater Poland couldn't used this success, because even in the same year, Władysław, thanks to the absence of his uncle in Lesser Poland, managed to escape to Płock, where he established friendly relations with Konrad I of Masovia.

Deposition of Władysław III Spindleshanks from Greater Poland and his death

In 1229 took place a concerted action of Władysław and Konrad I of Masovia against Władysław III Spindleshanks. Odonic then managed to control his uncle's domains. A much less successful was the participation of Konrad I, whose troops unsuccessfully besieged Kalisz. Władysław III Spindleshanks ultimately couldn't defend himself and soon after he escaped to Racibórz in Silesia. Władysław Odonic's success was complete, but the risk still remains: in the spring of 1231 Henry I the Bearded launched an expedition against Greater Poland with the purpose of restored Władysław III Spindleshanks, but soon after the Silesian troops were defeated at the walls of Gniezno.

On 3 November 1231 Władysław III Spindleshanks died unexpectedly, apparently killed by a German girl whom he tried to rape. This brought a slight change in the situation of Władysław, because before his uncle's death, all his rights to inheritance passed to Henry I the Bearded.

Policy of cooperation with the Church. Rebellion of the local nobility

Desiring to neutralize the influence of Silesia, Władysław began an approached policy to the Church. In 1232, he granted the Bishop of Poznań a privilege under which all the subjects of the Bishopric with goods were excluded from homage to the Duchy. Also, Bishop Paul was allowed to mint his own coin.

However, this policy of submission against the church brought a negative effect among the nobility, who in 1233 rebelled against him, and also offered the Duchy of Greater Poland to Henry I the Bearded. Thanks to the passivity of Henry I, the revolt failed. Henry I's indifference to Greater Poland was extremely beneficial for Władysław, who obtain from the Silesian Duke the formal resignation from all his claims over the inheritance of Władysław III Spindleshanks.

The conclusion of peace enabled Władysław and Henry (Henry I's son and heir) to participate jointly with Konrad I of Masovia in the expedition organized by the Teutonic Knights against the Prussians during 1233–1234.

War against Henry I the Bearded. Loss of half of Greater Poland

In 1234 their recently concluded peace was suddenly broken, and the hostilities between Henry I the Bearded and Władysław Odonic were renewed. This time, the Silesian Duke was well prepared, and without major obstacles he seized the southern part of Greater Poland. Władysław was then forced to enter into peace talks with the mediation of Bishop Paul of Poznań and Archbishop Pełka of Gniezno. The terms of the agreement, published on 22 September 1234 were very unfavorable for Odonic, who had to relinquish all the territories from the south and west of the Warta River, which included Kalisz, Santok, Międzyrzecz and Śrem.

In gratitude for his mediation, Władysław extended to Archbishop Pełka the immunity given to the Poznań church in 1232 also to the Archbishopric of Gniezno.

With the ratification of the unfavorable agreement on 26 June 1235, both sides seemed aware, however, that the outbreak of a new war would be just a matter of time.

Second Part of the War against Henry I the Bearded

The war broke again by the end of 1235, when Władysław (using the unrest caused by the brutal government in Śrem of the Governor appointed by Henry I the Bearded, Prince Borzivoj of Bohemia), deceitfully tried to recover that part of Greater Poland. The expedition ended with some success (Śrem was recovered and Borzivoj killed during the battle); however, a retaliatory expendition of the Silesian army soon arrived at Gniezno.

Władysław, having good relations with the Church, began his efforts to Rome with Pope Gregory IX for the annulment of the 1234 treaty and Henry I's decision to withdraw him of Greater Poland by force. In 1236 the Pope ordered the Archbishop Pełka to create a committee in order to resolve the dispute once for all. Their decision was favorable to Henry, and after the protests by Władysław, another college produced a document invalidating the treaty of 1234, who in turn was repudied by Henry I.

In 1237 the hostilities were resumed. As a result, Władysław lost the castellanie of Ladzka. Only after the intervention of the Papal envoy, William of Modena, both sides agreed to a truce.

Relations with Henry II the Pious. Death

The death of Henry I the Bearded on 19 March 1238 didn't end the conflict with the Silesian princes because Henry I's son and successor Henry II the Pious maintained his pretensions over Greater Poland. In 1239 a new war broke out and once again Władysław was defeated. This time, he lost the rest of Greater Poland, with the exception of Ujście and Nakło (however, later historians like Kasimir Jasiński and Krzysztof Ożóg denies these facts, believing that after the war of 1239 Władysław remained in Gniezno and Poznań until his death but lost Ujście and Nakło).

Władysław Odonic died on 5 June 1239 and was buried in the Archcathedral Basilica of St. Peter and St. Paul, Poznań.

Marriage and issue

Between 1218/20 Władysław married with Hedwig (d. 29 December 1249), whose origins are disputed among historians and sources. According to some sources,[3] her parentage is unknown; however, other historians believed that she had a Pomeranian or Moravian origin: she could be the daughter of Duke Mestwin I of Pomerania,[4][5] or a member of the Premyslid dynasty.[6][7] They had six children:

  1. Hedwig (b. 1218/20 – d. 8 January aft. 1234), married ca. 1233 to Duke Casimir I of Kuyavia.[8]
  2. Przemysł I (b. 5 June 1220/4 June 1221 – d. 4 June 1257).
  3. Bolesław the Pious (b. 1224/27 – d. 14 April 1279).
  4. Salomea (b. ca. 1225 – d. April 1267?) married in 1249 to Duke Konrad I of Głogów.
  5. Ziemomysł (b. 1228/32 – d. 1235/36).[9]
  6. Euphemia (b. ca. 1230 – d. 15 February aft. 1281), married in 1251 to Duke Władysław of Opole.


See also


  1. K. Jasiński, Genealogia Piastów wielkopolskich. Potomstwo Władysława Odonica, [in:] Nasi Piastowie, "Kronika Miasta Poznania" 1995, No 2, p. 37.
  2. Swantopolk II's first (or second according to some sources) wife Euphrosyne is identified as a daughter of Odon of Poznań, but this is disputed among historians and web sources.
  4. Kazimierz Jasiński, Genealogia Piastów wielkopolskich. Potomstwo Władysława Odonica, pp. 38-39, later additions made in Uzupełnienia do genealogii Piastów, "Studia Źródłoznawcze" No 5 (1960), p. 100.; Oswald Balzer, Genealogia Piastów, Kraków 1895, p. 221; Włodzimierz Dworzaczek, Genealogia, Warsaw 1959, tab. 2, p. 17.
  5. Marek, Miroslav. "Complete Genealogy of the House of Piast". Genealogy.EU. External link in |publisher= (help)
  6. Norbert Mika, Imię Przemysł w wielkopolskiej linii Piastów. Niektóre aspekty stosunków książąt wielkopolskich z Czechami do połowy XIII wieku, [in:] Przemysł II. Odnowienie Królestwa Polskiego edited by Jadwiga Krzyżaniakowej, Poznań 1997, pp. 247-255; Krzysztof Ożóg, Władysław Odonic Plwacz [in:] Piastowie-Leksykon Biograficzny, Kraków 1999, p. 133.
  7. Władysław Odonic Plwacz
  8. Parentage disputed. D. Karczewski, W sprawie pochodzenia Jadwigi, pierwszej żony księcia kujawskiego Kazimierza Konradowica, [in:] Europa Środkowa i Wschodnia w polityce Piastów, red. K. Zielińska-Melkowska, Toruń 1997, pp. 235-240.
  9. Parentage disputed. K. Jasiński, Genealogia Piastów wielkopolskich. Potomstwo Władysława Odonica, pp. 44-45
Władysław Odonic
Born: ca. 1190 Died: 5 June 1239
Preceded by
Henry I the Bearded
Duke of Kalisz
Succeeded by
Władysław III Spindleshanks
Preceded by
Władysław III Spindleshanks
Duke of Poznań
Duke of Greater Poland
(since 1234 only in the Northern part)

Succeeded by
Przemysł I and
Bolesław the Pious
Duke of Poznań
Succeeded by
Henry I the Bearded
Duke of Kalisz
Duke of Gniezno
Succeeded by
Przemysł I and
Bolesław the Pious
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